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Funk and R&B Bass: History, Analysis and Technique



While the bass guitar plays an essential role in nearly every popular music style, it’s in funk and R&B where it perhaps finds its most dominant expression. From James Brown to Sly & the Family Stone to The Meters to Parliament Funkadelic to Tower of Power to D’Angelo and many more, the bass has grounded and helped define the music that’s made countless heads bob and booties shake. In this course, we’ll explore the history of funk and R&B bass playing, examine its most iconic players, and dive deep into the techniques, tones, and tips necessary to deepen your pocket and expand your groove awareness.

Mondays 8:15 – 9:45 pm
4/9 – 6/11 (9 weeks) no class 5/28
Jonathan Herrera • $375





This hands-on survey course covers the signature bass lines and techniques of funk and

R&B from the 60s to the present. Material covered ranges from the early funk pioneers of the James Brown rhythm sections and Motown to the innovators of the 70s, 80s and

beyond including Verdine White, Larry Graham, Rocco Prestia, Jaco Pastorius, Marcus Miller and others.


Prerequisites: functional electric bass technique.



James Brown: A Step-by-Step Breakdown of the Styles and Techniques of James Brown’s Bassists, by Glenn Letsch

The Funkmasters — The Great James Brown Rhythm Sections 1960-1973: For Guitar, Bass and Drums, by Allan “Dr. Licks” Slutsky

Standing in the Shadows of Motown: The Life and Music of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson, by Dr. Licks


Week 1

Introductions, listening appreciation, what makes a great bass line.

Week 2 & 3

The bassists of James Brown

Bernard Odum, Tim Drummond, Fred Thomas, Bootsy Collins

Week 4 & 5

Detroit (The Motown Sound)

James Jamerson, Bob Babbitt

Week 6

New York style

Chuck Rainey, Jerry Jemmott, Anthony Jackson

Week 7

Special guest: drummer from Tower of Power David Garibaldi

Week 8

New York style – continued

Chuck Rainey, Jerry Jemmott, Anthony Jackson

Week 9 & 10

Bay Area Funk

Larry Graham

Francis “Rocco” Prestia

Paul Jackson

Jonathan Herrera (bass)
B.A. University of Southern California; Honors Graduate, Los Angeles Music Academy. 2012 Artist-in-Residence, Los Angeles College of Music. Current LACM faculty, teaching Synth Bass. Former Editor-in-Chief of Bass Player Magazine, current Senior Contributing Editor. Performed and recorded with Stanley Jordan, Brain, Oz Noy, Miguel Migs, Cathedrals, Jonas Hellborg, Cyrus Chestnut, MoeTar, and many more. Extensive international touring and clinic experience. Moog, MXR, DSI, Nordstrand, and Aguilar endorsing artist. Staff Producer and Studio B Chief Engineer, Airship Laboratories recording studios.

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