Bass Bebop for Beginners: Part 1

Today we’re starting with the first part of a new series on bebop bass, a topic a lot of my students are getting into lately. Our goal is to incorporate some great bebop vocabulary on the bass guitar.

There is a ton of stuff out there to help you get started. Look for books on Charlie Parker solos, for example. These are easy to find online (including this one). If you are feeling extra adventurous, transcribe your own solos from Parker, Sonny Stitt, Cannonball Adderley and others.

The trick is to not just play the written solos but really get inside the lines themselves, as we being to do in the video below. We’ll dig deeper as we progress, but for now, get this one under your belt. And don’t forget: practice them in all 12 keys as well.

This first lick is from the Charlie Parker tune, “Kim.” This, like many of Parker’s compositions, is based on a chord progression from an existing standard. In this case, George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm.” The lick is C-7 / F7:

Bass Bebop for Beginners: Part 1 Lick

This tune – and its many variations – is often just referred to as “Rhythm Changes,” as shorthand for the harmonic sequence it encompasses. If you notice, this lick can be played as ii v i lines in their own right and can also be put together to form the classic turnaround sequence of iii vi ii v (so, D-7, G7, C-7, F7 becomes iii vi ii v in the key of B-flat – the typical key for a “rhythm changes” tune!)

However, I decided to use the licks independently – as separate ii v lines, just for ease of assimilation.

Next time we will look at combining these and some other cool bebop vocabulary that first right on the bass.

Rufus Philpot is a performer and educator living in Los Angeles who has performed and or recorded with everyone from Scott Henderson, Allan Holdsworth, Virgil Donati and Tony MacAlpine to Randy Brecker, Tom Scott, Gary Novak and Marvin "Smitty" Smith. For more, check out his website.

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