Standing in the Shadows of Motown: The Life and Music of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson
This is one of the bibles for bass players as James Jamerson is one of the true bass greats. There is no TAB in this so it is great for reading practice and comes with a CD of truly great bass players playing Jamerson bass lines. This was the first book I was recommended when I was 12 and it is brilliant. I used it to work on my reading before I really knew who Jamerson was. It was only years later that I devoured the front part of the book which is all about his history and legend. Learning about and from the greats of the instrument is a great way to improve your own playing and this book is essential.
What Duck Done
This is another one similar to the Jamerson book in that there is no TAB and it is brilliant for reading practice. But forget that: these bass lines are incredible! Slightly more rootsy and repetitive in his playing than Jamerson, you have probably heard Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn’s playing – (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay, In The Midnight Hour…
Written by UK session legend Paul Westwood, the Bass Bible is a book filled with more styles of music than you thought existed. There are bass lines in the style of bass legends as well as grooves from around the world including many South American and African styles. If you feel like you play a lot of the same kind of music and fancy a change then get this book.
The Working Bassist’s Toolkit
I read this book cover to cover around the time I went into music full time when I was 22. I learnt a lot from it in terms of what you need gear wise as well as the knowledge and etiquette on a gig (actually you really learn that by just doing it, making all kinds of mistakes and then trying never to make those again!).
One of the best things about learning an instrument is delving into the history of it and learning about the best players who have ever played it. This book does a very good job of presenting many of them. My copy was published in 1993 but contains so much great info and inspiration we can learn from. Books like this show you who to listen to and therefore what to learn. Studying the greats will make you great!
The Jazz Piano Book
I highly recommend getting your keyboard skills together. If you are remotely interested in composing or even using a Digital Audio Workstation (Logic, Cubase. Pro Tools etc) keyboard skills will help. Learnt from a keyboard point of view, harmony and melody also make a lot more sense when you return to the bass and expand your mind greatly. This is a brilliant book focussed towards (did you guess this already??)….jazz.
The Bass Player Book: Equipment, Technique, Styles & Artists
Similar to ‘Bass Heroes’ this book also delves more into equipment, technique and styles. I read so many books like this over the years and still do. Even if I get one thing from it I can use then it is worth it. You can actually get loads more than one thing from it though!
Brave New Bass: Interviews and Lessons with the Innovators, Trendsetters and Visionaries
I got a lot of very handy gear tips from this book; a series of interviews with top players including Marcus Miller, Will Lee, Flea, Anthony Jackson and more.
Studio Bass Masters
From very early on I was extremely influenced by bass players who were known as studio players. This book contains tips from many great players as well as examples of their styles. Recommended for anyone really into playing in studios or even playing very well in their own home studio.
The Jazz Theory Book
This book is extremely thick! If you are interested in getting your jazz theory up then this is the book for you. It is very comprehensive. No TAB so if you can read music that is a bonus. A lot of treble clef and piano stuff too so you can also use this to get your piano skills together.
Vol. 2, Nothin’ But Blues: Jazz And Rock
There are many Aebersold books out there and this was the first one I got when I was a kid. They are play-a-long books that teach you how to improvise. Go to www.jazzbooks.com and check out the entire range. If you don’t have access to a group of musicians to play with and experiment then this is the next best thing.
The Best of Victor Wooten
Transcribing bass lines is one of *the* best things you can do full stop. Good luck transcribing Victor Wooten’s tunes though, it will take you a while! I don’t discourage transcribing him at all but he did the work for this book which contains TAB so you can see exactly where he plays on the fretboard.
The Jazz Bass Book – Technique and Tradition
I reckon this is another bass bible in the vein of ‘Standing in the Shadows of Motown’. Even though John Goldsby is an upright player and the players presented in the book are too, electric players can learn so much from this book. It goes through the main jazz bass players from the swing era onwards. The rest of the book is dedicated to the technique and styles involved. This is a treasure trove.
Funkifying the Clave: Afro-Cuban Grooves for Bass and Drums
Afro-Cuban music is such a beautiful and challenging style if you are used to more contemporary styles. If you want to improve your rhythmic sense, groove, feel and timing then this book is highly recommended. Another one of the books I studied when I was younger (it terrorised me!!).
