Starting Jazz Bass Guitar

This blog is taken from my YouTube video lesson - No.37 Five Steps to Start Playing Jazz Bass Guitar


To get you started, here are some of the important jazz bassists to check out: 


Ray Brown, Stanley Clarke, Scott LaFaro, Jaco Pastorius, Oscar Pettiford, Marcus Miller, Percy Heath, John Patitucci, Charlie Mingus, Dave Holland, Eddie Gomez, Avishai Cohen, Paul Chambers, Christian McBride, Ron Carter, Stanley Clarke 


This is a list of jazz standards that I suggest you look at first: 


Blue Monk, All Blues, Mr P.C., Blue Bossa, Straight No Chaser, So What, Girl From Ipanema, Satin Doll, All The Things You Are, All Of Me, Mercy Mercy Mercy, Autumn Leaves, Fly Me To The Moon, Oleo 


These are some classic jazz albums: 


Kind of Blue - Miles Davis 

Bird and Diz 

Blue Train - John Coltrane 

Moanin’ - Art Blakey 

Mingus Ah Um - Charles Mingus 

Night Train - Ray Brown 

Song For My Father - Horace Silver 

The Amazing Bud Powell 

Speak No Evil - Wayne Shorter 

Heavy Weather - weather Report 

The Sidewinder - Lee Morgan 

Head Hunters - Herbie Hancock 


Here are some resources that will help you get started with jazz: 


Real Books -  These books contain jazz standards, with chords and melodies 

iReal App - This is an online version of the real book, but without melodies 

Jamey Aebersold - One of the key jazz educators, with play-a-long instructional books


A simple chord progression to start getting familiar with, is the II-V-I (2-5-1) chord progression.

In the key of G, this progression is:

Am7 - D7 - Gmaj7 


Try the following exercise, which is written over a II-V-I in  G:

It is also useful, at this stage, to learn what a turnaround is.  I cover this in more depth, in my lesson No.38 Learn to Play a Jazz Turnaround

A turnaround is usually found in the last two measures of a jazz standard, and  its role is to take you back to chord one, at the beginning of the next chorus.

A turnaround in G is: 

I-Vi-ii-V-I   -  G - E - A - D - G 

We can use chromatic notes to link up the root notes of each chord.  A chromatic note, is one that falls outside of the major or minor scale, for that particular chord.  We can use chromatic notes that are above or below the root note.

Try the following exercise to practice a turnaround in G:

Now vary the chromatics notes, and try from above the root note.

Practice these exercises in different keys, listen to some of the bassists i have suggested above, and you will be well on the way to starting to play jazz.

Make sure you brush up on your music theory and reading music, as this will be necessary to really understand jazz harmony. 

If you need help in these areas, then have a look at my Bass Beginners Guide which is 120 pages long, and is full of information and exercise to help you understand and practice: 

Bass Beginners Guide

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