Wheat's BassBook: A Comprehensive Method & Resource for the Electric Bass Guitar
[Fender Bass Image]

What's New

Here's a version history of the BassBook. The current version is 5.2 and we're still working on it.
Version 5.2 (12.2008)
Validated all the XHTML and CSS. See for yourself!
Version 5.1.1 (08.2007)
Updated the Colophon and About the Author sections.
Version 5.1 (07.2006)
Added some social bookmarking links (del.icio.us, furl, digg) to the front page. Revised the version history and consolidated it on the what's new page. Updated or expanded the listening guide, the gear page, the exotic scales page, and the reading music page, along with some global style modifications.
Version 5.0 (02.2002)
New, clean PHP includese-based interface added table-of-contents combo box to the footer. Reorganized the table of contents to group like topics together in a more logical progression. Removed frames interface. Added new content and revised the entire text.
Version 4.0.1 (08.2000)
Made many minor corrections to the text, began the process of cleaning up the HTML to 4.0 validation standards, and introduced casscading style sheets for better formatting.
Version 4.0 (05.1999)
Added a frames-based interface which we later regretted, enhanced navigation, and included new graphics.
Version 3.0.9 (12.1998)
Included extensive additional material in Appendix V, "A Reading Primer," and split the BassBook into five separate documents, instead of one continuous file, as it had always been previously.
Version 3.0.8 (11.1998)
Overhauled the graphics to reduce dithering problems and give the BassBook a clean new look, cleaned up the prose a bit, and included even more on walking bass lines and exotic scales.
Version 3.0.7 (08.1998)
Expanded most of Book III--especially the very popular section on walking bass--and added scales to the section called other interesting scales.
Version 3.0.6 (05.1998)
corrected some errors, Added ASCII support for many graphics and greatly expanded most of Book II.
Version 3.0.5 (01.1998)
Expanded Appendixes V and VI.
Version 3.0.4 (01.1998)
Added Appendix VI.
Version 3.0.3 (01.1998)
Added Appendix V.
Version 3.0.2 (12.1997)
Expanded description of the modes and their use.
Version 3.0.1 (12.1997)
Added note diagrams for five and six string basses and a few graphics of the modes of C major.
Verion 3.0 (12.1997)
Corrected a few errors, expanded Book I, reordered some of the sections, and streamlined the HTML for ease of future revisions.
Version 2.0 (01.1997)
First web-based edition.
Version 1.0 (08.1996)
A loosely organized, hard copy version that I put together for my friends and students.

Introduction

For years I made notes toward a bass method/reference book because there simply wasn't a decent one out there when I was trying to learn how to play. There are much better books now, but I still thought it would be good to put together a solid book for bassists with access to the web. And I wanted to create my own, as a way of giving back to the internet community. I hope that I have provided some in-depth study here, as well as a comprehensive source of basic reference information. Please let me know what parts of this book you find useful and what you'd like me to add. I still consider this a work in progress and will be happy to add sections on other topics.
A Note on the Format

I've often resorted to tab because it is an easy way to present music in ASCII. I don't have a notation editor at the moment, and creating notation in Photoshop is painfully slow. I'm not against tabulature, but I don't want anyone to misinterpret my use of it here as a slant against standard notation. Reading standard notation is a very useful skill. For those of you interested in learning to read standard notation, I've included a reading primer, but, until this section can be expanded to cover all of the bassics, I'll refer you to some additional resources:
The best resource I've found is Ron Velosky's Sight Reading for the Bass. If the very concept of reading music is new to you, I recommend Dave Stewart's A Musician's Guide to Reading and Writing Music. It is a very witty guide and a handy reference book which starts from absolute zero and teaches all of the basics
Assumptions:
This book assumes that you understand how to read tabulature (a.k.a. tab). If you don't know how to read tab, there are many sites on the internet which can provide an introduction to it. One good one is the rec.music.makers.bass frequently asked questions file, which I host and maintain. I've tried to define all terminology as I introduce it. And I've tried to stick to a few basic ways of naming things. To designate a sharp, I use the pound symbol (#), to designate a flatted note, I will either use a lower case "b" or a minus sign (-). This book also assumes that you are right handed (or that you play right handed). Most of the examples in this book are shown on the four string bass. All of the examples are still useful on the five or six string, of course, but they don't take the extra strings into consideration (except in a few examples).
I've tried to include some fundamentals of music in the first section, but I do not intend the book to be a complete introduction to music. I've incorporated a lot of material on fretting and sounding notes into this new version, but for the time being, I still assume that you have a basic understanding of rhythm notation (i.e. that you know the difference between an eighth note, a sixteenth note and a triplet). This book is aimed at the beginner, but is also designed for those who already know the basics of playing but want to better understand scales, chords, and theory.
How to Use this Book:
Wheat's BassBook isn't meant to be a linear doccument, and the new structure attempts to further emphasize that fact. I don't intend for you to begin with the very first chapter and proceed straight through to the last chapter. Rather, I want you to jump around, and the book will only make sense if you do. No one would reccomend learning everything about sounding notes (including slaping, popping, and two hand tapping) before learning a major scale. But to make this a usefull resource, as well as a usefull method, I decided to arrange the books in the current manner. Book one focusses mostly on mechanics, book two focusses on scales and chords, book three focuses on more global applications of the material learned in books one and two, and book four includes an assortment of other useful topics which didn't fit in anywhere else. Your playing level and previous experience will determine which sections are useful to you.

Book One

Basics: Notes of the Neck (for 4-string basses)

Here are a few basic concepts which will help us when we move on to scales, chords, and theory. Here are the natural notes of the bass neck from the open notes up to the 12th fret (assume that your bass is laying on a table in front of you and you're looking down on it):
G|   | A |   | B | C |   | D |   | E | F |   | G | (G string)
D|   | E | F |   | G |   | A |   | B | C |   | D | (D string)
A|   | B | C |   | D |   | E | F |   | G |   | A | (A string)
E| F |   | G |   | A |   | B | C |   | D |   | E | (E string)
0  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10  11  12  (fret number)
The E string is the thickest string on your bass (assuming you have a four-string bass). It is the string closest to your face when you are playing. The zero (given as a fret number) indicates the note you get when you play a string open (i.e. without fretting a note).
You will notice that I've left some blank spaces on our chart (like the one at the second fret of the E string, between F and G. The notes which are in between the natural notes are called accidentals, and each can be named two ways. The note between F and G can be called F# (F sharp), meaning that it is one half-step (one fret) higher in pitch than F. We could also name it Gb (G flat) meaning that it is one half-step lower in pitch than G. There is a long tradition in music which determines whether a given note will be notated as a flatted or sharped note, but if you're just trying to communicate with a friend, you can use either term and he or she will understand you.
Starting at the 12th fret, our entire diagram starts over. Notice that the notes at the 12th fret are the same as the notes of the open strings. This principle applies for every fret above the 12th (13th fret = 1st fret, 14th fret = 2nd fret, etc.).
If you look closely at the chart, you'll notice a few more things. First, that the letters go from A up to G and then start over with A again. The musical alphabet goes A-G. You probably knew that already. But you might not have known that most of the notes are a whole step apart (that is, they have a blank fret between, as F and G do above) but two combinations of notes are only a half-step apart (i.e. they have no fret between them). These two combinations are B-C and E-F. Because there is no note between B and C, we do not generally refer to B# or Cb (even though B#, according to our rules, would be C and Cb would be B). Likewise, we don't refer generally to E# (i.e. F) or Fb (i.e. E). These are just a few of the many conventions of talking about music.
Here are two more neck diagrams--one showing all the accidentals named as sharps, and one showing all the accidentals named as flats. I'll trust you to remember that F# and Gb are the same note (i.e. produce the same sound), regardless of what name we give them.
G| G#| A | A#| B | C | C#| D | D#| E | F | F#| G | (G string)
D| D#| E | F | F#| G | G#| A | A#| B | C | C#| D | (D string)
A| A#| B | C | C#| D | D#| E | F | F#| G | G#| A | (A string)
E| F | F#| G | G#| A | A#| B | C | C#| D | D#| E | (E string)
0  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10  11  12  (fret number)
A| Ab| A | Bb| B | C | Db| D | Eb| E | F | Gb| G | (G string)
G| Eb| E | F | Gb| G | Ab| A | Bb| B | C | Db| D | (D string)
F| Bb| B | C | Db| D | Eb| E | F | Gb| G | Ab| A | (A string)
E| F | Gb| G | Ab| A | Bb| B | C | Db| D | Eb| E | (E string)
0  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10  11  12  (fret number)
Notes of the Neck (for five strings with low B)
If you're fortunate enough to have a five string bass (or if you're at all curious about them) here's a diagram including the notes on the low B string (I'll trust you to fill in the sharps and flats for yourself).
G|   | A |   | B | C |   | D |   | E | F |   | G | (G string)
D|   | E | F |   | G |   | A |   | B | C |   | D | (D string)
A|   | B | C |   | D |   | E | F |   | G |   | A | (A string)
E| F |   | G |   | A |   | B | C |   | D |   | E | (E string)
B| C |   | D |   | E | F |   | G |   | A |   | B | (B string)
0  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10  11  12  (fret number)
Notes of the Neck (for five string with high C)
It's considerably less common, but some players (e.g. Steve Swallow) prefer to string their fives with a high C instead of a low B. Here's what that tuning looks like:
C|   | D |   | E | F |   | G |   | A |   | B | C | (C string)
G|   | A |   | B | C |   | D |   | E | F |   | G | (G string)
D|   | E | F |   | G |   | A |   | B | C |   | D | (D string)
A|   | B | C |   | D |   | E | F |   | G |   | A | (A string)
E| F |   | G |   | A |   | B | C |   | D |   | E | (E string)
0  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10  11  12  (fret number)
Notes of the Neck (for six string with low B and high C)
Since the mid 1980s the six string bass guitar, sometimes called the "contrabass guitar," has become an increasingly popular instrument. It is generally strung like the five string but with a high C in addition to the low B, so it has the advantage of an increased high range and an increased low range (the only real disadvantage is the necessarily wider neck to accomadate both and the occasional sneers you'll get from certain old-school bassists).
C|   | D |   | E | F |   | G |   | A |   | B | C | (C string)
G|   | A |   | B | C |   | D |   | E | F |   | G | (G string)
D|   | E | F |   | G |   | A |   | B | C |   | D | (D string)
A|   | B | C |   | D |   | E | F |   | G |   | A | (A string)
E| F |   | G |   | A |   | B | C |   | D |   | E | (E string)
B| C |   | D |   | E | F |   | G |   | A |   | B | (B string)
0  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10  11  12  (fret number)
I've also heard of six string players who skip the low B in order to add a high C and a high F. This is an exceedingly rare practice, but it might be a lot of fun for anyone who likes chords on the bass. Conklin Guitars currently produces a seven-string bass which facilitates this extended high range while still keeping the low B string (i.e. B, E, A, D, G, C, F).
BEAD Tuning on the Four String
Quite a few players who want access to the low notes usually found only on five and six string basses but who prefer the feel of a four string (and don't much care for the upper register anyway) eventually try the BEAD tuning, which is identical to the tuning of the lowest four strings on a typical five or six string bass:
D|   | E | F |   | G |   | A |   | B | C |   | D | (D string)
A|   | B | C |   | D |   | E | F |   | G |   | A | (A string)
E| F |   | G |   | A |   | B | C |   | D |   | E | (E string)
B| C |   | D |   | E | F |   | G |   | A |   | B | (B string)
0  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10  11  12  (fret number)
Using this tuning may require you to increase the width of the string slots in your nut and does require that you buy strings designed for a five string. You'll probably have to intonate you bass too if you intend to use this tuning extensively. Many players fear that adding the thicker B string will hurt the neck of their four-string bass. This is not true. The B string, strangely enough, exerts less pressure on the neck than the E string. So the total pull on your neck will be less. But since it definately will change, a truss rod adjustment is surely a necessity. The bassist from Tool popularized this tuning. I tried it once and liked it but missed the high range too much.
An odd alternative: BEGC
Finally, here's a tuning that was suggested to me by a person at ActiveBass. For those of you who want the extended high and low range of the six-string bass but who, for whatever reason, prefer to play a four-string instrument, you can try this rather strange but useful tuning, which leaves out the A and D strings of a typical six-string configuration.
C|   | D |   | E | F |   | G |   | A |   | B | C | (C string)
G|   | A |   | B | C |   | D |   | E | F |   | G | (G string)
E| F |   | G |   | A |   | B | C |   | D |   | E | (E string)
B| C |   | D |   | E | F |   | G |   | A |   | B | (B string)
0  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10  11  12  (fret number)