Building Walking Bass Lines
Playing walking jazz bass lines is an incredibly satisfying thing to do. Obviously essential if you want to play jazz too! This book presents the subject in a very manageable way. There is a follow up book to this too (‘Expanding Walking Bass Lines’).
Charlie Parker Omnibook: For All Bass Clef Instruments
Jaco transcribed loads of Charlie Parker bebop lines. This style is another that is very difficult to play let alone transcribe so this book is a good resource for anyone interested in the style. Not for the faint-hearted.
J.S. Bach for Bass
The music Bach wrote for the cello turned out to be challenging but extremely rewarding for us bassists. He was a harmonic genius too writing many jazz-like passages before jazz existed. Having some Bach in your repertoire is a wonderful thing.
Discovering Rock Bass: An Introduction to Rock and Pop Styles, Techniques, Sounds and Equipment
This is a great book written by a really fantastic player. I was very lucky to be taught by Dom for around 7 years from the age of around 12. I learnt so much from him and he has been a big mentor to me. This book is for anyone wanting to get seriously into styles from rock to latin to ballads.
Slap It: Funk Studies for the Electric Bass
This is a very famous book that has been around for ages. If you want to get your slap groove on then I recommend this along with Anthony Vitti’s books (as well as listening and transcribing great players such as Marcus Miller and Flea).
The Slap Bass Bible
I like all Anthony’s books and this one contains some tasty slap lines. The book contains real grooves and focuses on playing them precisely and with feeling. Something we should always aim for regardless of style.
The Melodic Bass Library: Scales and Modes for the Bass Guitarist
Jimmy Haslip played for The Yellowjackets when I was growing up and I loved them! I got to meet him at Ronnie Scott’s and he was a true gent. This book is one of my very favourites and one of a handful I studied when I was getting everything together. He is an absolutely beautiful player and employs many interesting colours in his playing. This books presents major, harmonic and minor modes as well as diminished and many other exotic scales. There are examples too so you can use them in your own playing.
101 Bass Tips: Stuff All the Pros Know and Use
This is written by a legendary jazz player, Tribal Tech’s Gary Willis. I don’t think it is just me who has a really geeky side when it comes to learning and improving and with tips such as ‘Cable Discipline’ and ‘Steel Wool Trick’ this book does not disappoint. There is some great stuff in here from health and posture tips to gear to practice and memorisation techniques.
The Real Book
You can do a whole background jazz gig with one of these even if you don’t know any of the tunes. Learn to read chord symbols and improvise a bass line (sign up to the newsletter at www.onlinebasscourses.com to learn how to do this kind of thing) and you are good to go!
The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music
Victor Wooten’s semi-autobiographical work of fiction is a great read and recommended for anyone looking for the more spiritual, deeper side of music. We all know that you need technique, a knowledge of theory etc. to become a good musician and no one exemplifies that more than Victor Wooten. However, this book is more of a philosophical look at music and a bigger picture than just music. It’s quite zen and requires you to think a little which is no bad thing!
Jaco: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius
The subtitle of this book sums it up perfectly: it was an extraordinary life and it did end tragically. Like James Jamerson, Jaco is one of the true legends of the bass. I read this just after my obsessive-Jaco phase when I was 13 and was transfixed by his story. I actually pulled the frets out of my bass at the time after reading this book but that’s another story….
The Inner Game of Music
This book is based on the original ‘The Inner Game of Tennis’ (I highly recommend that book too even if you’re not into tennis). The mental side of performance has always fascinated me and it seems to me that musicians should work on this as much as technique or learning tunes. It took me a couple of goes to get through this book as I wasn’t ready for it the first time round. But if you are interested in the mental side of performance and practice (and I think you should be!) this is worth reading.
Jazz Improv for Bass
Carole Kaye is a session bass titan. She played on thousands of records and TV and film sessions in the 70s and 80s. She came up through the clubs playing jazz guitar in the 60s. She has so much wisdom, many great stories as well as experience and expertise. I recommend all her books actually. Do check out the film The Wrecking Crew (also look at my DVD recommendations) if you want to see a fascinating documentary on the LA session crew of the 70s and 80s.