Disappointed by Bach Cello Suites for Electric Bass book (Hal Leonard)

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Luigir, Jul 30, 2018.

  1. Luigir


    Mar 15, 2018
    Hi all,

    I've bought the book Bach Cello suites for Electic Bass and I've started studying it.

    Unfortunately, almost all the pieces are meant to be played with dADG tuning and I don't really get the For Electric Bass of the title. It seems to me that these are just the cello parts. Am I wrong?

    In the first suite the issue is relatively not that bad due to the spare use of the low d note but it is still annoying.

    How do you approach the study of Bach Cello Suites on a 4 string bass?

  2. Element Zero

    Element Zero Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    What’s wrong with tuning your E string down a whole step?
    Ikkir likes this.
  3. Luigir


    Mar 15, 2018
    I might be naive but when I buy a score for Electric Bass I expect it to be for Electric Bass Standard Tuning.

    I would have bought the standard Cello book if I knew it. Surely it's not a big deal but still.

    I'm now playing it in standard tuning with ghost notes instead of the low D. I'd like to know if there are other Bach players around that use a four string bass.
  4. EarnestTBass


    Feb 3, 2015
    Bach wrote "just the cello parts" about three hundred years ago, a few years before the electric bass guitar was invented. "Just the cello parts," as written by Bach, had to be adapted for modern electric bass guitar by someone at Hal Leonard.

    If you are serious about studying these materials, I would suggest that you trust the judgment of the transcriber- that "drop D" was the better way to approach this music.

    Just for fun, take a look below at a 300 year old copy of the first page of Suite 1. This is believed to be one the oldest, and most reliable, transcripts. Feel free to adapt the original work for your own purposes. I find it easier to learn to play in drop D tuning.

    Drop D is one of the more common alternate tunings. You will likely see it again.

    edit: I forgot that I have Suite No. 1 in G major, where it can be played in standard tuning. I am glad to share what I have.

    It is from a Mel Bay publication "J.S. Bach for bass by Josquin des Pres" Contains 10 Bach compositions, 48 pages. ​

    Attached Files:

    • Bach.pdf
      File size:
      32.8 KB
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2018
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  5. Luigir


    Mar 15, 2018
    Thanks for your reply and for your suggestion. I'll take a look at the sheet you attached.

    I know drop d tuning and Bach too. I am just slightly disappointed of the book since if I had knew in advance I had rather bought a classical cello one. The tab for electric bass are for me more of an annoyance than a benefit and claiming that the book is for electric bass means to me that has been transcribed for it.

    By the way, free scores can be found on th Petrucci music library too: Cello Suite No.1 in G major, BWV 1007 (Bach, Johann Sebastian) - IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library: Free Public Domain Sheet Music

    Anyway I'll guess I'll take these scores as an excuse to learn drop d tuning.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2018
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  6. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    I'm a Bach Cello Suite fanatic. The lowest note of a cello is C, played on bass at the 3rd fret of the A string (or 8th fret of the E string), so I'm not sure why drop tuning should be necessary (unless the author has transposed to a different key and/or octave)?

    I've tried playing the Cello Suites in a lot of different tunings through the years. After a lot of experimentation, what works best for me is CGDA tuning, capo 12th fret. (Requiring at least a 22 fret bass.) Your mileage may vary. Good luck, let me know if you have any specific questions! :)
    Matthew_84, JulienP. and Luigir like this.
  7. beaglesandbass

    beaglesandbass Think first, then post? Staff Member Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Aug 14, 2001
    Philly Suburbs
    The reviews going back to 2015 state that it's in Drop D. Might be beneficial for you to read reviews next time to avoid disappointment.
    Luigir likes this.
  8. Luigir


    Mar 15, 2018
    I guess you'll agree with me that it would be better to have this written in the book description by the editor.
    Bach Cello Suites for Electric Bass, Bass - Hal Leonard Online

    Anyhow, it's just a minor annoyance and not a big deal.
  9. beaglesandbass

    beaglesandbass Think first, then post? Staff Member Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Aug 14, 2001
    Philly Suburbs
    Oh definitely. I just never buy anything on Amazon without looking at reviews, because of how innacurate product descriptions usually are.
    MattB88 and Luigir like this.
  10. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    As pointed out (as if it needed to be) Bach wrote the Cello Suites 200 years before the electric bass was invented. Given that precious thought, is it too hard to imagine that, had he known what an electric bass was, would he have written in the different keys? There are more than a few examples in the suites where it's advantageous to have an open string. If we look at the 1st suite (transposed from G in the key of A), we have that advantage at several points in just the first movement. Suite #4 Prelude in E is a reasonable idea also. And on a side note, if you wanted to play a flute piece on electric bass, you'd be transposing down at least one if not two octaves without a hesitation or second thought.

