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James Jamerson: What’s Happening Brother by Alex Wilkerson

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Meet Alex Wilkerson

Click on link at the bottom of this page to download the transcription

This transcription is an amazing piece from one of the world’s greatest bass players: James Jamerson. “What’s Happening Brother” comes from Marvin Gaye’s epic album: What’s Going On. This album is an absolute must for musicians. There are so many great songs, performances and arrangements…but I digress. Let’s take some time to talk about Jamerson’s style, his licks, and some of his arranging techniques.

One thing you might notice on first glance of this transcription (besides having a lot of black on the page) is that there aren’t many measures throughout the song that are identical. Even when a theme is repeated, the rhythm is often slightly altered in some way. This is a great way to keep interest in the song. You’ll also notice that instead of playing completely different lines for every measure, he uses a lot of themes throughout the song. This is one reason why he was able to apply so much motion and variation without stepping all over the singer (as if that was possible with Marvin Gaye). Check out the first 12 measures. The theme here is quite clear despite the variations applied. Another theme appears at measure 17-18, and reappears in measures 25-26. Both sections B and B2 are very similar in theme, as are sections C and D. You’ll notice that the first four measures of the B sections contain almost identically repeating measures. The theme of section C however is not as exactly duplicated. Take a moment to look at the rhythms of the first two beats of every measure in section C. Even though the notes change, the rhythmic theme continues through the entire section. Jamerson most likely improvised this bass line but it’s important to note that the themes here are purposeful and not haphazard. His use of themes is not an accident and was a crucial part in helping the audience relate to the song and to keep the song cohesive. Whether you have or haven’t already, pay some attention to your own use of themes in improvised bass lines. It’s also a great idea to take Jamerson’s approach and subtly alter a repetitive bass line.

Another topic worth mentioning about Jamerson comes from the first 12 bars of the song. Play or listen to these measures once. It’s a really amazing line, but one interesting point is that they are comprised of simple chord tones. You’ll find that most of these measures only contain the triad of the chord. Sometimes a seventh sneaks in but the content is 95 percent triadic. This fact is really impressive and demonstrates the importance of rhythms in a bass line. Jamerson didn’t need fancy passing tones, reharms or substitutions to make an impressive bass line. He could take a simple triad and make it more hip than most bass players can to this day. The lesson here for us is that using more notes from the scale is not always better or needed. Jamerson only used essentially three notes but made them sound incredible. Consider this in your bass lines, especially when introducing a song.

Now let’s take a look at some of Jamerson’s licks. Check out the lick that occurs on beat four of measures four, eight, and twelve. This is a great and easy lick to make your own and will work on any minor seventh chord and also on certain dominants. For the next lick, direct your attention to beat four of measures 22, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62, and 64. I would analyze this lick as the fifth and third of the chord followed by the leading tone on the “and of four”, which to my ears briefly hints on the dominant sound and points to the resolution on beat one. Whatever way you look at it, this lick will give your lines great motion and keep the energy up when you have to spend time on a stagnant chord. Lastly, check out measure 23. Recognize this lick? It’s really close to the opening bass line of “What’s Going On”, which this song strongly resembles. This is really encouraging to us as bass players because as great as Jamerson was, he used licks. This implies that he didn’t just come straight out of the womb improvising spectacular bass lines, but rather had to work at it over time. We can do the same. We can take licks like the kind he’s given us, incorporate them into our playing and eventually be capable of some of the things we love Jamerson for. Don’t get me wrong Jamerson fans (of which I am top of the list), there will never be another Jamerson, and the fact that he helped invent the electric bass can never be duplicated, but his lines and concepts are so good that one would be a fool not to learn from him.

