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Jon Burr

Jon BurrBassist Jon Burr is a composer, author, bandleader and educator. His performance career spans over thirty years, working with Tony Bennett, Stan Getz, Horace Silver, Buddy Rich, Chet Baker, Mark O’Connor’s Hot Swing Trio, Stephane Grappelli, Eartha Kitt, Rita Moreno, Barbara Cook, and many others.

Jon was an instructor at the University of Illinois and the Mark O’Connor String Conference. In 2007 he produced a series of his own songs, forming the Jon Burr Band in the process. His lifelong experience has given him a unique perspective on the role of the bass in an ensemble, with a deep understanding of musical structure and the role of the bass within it. His playing is melodic and unmistakable, yet propulsive and forceful; his playing “radiates effortless joy and ease” according to the N.Y. Times.

His goal is to support a band and inspire his fellow musicians, with a distinctly personal voice; this book gives valuable insights into how to go about doing that. He has written other books available on his website, including “Rhythmic and Melodic Development in the Construction of Bass Lines,” “Another Look at Melodic Construction in Improvisation,” and is currently working on his fourth book “Physical and Mental Programming for the Improvising Bassist.”

Find him on the web at, and on Twitter.

Articles by Jon Burr:

  • Lesson: Basic Line Construction Types

    Lesson: Basic Line Construction Types

    After doing last week’s column, I’ve been thinking more about approaches to creating lines connecting ii and V chords. I’d like to revisit the subject and delve into some basic line construction types. Each particular technique constitutes parts that become interchangeable and apply to a wide range of bass line situations. Throughout these exercises we’ll... »

  • On walking: Connecting ii-V’s

    Continuing this video lesson series on walking, Jon explores various ways to connect ii-V progressions; arpeggios, chromatic & diatonic approaches from above and below the targets, and changing tones (notes arrayed on either side of the target). Jon is accepting students via Skype video. Email for more information. Be sure to check out Jon’s... »

  • Walking: On and through chord changes

    Here Jon demonstrates walking using chord tones, lead ins, various combinations of these, and “changing tones” – notes above and below the target, zeroing in on it. Be sure to check out Jon’s book, The Untold Secret to Melodic Bass, available as a pdf download or as a Amazon Kindle book. And now in paperback... »

  • Lesson: Right hand technique, metronome, lead-ins

    In this week’s new video lesson, Jon Burr talks about right hand technique for pizzicato upright bass, using a metronome as a meditation (Jon drops the beat), and basic lead-ins from above and below a target. Be sure to check out Jon’s book, The Untold Secret to Melodic Bass, available as a pdf download or... »

  • Lesson: Fundamental technical approaches to bass

    We’re starting a new video lesson series by Jon Burr today. This week’s lesson focuses on fundamental technical approaches: balance, approaching the whole fingerboard, staying clear of the body of the bass, playing by sound and feel rather than visual cues; energy vectors in the hand. Be sure to check out Jon’s book, The Untold... »

  • Oppositional Structures in Melodic Construction: Imaginary Chords

    Oppositional Structures in Melodic Construction: Imaginary Chords

    Bass players need to become familiar with the principles of melodic construction for the creation of bass lines as well as solo lines. One such principle is “oppositionality,” which we’ve talked about in previous columns. Oppositionality is the usage of non-harmonic tones to create tension and release against the underlying harmonic environment, contrasting against specific... »

  • Dynamics and accents: Walking

    Yes, accents are good. Dynamics are good. Good pitch, dynamics, note choice and use of register are the icing on the musical cake; they separate the artist from the journeyman. Today we’re going to look at accents in walking bass. Accents are the bones of propulsion. How do we use them to best effect? What... »

  • Lesson: Accents, Dynamics and Balance

    We’ve probably heard the word “dynamic” used to describe the work of musicians from time to time. It’s a compliment. Dynamic equals ‘interesting.’Changes in energy and intensity communicate feeling and add contrast to performance, and can add a sense of momentum and “swing.” Music without dynamics is dull; it sounds mechanical; without the injection of... »

  • Melodic Line Construction: “Oppositionality”

    When we hear the word “line” in the context of “bass line” or “melody line” we tend to think in terms of scales and/or chord tones as we are learning theory. This is good. There is a further level of thought about lines that has to do with the notes not in the scales or... »

  • Right-hand technique for upright bass: pizzicato

    There is no “one way” to play pizzicato. There are a few principles to bear in mind that are helpful no matter what technique we use. The main idea we need to communicate is that the left hand does most of the work in sound generation. Playing hard with the right hand can be counterproductive,... »