James Jamerson Motown Bass Tone

james jamerson
PerformerJames Jamerson
GD Star Rating

James Jamerson’s finessed his deliciously dark and fat electric bass tone from a 1962 Fender P-bass (Precision) with a few signature eccentricities:

  • The strings were LaBella heavy-gauge flatwounds that Jamerson never changed.
  • The neck was allegedly warped, which made the action uncomfortably high, but which Jamerson claimed improved the tone.
  • One of the bridge covers contained foam to mute the strings’ sustain.
  • Tone and volume knobs were generally turned all the way up.

Live, Jamerson played through an Ampeg B-15 amp, but this wasn’t brought into the studio because of space constraints. Instead the bass at Motown was usually run into a custom made direct input (the first of its kind, in fact) into their Electrodyne console. Of course, the biggest factor in the Jamerson tone was Jamerson. He plucked almost exclusively with his index finger, nicknamed “The Hook” and never with a pick.

James Jamerson Motown Bass Tone, 9.6 out of 10 based on 8 ratings

One Comment

  1. Thom says:

    Jamerson’s bass tone is like Bonham’s sound–great for them, but a bad influence on many. Guys that want the “Jamerson sound” without Jamerson’s fingers usually end up sounding like a tubby mess.

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