10 Bass Books For Your Holiday Wish List
With the holidays right around the corner, it’s nice to have a few ideas to give your loved ones for gifts for their favorite bassist. A new bass or amp is often out of the question, so it’s the perfect time to put a great book on your wish list. That’s why we’ve compiled a handful of our favorite bass-centric books that were released this year. Whether you’re looking to build your chops or learn something new, one of these is sure to be up your alley.
Sheet Music & Instructional Books
Bass Monsters, by Stuart Clayton
Bass Monsters is hands down one of the coolest books to come out this year. The 206-page book contains sixteen impeccable transcriptions of advanced bass lines from a wide range of genres. Clayton provides intricate performance details so you can tackle everything from James Jamerson’s lines on “Home Cookin’” and Rocco Prestia’s bubbling sixteenths on “What Is Hip” all the way up to Victor Wooten’s technical showstopper “The Lesson”. The book features some of the most challenging pieces ever written for bass, so be ready to spend some time in the shed.
Get It Together: Time and Sound Priorities For the Jazz Bass, by Orlando le Fleming
Two of the essential “three T’s” of music are Time and Tone, and those are exactly what veteran New York City bassist Orlando le Fleming preaches in this book. He breaks it down into four sections – Sound, The Triplet, Swing, and Keeping Time – with exercises that quickly build up your technique and your internal pulse to get you rock solid. I’ve been using this book for a while and it’s great for finding your rhythmic shortcomings and shoring them up. Le Fleming has plenty of video examples to keep you on track.
Bass Player’s Guide To Pentatonics, by Janek Gwizdala
Five notes. That’s all it takes to make a pentatonic scale, but the application of those notes can count for endless possibilities. Gwizdala walks you through it from the simplest understanding to the most complex uses. This book is also broken into four parts: Scales & Patterns, Bass Lines & Fills, Harmonic Expansion, and Advanced Cells and Soloing. Bass Player’s Guide To Pentatonics offers a lifetime of exploration with exercises and video lessons that will take you from building simple shapes to making your own funky fills to even soloing over the John Coltrane composition “Giant Steps”.
Memoirs and Biographies
View from the Bottom: 50 Years of Bass Playing with Bob Dylan, The Doors, Miles Davis and Everybody Else, by Harvey Brooks
Anybody that can casually mention hanging out with Jimi Hendrix is bound to have some great stories to tell. Brooks details the arc of his life and career, which began with the changing musical landscape of the ‘60s. His resume is a grab bag of the era’s greatest albums: Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited (his first-ever session), Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew, The Doors’s Soft Parade, and more. (Check out our Stories Behind the Songs feature.) The stories of the sessions are legendary, but it’s Brooks’s candor and humor that makes this such a captivating read that feels like a fireside conversation. He also speaks to his philosophy of bass playing and music in general and includes a full discography. If you love tales from session players or classic rock lore, this should be in your library.
My Life in the Purple Kingdom, by BrownMark
Prince was notoriously guarded about his work and kept his inner circle tight, but even they weren’t always kept in the loop. BrownMark, aka Mark Brown, chronicles his childhood and his musical beginnings in Minneapolis where he would catch the Purple One’s attention while in his teen band Phantasy. Brown’s ambition landed him in Prince’s band in 1981 where, after an ill-fated night opening for the Rolling Stones, he would work on the Purple Rain album and movie, Around the World in a Day, and Parade. His straightforward writing style is witty and shines a light on his wild time in The Revolution before tensions with Prince put him back on his own. The book takes us all the way up to his signing to Motown Records, so we’re hoping for a follow up!
Steinberger: A Story of Creativity and Design, by Jim Reilly
Ned Steinberger’s contributions to the evolution of the bass guitar are numerous. His first bass was the Spector NS-1 in 1977, which still stands as the company’s best selling design. His most notable contribution was the creation of the headless design, an attribute first put into use and the ‘80s but has had a major resurgence in the last decade. Incredibly, he is not a musician. Reilly tells the story of Steinberger’s career, creations, and collaborations with interviews of notable musicians and builders: Stuart Spector, Vinny Fodera, Steve Miller, Andy West, Jeff Babicz, and more. Bass guru Tony Levin even provides the introduction.
All I Ever Wanted, by Kathy Valentine
You can’t make the soundtrack to the ‘80s without the music of the Go-Go’s. “We Got the Beat,” “Our Lips are Sealed,” and “All I Ever Wanted” were mega-hits that have stood the test of time. Go-Go’s bassist Kathy Valentine goes deeper into her story than what appears on the surface, speaking candidly about “parental betrayal, abortion, rape, and struggles with drugs and alcohol.” Her story centers around finding herself after the collapse of the band when she fought to regain her sense of self. Valentine also wrote a soundtrack to accompany the book.
Coffee Table Books
Everybody Loves Me, by Leland Sklar
Most think that getting the middle finger from someone is an insult, but session ace Lee Sklar sees it as a sign of love. Starting on a 2004 tour with Phil Collins, the bassist began collecting photos of celebrities, fans, and colleagues flipping him the bird. Over the 16 ensuing years, he amassed 11,000 photos of middle fingers from around the globe, and now you can delight in them, too. Autographed copies available.
Pedal Crush – Stompbox Effects For Creative Music Making, by Kim Bjørn and Scott Harper
This is not a bass-specific book, per se, but it is an unbelievable wealth of knowledge about effects. The massive 376-page book is eye candy with over 800 photos of pedals from past and present. Bjørn and Harper give over 200 tips and tricks for creating new sounds and go in-depth about the functions and use of distortion, chorus, octaves, and more. Over fifty interviews with artists and makers (including bassist Gaz Williams) give further insight into what it takes to create new sonic adventures. Whether you’re a seasoned pedal head or just interested in exploring, this is a highly recommended book.
The Gibson Bass Book: An Illustrated Tribute, by Rob van den Broek
If you like to drool over vintage basses, dig this. Rob van den Broek published the third edition of his book this year to include over 85 different Gibson basses from over the years. The new edition includes newly discovered basses (the Bunny Brunel Signature and 1959 Explorer), new models released since the first edition in 2016, an expanded chapter on Epiphone, and a spread on The Heritage. Each model has unique photographs and descriptions to make this a must-have for bass history buffs.