Fretting Notes with the Left Hand

In general, you'll use the four fingers of your left hand to fret notes on the neck. Your four fingers will alow you to cover four frets without having to change the position of your hand on the neck. For simplicity, we'll refer to the fingers on your left hand as follows: i=index, m=middle, r=ring, p=pinky. Sometimes it's easier to use numbers to designate the fingers of the hands. In that case 1=index, 2=middle, 3=ring, and 4=pinky. When these letters or numbers are written below a piece of written music or tabulature, they are given as suggested fingering guides for either the left or right hand (when the context doesn't make it sufficiently clear, I'll label them "left hand" or "right hand"). The fingerings you ultimaltely use are a matter of personal preference. Below is a simple line with the fingering indicated below:
----------------
-----------5-7--
-----5-6-7------
-5-8------------
 i p i m r i r    (left hand, using letters to designate fingering)
 1 4 1 2 3 1 3    (left hand, using numbers to designate fingering)
Be sure that you press down on the string just behind the fret, not directly on top of it. You can experiment a bit to find out just how far behind the fret you need to be, but if you're too far behind the fret or directly on top of it, you'll have get a weak and/or buzzing sound.
As you can see, each finger is responsible for one fret. And since the pattern begins on the fifth fret, we call this "playing in the fifth position." Here's the same line, played in the seventh position:
-----------------
------------7-9--
------7-8-9------
-7-10------------
 i p  i m r i r    (left hand, letters)
 1 4  1 2 3 1 4    (left hand, numbers)
In order to build strength in your left hand (and to train it to playing in possition), you should keep pressing down on the lower notes on the same string while you fret the upper notes. In the first two notes of the above example, you should keep you index finger pressing on the seventh fret while you fret the tenth with your pinky. When you get to the fifth note of the passage (9th fret of the A string) you should have your index finger on the seventh fret of the A string, your middle finger on the eight fret of the A string, and your ring finger on the ninth fret of the A string.
When a pattern involves open strings (strings which are played without fretting them) fingering changes somewhat. Consider this example:
-----------------
-----------0-2---
-----0-1-2-------
-0-3-------------
 o r o i m o m    (left hand; o=open)
 0 3 0 1 2 0 2    (left hand; 0=open)
There are many different ways to finger (or fret) a given passage. The fingering you choose will always involve a tradeoff between comfort and speed. Certain fingerings will be more comfortable but will slow you down. Certain others will be more efficient but more difficult to maintain for long periods of time. Fingering is subjective. Different players favor different ways of fingering the same passage. Your own style of playing will dictate you fingering of any passage. And after a while, you won't think much about fingering unless you're learning a new piece or trying to find a better way to play something. Fingering will become, to a large degree, automatic.
Fingering in the Lower Registers
Trying to keep to the "one finger per fret" rule that I've been describing can be very difficult, and often unneccesary, in the lower registers of the neck (i.e. below the fifth fret). Consider the following line:
--------------------------------
----3-----3-----3-----3-----3---
--------------------------------
-1-----1-----1-----1-----1------
If we stick to the one finger per fret rule, we'd play this line with the first and third fingers of the left hand. But if you were playing a long song made up of a lot of patterns similar to this one, your left hand would fatigue fairly quickly. Therefore, below the fifth fret (on simple lines like this one) you might want to consider letting your fourth finger substitute for your third, which will allow you to relax your left hand a bit but still play the line well.
Extended Fingerings
Extened fingerings are ways to finger patterns which involve a stretch (i.e. a span of more than four frets). These can be extremely difficult in the lower registers (i.e. the lower part of your neck, below the fifth fret), so much so that you might not be able to use them. But they are usefull in the upper registers (above the ninth fret). How much you'll resort to extended fingerings will vary according to the size and flexibility of your hands. Here's a scale using extended fingering:
----------------------
-----------------9-10-
---------8-10-12------
-8-10-12--------------
 i  m  p i  m  p i  m   (left hand)
 1  2  4 1  2  4 1  2   (left hand)
 1  3  4 1  3  4 1  2   (left hand, using 3 instead of 2)
Here's the same scale (the same notes) using a different fingering:
----------------------
-------------7-9-10---
------7-8-10----------
-8-10-----------------
 m  p i m  p i r p    (left hand)
 2  4 1 2  4 1 3 4
There's room for differences here too. Some players would choose to finger the first two notes of the above example with the index and middle fingers (i.e. shifting from the 7th to the 9th position) and then shift back to the eighth position to finger the rest of the notes.
A Quick and Dirty Definition: Scales
A particular sequence of notes with a definable intervalic structure (i.e. sequence of whole and half steps), from which melodies can be written, is refered to as a scale. We've been using two scales in the above examples, the blues scale and the major scale. Scales are named for the note they start on and for the particular pattern of whole and half steps which define the scale.
----------------
-----------5-7--
-----5-6-7------
-5-8------------
The example above (starting on the fifth fret of the E string, which is A) is the A minor Blues Scale (we'll get into why it's called minor later), which is often simply called the "'A' Blues Scale" or even more simply "'A' Blues." Below is a reprint of the second example (starting on the seventh fret of the E string (i.e. B):
-----------------
------------7-9--
------7-8-9------
-7-10------------
 i p  i m r i r    (left hand, letters)
 1 4  1 2 3 1 4    (left hand, numbers)
Since it starts on B, we call it the B Blues Scale. Scales are sometimes easier to represent using fretboard diagrams. The A minor blues scale can be represented in a diagram as follows:
['a' minor 
blues scale .jpg]
In ASCII, we could render it thus:
|---|---|---|---|
|-0-|---|-X-|---|
|-0-|-0-|-0-|---|
|-X-|---|---|-0-|
  5
A key to Fretboard Diagrams
I'll be using diagrams like the ones above quite a lot to explain concepts in this book, so it would help if I told you how to read them, wouldn't it? In these diagrams, the black dots (or in ASCII, the Xs) represent the root notes of the scale and the white dots (the zeros) represent all other notes in the scale. The horizontal lines represent the strings and the vertical lines represent the frets. The digram is drawn as if you were looking down on the fretboard of your bass laying on a table in front of you. The strings go E, A, D, G, from the bottom of the diagram to its top. The number below the diagram (5) indicates the fret on which the pattern begins.
A note on Left Hand Posture
There is much concern (and rightly so) in the bass playing commuity about repeat stress injuries (e.g. tendonitis, carpel tunel syndrome) to the hands and wrists as a result of improper practicing techniques or too much practicing. With this in mind, I'd like to stress a few things about left hand fretting (though I'm not a medical doctor and this in no way should be taken as medical advice).
Fretting notes requires pressure and you will probably be tempted to try to get that pressure entirely from your fingers and your thumb, turning your hand, effectively, into a vise holding the neck of the bass. This is not a good technique to turn into a habit. First off, it will tire out your left hand very quickly. Secondly, it may lead to wrist injuries. Strive whenever possible to pull with your shoulder and back muscles (like upright players do) when fretting notes. The thumb will still exert a little pressure, but it will become mostly a guide to help your fingers find the notes. The pull should come from your shoulders and back.
If you do this correctly, it will have the added benefit of reminding your to keep your wrist straight, which is something else I'd like to emphasize while we're at it. If you keep your left elbow close to your body while you're fretting low notes, it will put your wrist at an unaturally sharp angle (which *will* lead to repeat stress injury. I can vouch for that one). Practice keeping your elbow farther out (especially while going for those low notes). Keep your wrist as straight as possible, and remember to pull from your your back.

Sounding Notes with the Right Hand

There are many ways to sound notes with the right hand. The basic techniques (the ones which you will use most often) are covered here. More advanced techniques will be covered elsewhere in the book. As in so many other areas of bass playing, your choice of techniques forms a part of your style. Some players gravitate toward a particular technique. Always try to use the technique that gives you the sound you're looking for.
Fingerstyle (two finger method)
Many bass players use only the index and middle fingers of their right hand to sound (or pluck) notes on the bass. This style is borrowed, with a few changes, from upright players. Classical players refer to it as "pizzacato." I, as well as many other players, prefer this technique because of the tone that is produced when the fingers meet the string. Your mileage may vary, of course. But it's good to know this technique even if you later decide that you prefer some other technique.
The technique itself is simple but takes some time to develop. Start by resting your right hand thumb on either one of your pickups, or lightly on the E string (or the B string, for you fivers and sixers). Arch your hand and your fingers slightly. Use your index finger to--with some force--pluck the A string (don't bother fretting it, just play it open). Continue the movement of your index finger until it comes to rest on the E string. Now repeat the procedure with your middle finger. You should produce a solid tone. If your tone seems too quiet, try using more of your finger tip when you pluck the string. You shouldn't pull the string up away from the fretboard (doing that intentionally is called "popping" and we'll get to that later). Practice alternating your fingers and try to keep the notes as even (in length and in volume) as possible. Practice starting with both the index finger and the middle finger. It doesn't matter which you start with, but you should strive to alternate as much as possible as this will help you build speed.
Crossing Strings:
The procedure gets more complicated, of course, when you have to play a sequence of notes on more than one string. But the "rules" are the same. You should strive to keep your fingers alternating whenever practical (sometimes you will not be able to do so and it will be easier to repeat notes with the same finger before alternating). As you cross from a lower string (e.g. E) to a higher one (e.g. A), you'll rotate your right hand forward a bit, in order to maintain a nice arch (and keep your finger tips in the proper possition to sound notes with adequate volume). Likewise, your hand will rotate back a bit as you go from a higer string to a lower one. Try this example:
---------------------------------
---------------------------------
---------2-2-2-2---------2-2-2-2-
-0-0-0-0---------0-0-0-0---------
 i m i m i m i m i m i m i m i m
It is easier to maintain perfectly alternating fingerings as long as there are an even number of notes per string (as in the above example). This, of course, is not always the case. Consider this example:
-------------------------------------------------
-------------------------------------2-2-2-------
-------2-2-2-------2-2-2-------2-2-2-------2-2-2-
-0-0-0-------0-0-0-------0-0-0-------------------
 i m i m i m i m i m i m i m i m i m i m i m i m
In certain situations, many players prefer to borrow an approach that guitarists refer to as "speed-picking." Using this approach, you would begin again with your index finger each time you strike a new string (breaking your alternating pattern when necessary). Here's the above example with using the speed-picking approach:
-------------------------------------------------
-------------------------------------2-2-2-------
-------2-2-2-------2-2-2-------2-2-2-------2-2-2-
-0-0-0-------0-0-0-------0-0-0-------------------
 i m i i m i i m i i m i i m i i m i i m i i m i
Alternating patterns are usually the best approach, but sometimes the speed-picking approach works better. Try both and see what you think.
Raking
Sometimes it's easier to play certain passages with just one finger. Consider this example. Take a look at both of the fingerings:
-------------------------
-2-----2-----2-----2-----
---2-----2-----2-----2---
-----0-----0-----0-----0-
 i m i m i m i m i m i m  (left hand fingering #1)
 m m m m m m m m m m m m  (left hand fingering #2, raking).
Both fingerings will work. The second version (called raking) involves playing several notes in a row with just one finger (i.e. one continuous stroke). Raking is generally easier for passages like this one, but you have to be careful to keep the timing straight. You'll be tempted to rush when you rake, so fight that tendency.
Jumping Strings
Ocassionally, a line will require that you jump from a note on the E string to a note on the D string or from a note on the A string to a note on the G string. This is known as jumping strings, and it can be simple or difficult depending upon the line. Here are two examples. (The first should be played as straight eight notes, the second as triplets):
-----------------
---2---2---2---2-
-----------------
-0---0---0---0---
 i m i m i m i m
-------------------------
---2-2---2-2---2-2---2-2-
-------------------------
-0-----0-----0-----0-----
 i m i m i m i m i m i m   (left hand, alternating fingering) 
 i m i i m i i m i i m i   (left hand, another fingering)
In the second example, the first fingering is strictly alternating, and the second is the way I would choose to play it. Jumps like these often require that you rethink your fingering or abandon strick alternating patterns for something else which works better.
Fingerstyle (three finger method)
A variation on the above technique (and one especially usefull for quick triplet passages) is to use three fingers of the right hand (index, middle, and ring). I find it easier in these situations to start with the ring finger, though you're welcome to begin with the index finger. Below is an example with both fingerings. Note that most players don't use this approach exclusively. They generally revert to the two finger approach and use this only for long passages of quick triplets:
-------------------------------------------------
-------------------------------------2-2-2-------
-------2-2-2-------2-2-2-------2-2-2-------2-2-2-
-0-0-0-------0-0-0-------0-0-0-------------------
 r m i r m i r m i r m i r m i r m i r m i r m i  (starting with ring finger)
 i m r i m r i m r i m r i m r i m r i m r i m r  (starting with index finger)
Here's a complex triplet pattern which uses both two and three finger approaches:
-------2-----------2-----
---2-----2-----2-----2---
-0---0-----0-0---0-----0-
-------------------------
 i m i r m i i m i r m i
Guitar Style (thumb and fingers)
You can borrow the guitarist's fingerstyle approach for certain passages. I like it for arpegiating chords high on the neck. The approach uses a few repeating fingering patterns which also employ the thumb of the right hand. Here's the example above, using thumb and fingers instead of the three finger approach:
-------4-----------4-----
---2-----2-----2-----2---
-0---0-----0-0---0-----0-
-------------------------
 t i t m i t t i t m i t
Playing with a Pick
Some players will look down on you for playing with a pick (a.k.a. a plectrum), but some bassists prefer the crisp attack that pics offer, and in some fast types of music (e.g. speed metal, death metal, etc.) a pick is the only logical choice unless you have a very fast right hand. Like playing fingerstyle, playing with a pick usually requires a strict alternating pattern which you will modify to meet different playing situations. You can play notes with down strokes (the motion moves toward the floor), upstrokes (the opposite, toward the sky), or a combination of the two (which is what I reccomend). In the examples below d=down stroke and u=upstroke.
---------------------------------
---------------------------------
---------0-0-0-0---------0-0-0-0-
-0-0-0-0---------0-0-0-0---------
 d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u
The same sorts of problems which plagued us while learning the finger style approaches rear their ugly heads here. Crossing and jumping strings creates special situations where you must decide whether or not you'll maintain a strictly alternating pattern. You'll also find that speed picking (begining with a down stroke whenever you cross to a new string) works very well on tiplet patterns like the one below:
-------------------------------------------------
-------------------------------------0-0-0-------
-------0-0-0-------0-0-0-------0-0-0-------0-0-0-
-0-0-0-------0-0-0-------0-0-0-------------------
 d u d d u d d u d d u d d u d d u d d u d d u d

