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Talking Style: New Jack Swing

“New Jack Swing” is an era of R&B that mixed jazz, pop and electronic dance music sensibilities with hip-hop production techniques. The “sound”, pioneered by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (former keyboardist and bassist for the Time) and Teddy Riley consists largely of synthesized bass lines, swung hip-hop beats created by the TR-808 drum machine and the SP-1200 sampler with R&B style vocals.

In this episode, we’ll look at the bass line for “My Prerogative” by Bobby Brown which is arguably one of the biggest hits of the New Jack Swing era. To my ear, this “synthy” bass part sounds like a sawtooth and a baritone saxophone sample. In order to get the “feel” of the part, I prefer to play the line down an octave and using the low B string for beats two and three of bar 2. There are also some slap embellishments that I like to use when I play this song in a band situation and I think that the octave pedal can sometimes get in the way of that.

A mistake that I made for YEARS with this song was not paying close attention the fact that this song is A harmonic minor so there’s a raised 7th (G#). This may not sound so bad at the moment, but it’s a big deal because that tension and resolution of that half step interval really add the to the character of the bass line!

Check out this cool article: 25 Best New Jack Swing Songs.

Follow along with the transcription and the video below.

Ted Gould III, also known as “Blyss”, is a bassist and music educator originally from New Orleans now based in the Bay Area. Connect with him at

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