Now let’s talk about some of his concepts. We already mentioned that one great Jamerson trait is his use of syncopations without getting in the way of the groove or main vocals. This is a lot easier said than done however. Granted, one small reason he got away with being so busy is because of his flat-wound strings, but this reason is far overshadowed by the fact that his phrasing was so masterful. Check out measures 28, 56 and 58. These rhythms are highly sophisticated and are great lines to have in your bag of tricks. In the midst of all this syncopation is an interesting phenomenon. Take a look at the first measure of every section (measures 1, 13, 29, 40, 51 and 61) and tell me what you notice. I’m seeing a whole lot of solid quarter notes on the down beat of one. Now look through the whole song and count how often this happens. The first 12 measures of the song have a lot of quarter notes but they are all tied through beat two. Now the fact that this is such a rare occurrence throughout the song, and the fact that most of these occurrences mark the beginning of a new section are no coincidence. Jamerson used this technique to create a sense of momentary resolution for the start of new sections and to clearly define their beginnings. Remember how many of the first 12 measures started with a really long note? All of them did. If you really took the time to analyze the beginning of each measure, you’ll notice that this trait (quarter notes on one, tied through beat two) ONLY occurs in the first 12 bars. This use of space is a great arrangement technique. We have all heard the loose rule that you should keep the top of the song simple and can later use more variation and fills. This is because the audience is potentially hearing the song for the first time and needs some “space” to get comfortable with the harmony, beat, and instrumentation of the song. Once they acclimate, you can then add more changes or variation to the song to keep your audience from getting bored. Too much “new” information at once can make a song hard to accept. If everyone is playing their busiest parts at the beginning of the song, the most likely result will be that you lose your listeners. On the other hand, if you start simple and build into the peaks of the song, you will keep your audience interested and able to relate to the music. Jamerson clearly had a purposeful intention to give listeners a breath at each of these points of change in the song and so should we with our own work.

The last concept I want to talk about is the use of variations in style. Take a quick look at how many sixteenth notes are in the song and find the places where there aren’t as many. You can clearly see that the lines at measures 33-36, and 44-47 are in contrast with the rest of the song. They contain less movement, less syncopation, and the effect gives the song variation. This is another excellent arranging technique. Jamerson could have played continuously thick sixteenth note syncopations for every measure of the song, but he didn’t. A good story can’t have cloned content reoccurring over and over again, and neither can a good song (which should also be a good story). Look for this concept in some of your favorite songs. Chances are you will see the same technique of making space in the song when new material is presented, applying variation later, and keeping sections of a song different from each other. The difference between sections could be the appearance of a new instrument, a new subtle melody or sound effect, or just more fills and busier lines from the musicians.

“What’s Happening Brother” is an amazing piece of music and has a lot of great tools and lessons for musicians of all experience levels. If this transcription gives you a thirst for more Jamerson material to study, you can check out the book Standing in the Shadows of Motown from Hal Leonard. It contains a lot of good transcriptions and insight. Jamerson really is one of the world’s greatest bass players and I hope you enjoyed what I consider to be one of his all time best performances.

Click on link below to download the transcription
What_s_Happenin_Brother_Jamerson_Line-dec09

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Behind the Strings: D’Addario’s Story Comes to Life in “Jim’s Corner” YouTube Series

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Behind the Strings: D'Addario's Story Comes to Life in "Jim's Corner" YouTube Series

Behind the Strings – Jim’s Corner…

D’Addario & Co. proudly announces the launch of “Jim’s Corner,” a captivating new YouTube series telling the 400-year-old story of the D’Addario family creating the world’s largest music accessories company. This series features Jim D’Addario, Founder and Director of Innovation at D’Addario and Co., sharing his family’s remarkable journey from 17th century Italy to a 21st century global enterprise. 

In the first four episodes now available, Jim D’Addario takes viewers back to the beginning, making strings from animal guts and knotting ukulele wire as a family around the television. Countless generations carried the passion forward until the 1970s when the company made it official and never looked back. Jim recounts the creation of strings that inspired legendary riffs, including one by The Who, the launch of Darco strings, the merger with Martin Guitars and the company’s humble beginnings with his wife, Janet and brother, John. Jim D’Addario’s firsthand accounts provide an intimate and personal perspective on the milestones and challenges that shaped D’Addario into the revered brand it is today.

Episode Highlights:

  • Episode 1: The Early Days in Italy and the Move to America
  • Episode 2: Inspiring Iconic Riffs and Legendary Partnerships
  • Episode 3: Launching Darco Strings and Merging with Martin Guitars
  • Episode 4: Building the D’Addario and Co. Legacy

Watch & Subscribe Now:

Join us in celebrating this incredible legacy by watching the first four episodes of “Jim’s Corner” on YouTube. New episodes will drop every month so please subscribe to our channel to ensure you don’t miss any future episodes and exclusive content from D’Addario & Co.: www.youtube.com/@daddarioandco

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Gear News: Aguilar Amplification Unveils Limited Edition NYC Gold Skyline Tone Hammer Preamp

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Gear News: Aguilar Amplification Unveils Limited Edition NYC Gold Skyline Tone Hammer Preamp

Aguilar Amplification announces the release of the Limited Edition NYC Gold Skyline Tone Hammer Preamp pedal. Hand serialized 1-100, this exclusive edition celebrates Aguilar’s deep roots in New York City with a tribute to its iconic landmarks and vibrant spirit.