Left Hand Techniques & Developing Left Hand Dexterity

There are many ways to sound a note or phrase on the bass guitar. Here we'll cover a few techniques (sometimes called "tricks") which will give you access to different sounds. For clarity, I've chosen to used numbers to refer to the fingers of the left hand (a reminder: 1=index, 2=middle, 3=ring, 4=pinky) which still using i, m, r, and p to refer to the fingers of the right hand.
Hammer-ons
When you first start playing bass, you will tend to pluck every note with your right hand. This is a good habit to get into, but there are other ways of sounding notes which give different sounds and which allow you to execute certain passages with more speed (at least, until you increase your right hand dexterity, which we'll also cover). When you are playing two or more notes on the same string, you might choose to pluck on the first one and then sound the other two simply by fretting them (with force) with other fingers of your left hand:
----------
----------
-5h7------
----------
 1h3        (left hand)
 i          (right hand)
This process is called a hammer-on. Practice keeping the volume of the two notes at the same (or close to the same) level. This will be hard at first, but you'll get the hang of it. Try playing an entire series of hammer-ons, plucking the first note of each group and hammering the second.
--------------
--------------
-5h7-5h7-5h7-- etc.
--------------
 1h3 1h3 1h3 . . . (left hand)
 i   m   i         (right hand)
Pull-offs
The hammer-on works fine for going from a lower note to a higher one, but for reversing the process we need another technique: the pull off. This technique takes a little more practice than the previous one. To pull off from one note to another, you pluck the first note and then take take your finger off the note so that the lower note will sound. The trouble is that if you simply remove your finger, the lower note will not have much volume, so you must pull the note to the side a little with the finger of your fretting hand (essentially you will be plucking it with your left hand) to insure that the lower note has enough volume:
---------------
---------------
-7p5-7p5-7p5--- etc.
---------------
 3p1 3p1 3p1 . . . (Left hand)
 i   m   i         (right hand)
Combining Hammer-ons and Pull-offs
You can combine hammers and pull-offs to play this lick up and back down:
-------------------------- 
--------------------------
-------5h7h8-8p7p5--------
-5h7h8-------------8p7p5--
 1h3h4 1h3h4 4p3p1 4p3p1   (left hand)
 i     m     i     m       (right hand)
These techniques are particularly useful when you need to play three notes that are close together on the same string, as in this minor scale lick (play as triplets or sextuplets):
--------------- 
---------------
-------5h7h8---
-5h7h8---------
 1h3h4 1h3h4    (left hand)
 i     m        (right hand)
When you get really good at hammer-ons and pull-offs, you will be able to play repeating licks for as long as you want by plucking only the first note and using the strength of your pull-offs to keep the notes sounding:
-7h8p7p5h7h8p7p5-- etc.
------------------
------------------
------------------
 3h4p3p1h3h4p3p1 . . . (left hand)
 i                     (right hand)
In fact, once your left hand is strong, you don't even have to use your right hand to start the first note, you can hammer it too (though you'll generally get a more volume if you pluck the first note). Just slam your left hand finger down on the fretboard at the spot right behind the fret where you'd normally finger the note in question. Some players expand this technique a lot by using it with their right hand to fret notes high on the neck while using their left hand to finger notes lower on the neck (a technique called "two-handed tapping" or just "tapping." We'll get to that later).
Slides
Another often used technique is the slide. To slide, you simply pluck the first note and then slide your left hand up or down the neck while pressing down as if you were fretting the note. I've used a slash (/) in the tab to indicate a slide up the neck (from a lower note to a higher one) and a back slash (\) to indicate a slide down the neck (from a higher note to a lower one). For the fingering, I've used an "s" to indicate a slide (the direction should be obvious):
-------------
-------------
-3/5-5\3-----
-------------
 1s1 1s1      (left hand; s=slide)
 i   i        (right hand)
In the above example, we puck the first note, slide it up to the fifth fret, pluck the note again, and slide back down to the third fret. The entire passage is played with on one finger of the left hand.
Sliding is a technique which really exploits the sound of the bass to advantage. Often players will make a dramatic slide to emphasize the first note of a song or to emphasize a change in parts in a song. You might play a slide like this one to start a song (or a part of a song) where the first note of the measure is A:
---------------
---------------
---------------
-12\5----------   
 1 s1           (left hand)
 i              (right hand)    
For emphasis, you might want to pluck the fifth fret note (A) when you arrive (and not count only on the slide to provide the volume for the note):
---------------
---------------
---------------
-12\5----------   
 1 s1           (left hand)
 i  i           (right hand)    
Bends
Bending is a technique that originates with blues guitarists. To bend a note you increase the tension of the string (and the pitch of the note) by pushing the string across the fretboard so that it sounds a higher note. How far you can bend a note depends uppon your bass, your strings, and the strength of your hands. Generally, you'll be bending either one half step up (i.e. so that the pich of the bent note is the same as the pitch if you had fretted the note one fret higher) or one whole step up (ie. so that it sounds the pitch of a note two frets higher up the neck). Below the tab, I've used "b" to indicate a bend and I indicate in parethesis how far you should bend it (i.e. 1= one whole step, 1/2 = one half step). The note on the tab in parenthesis indicates the pitch you should be sounding. It's there for a reference.
--5-(6)-----
------------
------------
------------
  3b(1/2)   (left hand)
  i         (right hand)
Guitarists often bend notes up a whole step (two frets) or even further. On the bass, due to the higher string tension, this can be quite difficult, but half step (i.e. one fret, like the one above) bends are easy and add a lot of color to your playing.
Intonation is very important when bending notes. You can check your self by comparing the fretted note with your bent one, as in this example:
--7-8--       --7-(8)--
-------       ---------
-------       ---------
-------       ---------
  3 4           3b(1/2)   (left hand)
  i m           i         (right hand)
Bends are easier in the upper register and on the higher strings. They're also easier with your third (as in the examples above) finger, since you can also use your first and second finger on the same string to support your third finger.
Assuming your bass has a moderate amount of sustain, you can get even more mileage out of bends by bending up to a note and then releasing back to the original note. To indicate a quick bend an release, I'll use "b&r." The number in parenthesis on the tabulature will still indicate your target note, while the note in parenthesis below the staff will tell you the number of steps or half steps you should be bending. The first example frets every note while the second example uses a bend.
--7-8-7--       --7-(8)-(7)-
---------       ------------
---------       ------------
---------       ------------
  3 4 3           3b&r(1/2)   (left hand)
  i m i           i         (right hand)
You could, of course, bend and release several times without using your right hand to sound a new note. Likewise, you can bend string to produce one note and then bend it further to produce another. The possibilites are endless. Experiment a bit and you will come up with a lot of different ways to incorporate bends into your playing.
Ghost Bends
The ghost bend is one of my favorite blues techniques. It's a very simple, but highly expressive one as well. To produce a ghost bend, you take any note and bend it up (without sounding it) then strike the bent string and release it. What you get is a sound which begins at a stable pitch and then descends (the same sort of effect that you'd get by tastefully using a whammy bar on a guitar). And you can coax a lot of expression out of it by controlling the speed of that decent and by adding other effects like vibrato.
Vibrato
Vibrato is a difficulty technique but one that really distinguishes a great player from a good one. Some players build a good bit of their personal style around their vibrato technique (e.g. B. B. King). Essentially, vibrato is achieved by a series of tiny bends and releases on any given note. But you don't generaly use the same technique that you would use to bend a note a half step (as in the bends and ghost bends above). To achieve the right speed, most players perform vibrato using their wrists.
The trick to vibrato is to cradle the neck in your hand and loosen up your wrist so that you can get a quick rocking motion. You can vary the amount of vibrato and its speed to produce different effects.
It's hard to notate vibrato in tabulature, but in your own playing you'll never need to notate it anyway. It will become second nature to you. And you will decide when to vibrato a note and when not to on the fly. Many soloists vibrato almost any note which is allowed to ring for any length of time as vibrato increases sustain and helps to make the note sing.

Developing Right Hand Dexterity

After I had been playing the bass for many years, I realized that, while my left hand was very fast, allowing me to play fast scales utilizing hammer-ons and pull-offs, I had neglected my right hand and had gotten into sloppy habits which needed correcting. I could pick very quickly on one string, but I lost a lot of speed--and pronounced my notes less articulately--when I had to cross strings. If you play the bass finger style (with the index and middle finger of your right hand), then you will find it easier to play quickly if you strictly alternate your fingers and if you can cross strings without difficulty. In order to correct my right hand and practice strict alternating of the fingers, I've developed the following series of exercises which have helped me greatly and which I heartily reccomend (fingering is indicated below each note. i=index finger; m=middle finger). Play these as eight notes or sixteenth notes, with a metronome if you have one:
-----2-2-----3-3-----4-4-----5-5----  etc. 
-0-0-----1-1-----2-2-----3-3--------
------------------------------------
------------------------------------
 i m i m i m i m i m i m i m i m . . .
This is a simple exercise. It's not particularly musical, but it really works out the muscles of your right hand. Basically, we are playing chromatic fifths up the neck. Once you reach the highest fret on your neck, proceed back down to until you are at the beginning (the open D string) and then move the exercise to the middle set of strings:
------------------------------------
-----2-2-----3-3-----4-4-----5-5----  etc. 
-0-0-----1-1-----2-2-----3-3--------
------------------------------------
 i m i m i m i m i m i m i m i m . . .
As before, do this all the way up and back down. Start at a tempo you can handle but try to challenge yourself. Finally, you can repeat the pattern on the lowest strings:
------------------------------------
------------------------------------
-----2-2-----3-3-----4-4-----5-5----  etc. 
-0-0-----1-1-----2-2-----3-3--------
 i m i m i m i m i m i m i m i m . . .
Please not that I've chosen to start with the index finger, rather than the middle finger. You can start with either as long as you keep the pattern consistent. You should try starting with each finger and stick with what feels best to you. This is simply what feels best to me.
So far we have only practiced moving from a lower string to a higher one. Now we need to reverse the process. We could just repeat the previous exercise but start on the higher note of each root-fifth combination before moving to the lower note. I've found it more useful (for variety and to make the exercise useful in actual playing situations) to start with a note and move to the note a fifth below it:
-0-0-----1-1-----2-2-----3-3-----4-4-----5-5------  etc.
-----0-0-----1-1-----2-2-----3-3-----4-4-----5-5--
--------------------------------------------------
--------------------------------------------------
 i m i m i m i m i m i m i m i m i m i m i m i m . . .
As in the previous exercise, the goal is to carry this pattern all the way up to the highest fret and bring it back down to the lowest. Then you can repeat the same pattern on the middle two strings (D & A) and then on the lowest two (A & E). At first this will be a laborious process, but eventually you will be able to run these two exercises in less than five minutes. Doing so daily will--I assure you-- increase your speed and increase the notes of the neck available to you in a given situation (because with added right hand strength you will not hesitate to cross strings, thus gaining access to the vertical as well as horizontal aspects of the neck).
But to really work out the right hand, we need to add some exercises in which the middle finger plays the first note on a new string. A simple way of doing this is with an exercise based on the minor scale and a triplet rhythmic grouping. This time--again for variety--we'll start with the lowest string and work our way up:
--------------------------------------------------
--------------------------------------------------
-------0-2-3-------1-3-4-------2-4-5-------3-5-6--
-0-2-3-------1-3-4-------2-4-5-------3-5-6--------  etc.
 i m i m i m i m i m i m i m i m i m i m i m i m . . .
Continue this pattern up the neck and back down. Then take it across the strings to the other two groups. I've based this exercise in the minor scale, but you may want to try others depending on what you're interested in.

Slapping & Popping

Bass technique contines to evolve and here are included some advanced techniques for sounding notes. These may become an essential part of your style or they may be things you only pull out on special occasions. Some of them you might not care for at all. Stanley Clarke, Larry Graham (with Sly and the Family Stone and with Graham Central Station), and Monk Montgomery (brother of jazz guitarist Wes Montcomery) pioneered a technique which came to be called, variously, "slap bass" or "slap and pop." Slap is very popular in funk, some blues, some fusion, ocasioinaly in popular music, metal (especially the "funk metal" of the late 80's which the Red Hot Chilie Peppers made poplular), and some alternative music. The technique is difficult to learn because it requires different groups of muscles than those you use to play the bass fingerstyle. It is a style of playing which emphasizes the right hand and it's ability to create percussive effects (though some players have also exploited it for more melodic purposes). Slapping and popping is a contraversial style. Some believe it has been overused and find it uncreative and showy. Non-musicians tend to find it fascinating, like watching a good juggler perform. But most players find it a usefull and valid technique. Most use it from time to time, and some players have built their entire style around it.
The Slap
To slap a string is to strike it with your right hand thumb, so that it makes a distinctive, percussive sound. Doing this effectively requires that your thumb be somewhat perpendicular to the strings. Many players prefer to slap with their thumb pointed up [towards the face], some point their thumb toward the floor [e.g. Flea], some do both, depending upon the line.
The best place to slap the strings is right where the neck of the bass joins the body. In order to hold your bass comfortably so that you can strike this area with your thumb perpendicular to the strings, you'll probably have to strap your bass a little higher than you would to play fingerstyle (if you're slinging it around your knees like the guy in Spacehog, you're going to have to modify your appraoch). Players who play both fingerstyle and slap/pop (which is most of us) have to find a way of strapping the bass which allows for both of these approaches.
Start by resting your right hand thumb lightly on the E string. Your other fingers can either by spread out or curled under. Go ahead and let them rest on the other strings (they'll help to dampen them). Most of the motion in a slap should come from your wrist (not your forearm), so when you lift your thumb, you'll let your wrist rotate naturally (so that your pinky is still resting on or near the string, even though your thumb lifts off of them). Now, practice lifting your thumb off of the string and bringing it down quicky onto the E string, so that it makes a percusive sound. You don't even need a bass to do this. You can hold your hand across your chest to practice it, or you can practice it on a nearby chair arm or table top. This is the basic motion. Remember to make sure that your thumb bounces off of the string after you hit it (so that it can ring). If your strings are reasonably new, they'll have a natural bounce to them (like a drum head). The deader they are, the less bounce they have and the more effort it takes to get a good slap sound.
The Pop
Pops are produced by lifting the string (usually with the index or middle fingers of the right hand) a small distance away from the fretboard and releasing it so that it snaps back against the frets and produces a bright percussive sound. This technique is almost always used in combination with the slapping technique above (though popping is generally much easier to get down).
Combinations
Slap and pop together (sometimes just called "slap bass" or "slapping") are the backbone of funk music and are used in other contests as well. Here are a few basic lines to get you started with slapping and popping. I've included some counting above the line.
 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 e + a
---------------------
---7---7---7-----5-7-
-------------5-7-----
-5---5---5-----------
 1 3 1 3 1 3 1h3 1h3  (left hand)
 t p t p t p t   t    (right hand t=thumb slap, p=pop w/ index or middle finger)

Right Hand Tapping

Stu Hamm, along with many other talented players, has made right hand tapping a popular technique on the bass, though its use is still mostly limited to bass virtuosos and soloists. The technique involves sounding notes by fretting them with the fingers of the right hand. In order to make right handed fretting work, you need to find and good way to anchor your right hand to the neck and strike each note with enough force to get a nice, clean, tone.
Anchoring your right hand is important. One way to do this is to rest your right hand thumb gently along the top side of the neck (be sure you don't accidentally mute your low E string while doing this. Having your right hand thumb anchored on the top of the neck give you the freedom to use all the other fingers of your right hand to fret notes. For added support, you can rest your ring and pinky fingers along the bottom edge of the neck (since most tapping parts only use the first two fingers of the right hand).
Right hand tapping is similar to the hamer-on technique we learned earlier. Except with the hammer-on, we started by sounding one note normally (i.e. by plucking it with the right hand while fretting it with the left) and then got a second note by forcing down a finger on our left hand. The right hand sounds one note, which the left hand sounds the other.
----------
----------
-5h7------
----------
 1h3        (left hand)
 i          (right hand)
But you can also sound notes simply by fretting them with your fingers with enough downward motion to get adequate volume. This is hard to do with the first finger of your left hand, but it's pretty easy with the other fingers. Here's a simple line, played "normally" and then played just with left hand tapping.
------------|------------|------------|------------|
------------|------------|------------|------------|
-5--5--5--5-|-7--7--7--7-|------------|-5--5--5--5-|
------------|------------|-5--5--5--5-|------------|
 1  1  1  1   3  3  3  3   1  1  1  1   1  1  1  1   (left hand)
 i  m  i  m   i  m  i  m   i  m  i  m   i  m  i  m   (right hand)

------------|------------|------------|------------|
------------|------------|------------|------------|
-5--5--5--5-|-7--7--7--7-|------------|-5--5--5--5-|
------------|------------|-5--5--5--5-|------------|
 3  3  3  3   3  3  3  3   3  3  3  3   3  3  3  3   (left hand only)
Get the idea? You could play this line with your left hand only using the same fingering as you would even if you were playing it with both hands. But, when you're new to the technique, your third finger is a lot stronger when it comes to hammering notes. Try it both ways and see what works for you.
But we haven't gotten to the right hand yet. First off, try playing the line we just worked on with nothing but the index or middle finger of your right hand. First, move your left hand down to the first fret and grip the neck to add stability, keep it out of the way of your right hand, and mute any unwanted ringing. Now, reach down the neck with your right hand and hammer those notes, just to prove to yourself that you can.
Now let's try combining a really simple left hand part with a fairly simple right hand part. Fingerings are given below the tab. The addition signs (+) above the tab indicate notes played with the right hand.
     +  +     +  +      +  +     +  +      +  +     +  +
|-------7--------7-|-------9--------9-|----------------9-|
|----7--------7----|----9--------9----|-------7----------|
|-5--------5-------|-7--------7-------|----7--------7----|
|------------------|------------------|-5--------5-------|
  3        3         3        3         3        3         (left hand tapping)
     1  2     1  2      1  2     1  2      1  2     1  3   (right hand tapping)
One of the problems you have to solve when tapping is finding good ways to mute ringing strings (since you normally do a lot of this with your right hand). In the line above, I use my left hand for most of the muting. For instance, whenever I'm hammering a note with my left hand, I let the second and third fingers of my left hand drape across the higher strings in order to eliminate any ringing. Victor Wooten, who does some pretty amazing two-hand tapping, uses a hair "scrunchie" (one of those terry cloth elastic bands that you use to tie your hair back) on the lower frets of his neck in order to eliminate unwanted ringing. When he doesn't need it (or needs to access the lower frets) he just slides it down to the bottom of the neck (and off the fretboard) where it stays until needed again. (I'm not lying; I've seen him do it live). I've tried this trick once, and it really does work.
Another thing to consider is whether or not tapping a given passage is really really worth the trouble. Tapping can give you the power to play things that would be really hard to play without it. But, often, you can find ways to play the same lines by using extra long stretches, or by finding the same notes in other places. Try playing our two-handed tapping line (above) in the more traditional manner (i.e. fretting with the left hand and plucking with the right). That last measure takes a bit of a stretch, but you can do it.