    As for drop D. One of the great advantages of learning and playing the Bach Suites is the reading workout you can have. I have played hundreds of musical theater shows, and big band charts for nearly 50 years and never seen 'Drop D' in any of them. It just doesn't happen with written bass music. This is not a new topic. Cecil Forsythe dealt with this in his orchestration book written over a hundred years ago. Check that out if you're interested.

    IMHO it should be about the music. Do what you need to so that it sounds the best. Especially since there are no other instrument parts that need to be transposed, and no singer who can only sing is certain keys.
  11. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody

    Sep 9, 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Endorsing Artist: Eventide, GHS Strings, G&L Guitars, NS Design, Tsunami Cables
    I have the classical cello book of the suites (in tenor clef even, which I abhor), so I play most of the pieces up an octave than the "for electric bass" books probably have them. I guess that, from my classical double bass background, I didn't think anything of where/how to play the suites, or at that point, altering the tuning of my bass to make it easier.
  12. IamGroot

    IamGroot Inactive

    Jan 18, 2018
    Bach is the reason I still have a six string, although the violin stufff I am interested in often fits on a 4.

    Not a big fan of any tuning on the bass except fourths. I wont do drop D, but I will tune D G C F. Why i use a 5er.

    Sorry about the Hal Leonard book.

    Not a big fan of the cello suites, but love the keyboard, violin and ensemble work. I have adapted some of the keyboard stuff to bass. Goldberg variations require 5 or 6 or transposition.
  13. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    I first started working on the Bach 'cello suites when I was an undergrad in college, when 5-string basses were relatively rare (late 1970s), and when down-tuning hadn't yet become a widespread practice. My bass professor simply suggested I play all the low Ds 8va ...and in some cases, if it made the line or cadence sound less leapy or awkward, the approach notes were also transposed up an octave.
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  14. Reg Braithwaite

    Reg Braithwaite

    Oct 21, 2018
    I also have this book, and a four-string. My lament about the first suite is that DADG solves the D1 problem, but not the C1 or C1# problems. The book transposes those two formerly lowest notes to C2 and C2#. This is not to my taste, I like the original character of those notes.

    I exercised the extreme option of stringing my instrument A1D2G2C3, and I play the piece at pitch. This solves the C1, C1#, and D1 problems by playing the entire piece as written, rather than transposed down an octave as is standard for EB and DB. The high G4 is now the 19th fret rather than the 24th, which is easier for my less-experienced hands.

    We can argue about whether DADG tuning is or isn’t appropriate for a bass, but I admit that ADGC tuning turns the instrument into a long-scale baritone.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2018
  15. Reg Braithwaite

    Reg Braithwaite

    Oct 21, 2018
    The Hal Leonard book tranposes the piece down an octave. In other words, the notes are (mostly) written at the same pitch as they are written for cello, but since bass is played an octave lower than the notes are written, the result is that the note that would normally be played as C2 on a cello, would be played as C1 on a bass.

    The low D (D2 on cello) is played as D1 via the drop-D tuning. The book transposes the low C and C# up an octave, so if you are sight-reading it on cello, you’d play them as C2 and C2#. Yes, that means that with this transcription they are both played at a higher pitch than the low D.

    I don’t personally care for that, but I get that many people want to play the piece an octave lower, in the instrument’s “natural” register.
  16. IamGroot

    IamGroot Inactive

    Jan 18, 2018
    If ADGC works, why didnt Hal Leonard transpose everything down a minor 6th so the EADG tuning could be used. After all, they advertised it as an Electric bass version.

    I remember seeing Bunny Brunel playin Bach on a 6 string at the Carvin store in Hollywood decades ago.
  17. mikewalker

    mikewalker Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2017
    Canada, Eh!
    One thing I noticed, these pieces sure are a lot more "natural & easy" played on cello (the 5ths tuning rather than 4ths - makes all the difference!)
    I'm glad I bought a cello now :)
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  18. Reg Braithwaite

    Reg Braithwaite

    Oct 21, 2018
    In the penultimate passages, there are pedal tones on A3 and D3 respectively. As those are open strings in standard cello tuning, I can’t help but feel that this is one of the many ways in which this piece written specifically for cello is more natural on cello, although I don’t play cello myself :)
  19. Reg Braithwaite

    Reg Braithwaite

    Oct 21, 2018
    It's not for me to read their mind, but every choice has some tradeoffs. I have some sheet music for DB, transcribed by Samuel Sterling, he transposes the piece to Cmaj. The lowest note is F1, and the highest is C4.

    It’s how I first learned it, I think, and obviously it works provided you aren’t hung up on hearing the piece in its original key.
    IamGroot likes this.