Motown soul, otherwise known as Motown sound, is music that includes elements of pop. Tambourines helped to emphasize the back beat of songs along with repeated use of electric guitar and bass instruments, structures with a distinct melody or chord, and a singing style most commonly referred to as call and response, which is often used in gospel-style music. String and horn sections along with arranged background singers also tend to be used in this kind of music. A principle producers always follow is that of the KISS principle, which means, “keep it simple, stupid.”
Barry Gordy held weekly meetings each Friday morning to make sure that the best performances and material would be released. Anything short of that would not be good enough. Although several of Marvin Gaye’s songs, for example, made it into the commercial mainstream: “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “What’s Going on?” Still, producers would re-work the songs as often as necessary to meet Gordy’s high-performance standards and hopefully get his approval.
Many artists and producers have produced many hit songs through the years. Hitsville Studios was open 22 hours a day, while many artists were on tour for weeks. This made it easily accessible to artists who were short on time and could come into the studio whenever they were free to record more songs. Then, they could go right back on tour again.
This type of music greatly influenced many non-Motown artists of the 60’s and in the UK, Motown soul became part of a movement called “northern soul.”