Basic Scales

Here we'll cover some basic scales to get you started playing bass lines before we move on, in book two, to a more comprehensive study of scales, chords, and harmony.
The Minor Pentatonic Scale
The minor pentatonic scale is used extensively in blues and rock music. It's easy to learn and its a great first scale for soloing. The name "pentatonic" comes from its five notes. It contains the R, -3, 4, 5, and -7 degrees of the minor scale. The example below starts on the fifth fret of the E string (i.e. A), so it is the A minor pentatonic scale
A minor pentatonic scale .jpg
|---|---|---|---|
|-0-|---|-X-|---|
|-0-|---|-0-|---|
|-X-|---|---|-0-|
  5
The Blues Scale
The blues scale is used extensively in blues and rock. It is very similar to the minor pentatonic scale. The only difference is the addition of the flat five (b5) also known as the "blue note." The example below is in A.
[A minor blues scale .jpg]
|---|---|---|---|
|-0-|---|-X-|---|
|-0-|-0-|-0-|---|
|-X-|---|---|-0-|
  5
You will probably instantly recognize the sound of this scale, as many blues walking bass lines make use of it extensively. Here's a little repeating riff you can play for hours while your guitarist friends go on extended solos. Play each note as a quarter note in 4/4 time. I've written out the count below the tab.
 Am                            Am            

|--------------|--------------|--------------|--------------|
|--------------|--------------|--------------|--------------|
|--------5--6--|--7--6--5-----|--------5--6--|--7--6--5-----|
|--5--8--------|-----------8--|--5--8--------|-----------8--|  etc.

   1  2  3  4     1  2  3  4     1  2  3  4     1  2  3  4  
The Major Pentatonic Scale
This scale is used extensively in rockabily, country, and some sorts of blues. It contains the R, 2, 3, 5, and 6 degrees of the major scale. The scale is written starting on A, so it would be referred to as the A major pentatonic scale (and will work over an A major chord).
|-0-|---|-0-|---|
|-0-|---|---|-X-|
|-0-|---|---|-0-|
|---|-X-|---|-0-|
      5
You can play a hokey little rockabilly-ish walking line using the major pentatonic. (If you keep messing with this one long enough, you'll come up with the bassline to Elvis' "Don't Be Cruel").
|--------------|--------------|--------------|--------------|
|-----------4--|--7--4--------|-----------4--|--7--4-----4--|
|-----4--7-----|--------7--4--|-----4--7-----|--------5-----|
|--5-----------|--------------|--5-----------|--------------|  etc.

   1  2  3  4     1  2  3  4     1  2  3  4     1  2  3  4 
Blues Bass 101
Now that you know a few basic scales, you can learn how to play a simple bass line to a blues progression (you probably won't sound like Willie Dixon at first, but you have to start somewhere). What follows is an expanded version of our minor pentatonic walking line. The chords are written in above the line.
  Am                    
|------------|------------|------------|------------|
|------------|------------|------------|------------|
|-------5--6-|-7--6--5----|-------5--6-|-7--6--5----|
|-5--8-------|----------8-|-5--8-------|----------8-|


  Dm                        Am
|------------|------------|------------|------------|
|-------5--6-|-7--6--5----|------------|------------|
|-5--8-------|----------8-|-------5--6-|-7--6--5----|
|------------|------------|-5--8-------|----------8-|


  Em           Dm           Am
|------------|------------|------------|------------|
|-------7--9-|-------5--7-|------------|----5--7--5-|
|-7--10------|-5--8-------|-------5--6-|-7----------|
|------------|------------|-5--8-------|------------|

Book Two

Overview of Book Two

Book one focussed mostly on sounding notes and on right and left hand techniques. Now that you've had a tour of the mechanics of making music on the bass, we'll move on to the theory behind playing bass lines, soloing, and songwriting. We'll cover scales, chords, harmony, and many other topics which will be usefull to you as a working bassist (and as a musician in general).

The Major Scale & The Modes of the Major Scale

Let's start with some scales which are all derived from the major scale (all examples are in the key of C major/A minor):
The Major scale (a.k.a. the Ionian mode)
-----------2-4-5---
-----2-3-5---------
-3-5---------------
-------------------
 C D E F G A B C note names
 R 2 3 4 5 6 7 R scale degrees
[ionian.jpg]
|-0-|---|-0-|-0-|
|-0-|-0-|---|-0-|
|---|-X-|---|-0-|
|---|---|---|---|
      3
The major scale is the "Do Re Mi..." scale you learned in grade school. It works over major chords and major 7 chords (e.g. C, Cmaj7). It is great for guitar-based pop songs (e.g. R.E.M.), and is used extensively in all forms of western music (with the exception of most metal songs).
The Dorian Mode
------------4--5-7---
--------5-7----------
-5-7--8--------------
---------------------
 D E  F G A B  C D
 R 2 -3 4 5 6 -7 R
[dorian.jpg]
|-0-|-0-|---|-X-|---|
|---|-0-|---|-0-|---|
|---|-X-|---|-0-|-0-|
|---|---|---|---|---|
      5
Dorian is preferred by many jazz players when playing over a minor chord or a minor seven chord (e.g. try this one over Dm or Dm7). Many rock guitarists like it as well. The -3 and -7 make give it a minor sound but its major 6 sets it apart from the pure minor scale (described below)
The Phrygian Mode
-----------------7-9-10---
---------7-9-10-----------
-7--8-10------------------
--------------------------
 E  F  G A B  C  D E  F
 R -2 -3 4 5 -6 -7 R -2
[phrygian.jpg]
|-0-|---|-X-|-0-|
|-0-|---|-0-|-0-|
|-X-|-0-|---|-0-|
|---|---|---|---|
  7
I wrote this one up to the -2 past the octave because I always play it when I play this scale. This is the perfect scale for a metal sound over a minor chord. The -2 gives it a sinister, diminished quality (though it is not diminished). It is also great for speed licks using hammer-ons and pull-offs since there are three notes within easy reach on each string. Try this one over Em.
The Lydian Mode
--------------7-9-10---
------7--9-10----------
-8-10------------------
-----------------------
 F G  A  B C  D E  F
 R 2  3 #4 5  6 7  R
[lydian.jpg]
|-0-|---|-0-|-X-|
|-0-|---|-0-|-0-|
|---|-X-|---|-0-|
|---|---|---|---|
      8
Lydian is the same as a major scale with a sharped 4th degree. This gives it a different sound, though you can still use it over major scales. This particular one fits over F or Fmaj7.
The Mixolydian Mode (a.k.a. the Dominant scale)
---------------9-10-12---
-------9-10-12-----------
-10-12-------------------
-------------------------
 G  A  B C  D  E  F G
 R  2  3 4  5  6 -7 R
[mixolydian.jpg]
|-0-|-0-|---|-X-|
|-0-|-0-|---|-0-|
|---|-X-|---|-0-|
|---|---|---|---|
     10
The Mixolydian mode can also be thought of as a major scale with a -7. It outlines the dominant 7 chord (R 3 5 -7) so it is useful over those chords. This one fits over G7.
The Pure Minor Scale (a.k.a. the Aeolian Mode or the Minor Scale)
-------------------12-14---
----------12-14-15---------
-12-14-15------------------
---------------------------
 A  B  C  D  E  F  G  A
 R  2 -3  4  5 -6 -7  R
[aeolian.jpg]
|-0-|---|-X-|---|
|-0-|---|-0-|-0-|
|-X-|---|-0-|-0-|
|---|---|---|---|
 12
Aeolian minor is my favorite scale. It works perfectly over minor chords and minor 7 chords (though some players prefer Dorian for m7 chords). You can also use it over some major and dominant 7 chords (for a bluesier or more dissonant sound). This one fits over Am.
The Locrian Mode
-------------------14-16-17---
----------14-15-17------------
-14-15-17---------------------
------------------------------
 B  C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C
 R -2 -3  4 -5 -6 -7  R -2
[locrian.jpg]
|-0-|---|-X-|-0-|
|-0-|-0-|---|-0-|
|-X-|-0-|---|-0-|
|---|---|---|---|
 14
I also like to practice this one up to the -2nd above the octave. Take a look at all of those flatted notes. This is a dark, dissonant scale. It works over m7b5 (minor seven flat five; R -3 -5 -7) chords (also called half-diminished chords) and not much else.
Here's a chart containing neck diagrams of all of the modes we've discussed thus far. You might want to print this out and keep it near where you practice until you've committed the modes to memory. The number below each diagram indicates the begining fret. Roots are indicated by black circles.
[The Modes of C Major]

Playing the Same Scale in Different Places

In the above examples, I've shown you seven scales/modes starting on seven different frets, but these are not the only places on the fretboard where these scales can be played. Often, you can play the exact same scale in several places. This makes reading music confusing, but it helps you to be able to play a given note having to move too far up or down the neck. The C major scale (a.k.a. ionian mode) can be played with a root on the E string, starting at the eigth fret.
--------------------
-------------7-9-10-
------7-8-10--------
-8-10---------------
 C  D E F  G A B  C  (note names)
 R  2 3 4  5 6 7  R  (scale degrees)
If you have a long enough stretch, you can also play it this way:
----------------------
-----------------9-10-
---------8-10-12------
-8-10-12--------------
 C  D  E F  G  A B  C  (note names)
 R  2  3 4  5  6 7  R  (scale degrees)
If you don't mind playing the scale in a higher octave, you can also play it at the 15th fret of the A string, using this pattern:
----------------14-16-17-
-------14-15-17----------
-15-17-------------------
-------------------------
  C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C  (note names)
  R  2  3  4  5  6  7  R  (scale degrees)
Or this one:
-------------------16-17-
----------15-17-19-------
-15-17-19----------------
-------------------------
  C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C  (note names)
  R  2  3  4  5  6  7  R  (scale degrees)
As you can see, there will be several workable patterns for any scale. You don't have to know all of them for each scale, but it is helpfull to try several and decide which one you like best.
A Note on Moveable forms
All of the scales that have been presented so far (and most of the ones that will be presented in this book) are movable forms. That is to say, you can play these same patterns starting from different root notes in order to produce different scales in the same family. Think back to the first major scale we covered. It started on the note C on the third fret of the A string. We've just seen how it can be played in lots of other possitions, starting on the same root, but we can also play that same pattern of notes strarting from other root notes in order to derive different scales. Try this example:
-----------3-5-6-----------
-----3-4-6-----------------
-4-6-----------------------
---------------------------
Here's one more:
-----------4-6-7-----------
-----4-5-7-----------------
-5-7-----------------------
---------------------------
What you should notice is that the pattern of notes (the shape you see on the fretboard) remains the same, while the pitches (and the key) change. If you know the notes of the neck (which we covered in the Basics section) you will be able, with a little practice, to play the major scale in all twelve keys: C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab, A, A#/Bb, & B. By knowing the major scale in one key, you have the potential to quickly learn it in all of them. And the same goes for all of the scales we've studied. If you learn all seven scales (or modes) in all twelve keys, you go from knowing seven scales to knowing eighty-four of them.

Chord Progressions & Diatonic Harmony

Now that you've played though the Major scale and all of its modes, you have enough information to play some pretty complex diatonic harmonies. Whenever you learn scales, you should try to associate them with chords (i.e. learn what chords you can play them over). If you experiment on you own, you will find chord/scale combinations which do not fit textbook harmony but which sound good to your ears. Let your ears be your guide. This chapter will be devoted to learning how to the scales you've learned to create harmonies, but first we'll need to talk a bit about chord construction.
An Introduction to Chord Construction & Music Theory
You can construct chords by taking particular notes from a given scale. If, for example, you wanted to create a C major chord from the C major scale, you'd only have to know that the R, 3, and 5 of any major scale will form a major chord. You could say that the formula for a major chord is R, 3, 5. Take a look at the C major scale:
C D E F G A B (note name) 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 (degree)
Folowing our formula, a C major triad (i.e. a three-note chord) would be C (the root), E (the third), and G (the fifth) played simultaneously. Normally, all three notes would be in the same octave. C would the be lowest note, E would be next lowest, and G would be the highest note. This is what is called the "root position" of the chord. You can play chords which extend beyond one octave (extended chords) or in which the tones are not ordered in this way (inversions or voicings). Here's a C major triad in root position (this might not sound great, but it illustrates the principle):
--0--  [Fifth, G]
--2--  [Third, E]
--3--  [Root, C]
-----
You could also play it with the root on the E string:
-----
--5--  [5]
--7--  [3]
--8--  [R]
Take a quick look at where the chord tones fall in a C major scale and you'll understand the challenge of playing chords on the bass. R=the root, C. The numbers represent scale degrees (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7):
|-6-|---|-7-|-R-|
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|  
|---|-R-|---|-2-|  
|---|---|---|---|
      3
As you can see, in our typical C major pattern, the 3rd and 5th degrees are on the same string, so we can only sound one of them at a time in this pattern. There are several solutions. We can pick a pattern where we can play all three at once (if such a pattern exhists, and in this case it does), we can omit one or more of the notes and imply the chord with what's remaining, or we can play one or more of the notes an octave higher or lower (which will complicate the nameing of the chord, but we'll get to that).
It's generaly okay to leave out the five of any chord, so long as the chord doesn't specify a flat or augmented (i.e. "sharped") five (e.g. Cm7b5, or C#5). Most chords have a regular five, which is called a "perfect five." So long as the five is perfect, we can leave it out. In fact, it's the first to go. In the following example, I've left in the octave of the root because just playing the root and third can sound a little thin, and becuse I wanted a three note chord :
|---|---|---|-R-|
|-3-|---|---|---|  
|---|-R-|---|---|  
|---|---|---|---|
      3
If we move up the neck to the eighth fret, we can find a C root on the E string and can build a different kind of implied C major chord:
|---|---|-3-|---|
|---|---|---|-R-|
|---|---|---|---|  
|---|-R-|---|---|  
      8
This is, technically, a C major 10th (without the fifth). If you count the octave root as the 8th of the scale, then the note above that is the 9th (same as the 2nd, but an octave up) and the note above that is, technically, the 10th (same as the third but an octave up). For our purposes, a C major chord is a C major chord no matter what octave the scales notes occupy, but sometimes it helps to know the difference.
Chord Inversions
You've probably noticed, in all of the chord examples above, that the root note is the lowest note of each chord. If you know your neck fairly well (or happen to be looking at a neck diagram like I am) you might have noticed that you can sometimes find all three notes of the chord in a given possition if you were liberated from having to put C on the bottom. You can do this. Each chord can be "inverted." That is, it can be played starting on a note other than the root. You'll hear people speaking of chord "voicings" or of "voicing" a chord in a particular way, and these inversions are one of the things they may be refering to. The inversions, as you might have guessed, have names. Consider these three three chords (numbers represent the degree of the chord):
   Root Position     1st Inversion         2nd Inversions
   (R, 3, 5)         (3, 5, R)             (5, R, 3)
 
