Bassline Academy – For Once In My Life: James Jamerson/Stevie Wonder/Vulfpeck

This bassline is a special request from my friend Attilio. He sent me a link to Vulfpeck’s really cool cover/transcription/visualisation of the bassline from Stevie Wonder’s ‘For Once In My Life.’ My challenge was to play along and here’s the result.

I’ve written out Vulf’s version of James Jamerson’s playing, so this is transcription of a transcription! It’s not 100% accurate to the original (what transcription ever is) but is pretty close.

Speaking of the original, James Jamerson’s playing on the track is apparently revered by bassists as no one bar is like another, he just keeps improvising new material throughout the track and all the while keeping things laid back and in the pocket.

From a tuba point of view I found that playing this bassline in the same style as Vulfpeck (I’m presuming it’s Joe Dart) and Jamerson meant sustaining the notes more than I would do naturally in this type of music. I tend to bring longer notes off in a percussive way to add a bit of ‘slap’ and give me a chance to breathe when playing music like this. However, if you listen to the Vulfpeck track the bass is generally left quite sustained, with a few exceptions. I’ve tried my best to be faithful to this but I do need to breathe somewhere!

Get the PDF transcription of the bassline of For Once in my Life here.