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  1. #1

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    So, next academic year (my senior year), I'm not only going to be playing jazz guitar, but also jazz bass. We've got a couple of seniors who play upright who are graduating at the end of this semester, leaving a hole in the "lower-tier" jazz combos (typically reserved for incoming freshman), so --- enter me, in need of extra credits in combo and ensemble performance.

    I'm pretty psyched - I think this will be really fun, and might help improve my playing and overall musicianship in a lot of ways (how I harmonically read charts, execute on the fretboard, etc.). My current plan is to spend much of the summer shedding on my cheap little Fender Jazz bass; I won't have access to an upright, but I can at least get started getting my head into the game.

    Do any of you guys also play bass in a jazz context? If so, do you have recommendations on specific approaches, lessons, books, DVDs, online lessons, etc.?


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2
    I've been a bassist for about 7 years and I actually just recently switched full time to guitar, but it was a gradual process.

    Honestly, I would just make sure to know how chords are built and to make sure you use lots of chromatics in your walking. Listening to Joe Pass actually improved my bass playing, oddly enough...

  4. #3

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    Rufus Reid book is good and Jim Stinnett has some good bass materials at his site.

    Jim Stinnett's Site

    Remember its a different instrument, nothing worse than a someone playing bass like a guitar.

    Simple lesson use chromatics when ascending, and descend scalewise.
    No, I'm not going to give you the answer to your question. I don't want to deny you the pleasure you'll receive when you figure it out yourself. -- Bill Evans talking to his brother.

  5. #4

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    I second Docbop on the fact that the bass is not a guitar. Also, a Fender bass is not an upright bass. I play URB, Fender and ABG and I approach each instrument a bit differently, although the Fender and the ABG are pretty similar. I can't recommend an electric bass method, but there are many good ones out there. If you do get your hands on an upright, I recommend a book that Ray Brown put out about 30 years ago. It turns up in used book stores every now and then; a great book if you like that style. I also would suggest Simandl or a similar traditional double bass method book for arco exercises. I also recommend that you play finger-style rather than using a pick with electric. I have both fretted and fretless Fender Jazz basses and if you can get one I would suggest that you go fretless, it's not as hard to get good intonation as you might think. Listen to a lot of bass players to get a good, basic walk together, then add your own drops. Mix roots and fifths into the walking, change it up, vary it. Keep good time and keep your lines clean and simple, but also listen for chord subs by the rhythm players. You need to outline the harmony so the extensions being played by the piano/guitar/organ/vibes/etc. make aural sense. You are the anchor that the soloist relies on, especially when lost. Listen carefully to the soloist and if you hear that they are not certain where they are in the tune, drop out of the walk pattern and play roots and fifths until they find their place. Listen to the drummer and play off of each other, keep the time and let the drummer do the fills. Keep a good ear on the piano/guitar/organ/soloist to hear where the tempo is going, and support it. Do your best to maintain good eye contact with all the players on the stand, but especially the drummer. My most satisfying experiences on the stand are the exchanges with the drummer. Save your soloing for your solo; don't muddy the water with a lot of 16 and 32nd notes or stop time bass playing unless you are trading or something like that. If you support your players you will be rewarded with a lot of thanks and calls for gigs. Unlike rock, the bass drives the combo in jazz. You are the heartbeat, everyone else moves around you. Please don't think I am belittling the bass role, I'm not. Done correctly, the other players never even know what you did for the ensemble, they just know the tune went very, very well. Just my thoughts based on a lot of years of keepin' it low.

  6. #5

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    If you remember that in jazz, a bass is just a substitute for a tuba, you'll be all set. Ain't meant to be fancy, just solid.

  7. #6

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    Right on everyone, thanks for the advice and the links. I assume I'll be playing URB, although I don't have an instrument yet - I'll probably get one lent to me from the school. I fully intend to play with fingers (as I do with my Fender). I save the picks for the guitar.

    I intend that this be a learning experience, and I intend that it be fun (hopefully). I'm not looking to be a glory player, that's what all the saxes and trumpets I play with are for. Just as I've been focusing on my comping lately in guitar, I want to just be a solid underpinning and framework for the tunes I play.

    CG, if you have a tuba, send it my way. I'll play it.

  8. #7

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    Bassists for the most part just don't get the respect they deserve. I see bassless outfits sometimes and for me they don't seem to have the same swing/groove/whatever you want to call it. (Decent organ trios and Charlie Hunter excepted).

    Here's the key. When a band is really playing, take out any other instrument and you can get by, even drums. Lose the bass, however, and you lose the groove.

    Yes I am a sometime bassplayer, why do you ask?

  9. #8

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    Practice upright fingering systems on the Fender if you are aiming towards playing upright.
    When playing anything fretless, being able to hear intervals in advance will greatly improve intonation.
    Chuck Sher authored a nice bass book worth checking out.

  10. #9

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    Are you new to bass? I am a 42 year old guitarist. I have been doing my own backing tracks for years with a bass and drum machine and I have become very proficient on the bass because of it. I never used BIAB or Abersold and it forced my to get good on bass. If your new to bass practice reading in bass clef. Buy some jazz bass books. The Rufus Reid book is great. Also if you know your arpeggios that will help. Just keep doing it and you will get good on the bass sooner than you think.

  11. #10

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    I think I'll be OK with the intonation when I get to a fretless bass. I played violin for 7 years when I was a kid, and I've got a good ear. However, I'm intrigued, what do you all mean about "upright fingering systems" versus "Fender fingering systems"? Why would fingering be different if I played upright vs. sitting/standing with a strap?

    KMan you have a good idea about laying down tracks. I can't play drums but the bass will add a new dimension to my tracks. I tend to play over my own backing tracks anyway (laid down on a looper, or into Audacity, with my comping as background and a metronome).

  12. #11

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    Playing bass will also be good for your arranging, composing, and band leading chops. I play a little bit of the whole rhythm section, bass, guitar, piano, and drums. Of course being a guitarist, bass was the easiest to pick up.

    What's good about playing bass and drums is it trains you to think as a bass player and a drummer.

    The upright bass has a longer neck which leads to different fingerings and technique such as shifting a little bit to grab the next note (where it would be easy to reach without a shift on the guitar).

  13. #12

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    The fingering difference results from the difference in the scale length of the string.
    Fender bass typically is 34" and upright often comes in around 41".

    Guitar fingering is based on one finger per fret plus upper and lower extensions and contractions.
    This methodology is largely transferable to electric bass. Personally I mix in a bit of upright fingering on electric bass to alleviate stretches in the lower positions.

    Basic upright fingering is built on a 3 finger system

    1st 4 notes on the E string


    Some 3 note major scale fragments




    One octave G Major Scale


    This is just how an average human hand can navigate such a large instrument in tune.

    The great French bassist Francois Rabbath uses a different system that involves pivoting around the thumb and extending the reach but it obviously means releasing the previous note.

    There are a few out there that use guitar like fingerings further up the neck where the spacing is closer to good effect.

    When the neck meets the body the thumb comes out to facilitate movement up the fingerboard and is also used as an additional finger played on it's side (thumb position). Given the scope of what you are doing on bass you may find that playing up to the moral equivalent of the
    12th fret is sufficient range to cover what you need for now.

    Check out some solos by Eddie Gomez, Dave Holland, Gary Peacock, Scott LaFaro, Christian McBride to see how thumb position works and also observe how they organize their fingerings.

  14. #13

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