 5 |---|---|---|     |---|---|---|---|     |---|---|---|---|
   |---|-3-|---|     |-R-|---|---|---|     |-3-|---|---|---|
   |---|---|-R-|     |-5-|---|---|---|     |---|-R-|---|---|
   |---|---|---|     |---|---|-3-|---|     |---|-5-|---|---|
             3                 12                15
Understanding chord voicings give you a lot more options. The voicing of a chord will often be up to you. Some of these inversions aren't especially practical on the bass, but they're worth knowing anyway. The naming convention isn't very hard on this one. The first inversion starts on the 3rd, and the second inversion starts on the fifth. The lowest note is what determines the inversion. Whenever you play a third or a fifth instead of a root under someone else's chord, you are, in effect, causing it to sound like an inversion. That's one of the strenghts of playing the bass. You can have a big effect on the chordal complexity of a song even just playing single notes.
Minor Triads
Now I'd like to show you some basic types of chords. Major triads (R, 3, 5) have already been explained in some detail. To get a minor triad, you flat the 3rd, which gives you R, b3, 5:
   Root Position     1st Inversion          2nd Inversions

 5 |---|---|---|     |---|---|---|---|     |---|---|---|---|
   |b3-|---|---|     |-R-|---|---|---|     |b3-|---|---|---|
   |---|---|-R-|     |-5-|---|---|---|     |---|---|-R-|---|
   |---|---|---|     |---|b3-|---|---|     |---|---|-5-|---|
             3             11                        15
You could also play that 2nd inversion an octave down, at the 3rd fret.
Augmented Triads
An augmented triad is a major triad with a sharped fifth (you might not encounter these much, but at least learn the root positon):
   Root Position     1st Inversion          2nd Inversions

   |#5-|---|---|     |---|---|---|---|     |---|---|---|---|
   |---|-3-|---|     |-R-|---|---|---|     |-3-|---|---|---|
   |---|---|-R-|     |---|#5-|---|---|     |---|-R-|---|---|
   |---|---|---|     |---|---|-3-|---|     |---|---|#5-|---|
             3                 12                    16
Diminished Triads
A diminished triad is a minor triad with a lowered fifth:
   Root Position     1st Inversion          2nd Inversions

 b3|---|---|---|     |---|---|---|---|     |---|---|---|---|
   |---|---|b5-|     |---|-R-|---|---|     |b3-|---|---|---|
   |---|-R-|---|     |b5-|---|---|---|     |---|---|-R-|---|
   |---|---|---|     |---|---|b3-|---|     |---|b5-|---|---|
         3                     11                3
Major Seventh Chords
We built major triads by starting on the root and progressing up the scale, picking every other letter (i.e. R, 3, 5). If we'd continued one note higher, we'd have had a major seventh chord (i.e. R, 3, 5, 7). Since seventh chords have four notes, they're challenging to play on the four-string bass, but if you know your theory, you can leave out certain notes (usually the 5, sometimes even the root) and create beautiful voicings. Seventh chords can also be inverted (and they can have three inversions since you can also build them off of the seventh), but since they're hard to voice in the first place, we'll just go with whatever is handiest and sounds best:
CMaj7

|---|-3-|---|---|
|---|-7-|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|
|-R-|---|---|---|
  8
Minor Seventh Chords
To change a major seventh chord to a minor seventh chord, you flat the third and the seventh degrees:
Cmin7

|b3-|---|---|---|
|b7-|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|
|-R-|---|---|---|
  8
Dominant Seventh Chords
If you take a major seventh chord, flat the seventh degree but leave the third alone, then you get what's called a dominant seventh chord (e.g. C7). This sound is very popular in jazz and blues. Here are two great voicings:
C7                   C7

|---|-3-|---|---|    |---|---|---|---|
|b7-|---|---|---|    |---|b7-|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|    |-3-|---|---|---|
|-R-|---|---|---|    |---|-R-|---|---|
  8                        8
Half-Diminished Seventh Chords
Another important seventh chord that you should know about is the half-diminished seventh, also called the "minor seven flat five." A min7b5 chord is, like the name says, a minor seventh chord with a flatted fifth degree. If you want to think of chord building with the Major seventh chord as a reference, then you could say a min7b5 chord is what you get when you take a Maj7 chord and flat the third, seventh, and fifth degrees. Here's an examples:
Cmin7b5

|b3-|---|---|---|
|b7-|---|---|---|
|---|b5-|---|---|
|-R-|---|---|---|
  8
Remember, They're Movable!
If you commit to memory only one voicing of each chords I've presented in this section, you'll have learned eight different chords, all in C major. But if you know your neck and remember that these chords are all movable forms, you should be able (with a little practice) to play each of these chords in all the other keys as well. For instance, to play all of these chords in D, you'd just need to use D as the root note of each chord. A quick clance at the neck diagrams will show you that D can be found (among other places) on the fifth fret of the A string and on the 10th fret E string. Since there are twelve musical keys, you are well on your way to a very powerful knowledge of chords (8 chords X 12 keys = 96 chords).
A Quick Review of Chord Basics:
We've covered a lot of ground, so I'd like to take a moment to recap. Here are the formulas we've covered for the various chords we've studied up to this point:
The Triads:
C Major                  R,  3,  5
C Minor                  R, b3,  5
C Augmented              R,  3, #5
C Diminished             R, b3, b5

The Seven Chords:
C Major Seven            R,  3,  5,  7
C Minor Seven            R, b3,  5, b7
C Dominant Seven         R,  3,  5, b7
C Half-Diminished Seven  R, b3, b5, b7

Playing Diatonically

I've presented you with each of the scales we've covered and with the primer on chords because I'd like to show you how to play diatonically before we move on to scale substitutions and progressions with non-diatonic chords. Diatonic means "of the scale." Earlier, we built a CMaj7 chord by taking every other note of the C scale, begining with the root (C). Thus, our formula for a CMaj7 chord is the R, 3, 5, 7 of the C Major scale. We can also build chords off every other note in a scale, and due to the intervalic construction of the C Major scale, we will get certain sorts of chords on each interval.
This can be very confusing, and I'd like to make it very clear, so lets take a look at the C major scale again:
C   D   E   F   G   A   B   C   (note names)
R   2   3   4   5   6   7   R   (note interval names)
  W   W  1/2  W   W   W  1/2    (intervalic construction)
The notes of the C major scale are not equally spaced. Some notes are a whole step apart (indicated with the W, above) and some are only a half-step apart (indicated with a 1/2, above). Take a look at a C major scale played on only one string of your bass and this pattern of whole and half steps will become clear:
|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|---|-C-|---|-D-|---|-E-|-F-|---|-G-|---|-A-|---|-B-|-C-|
|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
          3       5       7   8      10      12      14  15
You'll notice that there is a whole step between most notes, but there is only a half-step between two pairs of notes (E & F; B & C). This pattern of whole and half steps is what gives the major scale it's characteristic sound. But there are lots of other sounds lurking in the C major scale. If you build a scale off of each note of the C major scale, you get the modes we discussed earlier:
            B C D E F G A B  (locrian)
          A B C D E F G A  (aeolian)
        G A B C D E F G  (mixolydian)
      F G A B C D E F  (lydian)
    E F G A B C D E  (phrygian)
  D E F G A B C D  (dorian)
C D E F G A B C  (ionian)
If you build seventh chords off of each of those modes (using the every other note method), you get something like this:
                        (B)  C  (D)  E  (F)  G  (A)  B    (locrian)
                    (A)  B  (C)  D  (E)  F  (G)  A    (aeolian)
                (G)  A  (B)  C  (D)  E  (F)  G    (mixolydian)
            (F)  G  (A)  B  (C)  D  (E)  F    (lydian)
        (E)  F  (G)  A  (B)  C  (D)  E    (phrygian)
    (D)  E  (F)  G  (A)  B  (C)  D    (dorian)
(C)  D  (E)  F  (G)  A  (B)  C    (ionian)
Extract those chord tones (the ones in parethesis above) and you get this sequence, which we number with roman numberals, starting with Cmaj7:
Chord Tones  Mode         7 Chord   Tritone   Degree

B, D, F, A   (locrian)    Bm7b5     Bdim      vii
A, C, E, G   (aeolian)    Am7       Am        vi
G, B, D, F   (mixolydian) G7        G         V
F, A, C, E   (lydian)     Fmaj7     F         IV
E, G, B, D   (phrygian)   Em7       Em        iii  
D, F, A, C   (dorian)     Dm7       Dm        ii
C, E, G, B   (ionian)     Cmaj7     C         I

This is sometimes called the "harmonization of the major scale." You can harmonize any scale and you can harmonize this one in different ways, but this is any easy example that will help you understand music theory. Some people like to use upper-case roman numerals for the major and dominant chords while using lower-case roman numerals for minor and half-diminished chords. When someone says they're playing the "one" chord in the key of C, they're refering to C or Cmaj7 (depending upon the musical context). The "two" chord would be Dm(7). The "three" would be Em(7). I'm sure you get the idea.
It's best if you can hear these chords played on the piano or on a guitar, but in case that's not an option, I've notated them here for the bass (using 7th chords and omitting the 5th degree in most cases):
-4---5---7---9---10---12---14------
-2---3---5---7----9---10---15------
-3---5---7---8---10---12---14------
-----------------------------------
 I   ii iii IV   V7   vi  vii7b5
Using E-string roots, you could play it this way:
-9---10---12---14---16---17---19----
-9---10---12---14---15---17---19----
------------------------------20----
-8---10---12---13---15---17---19----
 I   ii   iii  IV    V   vi   vii
What to Play over a Given Progression
There are many interesting theories about which scale fits over which chord. But just sticking with what we've already covered here, we can play some very musical melodies over these chords. Suppose you are playing (or writing) a song which contains the following progression (one bar per chord, ad nauseum):
C    F     Em     G
I    IV    iii    V
You can approach a progression like this at least two different ways. You could just look at the chords and play a major scale (Ionian mode) over all the major chords and a minor scale (Aeolian mode) over the Em. In that case, you'd think of the progression like this:
C     F     Em      G     (chord in progression)
I     IV    iii     V     (degree of chord)
Cmaj  Fmaj  Eminor  Gmaj  (scale)
Another way to approach the progression (and IMHO a more melodic way) is to use the modes we learned above and play a different mode for each chord:
C         F         Em         G             (chord in progression)
I         IV        iii        V             (degree of chord)
C Ionian  F Lydian  E Phygian  G Mixolydian  (scale)
Note that some things remain the same with either approach. We still played a C major scale over the C (a.k.a. the "I" chord or the "one" chord), but for each of the other chords, we used a different mode. Each approach has its advantages, and you will probably use both. When I don't have time to analyze a progression fully, I use the first approach (we might call it the major/minor approach). When I have more time to think about the chords, or when I need a more melodic line, I use the modal approach.
At this point, you might say to yourself, if all of the modes come from the major scale, then I'm not really switching scales at all when I play over these chords; I'm just playing C major and starting on different notes. On one level, of course, you'd be right. A minor is, after all, just C major starting on the sixth degree, but the sound changes dramatically. To my ears the modal approach is more melodic, but to some people it is sickeningly melodic, and it doesn't work all that well over chord progressions which contain (or are mainly composed of) non-diatonic chords. This brings us to the next topic.
What to Play over Non-Diatonic Chords
Most of the songs that I write or play over are built out of diatonic progressions, so I'm no expert on non-diatonic playing (though I'm working on it). Therefore, you should take what I have to say with a grain of salt. Jazz players are the most adept with non-diatonic progressions, since jazz composers are very fond of these. Still, I can offer a few pointers and you can ask the friendly people on the bass newsgroups if you need more specific advice.
1. The easy way to tackle a non-diatonic progression is to use an expanded version of the major/minor approach we learned earlier when working with diatonic progressons. It can be summarized as follows:
2. If the progression looks mostly diatonic, but with an odd non-diatonic chord thrown in between two diatonic chords, try using the same mode that you would use on the chord directly preceding the non-diatonic chord, or the one directly after it. That is, use the same pattern, but position the pattern so that it starts on the root of the non-diatonic chord.

Expanding your grasp of the Neck

All this knowlege you've learned about chords and scales would still be useful even if your bass only had the first seven frets. Many bassists prefer to stay in the lower registers of the neck, and in many forms of music, that's a perfectly acceptable choice. But if you'd like to add more variety to your playing, a solid way to do so is to expand your understanding of the entire neck of your bass. Learning to apply what you know about scales and chords to the entire neck is quite a challenge, but it is a study that pays great dividents. We'll take a look at a few approaches you can use to expand your grasp.
Using Two-Octave Scales
Once you have a one octave version of the seven scale/modes memorized, it's time to branch out. You can do this in a number of ways. Some people prefer to learn a two octave version of each scale they know. This usually involves using a different fingering than the one you might employ when playing a scale in one octave (in the examples below, a slash [/] signifies a slide).
Our C Major scale:
-----------2-4-5---
-----2-3-5---------
-3-5---------------
-------------------
 C D E F G A B C (note names)
Becomes:
----------------------------10-12-14/16/17---
-----------------9/10-12-14------------------
---------8-10-12-----------------------------
-8-10-12-------------------------------------
 C D  E  F G  A  B C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C
Two octave scales are good to know. I recommend that you take some of your favorite scales and work out two octave fingerings for them. Practice playing them up and down and then try different sequences of the same notes.
Using the Pattern Approach
I prefer a different approach to learning the neck (sometimes called the pattern or box approach). To use this approach, you break up the neck into five patterns, each of which contains the notes of the notes of the scale in question (but not necessarily sticking to any one octave). This approach is inherently specific to the bass, and it will lead you to certain note choices to the exclusion of others (which, in the beginning will help you sound "like a bass player" but which may eventually limit your creativity if you rely on this approach to the exclusion of other approaches).
So that we won't have to play so high on the neck, I'm going to write this example in G major instead of C major (though you can play it in C major simply by sliding the root up to the eighth fret). In each pattern the root note of the scale (G major) is in parenthesis. In order to make each pattern sound like a part of a G major scale (and not some other mode of G major) you need to emphasize the root in your solo's and bass lines (emphasizing it generally means playing it often and/or on the first down beat of a measure):
The Five Patterns of the G Major Scale:
Pattern I
-----------------------2-4-5-
---------------2-4-(5)-------
---------2-3-5---------------
-2-(3)-5---------------------
This pattern puts all of the notes in G major in the four-fret span from the second fret to the fifth fret under your fingers. Try to visualize the pattern on your fretboard. If you really absorbed the previous material on modes, this pattern should look familiar to you. It should look a lot like F# Locrian, but try not to think of it as F# Locrian. Think of it (and play it) as G major with one extra note below the low G and three extra notes above the higher G.
Pattern II
-------------------4-5-7-----
-----------4-(5)-7-----------
-------5-7-------------------
-5-7-8-----------------------
This pattern repeats some of the notes in pattern I, but extends your range two more frets up the neck (to the 7th fret). Once you have the first two patterns down, practice moving between the two of them (thinking of them both as one large pattern covering six frets). If you recognized the similarity between this pattern and A dorian, give yourself a gold star. If it *sounds* like A dorian, you're not emphasizing the root enough.
Pattern III
------------------------7-9--
-----------------7-9-10------
--------7-9-(10)-------------
-7-8-10----------------------
Taken by themselves, the first three patterns let you cover nine frets.
Pattern IV
-------------------------9-11-(12)-
-----------------9-10-12-----------
-------9-(10)-12-------------------
-10-12-----------------------------
Pattern V
---------------------------11-(12)-14-
---------------------12-14------------
------------12-14-15------------------
-12-14-(15)---------------------------
After the fifth pattern, the cycle repeats itself (begining again with Pattern I).
Pattern I (up an octave)
--------------------------------14-16-17-
---------------------14-16-(17)----------
------------14-15-17---------------------
-14-(15)-17------------------------------
It is important to think of these patterns not just as scales (to be played from the lowest note to the highest and back down) but as guides to the available notes within a given range of frets. *You* should pick the notes; the pattern merely shows you which notes are available. Visualize the pattern on the neck and strive to choose the notes in different orders (these orders can be dictated by sound or merely by the geographic location of the note on the fretboard).
g major scale showing all patterns
Using Arpeggios:
Another excellent way to expand your range on the neck (and your melodic range in general) is through the use of arpeggios. To play an arpeggio you simply play the notes of a chord in a set sequence (usually ascending and then descending) instead of all at once.
To use arpeggios requres some basic knowlege of chords. You need to know the basics of chord construction. We already hit some of this in the section on harmony, but here's a quick rundown of the formulas for some common chords:
Chord Name Formula Example
C Major R, 3, 5 C, E, G
C minor R, -3, 5 C, Eb, G
CMaj7 R, 3, 5, 7 C, E, G, B
Cmin7 R, -3, 5, -7 C, Eb, G, Bb
C7 (Dom7) R, 3, 5, -7 C, E, G, Bb
Now here are some examples of common arpegios based on the above chords (play these as triplets, at first). All of these are movable forms:
C Major Arpeggio
-------5--------
---2-5---5-2----
-3-----------3--
----------------
 C E G C G E C
 R 3 5 R 5 3 R
Cmaj7 Arpeggio
-------4--------
---2-5---5-2----
-3-----------3--
----------------
 C E G B G E C
 R 3 5 7 5 3 R
C Minor Arpeggio
--------5--------
---1--5---5-1----
-3-------------3-
-----------------
 C Eb G C G Eb C
 R b3 5 R 5 b3 R
Cm7 Arpeggio
--------3---------
---1--5----5-1----
-3--------------3-
------------------
 C Eb G Bb G Eb C
 R b3 5 b7 5 b3 R
C7 (i.e. Dominant 7) Arpeggio
--------3---------
---2--5----5-2----
-3--------------3-
------------------
 C Eb G Bb G Eb C
 R b3 5 b7 5 b3 R
Applying Arpeggios
So how do you use them? The simplest way to employ arpegios is to simply outline the chord of a progression. If you progression is one bar each of C, F, and G (all major), you can play a C major arpegio over the first chord, an F major arpeggio over the second chord, and a G major arpegio over the third chord. You can use them as part of your bass line, or you can use them as licks in a solo. A well executed fast arpeggio can catch your audience's attention, and it also adds some horizontal movement to your line (by encouraging you to use larger intervals).

