Louis Johnson – Learn From the Best –> Improve your bass playing by learning from the best. Part of learning to play bass should include listening to and watching other great bassists. Try to incorporate their techniques, skills, styles, and sounds in to your own playing. In this Learn from the Best series we highlight Louis Johnson – undeniably one of the greatest bass players of all time.
Louis Johnson – Career Highlights
- Bassist for the group Brothers Johnson that also featured his brother George. Brothers Johnson produced three #1 hits: 1976 – “I’ll Be Good To You”, 1977 – “Strawberry Letter 23”, and 1980 – “Stomp”.
- Primary bassist on Michael Jackon’s Off the Wall album
- Bassist on Michael Jackson’s album Thriller producing the basslines for “Billie Jean”, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”, and “P.Y.T.”
- Worked as the bassists for many world renowned artists including Michael McDonald, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Herb Alpert, Herbie Hancock, Bill Withers, Gabor Szabo, Airto, Bobby Womack, Grover Washington Jr., and George Benson.
Learn from Louis Johnson – Skills, Methods, Techniques and Innovations
When it came to funky thumping, popping, and slapping – Louis Johnson ruled! Along with Larry Graham, Johnson is considered to be the originator of this funky, slap-style of playing. Appropriately nicknamed “Thunder Thumbs” he used his bass as a percussive instrument, while also emphasizing notes and tones with uncanny placement and timing.
Pay attention to Johnson’s innovative right hand technique. He used both his thumb and all other fingers to slap and pop the strings. When popping he would often pull more than one string at a time. Using his custom MusicMan Stingray – designed by Leo Fender himself – he was able to produce a distinctive funky, punching sound.
Johnson used his left hand equally to produce percussive basslines. He muted strings to play rhythmic dead notes, while also using his left hand for chokes, hammer-ons and pull-offs. Gifted with long fingers, Johnson could use his left thumb to fret the E string up and down the neck. This allowed him to use the E string as an anchor for his thumb thumps, while also playing triplet, octave-root-octave patterns – all over the fretboard.
Johnson was able to reach unparalleled levels of success both as a studio musician and as a superstar bassists for chart-topping artists and bands. His influence can be found throughout multiple genres of music including funk, R&B, jazz, hip-hop (rap), and Rock-N-Roll. Accomplished bassists such as Victor Bailey, Nathan East, Bootsy Collins, and Flea all give nods to Louis Johnson as one the greatest bassists ever who had a profound influence on their playing.
“When I play, I become the bass. I’m no longer Louis Johnson, I am the bass – so the bass is in trouble!”
Louis Johnson Videos – Incredible!
Louis Johnson Instructional DVD for Bass
Louis “Thunder Thumbs”Johnson Solo – Live in LA August 22, 1981
Louis Johnson – Learn From the Best