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Preferred Scale Books for Bass Players

Recently I’ve been getting a lot of people asking for recommendations for “good” scale books for the double bassist. This is an interesting subject, as there so many books out there! Furthermore, whether a scale book is “good” or not often depends not on their content, but rather how they are applied. This is why a good teacher and a dedicated student are both important in the learning process.

The list below is by no means exhaustive; there are many excellent books out there. The recommendations below, in fact, don’t even cover everything I use. Nonetheless, I have found each of to be particularly effective, when used properly, and I often suggest them.

Here, in no particular order, are four of my most popular suggestions:

Don Hermanns: Accompanied Rudiments Course

This is a two-octave scale course. It doesn’t come with any fingerings, so it requires that I guide the student explicitly in how to approach each exercise. The upside is, that it works with any fingering system. I often suggest this work for beginning to intermediate students, as it comes with a recorded piano accompaniment, and sometimes harmonization, for each exercise. I have found that, when used daily with the recordings, intonation improves quickly.

Jean Marc Rollez: Méthode de Contrebasse, (Vol. 2 and 3)

The fingerings suggested in this book require use of all four strings, work for players with both large and small hands and provide a solid foundation for successful implementation of more advanced techniques at a later time. Volume Two addresses two-octave scales and can be easily be adapted for use with with the Accompanied Rudiments Course of Don Hermanns. Volume Three covers the entire fingerboard, and a bit beyond, with three-octave scales. The books, unfortunately, contain a number of printing errors that require intervention on the part of the teacher. When used with supervision, however, I like these books for developing players.

Pierre Hellouin: Les Coups D’Archet (Bowing for the Contrabass)

No fingerings are given in this book, and I view this book as being for more advanced players who already have solid ideas regarding fingering. The more than 150 bowing variants allow for deep investigation into double bass technique and present a number of challenges, which any serious performer must overcome. This book seems to be a never-ending source for scale study and can be used with any fingering system.

Joseph Prunner: Progressive Studies for the Double Bass, Vol. 1 and 2

I like this book, especially Volume 2, for bassists who already have a good foundation but are looking for new ways to approach the left hand. Prunner’s concepts of “Fixed position” scale fingerings are particularly interesting and can be very freeing for performers who are studying advanced repertory.

So there they are, four of my most recommended scale books. Thanks for the questions, and keep sending them my way!

Dr. Donovan Stokes is on the faculty of Shenandoah University-Conservatory. Visit him online at www.donovanstokes.com and check out the Bass Coalition at www.basscoalition.com.

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Share your thoughts

Paul Sanwald

My teacher recommended Eugene Levinson’s School Of Agility. He does at least 6-8 fingerings for each scale, so it’s pretty daunting, but I do like his basic fingerings.

that bass guy

that bass guy

Surprised at the omission of anything by Francois Rabbath. His method encompasses 150 different fingerings for a 3 octave scale. Once you work through the initial key of C major, the understanding you’ve gained makes the fingerings for the other keys a no-brainer. And all of this is on top of the bowing exercises given in the book. I would strongly advise any bass student regardless of experience to look at these books and apply them to your own work.