An Assortment of Bass Chords

Some hold that the bass is not a chordal instrument (like the piano or the guitar). Obviously, no one ever told that to Marcus Miller, or if they did, he didn't believe them. While most of your playing with others will probably involve mostly single note lines and an occasional two note chord (a.k.a. double stop or interval), you'll also spend a lot of time playing the bass by yourself. Whether or not you incorporate chords into your bass lines, you can have a lot of fun (and practice a lot about theory) by knowing how to play them on your bass. Here is a small collection for your entertainment. All are in C and all are movable forms. Most omit one note of the chord, sometimes leaving the voicing somewhat ambiguous. Sometimes I've included intervals which function well as chords, even if they are not, in the most technical sense, chords. In the brackets after each note are the name of the interval (R, 2, 3, etc.), followed by the name of the note (C, D, E, etc.). Before the assortment is a table showing note names and their corresponding interval names in the key of C:
Note Names C D E F G A B C D E F
Interval Names R 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Five Chord Voicings (a.k.a. Power Chords):
-----
-----
--10- [5,G]
--8-- [R,C]
-----
--10- [R,C]
--10- [5,G]
--8-- [R,C]
-----
--5-- [5,G]
--3-- [R,C]
-----
--5-- [R,C]
--5-- [5,G]
--3-- [R,C]
-----
Major Chord Voicings (a.k.a Major Triads):
-----
--5-- [5,G]
--7-- [3,E]
--8-- [R,C]
--5-- [R,C]
--2-- [3,E]
--3-- [R,C]
-----
--9-- [11,E]
-----
-----
--8-- [R,C]
[Major] 6 Chord Voicing(s):
-----
--7-- [6,A]
--7-- [3,E]
--8-- [R,C]
--9-- [3,E]
--7-- [6,A]
-----
--8-- [R,C]
--9-- [6,A]
--9-- [3,E]
-----
-----
--8-- [R,C]
-----
Minor 6 Chord Voicing(s):
-----
--7-- [6,A]
--6-- [b3,Eb]
--8-- [R,C]
--8-- [b3,Eb]
--7-- [6,A]
-----
--8-- [R,C]
--9-- [6,A]
--8-- [b3,Eb]
-----
-----
--8-- [R,C]
-----
Major 7 Chord Voicings:
--9-- [3,E]
--9-- [7,B]
-----	
--8-- [R,C]
--4-- [7,B]
--2-- [3,E]
--3-- [R,C]
-----
--4-- [7,B]
--5-- [5,G]
--3-- [R,C]
-----
--11- [7,B]
--9-- [3,E]
-----
-----
--8-- [R,C]
-----
Minor Chord Voicings (a.k.a Minor Triads):
-----
--5-- [5,G]
--6-- [b3,Eb]
--8-- [R,C]
--5-- [R,C]
--1-- [b3,Eb]
--3-- [R,C]
-----
Minor Seven Chord Voicing(s):
--8-- [b3,Eb]
--8-- [b7,Bb]
-----	
--8-- [R,C] 
--10- [b7,Bb]
--8-- [b3,Eb]
-----
-----
--8-- [R,C]
-----
Dominant 7 Chord Voicing(s):
-----
--8-- [b7,Bb]
--7-- [3,E]
--8-- [R,C]
--9-- [3,E]
--8-- [b7,Bb]
-----
--8-- [R,C]
--10- [b7,Bb]
--9-- [3,E]
-----
-----
--8-- [R,C]
-----
Diminished Chord Voicing(s) (a.k.a Diminished Triads):
-----
--10- [R,C]
--9-- [b5,Gb]
--8-- [R,C]
Augmented Chord Voicing(s) (a.k.a. Augmented Triads):
-----
--10- [R,C]
--11- [#5,G#]
--8-- [R,C]
Minor 7 flat 5 Chord Voicings (a.k.a. half-diminished chords):
-----
--8-- [b7,Bb]
--9-- [b5,Gb]
--8-- [R,C]
--11- [b5,Gb]
--8-- [b7,Bb]
-----
--8-- [R,C]
Diminished 7 Chord Voicing(s):
-----
--7-- [bb7=6,A]
--9-- [b5,Gb]
--8-- [R,C]
Major 9th Chord Voicing(s):
--7-- [9,D]
--9-- [7,B]
--7-- [3,E]
--8-- [R,C]
Minor 9th Chord Voicing(s):
--7-- [9,D]
--8-- [b7,Bb]
--6-- [b3,Eb]
--8-- [R,C]
Dominant 9 Chord Voicing(s):
--9-- [9,D]
--8-- [b7,Bb]
--7-- [3,E]
--8-- [R,C]

Book Three

Walking Bass

Walking is a style of bass playing most often associated with jazz. Books have been written on the subject, so I don't hope to cover all of the bases here, but I will attempt to give you what you need to know in order to start playing walking bass lines.
Rhythm: Four to the Bar
In 4/4 time, a typical walking bass line will play mostly quarter notes (i.e. four notes per bar, all on down beats). Advanced players add lots of rhythmic complexity, but for the sake of our examples, we'll be playing only quarter notes and only on the down beats. Each note will be different from the one before it (i.e. we will not repeat notes), which is what makes walking more difficulty than it sounds. This rhythmic simplicity adds driving force to walking bass lines.
Note Choice
Besides providing rhythmic drive, a major role of the bass in jazz is to outline the chord changes. So, as you might guess, most walking bass lines stick fairly close to the chord progression. In fact, the simplest way to walk is to play arpegios over each chord:
Am7        D7        Gmaj7
|---------|-------5-|---------|---------|
|-----2-5-|---4-7---|-------4-|-5-------|
|---3-----|-5-------|---2-5---|---5-2---|
|-5-------|---------|-3-------|-------3-|
Scale Tones & Passing Tones
But playing arpegios alone (except maybe for certain ballads) doesn't add enough variety or produce the sound that most jazz listeners are familar with. To do that, you need to add other scale tones and passing tones. Scale tones are simply other notes from the scale that fits the chord. The A minor scale--the basis of our first chord--is A, B, C, D, E, F, G. So instead of just relying on the Am arpeggio, we can use any of the notes from that scale.
Passing tones are notes which are technically outside the scale which nevertheless help to make a smooth line. A common passing tone technique is to play a note on beat four of a measure which is one half step away from the next root. The note can be above or below the next root, and it can be either in or out of the scale on which the progression is based. The line below uses scale tones and passing tones:
Am7        D7        Gmaj7
|---------|---------|---------|---------|
|---------|---4-5---|---------|---------|
|-------4-|-5-------|---2-3-4-|-5-3-2-5-|
|-5-7-8---|-------2-|-3-------|---------|
The passing tones are what really make a jazz bass line swing. Jazz utilizes its own ideas of harmony, developed during its history, which varry somewhat from those used in "classical" music. Passing tones can be used anywhere in the bar, but they are very effective on the last note of any bar leading to a new root note. The passing note can be either a whole or a half step away from (above or below) the new root note, even if this means choosing a note outside of the scale. Notes outside of the scale, used in this way, add tension and color to the line. Passing notes point to the next chord, which helps the listeners (and the other players) anticipate it.
A Simple Formula
Taken together, these "rules" provide us with a simple formula for walking bass lines. Assuming that the progression you are encountering has only one chord per bar, you can use each of the four beats of that bar as follows:
Beat 1:  Play the root of the chord
Beat 2:  Play any scale tone 
Beat 3:  Play any other scale tone
Beat 4:  Play a passing tone leading to the next chord
If we apply this approach to our example, we can easily generate several workable walking bass lines. In fact, the example above follows the same logic.
Other situations
There are other situations which you will encounter when using walking bass lines. First, you'll often see bars which contain two (or sometimes more) changes. If there are two changes in a bar, the simplest way out is to play the root and then the fifth of each chord:
 Am7  D7   GMaj7     Am7  D7   GMaj7
|-------2-|---------|-----2---|---------|
|---2-0---|---------|-2-----0-|---------|
|-0-------|---2-3---|---0-----|---2-3-5-|
|---------|-3-----3-|---------|-3-------|
If you can think quickly enough, you can play play the root on the first beat of the chord and any other scale tone on the second beat. You might even want to try to play one of the notes which gives the chord its special sound. For instance, the flat third and flat seven are what give a minor seven chord it's sound.
 Am7  D7   GMaj7     Am7  D7   GMaj7
|---------|---------|---0-----|---------|
|-----0---|---------|-----0-4-|---------|
|-0-3---3-|---2-3---|-0-------|---2-3-5-|
|---------|-3-----3-|---------|-3-------|
In the first bar, I've chosen the root and third of Am7 followed by the root and seventh (though down an octave) of D7. In the third bar, I've chosen the root and seventh of Am7 followed by the root and third of D7. Bars two and four are the same as in the previous example.
Ballads
Slower songs often require that you play half notes (i.e. two beats per bar) instead of quarter notes. Since each note will be sustained longer, it's important to choose your notes carefully.
What to do when you loose your place
You can already tell that walking bass requires quite a bit of scale knowlege and anticipation. It's inevitable that you'll loose your place once in a while. The usual advice is to keep walking. A lot of bad notes will sound like daring passing notes as long as you eventually find your way back to the root. Keeping the forward rhythm going will not draw as much attention as stopping completely. If you find yourself hopelessly confused, you can either drop to a low E and pound on that until you hear the next change or you can stop entirely and jump back in.
What to play when you see chords you don't recognize
In the best of all possible worlds, you'd know every possible chord and a corresponding scale to play over it. But in the practical world, you'll ocassionaly get trown chords that, for all of your hours of preparation, you don't know how to handle. When you find yourself in such a situation, it helps to break the chord down to something simpler and remember some basics that you already know but might tend to forget in your pursuit of a perfectly sound bass line:
  1. The root will always work
  2. Skip the extensions, go for the basics: Is it major, minor, dominant, or diminished?
  3. Except for diminished chords, the five will work.
  4. Chromaticism is your friend.
To put our theory into practice, consider a real-world example: CMaj7#11. What would you play if you found a bar of this in a progression? The root (C) always works. In this case (since this is not a diminished chord) the five (G) works. That gives us two of the four notes we need. Simplifying the chord to CMaj7 (i.e. chopping off the extensions) should generate some chord tones (C, D, E, F, G, A, B). Now we only need one more note, and we can fill that with a passing tone.
A Real-World Example
All this theory becomes a lot more sensible when we tie it down to an actual tune. If you're already familar with playing blues lines, then it's not a big jump to tackle a tune like "Mr. P.C." from John Coltrane's Giant Steps (1960). The song has two sections, a "head" which includes a short melody which is repeated twice and a body where the instrumentalists trade solos. Then the head apears again at the end of the tune, to signify that it is coming to an end. Here's the chord progression for the head:
Cm                    Cm  Bb/C  Cm
| / / / / | / / / / | / / / / | / / / / |

Fm                    Cm  Bb/C  Cm
| / / / / | / / / / | / / / / | / / / / |

Ab7         G7+9      Cm  Bb/C  Cm
| / / / / | / / / / | / / / / | / / / / |
If we begin by playing noting but quarter notes (four to the bar), how shall we approach this progression? Well, for the Cm chords, we could play some combination of C Aeolian or C blues. That covers five of the twelve bars. But what do we do about those measures (3, 7, & 11) with two chords per par? C Aeolian and/or C blues will work for the first two beats, but what about beats three and four?
That Bb/C is what's known as a "slash chord." Composers use slash chords as an easy way to specify a certain chord inversion or voicing. In this case, the chord is Bb but the composer wants the lowest note in that chord to be C. As a bassist, you'll generally play the note to the right of the slash, though on this tune, the bassist tends to play Bb on beats three and four. Either approach would be correct.
Now we've addressed all but two bars: the Ab7 and the G7+9. Ab7 is easy enough. We generally use either a mixolydian or lydian mode for dominant chords. But to get the G7+9 you either need to know more about chord theory or you need to simplify. In this case, we'll take the easy way out and ignore the extension (i.e. the +9) and treat this chord as G7. So for G7, we'll play G Mixolydian.
Here's the progression again, this time with a workable walking line written out. This is a hypothetical line, not one taken from any recording.
Cm                    Cm  Bb/C  Cm
|---------|---------|---------|---------|
|-------3-|-5-3-----|---1---0-|---------|
|-3-5-6---|-----6-5-|-3---1---|-3-1-----|
|---------|---------|---------|-----3-2-|

Fm                    Cm  Bb/C  Cm
|---------|---------|---------|---------|
|---3-1---|-3-1-----|---1---0-|---------|
|-------3-|-----1-2-|-3---1---|-3-5-6-5-|
|-1-------|---------|---------|---------|

Ab7         G7+9      Cm  Bb/C  Cm
|---------|---------|---------|---------|
|---------|---------|---5---0-|---------|
|---3-5-6-|---2-3-5-|-3---1---|-3-1---1-|
|-4-------|-3-------|---------|-----3---|
An Analysis
Here's a measure-by measure analysis of the thinking behind this chorus. The chord or chords are listed first, then the scale approach(es).
  1. Cm: Cm aeolian ascending line
  2. Cm: Cm aeolian descending line
  3. Cm Bb/C: root & third of the Cm arpegio over the Cm. Root & third of the Bb arpegio over the Bb.
  4. Cm: C minor pentatonic with a chromatic approach note (F#) on the fourth beat
  5. Fm: F minor pentatonic lick
  6. Fm: F minor pentatonic lick continued
  7. Cm Bb/C: same approach as for measure three
  8. Cm: Cm Aeolian lick
  9. Ab7: A lydian ascending line
  10. G7+9: G mixolydian ascending line
  11. Cm Bb/C: Root & fifth of the Cm arpegio over the Cm. Root & third of the Bb arpegio over Bb.
  12. Cm: C minor pentatonic lick
Exercise
After you've tried the above examples and tried walking a bit over the same progression, try writing out some of your own lines. Sometimes taking the time to write out a line can show you ways of approaching it that you might not have noticed otherwise. If it helps you, write down a brief analysis of your line, as I have done above. This approach may seem overly academic, but it does work. Once you've written out a few, try walking your lines (and ones that you improvise) first at very slow tempos and then at increasingly faster tempos. Always work with a metronome. Choosing the notes is only half the battle. Your line has to give the tune its rhythmic pulse while enhancing the harmonic context.
Summary
At first, walking jazz lines can seem intimidating even to players with years of experience in other contexts (at least, that was my experience). But by understanding the basics of jazz bass lines and spending time working on your lines, you'll eventually be able to tackle the toughest songs at the most intimidating tempos.

