I am a fan of Motown: great songs, great arrangements, great band (The Funk Brothers). The king of Motown for me is bass player James Jamerson (RIP). Listen for example to this amazing track:
A song of the masterpiece What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye.
Let’s check out another great track of that record. Now with James’ part isolated:
Something strange is Going On here. Anyone who has ever recorded a bass guitar will notice how dark this bass sounds. James’ playing is even making the tape to distort. Like many players at the time he used flatwound strings in combination with a piece off foam rubber underneath the strings to dampen them.
Bass player Carol Kaye is also known for that style although not playing with her fingers, like James, but with a pick. Check out this wonderful interview with her. You’ll notice that she still gets that lovely tone out of a modern bass by using that old trick with foam rubber and turning back the tone control:
The foam rubber gives a powerful melodic sound that doesn’t get in the way with the other instruments. It’s a really smart trick that never gets old.