Born in the heart of NYC and raised on the road, the Tone Hammer Preamp DI has been an indispensable tool for bassists seeking inspiring tone and versatility. The new Limited Edition Gold NYC builds on this legacy with striking custom graphics encapsulating the essence of New York City. Featuring iconic landmarks from the Statue of Liberty to the Empire State Building, this pedal is not just a tool, but a piece of art embodying the soul of the city. Each unit features a sharp platinum silkscreen over a stunning matte gold sparkle finish, that is as visually captivating as it is sonically powerful.

The Tone Hammer is an essential preamp/direct box for every bassist’s toolbox. The Tone Hammer features fully sweepable midrange frequencies in addition to bass and treble controls. With the Tone Hammer’s pristine D.I. players are set for either studio or stage. To give this tone shaping unit the ultimate flexibility we introduce our proprietary Adaptive Gain Shaping circuitry (AGS). AGS allows the player to kick in an additional gain structure and EQ with the “stomp” of a button. You can go from modern slap sounds to vintage or overdriven. 18-volt operation gives the Tone Hammer plenty of headroom to reproduce the most dynamic playing styles. Separate gain and master controls allow players to dial in just the right gain structure for any instrument.

Aguilar Amplification’s Jordan Cortese adds, “With only 100 hand-numbered units available, this third iteration of our NYC edition Tone Hammer is a collector’s dream. “It’s a homage to our city’s monumental influence on music and culture and celebrates the craftsmanship and the story of Aguilar”. 

Street price: $299.99 For more information, please visit www.aguilaramp.com

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Bass Videos

Gear News: Spector Launches Euro CST and Euro LX Basses

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Gear News: Spector Launches Euro CST and Euro LX Basses

Spector, a leading authority in bass guitar design, unveils new additions to its product line: Euro CST, Euro LX and Euro LX Bolt On basses.

Euro CST:
The Euro CST introduces all-new tonewoods, electronics, and finish combinations never seen in the Euro Series, drawing inspiration from Spector’s Woodstock, NY-based Custom Shop. Each Euro CST instrument is meticulously crafted using premium materials, featuring a striking, highly figured Poplar Burl top, a resonant European Ash body, and a 3-piece North American Maple neck paired with an Ebony fingerboard adorned with laminated Abalone Crown inlays.

Euro CST basses are equipped with a lightweight aluminum bridge for precise and reliable intonation. Premium active EMG X Series pickups deliver the exceptional clarity, attack, and silent operation that defines the Spector sound. These basses also feature the all-new Spector Legacy preamp. Developed in collaboration with Darkglass Electronics, this preamp captures the classic “Spector growl,” heard on countless iconic recordings, with added versatility.

Euro CST basses are available in 4- and 5-string models in four distinct high gloss finishes: Natural, Natural Black Burst, Natural Red Burst, and Natural Violet Burst.

Euro LX and Euro LX Bolt-On:
The Euro LX offers all the features that have made the Spector name famous around the globe. Inspired by the iconic NS-2, Euro LX basses feature a fully carved and contoured body, high-grade tonewoods, and professional-grade electronics and hardware. For the first time ever, players can now choose between neck-thru and bolt-on construction in the Euro LX range.  

Each Euro LX bass, regardless of construction, is crafted using premium materials, including a European Alder body, figured European Maple top, and a 3-piece North American Maple neck combined with a Rosewood fingerboard for strength, stability, and sustain. Euro LX basses are then outfitted with a lightweight, aluminum bridge for spot-on, reliable intonation. Premium active pickups from EMG provide the exceptional clarity, attack, and silent operation that Spector is known for. Like the Euro CST basses, these instruments also feature the all-new Spector Legacy preamp.

The newly revised Euro LX range is available in four distinct, hand-rubbed stains, including Transparent Black, Natural Sunburst, Haunted Moss, and Nightshade. Each of these colors features a durable and comfortable matte finish.  

John Stippell, Director, Korg Bass Division, remarks, “I’m thrilled to announce the latest additions to the renowned Euro Range. The CST Series, our new premium offering, features new and unique wood combinations and unprecedented features. The beloved LX Series is now better than ever with the introduction of Bolt-On models, vibrant new color options, and the all-new Spector Legacy Preamp, delivering the classic Spector tone with unmatched precision.”