Exotic Scales

The major and minor scale and the modes cover a lot of musical ground, but here are some other scales that you might find usefull. Assume the root in all of these examples is C.
Whole tone scales
Formula: R, 2, 3, #4, #5, b7
Chords: C+, C+7
|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|b7-|---|-R-|---|
|-3-|---|#4-|---|#5-|
|---|-R-|---|-2-|---|
Lydian Dominant
Formula: R, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6, b7 (Lydian w/ a flat seven)
Chords C7
|---|---|---|---|
|-6-|b7-|---|-R-|
|-3-|---|#4-|-5-|
|---|-R-|---|-2-|
Harmonic Minor
Formula: R, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, 7 (Aeolian with a natural seventh degree)
Chords: Cm, Cm7
|---|---|---|---|
|---|-7-|-R-|---|
|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|
|-R-|---|-2-|b3-|
Jazz Melodic Minor
Formula: R, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (Ionian mode w/ a flat third)
Cm7, CmM7
|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|-7-|-R-|---|---|
|-4-|---|-5-|---|-6-|
|-R-|---|-2-|b3-|---|
Bebop Major
Formula: R, 2, 3, 4, 5, b6, 6, 7
Chords: Cmaj7, C7
|---|---|---|---|---|
|-6-|---|-7-|-R-|---|
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|
|---|-R-|---|-2-|---|
Bebop Minor
Formula: R, 2, b3, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7
Chords: Cm7
|---|---|---|---|---|
|-6-|b7-|---|-R-|---|
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|---|
|---|-R-|---|-2-|b3-|
Bebop Dominant
Formula: R, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7, 7, R (Mixolydian with an added natural seven)
Chords: C7
|---|---|---|---|
|-6-|b7-|-7-|-R-|
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|
|---|-R-|---|-2-|
Half-Whole Diminished (a.k.a. Octotonic)
Formula: R, b2, b3, 3, b5, 5, 6, b7
Chords: C13b9, C13#9
|---|---|---|---|---|
|-6-|b7-|---|-R-|---|
|-3-|---|b5-|-5-|---|
|---|-R-|b2-|---|b3-|
Whole-Half Diminished (a.k.a. Diminshed)
Formula: R, 2, b3, 4, b5, b6, 6, 7
Chords: Cdim7 (C, Eb, Gb, Bbb)
|---|---|---|---|---|
|-6-|---|-7-|-R-|---|
|---|-4-|b5-|---|b6-|
|---|-R-|---|-2-|b3-|
Altered Scale (a.k.a. Dimished Whole-Tone)
Formula: R, b2, b3, 3, b5, b6, b7
Chords: C7, C7alt, C7#5#9, C7#9
|---|---|---|---|---|
|---|b7-|---|-R-|---|
|-3-|---|b5-|-5-|b6-|
|---|-R-|b2-|---|b3-|

Practicing Improvisation

To improvise is to spontaneously create. You can spontaneously create a song or chord progression, but in general the term is used to appy to imporvised solos. We've all be dazled by tallented players who are also amazing soloists. They seem to be able to create beautiful interesting lines out of nothing. But, of course, if you've made it this far in the book, you already understand a lot of the theory and practice that goes into playing a solo. Besides a good ear, a knowlege of scales and harmony will only aid you in your quest for beautiful, spontaneous compesitions. But a knowledge of scales and chords alone won't get your there. You need to practice soloing so that you can come up with your own solutions to the sorts of problems soloists encounter.
One effective strategy is to begin by tring to solo over blues progressions. The great thing about blues progressions is that they are easy to keep in your head while you're soloing over the top of them. Other more complex changes can be hard to work on without the aid of a tape recorder, phrase sampler, or another musician to play the changes.

Recording devices are a very handy tool when it comes to practicing improvisation since they allow you to record a series of chords (or a bass line) and then play it back while you try out solo ideas over the top of it. Even a simple tape recorder is useful for this task, though there are other more advanced technologies which can help as well: sequencers, phrase samplers/loopers, session trainers, etc. I use a Boomerang Phrase Sampler for this task.
The basic procedure:
  1. Set up your recording device.
  2. Tune up your bass.
  3. Pick any progression of chords that you'd like to solo over (a blues, a passage from a song you like, a jazz standard, etc.) and record about five or ten minutes of it, preferable with a metronome (a clock or stopwatch comes in handy for this step).
  4. Be sure to count off the first four beats so you'll be able to find the begining during playback.
  5. Now play back the recording and solo over the passage.
Some pointers:
On the first couple of passes, focus on getting the roots together. Then try try arpegios and/or scales and/or modes over each chord. Listen while you play. Make a mental note of what works and what doesn't. You may want to jot down ideas that you think work so that you can practice them separately and always have them at your fingertips (these are often refered to as "licks"). The most important thing is to try and hear melodies though the progressions. If you can sing at all, you might try singing them and singing as you play your bass can often make your playing more melodic.

Reading Music

Depending upon your musical situation, you could go your entire life never reading a line of music in standard notation. Musicians communicate in many ways. We often demonstrate our lines to each other in person or use chord charts as a short-hand way of representing musical ideas. Many players are quite happy with tabulature for notating difficult melodies. Recordable media (tape, disk, etc.) are also efficient way to communicate musical information.
But I'm not trying to talk you out of learning standard notation. Doing so opens up a world of musical opportunities to any player, and learning to read isn't as hard as you might think. Not only will you be able to read bass books and articles not written in tab, but you'll also be albe to read trombone books (their range closely matches ours), bassoon books (theirs goes only a few notes lower) and bass lines written as a part of piano music. It doesn't take the rest of your life to learn how to read music. It just takes regular practice. And if you try it for at least a month, you'll see continual steady improvement. It will get easier, I promise. And once you have it under your belt, you'll be able to play all sorts of (paying) gigs that you might not have otherwise had a cance to play.
Reading Rhythm Notation, Part I (Counting)
Standard notation, among other things, is a visual means of representing the pitch and duration of musical notes. Before we learn the pitches of the notes, let's learn to count some rhythms. This chart summarizes many (but not all) of the note values you'll encounter most often in written music:
note values chart
Each of the five lines of this chart shows a different note which indicates that a note is to be played for a certain amount of time. You'll notice that, for sake of simplicity, the same note is used for each exercise. The note is (open) E.
If you have a metronome handy, set it to a relatively moderate beet (80-100 b.p.m.) and tap your foot along with the click. Your foot should hit the floor with each click. If you don't have a metronome (and I strongly suggest that you invest in one) just tap your foot at a steady tempo. The moment when your foot hits the ground is known as the down beat. Practice counting aloud (i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, . . .) with each down-beat of your foot, and keep your down beats in synch wit the metronome. After you're comfortable counting, try playing the open A string along with the down beats (one note per down beat).
Besides the down beat, there is also an up-beat. The up-beat occures exactly half-way between any two down beats. So the up beats should occur when your foot is at it's highest point in the air. To count the up beat, we say "and." On the counting chart, the "ands" are marked with plus signs. Practice counting along with the metronome as you have already done, but this time add in the upbeats (i.e. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and . . . ). Be sure not to slow down your counting. Only the 1, 2, 3, and 4, should occur on the down beats (i.e. the click of the metronome). The ands should fall in-between. (When you're first starting out, it's tempting to put every note on the down beat; resist this temptation). Once you're comfortable counting the down beats and the up beats, begin playing along on the open A string along with the down beats and up beats (strike the string once for each down beat and one for each up beat).
Quarter Notes
The third line of the chard shows quarter notes (four of them):
You'll see four black dots with single, vertical lines attached to them. In musical lingo, the dots are called "heads" and the lines are called "stems." Beneath each note, you'll see a number, and between each pair of notes, you'll see an addition sign (+). This bit of standard notation puts to use what we've learned about counting. Each quarter note starts on a down beat and lasts until just before the next quarter note begins (exactly where each note ends depends upon the passage. Standard notation has ways of indicating the relative length of the notes, but for now we'll stick to the basics). Take a breath, tap your foot, and count off "1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and" before starting with the first note of the quarter note line. After you've played the last note (there are only four of them), stop. Not so hard, eh? It shouldn't be, you've playing quarter notes (whether you knew it or not) as long as you've been playing bass.
Eighth Notes
The fourth line of the counting chart illustrates eighth notes:
Notice that eighth notes are also black dots, but each pair of eighth notes is connected by a single, thick bar (there is also a way of writing single eight notes, but we'll get to that in a bit). This black bar is what separates eighth notes visualy from quarter notes. Notice that half of the eighth notes are on the down beats and half are on the up beats. Keeping your tempo the same as when you played the quarter notes, count off and play this group of eighth notes.
We can create other values by continuing to sub-divide the basic (quarter note) beat into shorter notes or by combining beats together into longer notes. Let's start by combining quarter notes into longer notes.
Half Notes
The second line of the counting chart shows two half notes. Notice that half notes are constructed with a hollow head (it looks like an oval) instead of a solid dot (like quarter notes). This is the feature, along with the stem, which distinguishes half notes from all other notes. You'll also notice that the first half note starts on beat number 1, while the second starts on beat number 3. When we play a half note, we hold it for two beats. Even though we will always count using quarter notes (i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4, . . .) or eighth notes (1, +, 2, +, 3, +, 4, +, . . .), in this example we will only start a note on the first and third beats. The first half note will end just before the second half note begins. The second half-note should be just as long as the first (be careful to hold the note out to its full value. Don't cut it off just because it's the last thing you have to play. A half note should always be two beats long, whether it's the first or last note in a piece). Catch your breath, count off, and play these two notes as you count along with your metronome.
Whole Notes
If you combine two half notes (or four quarter notes) together, you get a whole note:
Whole notes last the entire length of the measure, no matter how long that measure may be. In our example, a whole notes last for four beats. One whole note lasts as long as two half notes, four quarter notes, or eight eighth notes (hence the names of each). By now you have undoubtedly noticed that each of our examples is four beats long (even if we play more or fewer than four notes). Not all music is arranged in groups of four beats (though much of it is, and that's why we've started here).
Sixteenth Notes
Dividing any eighth notes in half gives you two sixteenth notes:
So we have four sixteenth notes per beat. You can count these several ways, but I prefer counting them "one-e-and-a, two-e-and-a, three-e-and-a, four-e-and,a" (the "e" notes are long e's as in "tree"; the "a" notes are short, as in "ah"). The down beats and the upbeats (i.e. the "and" beats) are in the same place as they would be if we were counting eighths. The "e" and "a" beats fall between each the up beats and the down beats.
Now let's look at something you've undoubtedly seen before: the C major scale:
The Major Scale/Ionian mode, Once Again
-----------2-4-5---
-----2-3-5---------
-3-5---------------
-------------------
 C D E F G A B C note names
 R 2 3 4 5 6 7 R scale degrees
[ionian.jpg]
A Bunch of Quick Definitions:
Music is writen on a staff, and a staff contains five lines and four spaces. Music for the bass guitar is written on what is called the "bass clef" and also known as the "F" cleff (because the two little dots which are part of the bass cleff are on either side of the line used to designate F. Notes (the little black marks that indicate you should play something) can be written on any of these lines and spaces. They can also be written on lines and spaces extending above and below the staff by the use of added lines called "ledger" lines. As you can see in some of the examples below, the B is written on the space imediately above the staff and the high C is written on the first ledger line above the staff.
Below you'll fine the notes of the C major scale as they are written on the staff. The letter name of each note is written directly beneath it. Beneath the staff is a diagram of the C major scale showing the note names in their locations on the fretboard.
[staff.jpg]
Play the above C major scale slowly and concentrate on each note as you play it. Force your mind to recognize that the second space of the staff is (and ever shall be) C. Try saying the names of the notes out loud (or sing them on pitch if you can manage that) as you play them. Try to remember which note goes with which line or space.
The notes in the next example are also all in C major, but they go down to the low E (the lowest note on the four string bass in standard tuning). We'll deal with them more in the reading examples, but try to get a feel for the locations of as many notes as you can.
[staff2.jpg]
Quarter Note Rhythms in 4/4:
Our first reading examples will be comprised entirely of quarter notes. There will be one on every down beat of the bar (or measure) and each bar will contain four beats. If it helps you, tap your foot steadily and count "one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four" each time your foot hits the ground. The moment when your foot hits the ground is called the down beat. For the time being, we'll only be playing on the down beats.

