A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Funked-up Exercises for Dummies

So, I grabbed wifey from the train after work, as is our usual routine. She asked if we could go to Barnes and Noble before heading home, because she wanted to look for a graphic novel from a writer who she’s having present at her workplace tomorrow. She organized an initiative to introduce graphic novels and some manga to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she’s a librarian, a few months ago. That project has since been passed off to someone else, due to some political rationalization, but she decided to help with tomorrow’s showing, because even though she’s hands-off, it was originally her baby.

Anyway, en-route to the store (or more precisely, while I was in the store), wifey stopped off to look at dresses or shoes or something at a lady-store. I went through B&N, and, after getting sucked into the science section as always, I pulled myself away and headed into music. The result of that journey is that I picked up two new prizes:

1. Bass Guitar Exercises for Dummies by Patrick Pfeiffer

I’ve only had this book for a few hours now and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t buy it earlier. This is essentially the companion to Bass Guitar for Dummies (2nd ed). It has practical exercises (as per the title) for many of the concepts introduced via theory in Patrick’s first book. I’ve looked at this book several times when I was in B&N before, but always passed on it because I thought that I had enough books with exercises and the whole internet at my fingertips.

Well, all I can say now is, I wish I’d grabbed this when I bought the first book. BGE has exercises for scales, chords and arpeggios, groove patterns that also splice in scales and chords, different musical styles, exercises to help with learning intervals and extended scales and tons more that I’m not going to be able to describe with meaning until I’ve done the exercises and locked them into my poor tender head.

I actually sat and read the entire book in 3 hours. I didn’t even mean to do that. Wifey was reading a magazine about lady stuff and I was reading next to her. My intent was just to get a feel for what’s contained inside. I went through the contents, skipped to the end (you’re advised to do so because a chapter on constructing practice sessions is at the end, and I read the chapter after it as well, which listed 10 songs and their bassists as examples to reference when exploring certain  concepts in the book) and then went back to the beginning and ended up reading it straight through.

A lot of the book is repetitive, but that’s not a bad thing. It introduces topics, like scales, gives you instructions as to how to play them, then exercises to accompany them, and then suggests playing each through in different keys (in every key, actually) and then links them together into music later on. In a very thorough way, it expands on the practical aspects of Bass Guitar for Dummies. There’s no theory in this book. For that, you should get the first one, but what this does have virtually guarantees physical command of each concept. Combined with the theory in Patrick’s first offering, it becomes a very powerful resource. I’m looking forward to using this as one of the main sources for my own practice, along with Hal Leonard’s Complete Bass Method.

Anyone interested in a more detailed overview of the contents of the book should check the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon’s website.

2. Bass Player Presents: The Funky Bass Book (edited by Bill Leigh & foreword by Bootsy Collins)

Now I haven’t had the chance to go through this book yet, but what it promises is a collection of “interviews and analyses from both groundbreaking old-school innovators and ongoing revolutionaries”. The names on the back of the book include Larry Graham, Anthony Jackson, Chuck Rainey, Bootsy Collins, Stanley Clarke, Victor Wooten, Meshell Ndegeocello and Andrew Gouche. I’d buy it for Bootsy alone though. 😉

The book is supposed to include interviews with a bunch of bass players who are versed in funk to some great extent and through the course of its contents we’re acquainted with their influences, techniques, inspirations and insights and other such points of interest. I love reading about musicians, and when they’re bass players, its even more enjoyable, so I’m sure that once I dig into this, I’ll come back smiling. Maybe I’ll do an update later on, with interesting tidbits from each interview.

[edit 10.26.2011] The Funky Bass Book can be bought at BassBooks.com:


13 responses

  1. mex


    can you use the Bass Guitar Exercises for Dummies before reading the first Dummies book?

    October 28, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    • vishalicious

      You absolutely can. It has a brief description of each topic, to orient the reader as to why to practice each exercise, but it doesn’t go deeply into theory at all. The theory is all in Bass for Dummies. I really recommend getting both. One is more for technique and the other for theory. The exercise book shows you how to play many things, including chords, scales, rhythmic patterns for different styles of music, and so on. It has multiple exercises per technique and then combines techniques, so you develop proficiency. The other book explains why you’re playing these things, so that you can take that understanding and apply it to musical situations. In the long term, I think that’s what lets you play creatively and gives you the knowledge to improvise music.

      I also highly recommend Hal Leonard’s Bass Method Complete (2nd ed) by Ed Friedland. It teaches you how to read music notation in really small, easy to manage, chunks. I actually just created something earlier today to structure my practice, dividing it into technique, theory, reading and “other”. Once I find a way to post it up in a manner that I can easily update, I’ll link it to the blog. My wife thinks that Google Docs might be the way to go for that, as WordPress doesn’t let me easily create and update tables.

      October 28, 2011 at 1:46 pm

  2. mex

    if you had to choose between the Bass Guitar Exercises for Dummies and Hal Leonard’s Bass Method Complete (2nd ed), would you take the Hal Leonard?

    I have Carol Kaye’s beginner DVD but at this point it’s above me. I’d like to go through it and not sure if one of the above two will help that.

    thanks for your input

    November 2, 2011 at 6:03 pm

  3. vishalicious

    It depends on your more immediate goals. Practicing the exercises in BGE will give you a lot of technique and covers many styles of playing. The HL one also gives you many exercises, but its focus is on teaching you to read. Later on, it also incorporates tablature, but you’ll find that you don’t really need it as much if you can read.

    I think overall, I’d start with the HL one. Its a much more manageable book, and it gets you over the reading hurdle quickly. However, after getting through it, I’d definately pick up BGE, if not both Dummies books. Bear in mind, it might take a year to get through the book, and many people on the TalkBass forums recommend going through it more than once.

    The first Dummies book covers everything that’s in the Exercises book. The Exercises one has lots of drills to help you practice what’s in the first book.

    As an aside, I just got Ed Friedland’s video based on the HL book. I only learned about it two weeks ago. I’ve not gone through it yet, but he’s a very well-received teacher in the bass community.

    BassBooks – HL Bass Method DVD

    Amazon – HL Bass Method DVD

    I hope this helps!

    November 2, 2011 at 7:20 pm

  4. mex

    Thanks very much ! it helps a lot.

    In the spirit of TalkBass’ chords/scales thread, is the HL book 1-3 focused on chords?scales ? both ?


    November 3, 2011 at 12:59 am

  5. vishalicious

    I’m glad to hear this is helpful to you. 😉

    The HL book has both chords and scales. It introduces a scale and then follows with the basic chord (triad) for the scale a few lessons later. Further on, it introduces 7th chords. It also has you play musical passages to reinforce each concept as its introduced, and then more after. In a way, it combines elements of both Dummies books. Its a method book, which means that its supposed to teach you a concrete way to play. The first Dummies book is more of a theory book first and method-like book 2nd. The Exercises one supplements it well though, and can be taken as a purely physical method book (no theory and no notation reading requirement). Think of it like knowing how to operate a car but not knowing the rules of the road.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:16 am

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