Bassist's Books for Xmas!
I’m always asked this time of year which books I’d recommend students put on their Christmas list so that their gift-giving loved ones have some idea of what they’re after. I own all of these books and find them useful for teaching and I still use most of them to practice now!
Standing in the Shadows of Motown: The Life and Music of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson - Dr Licks
Considered by many to be the holy grail of bass transcriptions, this book also contains great audio demonstrations by some great players such as Jack Bruce, Pino Palladino and Anthony Jackson. The first half of the book is a biography on the man himself.
Recommended for: intermediate/advanced players who are used to reading standard notation - there’s no TAB here.
The Real Book: Bass Clef Edition - Hal Leonard
This book has so many uses. It’s not just great for its intended purpose of bluffing your way through standard repertoire on gigs but it is the perfect companion to the student learning to read standard notation. The pieces range from very easy to very difficult but every musician should own one regardless of level.
Recommended for: beginner/intermediate/advanced players who want to develop their knowledge of standard jazz repertoire and/or develop sight-reading skills
Bass Players Guide to Scales and Modes - Stuart Clayton
I love this book because it caters to all levels of ability and the content is just as detailed as it needs to be. I find that students are often confused by modes and this book (combined with a good teacher) takes the learner from the rudimental theory right through to playing baselines in various styles and tonalities.
Recommended for: beginner/intermediate students who want short bursts of theoretical information that are easy to digest and simple practical examples to cement the ideas.
Bass Fitness: An Exercising Handbook - Josquin Des Pres
An oldie but a goodie. Pages upon pages of endless finger drills that can be played at any tempo so this one really is for everyone - you may want a good metronome to get the most out of this one!
Recommended for: everyone!
Jazz Vocabulary for Electric Bass: ii V I - Janek Gwizdala
Some great ideas in here but the relevant content only takes up a portion of the book - the final third of the book is the same exercises in treble clef (for our ERB brethren).
Recommended for: intermediate/advanced players who want to get some ‘hipper’ licks into their improvisational playing
Essential Jaco Pastorius: Bass Recorded Versions - Hal Leonard
If James Jamerson was the grandfather of modern bass playing, Jaco was the unruly grandson.
Jaco changed bass playing forever and this set of transcriptions make for perfect study pieces for students looking to improve their technique and explore harmonics and soloing.
Recommended for: intermediate/advanced players who don’t mind TAB and standard notation on the same page.
Building Walking Basslines - Ed Friedland
I learned to ‘walk’ the hard way (transcription and trial and error!) but I really wish I’d had this book as a 14 year old bass nerd. The theory is well presented and the exercises are therapeutic if done properly. No TAB here so although it’s perfect for beginners, be prepared to use your reading chops! ‘Walking’ is a dying art but it is such a good way to support a band in so many situations!
Recommended for: beginner/intermediate players who want to work on their jazz theory and reading chops.
Jaco: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius - Bill Milkowski
Yes, I cried; and you probably will too but this is essential reading for any fan or student of modern bass playing. The book has been criticised by some but for me, this one was was inspiring and enlightening. The ultimate biography of a tortured genius.
Recommended for: everyone who has the emotional stability to handle it.
I intend to periodically add more to this list over time. Do you have any favourites? Let me know!