I’m always on the look out for new books to add to my collection – for teaching, for my own personal learning, to learn songs, etc etc.
I’ve been meaning to check this book out for a while and recently I got hold of a copy from my local library.
First off some background on Josquin Des Pres: he’s an established author and bass player, he’s written more than 10 books on various bass topics, plus a couple of books on general music industry subjects. He’s also played and produced a number of Loop CDS for companies such as Big Fish Audio, said CDs have been in stylistic genres ranging from old skool r’n’b to hip hop to punk and indie rock.
Onto the book: FIRST BASS is 96 pages long and comes with an MP3 CD with the majority of the examples in the book. The book is split into 5 sections:
* Section 1: Reading Fundamentals
* Section 2: Warm Up & Dexterity Exercises
* Section 3: How to Build Solid Bass Lines
* Section 4: Techniques & Concepts
* Section 5 Bass Playing Styles
Now immediately I’ve got two issues with the way the book has been put together and packaged. Firstly the title is misleading. FIRST BASS implies (to me at least, tell me if you think I’m being harsh!) that the book is a book for bass beginners – the second paragraph tells us this: “First Bass is a step up guide….designed to take the beginner to the next level…”
Secondly each of the sections I listed above has got subsections – eg Section 4 Techniques & Concepts has got 4 subsections, String Muting, String Raking, Slap Bass and Fretboard Tapping. Each of those subheads could be covered by a book in themselves (and in the case of Muted Grooves and Slap Bass, Josquin des Pres has already released books that cover these areas).
So before I’ve really dived in and had a look at the book, I’m feeling kind of uneasy.
Let’s take a closer look at each section.
Section 1: Reading Fundamentals is by far the biggest section of the book, it takes up approximately a third of the book. The author essentially divides sight reading into two sections, rhythms and then notes. Now I like this, it’s a good way of teaching reading music (it’s also the way I teach) but it feels kind of half hearted. The rhythmic side is not explored logically, and once notes are introduced the examples used are just simple lines the author has come up with. (Sidenote: Des Pres has written a book on classical tunes for bass, why not use some of the classical repertoire that he’s obviously familiar with – as well as classic lines and more contemporary grooves – to make learning to read music more interesting?)
(Sidenote 2: i’ll be posting soon on why you should think about learning to read music.)
Section 2: Warm-ups & Dexterity Exercises. This is a short (4 page) section with some simple warm ups and dexterity exercises. There’s nothing really to fault here – it’s really a short excerpt of Des Pres’s book called Chops Builders or something like that.
Section 3: How to Build Solid Bass Lines. Again this section is something that could take several books, and is covered in 10 pages, which includes some scale and arpeggio studies. The information on building lines is brief and just incomplete – a bass beginner looking to advance would have to needlessly struggle to work out how to apply the simple principles outlined here.
Section 4: Techniques and Concepts. As discussed in the intro to this review, each of the techniques covered here could (and have!) be covered by dedicated books.
Section 5: Bass Playing Styles – This 13 page section covers the following styles: hip-hop, Funk, Old School r’n’b, disco, smooth jazz, reggae, ska, latin, world beat, blues, country, rock and metal. The problem with this book is encapsulated in this 13 page section – at least one book (possibly more!) could be (and has been) written on each style – 3 or 4 examples of each style doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. No advice is given on how to incorporate these lines into tunes, grooves, lines etc and there’s no advice on transposing and practicing in different keys.
Let me start the conclusion by saying that I’m not trying to bash Josquin Des Pres, some of his other books have a ton of really useful content in them. Unfortunately FIRST BASS suffers from trying to cover too many basses. Also the lack of application of examples to real world situations is something that I’ve seen in other publications and comes from Authors either being lazy, or not considering what a typical student actually wants when he buys bass related publications.
If you’re a beginner, this book is definitely not for you. If you’ve played for a while and want to move on a level – as the book is supposed to help you do – pick the area you want to work on and find a more detailed book to guide you on your path.