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Ariane Cap Releases Music Theory Book for Bassists

Music Theory for the Bass Player: A Comprehensive and Hands-on Guide to Playing with More Confidence and FreedomBassist, pianist, composer and educator Ariane Cap has decided to make understanding music theory easier to understand for bassists in her book, Music Theory for the Bass Player: A Comprehensive and Hands-on Guide to Playing with More Confidence and Freedom.

The theory in the book is designed to be approachable, and can even be used by players who can’t read music. The book explores scales and exercises, offers up fretboard diagrams, mnemonics and useful photos.

Cap, founder and director of Step Up Music Vallejo and an instructor at the California Jazz Conservatory, plays a variety of styles, from funk to jazz to Latin disco.

She also teaches online for TrueFire. Check out how she introduces the Cycle of Fifths:

Cap’s 184-page book is available in paperback.

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hats not a cycle of 5ths Its a cycle of 4ths

    Thomas Risell

    In common music and theory terms its called the Cycle of Fifths.
    A fourth UP equals a fifth DOWN , the direction on a instrument is not important, but many less experienced bassplayers look at their fretboard and understand the cycle from the low E string and UP ( A , D, G strings), which is a limited view, since boths directions apply equally, or else we would end up in the high register very fast ha ha
    “What goes up must come down”

      Ariane Cap

      Yupp great answer! The fifths up are – from the classical point of view – really Falling Fifths (thats why they call these sequences a Cadence, from the Latin word for falling). If you think of a Five-One connection, the five pulls down to the one, G7 to C. So music steps through the cycle in counterclockwise direction a lot because that is such a strong root movement. C is the 5 of F, F is the 5 of Bb and so forth. That’s why it sounds like we can’t stop when we play through it :)
      Yeah and where we play it, 4th up or 5th down – same note. Fourths and fifths are inversions of each other. Happy groovin



I could use Ariane as my bass teacher because there are none in my area. I’m on my own down south in the between Texas and Louisiana , there’s a bunch of gators and crawfish but no bass teachers.
Dyslexia is holding me back from learning the name of notes and scales and arpeggio’s but I can play them. I’ve always played by ear but that limits my knowledge of moving forward. Any ideas from of any of you bassist , do any of you have dyslexia. Its nothing to be ashamed about ,it is what it is. My ear is well trained and its gotten me this far.
If any given bass line is played not too fast I can play it in within 15 minutes by ear.

    Ton Nya

    Ton Nya

    I understand you completely. I am also a bass player and have been for about 3 decades and play by ear…I can also play anything I hear, however, I always ask myself, will reading advance my practical skills? Essentially music has to be heard and not read. But honestly speaking, I really do wish I could read in order to be on another level…(not necessarily higher level.)

    Guys like Robbie Shakespear, Carlton ‘family man’ Barret, George Oban and others have “written” earth shattering bass lines without the ability to write the music. By this I am not saying that reading is not important, I mean that it’s a feel, a gift from God. it’s a talent that needs no documentation.

      Ariane Cap

      Hi there, this is exatly why I wrote this book: I know a lot of bassists who come to the fretboard more by feeling shapes under their fingers and by primarily hearing the notes. I found a lot of theory books list pages and pages of written out arpeggios and that doesnt serve someone who is not used to reading. So if you try to learn reading ANd music theory at the same time – that is a lot. So my goal is to give you explanations, shapes (fretboard diagrams) and sounds and to give you the tools to understand the bass so well that you can put it into all keys into all positions on the bass yourself. So I mainly use diagrams here and TaB in addition to standard notation. I absolutely agree that reading is a vital skill (and I have books in the works for that too), but one after the other works better, not at the same time, has been my experience. Plus, there is a disconnect with many theory books with the kind of music that is presented, so I really wanted to bring theory on the fretboard, wrap it into grooves, make it useable right away in a creative sense (grooves, fills) and bring it to life on the bass. Sorry Not meaning to sound like a pitch, just fyi. Subscribe to my blog, I am putting up free video lessons to follow along, they go through the book and demonstrate concepts in it. You dont need to get he book to follow along (but it does add additional info). Cheers and keep groovin

    Ariane Cap

    Cheers Doc, I am building a classroom at If you subscribe at I will let you know when it is ready. keep groovin no matter what

Heikki L

Heikki L

Reading music will advance Your practical skills for sure. But that is not exactly what Ariane is adressing about in this exellent video lesson. It won’t hurt anyone to know the name of the notes and their locations on the fingerboard, certainly it doesn’t ruin Your musical creativity.
I have done this kind of exerice for years and my opinion is that it actually greatly improves one’s ability to play whatever “heard in Your head”. For many musicians theory, reading and systematic exerice routines (like the one Ariane presents here) are just a vechile to better ability to express the ideas that rise from their hearts and souls. Besides they are quite essential in many professional gigs, very few of us are actually able to make living playing just by ear. That I dare to tell by my over four decade experience with the bass.
Happy practicing!