Gear

I've played a lot of equipment over the years though I haven't owned that much of it myself. I'd like to share my thoughts on equipment essential to bass players and also give my opinions on specific pieces of equipment that I've played and/or owned. I have never been endorsed by any manufacturer (I'm still waiting for that ship to come in), so I'm not getting any kick backs for recommending any of these products. That said, taste in gear, like taste in anything, is a highly objective affair. I'm only reporting on my own opinions based on my own experiences. As in anything else, you'll have to try things out and form your own opinions.
Basses
Every player needs a decent bass. I started out on a short-scale Kay electric that looked something like a Gibson SG. I remember dreaming about it and going to the pawn shop/music store to drool at it. My mother was cool enough to buy it for me for my 14th birthday. It cost $80 and was a decent starter bass.
I played the Kay for a year and a half before I bought a new Fender Jazz Bass Special (a 1984 model), which I've been playing ever since. It's been though one fret job and is still going strong. I'm a big fan of Fenders because of their fairly wide string spacing (which paradoxically fits my hands better even though my hands are small), their tone, and the feel of their necks. Nothing else quite feels like a Fender, and since I cut my teeth on them, it's hard for me to like anything else. A few years ago, I picked up a fretless version of the same bass.
In May of 2000, I bought a Carvin LB76 (six-string, fretted bass). Now I find I'm playing the Carvin quite a lot, though I still prefer the Fender for some things (especially for slap). Since I've always liked chords on bass, the six string gives me a lot more options. I really wish I'd bought a six-string bass sooner than I did, as it's been a very nice addition to by bass collection and often inspires some good writing. The best six-string basses I've played are by Ken Smith and Modulus Guitars (the Quantum Six is my current dream bass, but they list for $3299, so I won't be buying one anytime soon--probably not anytime in the next decade).
A starter bass should be affordable, play well, and have a good tone. Luckily, most of the major manufacturers of basses make entry-level basses, and many of these are quality instruments. I particularly like the introductory modles from Fender, Yamaha, and Ibanez. The Mexican-made Fender Jazz Bass has all the playability and sound that a beginner needs (and beats the hell out of a pawn show Kay). Yamaha's low-end basses are also very well made. Ibanez, while I like their tone less compared to the other two manufactures, have a remarkable feel and slim necks which many players with small hands find more comfortable.
Five String Basses
Five-string basses are very popular these days. But, I've encountered very few five string basses that I really like. On cheaper fives, the tone is usually weak and the low B is floppy. There are a few good ones out there (besides expensive custom-shop models). The Fender American Jazz Bass Deluxe V is very good. It feels like a Fender and has plesantly wide string spacing. The low B is very solid becuase all of the strings go through the body. The Yamaha TRB-5 has even wider string spacing and versitile electronics which give you a lot of different tones at your fingertips. Many players choose to start on a five string these days, and that's a perfectly sound decision.
Fretless Basses
For about a year, I owned an Ibanez SR400 FL, which is a fretless four-string bass. I liked the neck, but never could get used to the tone (which seemed a little dead to me). I recently traded it for a 1988 Fender Jazz Bass Special Fretless, which I like much better since it is almost identical (except for the missing frets) to the bass I've been playing for the last fifteen years.
Cases

Whatever bass you buy, invest in a good hardshell case, a well-padded gig bag, or both. Hardshell cases give your bass the best protection for the hazards of the road. You can simply throw your cased bass in the back of a truck or equipment van and never worry about it. Gig bags are very convenient for transporting your bass to and from practice or to and from a friend's house. They're lighter and more practical for these situations than a hard-shell case.

Amps
I've owned quite a few amps over the years. I started out, like many bass players, with a cheap Peavey (KB100). Mine was actually a keyboard amp with three inputs. I used one of these for my drum machine. Peaveys are rugged and dependable, but their lower end models tend lack a lot when it comes to tone. Years later, I moved up to a Peavey Megabass rig (400 watt head + a cab with an 18" and two 10"). That was, for me, the perfect high-volume rig. But it was so big, and so loud, that I had to get rid of it. Now I own a Yorkville 400B combo (400 watt rack-mount head + one 15"). It is rugged, portable, and beautiful to listen to. I've also played SWR and Eden amps, though I've never owned either. I've been very impressed with Eden amps and cabs. And my next amp (if my Yorkville ever gives up the ghost) will probably be an Eden.
Practice Amps
Once you're playing regulary with a band that has it's own rehersal space, you'll probably quickly tire of lugging your bass amp back and forth between your home and your rehersal studio. Most players opt to buy a small practice amp for use at home, or for using during quiet rehersals and small gigs. The best practice amp I ever had (and never should have sold) was a Galien-Kruger 200MB. It had a beautiful tone (perfect for slapping), a built in compressor, and a built in chorus. I bought it used for $250. GK doesn't make the 200MB anymore. The equivialant one they make now would run you nearly $1000. That's a bit out of my range. If it's not out of yours, you don't need my blessing.
Now I have a very good, and very affordable, practice amp: the Peavy MicroBass. I don't usually like Peavy gear (with a few exceptions as I outlined above) but this one IMHO has a better sound than any other practice amp in it's price range ($175). It has an unbelievably bassy tone for such a small amp, and it is loud enough for small gigs. I love it. If you've got a little extra cash to spare (say $400), there is a range of good practice amps from SWR, Genz-Benz, and many others.

Miscellaneous Equipment

A good tuner is essential stage gear even if you have a good ear (and especially if you set the intonation on your bass). Sabine makes a very good tuner about the size of a pack of cigarettes (so it will fit in your case). I use a Zoom 506 (multi-effects stomp box) which has a built-in (silent) tuner which I like very much. Now that I'm used to having a tuner available at the flick of a footswitch, I don't ever want to be without one. Most of the major effects companies make stomp box tuners. I also have a small QuickTune tuner that I sometimes use with my bass. It's also handy for acoustic instruments, as it has a built-in microphone.
A metronome is an absolute must. Practicing with a metronome helps you develop a steady sense of time and lets you chart your progress when developing speed.
Phrase samplers are the best practice tools I've ever discovered. I use a Boomerang Phrase Sampler and it's an incredibly useful tool. Phrase samplers let you sample a phrase and loop it. Many also allow you to add other phrases to the looped one, creating arrangements on the fly. It's great to be able to loop a bass line or chord progression and then try out other melodies or harmonies on top of it. Having a phrase sampler is like having a friend who never minds playing they rhythm parts over and over while you try out variations. I wish I'd had one when I was first starting out. Using it has reallyl helped my playing.

The one effect, if it's even fair to call it an effect, that no bassist should be without is a compressor of some sort. There are many rack-mount and stop box solutions out there. Compressors narrow the dynamic range of your instrument, giving you a smoother sound without so many loud peaks. They make you sound more polished and are especially helpful when playing slap. Some people think of compressors as a sign of weakness, but no record studio in the world is without them. I've only used a few: some old DOD pedal and the one in my Zoom 506. Some amps have compressors built in. Some amps have compressors built in. And these are fine as long as they give you a way to set the amount of compression.
Recording gear is a lot of fun, and very useful. There are lots of options these days and all of them are more powerful and more reasonably priced than the cassette-tape based four-track recorders of not that many years ago. Since I work with computers for a living, I prefer computer- based solutions. Currently, I use Sony Acid Pro--a product marketed mostly to the DJ/hip-hop community, but a very nice program for recording anything. It is also, unlike most recording software, very easy to use. Another option, and one that I may be switching to soon, is Ableton Live. Live is also a very easy-to-use program and offers some arrangement features I've found in no other software. And, unlike Acid, it is available for Macintosh and Windows.
The sound is in your fingers...
Try to remember that, ultimately, your sound is in your fingers, not in your gear. There's nothing quite as pathetic as watching someone sound like hell on a $4000 rig. Gear is nice, but you have to be realistic. And you have to avoid thinking that your next creative breakthrough is just one more purchase away. There are no magical shortcuts to playing well. It takes lots of study, lots of listening, lots of experience, and lots of practice. Having dependable gear is important. And good gear can be inspiring. But it only plays as well as you do.

Rehearsing with a Band

Rehearsing with a band requires many skills. First, you have to be competent on your instrument (though being in a band will also help you learn more quickly, since you'll be around other musicians who can help you). Next, you must find people whom you can work with, and you must learn how to use your own abilities to complement and contribute to the band's music. A band of virtuoso musicians who are always fighting isn't a good band to be in (unless you really enjoy confrontation and frustration).
False Starts
I've watched many bands rehearse and some know how to rehearse better than others. Some bands play their songs all the way through every time and never stop to work on parts of the song. Others stop anytime anyone flubs a note. Neither approach is very practical. In the former, you don't get tighter because you don't isolate the rough spots and smooth them out. In the latter, you don't learn how to play through your mistakes. The goal in practicing is to find a happy medium. If a song is completely off, it's best to stop and start over. It's generally best to run though a song from start to finish and then decide which parts were rough and play each of those several times until you have them right. Then you can run the song from the top again and judge the results. You don't want to spend an entire evening on one song, but you also don't want to just practice your mistakes.
Staying Focussed
It's important to make sure that your rehersal time doesn't devolve into pure socializing. Few bands are run with military precision (and I doubt I'd enjoy playing in one that was), but agreeing, say, you'll actually be tuned up and playing from 8:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. goes a long way toward ensuring a base level of productive, on-task (as they MBAs say) work. You need time to socialize with your bandmates, but that can easily come immediatly after or before the designated rehearsal times.
Guests
Along the same lines, I've found it generally a lot better to have "closed practices" where only the band members are in attendance. Playing live requires consideration for your audience. But in rehearsal, you need to be able to start and stop when necessary (regarless of how it might sound from the outside). You also need to be able to express your thoughts about things without the added burned about worrying how it sounds to others (along with that, you'll sometimes be taking criticism for your playing. And that's easier to take without an audience). So, while an occasional guest is fine (e.g. your friend from out of town who never gets to see you live and around whom you and your bandmates feel comfortable) or even necessary (e.g. the photographer from a local paper doing a story on you). It's a good general rule to lock the door and not invite your friends to drop by. If your friends ask to drop by, just tell them about your policy of closed practices and how it helps you get things accomplished faster. Most people are completely undersanding.
Frequency
Some bands rehearse almost every night of the week when they don't have a gig, but that's a bit much most people. Other bands do fine with one or two rehearsals a week. And some bands that gig a lot hardly rehearse at all (except for sound checks). You'll have to find what works for you and your band mates. Most people lead fairly busy lives, and most bands share rehearsal space with other bands. So finding times that work for every person involved can be tough. If you share a space, post a calendar there and mark off days and times that each band will use.
Egos
Finally, the same interpersonal skills that help you get along with people and accomplish things in the "real world" also apply to the practice room. Being abrasive, insulting, or short-tempered with other people has the same negative effects. Most musicians care deeply about making music and have invested a non-trivial amount of time into learning how to create it. This means that their self-esteme can get wrapped up very easily into the success of a project. One of the members of The Police said in an interview I saw on television many years ago that telling a person you don't like the song they've just written is "a bit like telling him his girlfriend is ugly." People get emotionally involved, sometimes too involved, with their creations. Keep this in mind when you voice your opinion about things in a practice setting. It'll help you.

Listening Guide

No one can tell you what you should listen to in order to be a good bassist. Most musicians will tell you that it's important to listen to everything (especially styles and instruments you're less familiar with). All I want to do here is include a few albums which I think have had a substantial impact on my own playing, and on electric bass playing in general. This isn't a popularity contest, so I hope I won't offend anyone by not mentioning a player someone out there admires. I'll be exapanding this list everytime I encounter a new player or remember another who deserves mention, but this is not meant to be a comprehensive list.
The name of the bassist (except for solo albums by bassists) is in parenthesis following the name of the band or artist the bassist acompanies.
James Brown (Bootsy Collins) -- The CD of JB
Bootsy is one of the kinks of funk. His approach is minimal, not flashy, but he knows how to add just the right emphasis to make people move.
The Police (Sting) -- [the entire catalog]
Sting's lines are a perfect example of effective, tasty, melodic minimalism. He can bring the simplest of lines alive by the grace of note choices and articulation.
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (Victor Wooten) -- Live Art
A truly inspirational double-live album with stunningly intricate and melodic bass playing throughout. I've seen Victor live, and this disk captures much of the excitement of his playing.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers (Flea) -- [most anything]

I first understood slapping by learning Flea's line to "True Men Don't Kill Coyotes" which is on the Chili Peppers' first, self-titled, album. Flea's playing covers a lot of styles, especialy for a player who freely admits that he knows nothing about music theory. He certainly has great ears and quick hands.
Marcus Miller -- The Sun Don't Lie

This album is a bit too clean and synth oriented for my tastes, but it does feature Miller's signature tone and some fine soloing.
Charles Mingus -- [Entire Catalog]

The absolutely incredible bassist, pianist, and composer. Most of his stuff is great. Grab a greatest hits (the Rhino Box is good) or a copy of Mingus Ah Um. Mingus takes lots of great bass solos. One of the best is to be found on "Hatian Fight Song" which is available on many "best of" collections.
Fishbone (Norwood Fisher) -- Truth and Soul

Norwood Fisher is one of the best slap bassists out there. "Bonin' in the Boneyard" was an early classic of slap/funk. This is, to my knowlege, Fishbone's most listenable album. The songwriting is strong throughout.
Jaco Pastorius -- Jaco Pastorius

What can you say about Jaco that hasn't already been said? Probably nothing. He was one of the greatest inovators of all time on the electric bass (especially the fretless). He was one of the first bassists to exploit the full range of the bass. This, is first, self-titled, solo album was released in 1976. It features some of his finest playing and writing.
Weather Report (Jaco Pastorius) -- Heavy Weather & 8:30
Jaco's solo work has been very influential. But you owe it to yourself to check him out in the group that made him famous. Weather Report's Heavy Weather is a landmark jazz/fusion album. And 8:30 is a good live recording that will give you a pretty broad introduction to Jaco's work.
Victor Wooten -- [entire catalog]

Victor has done a great deal to show just what can be played on the bass, and he has something many virtuoso's lack: taste. His first solo release, A Show of Hands is all Victor: no overdubs or punch-ins. But trust me, you'll find that hard to believe. Victor's second solo release, What Did He Say? continues to document his incredible playing. This time around he uses lots of overdubs (the opposite of his no-overdub apporach on "A Show of Hands"). The effects are amazing. The most recent effort, Yin/Yang is a double album aimed much more at the smooth jazz crowd. But the writing is very solid. And one disc is entirely instumental, while the other contains vocal tracks.
Black Sabbath (Geezer Butler) -- [the first thee albums] Geezer Butler's work on the first three Black Sabbath albums sets the stage for all hard rock and metal bassists who came later. Geezer's lines are high in the mix on these discs. He's the sort of bassist who knows when to follow the guitar and when to play in counterpoint to it. His gritty, slightly distorted tone and occasional use of effects also had a lasting influence. If rock or metal is your thing, you have to check this stuff out.

Conclusions
Well, that's it for now. I hope that you find the bassbook useful. If it's been a benefit to you (or even if it hasn't), drop me an email and/or click the "rate this" link below and review this site in the ActiveBass resource section. Good luck with your bass playing. Let me know how it goes with you.

Colophon
I have used a lot of tools over the years to edit Wheat's BassBook. I currently use Notepad++ to edit text files offline and Nano to edit them at the command line. What few images there are were created and edited in Adobe Photoshop 7. Notation was created in Finale NotePad and converted to graphics using CaptureEze Pro. But I am now using LilyPond, which exports directly to Adobe PDFs which I can then edit with Photoshop. The development platform is currently my crappy Dell Latitude Inspiron 5160 Pentium IV laptop running Windows XP and Cygwin. The project is hosted on servers running Debian GNU/Linux and the Apache web server. Sever-side scripting is accomplished entirely with PHP.
About the Author
James "Wheatbread" Martin has been playing bass for over twenty years. He has performed in a number of bands. He currently records and releases his own music via jamesnotjim.com, his bass-centric solo project. He holds a Master of Arts in English and a Master of Education in Educational Technology. He is a software trainer and English instructor at a community college. He currently lives in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. He blogs at wheatdesign.com and is the creator and admin for bassplaying.com.
:: Copyright 1996-2007 by wheatdesign.com ::
:: http://wheatsbassbook.org ::

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