Now this is a topic that’s not well represented in the literature available to bass players wanting to know how to play bass. I can remember my first couple of rehearsals with bands back in the day – and being pretty clueless when it came to jamming on something that wasn’t on the list of songs I’d been told to learn.
Firstly some info on Ed Friedland. He’s a well respected figure in bass teaching circles, he’s got a dozen or more books in print. He wrote a column in Bass Player magazine for donkey’s years – there were some great articles in those columns, some of which he compiled in a book called THE WORKING BASSIST’S TOOLKIT (which I should review soon – it’s a cool book), and then he moved onto a magazine I’m not familiar with called something like BASS GUITAR WORLD. Google him and you’ll find his website, it’s worth taking a look at.
Onto the book.
The book is 45 pages long and comes with a playalong CD. The book is split into the following 3 parts. Part 1 is a basic overview of basic bass playing techniques and also includes a bit of music theory. Part 2 is a basic look at building rock bass lines starting with root notes, then adding fifths and then doing some work on using approach notes to connect chords. Part 3 takes these concepts a bit further and looks at some movable patterns and then looks at some different rhythms. Finally there are 3 full length tunes – based on generic chord patterns – for you to test out your newly acquired skills on.
Let’s look at each part a little more closely.
Part 1 is 12 pages long and starts out with some info on left and right hand positions. Then it moves quickly onto a chromatic warm up exercise. Then Ed brings in an exercise playing roots, fifths and octaves (which are all good for rock bass lines) and walks that chromatically up the neck. (Chromatically simply means going up or down one fret at a time). After that there’s a couple of pages relating notes on the neck to notes on the bass clef, followed by a page or so on the Major Scale and how it forms the basis of the numerical system we use to describe music. Then there’s a quick look at rhythms, and we’re onto Part 2.
This section is also 12 pages long and here’s where things start to get interesting. Ed takes some simple chord progressions and shows you ways of playing through them just by using root notes. The accompanying CD is recorded so that the bass is on one channel of the stereo split, so if you’re not sure about the notation you can hear the bass line as it is supposed to sound.
Next up Ed looks at creating a bit of movement by using roots and some octaves – and he does this with two or three different rhythmic patterns too – the CD clearly demonstrates these. Then the fifth is brought into the mix, again with the different rhythmic patterns.
The last few pages looks at connecting chords with approach notes – Ed uses three kinds: chromatic, scaler and dominant. Again there are examples given with the chord progressions on the accompanying CD so you can hear exactly what he means.
In Part 3 Ed looks at what he calls box shapes – basically these are simple riff based lines that you can move from chord to chord – and he gives a few examples that you all bass players should have ready and waiting in their armourey for instant jam session deployment! Finally there’s a quick look at some new rhymic material and then there’s the aforementioned 3 songs to practice with.
Firstly the pluses.
There’s no other book teaching this kind of material to newbie bass players. Period. So if you wanna take some advice to get going rather than wasting time trying to figure stuff out on your own, then this is as good a place as any to get started.
The approach used is sound. I’m pretty sure Ed took the concepts he used in BUILDING WALKING BASS LINES and simplified them to a generic rock style, and in the process came up with a method that works.
The CD is a great help for newbies – not only does it give a selection of backing tracks to practice with (by panning your CD player so that the bass channel is omitted), but you can also hear what the bass is playing if the notation used in the book confuses you.
Now the cons.
This is a massive subject, and personally I feel that it is not given the depth that perhaps it should have had. The majority of Part 1 was kind of redundant to the what the book was trying to teach, and whilst Part 2 and Part 3 both contained great information, it was too brief.
I’ll have more to say about topics that relate to this book in my series of video lessons – but
if this is a subject you want to work on so that you feel better when you jam with your mates, I would recommend that you buy this book. It’s cheap, the material’s well presented and it will give you a solid grounding.