The Funk Brothers Biography

The most successful group of studio musicians


Watch this video

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough Bassline

The Funk Brothers

Motown’s house band didn’t have an official name. Most of the time, they weren’t even credited on the albums.

When they performed with their bandleader, they went under the name Earl Van Dyke & the Soul Brothers. Apparently, Berry Gordy didn’t like the name Funk.

Made up of a core of fifteen studio musicians, they did, however, play on more #1 hits than The Beatles, Elvis, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys put together.

The Funk Brothers were active during 1959 and 1972, when Motown moved from Detroit to Los Angeles.

Perhaps the greatest musician in the Funk Brothers was their bass player James Jamerson. His intricate bass lines are incredible melodies, many times more elaborate than the vocal melody.

A great example of Jamerson’s genius can be found in his ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ bass line. Above is a video demonstrating this clearly using a visual representation.

It would be silly to list all the songs they played on, as you can see above, Spytunes has recorded six of their songs, making them the most covered band on Spytunes!

The 2002 documentary ‘Standing In The Shadows Of Motown‘ was the first time they got any real recognition. It’s a great insight into the brutal life of a musician in the 60s.

For example, their farewell gift in 1972 came in the form of a note on the door simply stating “No work today”.

Related Pages

Can I Get A Witness – Guitar Lesson

‘Can I Get A Witness’ is a fast blues format song in the key of Eb.

Over each chord in a blues, you quickly switch between three chords, creating an energetic riff.

In the course, we practice each riff over loops as we learn to play it in every area of the neck.

Finally, you get to play the entire song with a live band!

Preview video lessons: Can I Get A Witness

Get Ready – Guitar Lesson

‘Get Ready’ is a song that moves from a repetitive Minor Pentatonic verse riff to a simple four-chord chorus progression.

In the course, we’ll first play the chorus chords all over the neck before I show you how to construct your own chorus part.

When the solo comes along we take the original sax and string ideas and put them on the guitar.

Finally, you get to play the entire song with a live band!

Preview video lessons: Get Ready

I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Guitar Lesson

‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ is a Motown classic with a very clever chord progression.

All chords are as if from the key of Eb with just one chord being different, the Eb is a minor.

In the course, I’ll talk you through all sections one by one using video lessons, TAB, and live band loops.

Finally, you get to play the entire song with a live band!

Preview video lessons: I Heard It Through The Grapevine

Jimmy Mack – Guitar Lesson

Jimmy Mack is a song written by Motown’s main song writing team, Holland-Dozier-Holland.

Commisioned especially for Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, this is a classic Motown hit that often appear on a Motown/Soul repertoire.

As you learn this in the course, we discuss how you can extend the chords to create a more interesting sound. We also play the horn section solo on the guitar.

Preview video lessons: Jimmy Mack

My Guy – Guitar Lesson

My Guy was an early Motown hit from Mary Wells who was the first female Motown star.

Using more jazz-influenced harmony and playing, when you learn this song you’ll get an introduction to “playing over changes” as the licks use new scales for each chord.

The good news is that when playing like this, you can still use your barre chord shapes and pentatonic scales as the framework when you map out the fretboard.

Preview video lessons: My Guy

You Can’t Hurry Love – Guitar Lesson

‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ has a great chord progression using only chords from the key of Bb. By starting some of the chords earlier than expected, ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ gets its famous bouncy feel.

In the course, you’ll get step by step instructions on how to play each section of the song using members-only video lessons, loops, and TAB.

Finally, you get to play the entire song with a live band!

Preview video lessons: You Can’t Hurry Love

Sign Up Now

A monthly subscription with access to all acoustic and electric step by step lessons, each one designed to bring your guitar playing skills to the next level.

Including detailed, but bite-sized explanations on how the music theory of each song is applied to the neck.

To sign up now, go to Monthly Subscription