10 Motown/Soul Songs For Bass Players

This is part of my Bass Guitar Syllabus post where I recommend songs in different genres to listen to (and then ultimately try and figure out by ear). Listening to good music is a form of practice and there is a lifetime of great bass playing to be learnt from these songs!

Make sure to check out the other genres.

Soul and Motown bass playing emerged from blues and featured many of the greatest bass players o f all time including James Jamerson, Carole Kaye, and Duck Dunn. Like blues, you also find many of the same shapes and patterns coming up time and time again (9 Rhythm and Blues/Soul Bass Patterns).

These songs are all easy to play and many have one main section that goes round and round. Start with these simple songs and use them to strengthen your ear whilst aiming to play from beginning to end without stopping.

1.In the Midnight Hour

Simple I to IV movement over major triads with some minor pentatonic unison lines.


2. Knock on Wood

This one's a great one for learning the sound of a major 6th!


3. Lean on Me

Listen to this and you'll know why it's called 'soul'. Simple major scale melodies.

4. (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher

Another classic pattern (5-6-root) that goes through the whole song without stopping.

5. Dancing In The Street

Motown at it's joyous best.

6. I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)

This uses the same pattern as that found in Higher And Higher. When you find these connections out, bass playing becomes much easier.

7. You Can't Hurry Love

Wonderful Fender Precision + flat wound string tone. Very simple rhythm throughout the whole song.

8. Uptight (Everything's Alright)

Root-5-b7 pattern followed by a cool riff that goes through the whole song.


9. (Sittin' On) the Dock of the Bay

The most chilled out song of all time?

To learn more about what to learn and why head to Bass Guitar Syllabus

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