For more information, visit spectorbass.com.

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Luthier Spotlight: Garry Beers, GGB Basses

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Luthier Spotlight - Garry Beers, GGB Basses

Meet Garry Beers, Luthier and owner of GGB Basses…

Bass Musician Magazine: How did you get your start in music?

Garry Beers: I played acoustic guitar as a kid with my mates at school. We decided that one of us should play bass, so we had a contest where the one who knew the least guitar chords would buy a bass – so I lost the contest, bought my first bass, and became the only bass player in the neighborhood. Soon after, I met Andrew Farriss, who had heard that I had a bass, and a few days later, I was jamming with Andrew and Jon Farriss.

Are you still an active player?

Yes, I am still actively writing music and playing bass sessions. I also have an LA-based original band called Ashenmoon.

How did you get started as a Luthier? When did you build your first bass? 

I did woodwork in High School and always enjoyed making all sorts of things out of wood.

After finishing high school, I took a course in electronics for a year or so and learned enough to understand basic circuits in guitars, amplifiers, and effects. The best way to learn is to deconstruct and study, so my dad’s garage was littered with old junked radios and any instrument parts I could find. 

My first guitars were more like Frankenstein-type creations made out of parts I found here and there. I didn’t really try to build a bass from scratch until I perfected my Quad pickup design and got my patent.

How do you select the woods you choose to build with?

I only use woods that were used at Fender in the 50s, which are my favorite basses and guitars of all time. All my GGB basses are modeled in some way from my INXS bass- a 1958 Fender Precision bass I bought in 1985 in Chicago. I call her “Old Faithful,” and she has an Alder wood body with a maple neck. All of my GGB basses are select Alder wood bodies that I have had extra dried, so they match the resonance of “Old Faithful,” as she has had 66 years to lose all her moisture and become more resonant and alive-sounding. I use plain old Maple necks that I carefully select, and again, I dry the necks to make them sing a little more.

Tell us about your pickups.

I started working on my Quad coil design back in Australia in the ‘90s and then put it to bed, so to speak, until I found an old pickup winding machine at a swap meet here in LA. I taught myself enough about pickup winding to build my first prototype design and worked towards my patented Quad coil design by trial and error. Nordstrand Audio builds the pickups for me here in SOCAL.

What is the reaction of players who pick up your basses?

I build the basses to feel like an old friend. They look and feel vintage, and when you plug them in, you discover the array of vintage sounds available to you from just one pickup. Most of the players I have contact with are established professional players, and they all love the basses. Freddie Washington and Nick Seymour from Crowded House are a couple of players with GGB Basses in their hands.

What are a few things that you are proud of in your instruments and would consider unique?

I would say I am most proud of the patented Quad pickup design. I own the patent from 4 through to 10-string. So far, I have only built 4 and 5-string pickups, but the design is a winner. Split Humbucker / Reverse Split Humbucker / Full Humbucker / Single coil Neck / Single coil bridge. All these sounds come from one passive pickup. I am very proud that my perseverance and desire to have this pickup have made it a reality. Being able to have these sounds in one bass enables the player to have one bass in the studio and on the stage. The only place you can have the GGB Quad pickup is in one of my GGB Basses.

Which one of the basses that you build is your favorite one?

I offer three body shapes and about ten different color options – all based on the ‘50s and early ‘60s custom guitar and car paint styles. I have always been a lover of P basses, but my favorite bass I build is now my XS-1 model- which is a custom Jazz bass body style. It is pretty sexy and is a light, well-balanced, and great-feeling body shape. The other body styles are the XS-2, which is a custom Jazzmaster body and has been the most popular so far- and the XS-3, which is the standard P bass body style. I also offer an XS-58, which is a replica of my “Old Faithful” ‘58 P bass. They are currently available to order now and should be available soon.

Can you give us a word of advice to young Luthiers who are just starting out?

I don’t really consider myself a Luthier in the traditional sense. I just love to build things and tinker. I was always looking to improve things, whether it was a guitar, an amp, a pedal board, or a car. So my advice is to always be curious and learn the basics of what you want to build, and the rest should follow once you decide what you want to say as a designer/builder. People are lucky these days that you can learn pretty much anything from talented people on the internet, but nothing replaces working with and learning from real people in real situations. Seek out like-minded builders and start a discussion.

What advice would you give a young musician trying to find his perfect bass?

