The Cradle of the Bass Groove - dummies

By Patrick Pfeiffer

When the electric bass guitar became a commercial success with the introduction of Leo Fender’s Fender Precision Bass in 1951, musicians were trying hard to find a unique niche for the voice of this revolutionary new instrument. Is it a guitar with lower pitch? Is it a small upright bass? What exactly does it do that’s so different? Then, in the early 1960s, James Brown’s rhythm section went electric (bass, that is), merging syncopated rhythms with edgy harmony to make a powerful statement on the electric bass guitar. And the rest is history.

Whether you’re a rabid fan of James Brown or never heard of him, you should definitely take the time to listen to the baby steps of the bass guitar as it stomps onto the music scene.

Here are some choice electric bass guitar grooves to check out:

  • “Cold Sweat”: Two sections with very similar grooves in two keys, accented with occasional hits.

  • “Say It Loud”: A different groove for each of the two sections, the first one with a flurry of notes in the groove tail.

  • “Mother Popcorn”: Two sections, each with a distinctive groove: The first is a four-measure phrase with the first half dipping low and the second half rising; the second groove is highly syncopated.

  • “Sex Machine”: Two basic grooves with lots of little variations, one for each section and played at breakneck speed.

  • “Super Bad”: Two sections, each with a groove and slight variations in the first one.

  • “Soul Power”: A distinctive groove for each of the two main sections plus a middle section.

  • “Funky President”: Three grooves, one for each section, all very steady and right on time.

  • “Get Up Offa That Thing”: One groove with occasional hits and odd measures plus a very rhythmic bass solo.