Recommended Tools: Bass Methods

Posted by: Michael Bates on January 9, 2009 @ 10:12 am
Filed under: Michael Bates (Artist Thoughts)

Some time off over the holidays afforded me a much needed opportunity to re-evaluate my approach to practicing in terms of how and what I’ve been working on. While often kept busy learning new music for different projects, I also wanted to get back to checking out the history of the greats on my instrument and get geeky with some bass-related stuff. To take a hard look at ways to expand and solidify my musical language, I spent most of the holiday practicing and doing investigative listening. In working on this, I stumbled across two books that might be of some interest.

John Goldsby’s book “The Jazz Bass Book, Technique and Tradition”
published by Backbeat Books is obviously geared towards bass players. It’s an excellent compendium that explores the styles and techniques of 70 or so bass players. The first half of the book looks at early guys like John Kirby and Walter Page all the way up to modern masters like Dave Holland and Peter Ind. Not only does John write about each player, he also includes many transcriptions and key stylistic aspects of what they brought or bring to the music. I’ve been taking a lot of these lines through 12 keys in order to really get them down.

The second part looks at technique and vocabulary. There are many excellent bass lines and perspectives throughout. Some examine the way certain players approach common chord progressions and others are suggestions on how to work on chord/scale relationships. Great stuff and I’ve been hitting this section hardÅ  and I also spent one evening compiling a playlist on my computer that included all the recordings and solos mentioned in the book. With it playing constantly around the house, I’ve been revisiting several Paul Chambers, Ray Brown, Red Mitchell, Isreal Crosby and Marc Johnson bass lines and solos I transcribed years ago and finding many other “new” solos too.

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The other book I found over the holidays was David Berkman’s “The Jazz Musician’s Guide to Creative Practicing” published by Sher Music. This is a very funny and insightful book that covers a very wide scope: everything from spelling chord changes through thoughts on playing fast, playing what you hear, deepening your groove, playing on Giant Steps, playing hard keys and dozens of other ideas for improvising. It’s incredibly complete and offers some concrete and clear methods for practicing. David has found a very cool method to get into things on a microscopic level and then applying it in a bigger picture sort of way. ..and while I’m getting a lot out of it now, this is a book that would have saved me a lot of time 10 years ago too. Kudos to David Berkman. This is a keeper.

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Happy practicing everyone!.

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