A few months ago, I wrote about a brief post on the importance of learning songs and how the practice adding songs to our repertoire serves to make us better bassists and musicians. However, I failed to offer some suggested songs for to begin exploring. So, here are some quick thoughts and suggestions:
You will never go wrong listening and learning to play any Motown song! Seriously, some of the best and simplest grooves have come out of the amazing work of the Motown crew. Many of the great bass lines were recorded by the legendary James Jamerson and later Bob Babbitt
My Girl – Temptations (bass -Jamerson)
Just My Imagination – Temptations (bass -Babbitt)
The Thrill is Gone – B.B. King
Pride and Joy – Stevie Ray Vaughn (great shuffle feel!)
This is Amazing Grace – Phil Wickham (work this with 8th or 16th notes, but use this song to practice your timing and build your endurance to keep a consistent drive)
These songs are simply suggestions. The key is to learn as many songs as possible, really. One of the best ways to improve your technique and improvisation is to learn and play songs.
Learning the Soul of the Song
Playing actual songs is the practical application of all those scales, arpeggios, finger exercises and memory work you’ve been practicing! If we ONLY do those things as our practice, then we will play without personality, we will perform our bass lines with little to no “soul”. Great bass lines are not only great notes played together, but notes played with a particular feel. As you learn a song, listen and learn how that line is played. Most of the memorable bass lines in music are simple, yet to replicate the feel requires way more than simply playing the notes. Take note of how the bassist articulated each note, the sustain, the tone, the volume dynamics. In fact, it might be good to put the bass down for the first few listens and think about these things before trying to play.
I hope you enjoy your learning experience and take the time to appreciate what has made these songs the hits that they have become.