Have a good hard think about what you want to say as a player. What is your style, both musically and as a player? There are so many instruments available. Do the research, play the instruments that fit your criteria, and make a decision. But make sure you try a GGB Bass!   With all the sound choices my basses offer, with a simple turn of a knob, you may find it easier to find “your” sound.

What is the biggest success for you and for your company?

Well, the company is brand new, and at this point, it is just me, so getting this far in the manufacturing process and now having these amazing basses in my hands is a great achievement, but now comes all the business stuff!! 

What are your future plans?

It’s a work in progress. Right now, it’s all about getting the word out and getting the basses into the hands of interested players. I believe in the basses – and the Quad pickup, so hopefully, GGB Basses can become a go-to bass for demanding studio and live players who want sound choices in a gorgeous vintage-style instrument.

Visit online at www.ggbbasses.com

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Gear Reviews

Gear Review: Joyo Monomyth – A Versatile Modern Bass Preamp

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Gear Revieww: Joyo Monomyth - A Versatile Modern Bass Preamp

Disclaimer: This pedal was kindly provided by Joyo for the purpose of this review. However, this does not influence our opinions or the content of our reviews. We strive to provide honest, unbiased, and accurate assessments to ensure that our readers receive truthful and helpful information.

Introduction:

The Joyo Monomyth bass preamp pedal is designed to offer bassists a comprehensive range of tonal options, combining modern features with practical functionality. With independent channels for EQ and overdrive, as well as useful additions like a cab sim and DI output, the Monomyth aims to be a versatile tool for both live performances and studio sessions. This review will delve into the pedal’s specifications, controls, and overall performance to determine if it lives up to its promise of delivering quality and flexibility at an affordable price.

Specifications:

– Dimensions: 130 * 110 * 50 mm

– Weight: 442g

– Working Voltage: DC 9V

Controls:

The Joyo Monomyth is equipped with a comprehensive set of controls designed to provide maximum tonal flexibility:

– Voice: Adjusts the character of the overdrive, from distortion to fuzz.

– Blend: Balances the dry and effected signals, crucial for maintaining low-end presence.

– Level: Sets the overall output volume.

– Drive: Controls the amount of gain in the overdrive channel.

– Treble Boost: Enhances high and mid frequencies for clarity in complex passages.

– Gain Boost: Adds extra gain, particularly effective at low gain settings to enhance the low e.

– EQ Function Controls: Features a 6-band graphic EQ plus a master control for precise nal shaping.

– Ground Lift Switch: Helps eliminate ground loop noise.

– Cab Sim Switch: Activates a simulated 8×10″ cab sound.

– LED Light Control: Customizes the pedal’s ambient lighting.

Performance:

The Joyo Monomyth shines in its dual-channel design, offering both a transparent EQ channel and a versatile overdrive channel. The 6-band EQ allows for detailed tonal adjustments, preserving the natural character of your bass while providing ample flexibility. The voice control mimics the functionality of the Darkglass Alpha Omega, shifting from distortion to fuzz, with a sweet spot around the middle for balanced tones.

The blend control is essential for retaining the low end when using distortion, ensuring your bass remains powerful and clear. The treble and gain boosts, available on the overdrive channel, further enhance the pedal’s versatility, making it suitable for everything from subtle drive to full-blown fuzz.

Outputs are plentiful, with a DI and XLR out for direct recording or ampless setups, and a headphone out for convenient practice sessions. The cab sim switch adds a realistic 8×10″ cab sound, enhancing the Monomyth’s utility in live and studio environments.

Pros:

– Versatile Control Set: Offers a wide range of tones, from clean to fuzz.

– Blend Control: Maintains low-end presence.

– Robust Outputs: DI, XLR, and headphone outs make it adaptable for various setups.

– Affordable: Provides high-end functionality at a budget-friendly price.

– Sturdy Construction: Durable build quality ensures reliability.

Cons:

– Plastic Knobs: May feel less premium compared to metal controls.

– Boosts Limited to Overdrive Channel: Treble and gain boosts do not affect the EQ channel.

– Cab Sim only on the XLR out: how cool would it be to also have it on the headphone out?

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the Joyo Monomyth stands out as a versatile and powerful bass preamp pedal, offering a range of features that cater to both traditional and modern bassists. Its dual-channel design, comprehensive control set, and robust output options make it a valuable tool for achieving a wide spectrum of tones, from clean and warm to heavily distorted. For bassists seeking flexibility, reliability, and excellent value, the Joyo Monomyth is a top contender.

For more information, visit online at joyoaudio.com/product/267.html

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