J.S. Bach For Bass

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by stephanie, Sep 30, 2001.

  1. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Hello. Hope everyone is well. I've just been looking over this book I've had for awhile: "J.S. Bach For Bass" by Josquin des Pres. Beautiful book. I listened to the CD it came with and was amazed.

    These songs seem quite difficult to play in that, it looks like it may require a lot of hand stretching and changing positions? I don't know. I'm sitting here looking at the first tune, "Prelude #1 in C Major", and in several occasions it goes from, say, the 8th fret to 10th all the way to the 24th! So many parts go from a lower fret to a higher fret and I was wondering if there was a certain way to play this. Listening to the CD, Mr. des Pres just flows through these lines so smoothly.

  2. Bass Guitar

    Bass Guitar Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2001
    Dave Grossman, one of the members here, is the man to speak to. He runs a website that is dedicated to Bach for Bass at:


    It includes transcriptions as well as samples of his playing, which is quite exceptional. I would email him or PM him for questions about Bach music on bass.
  3. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Unless you have a 5 string with a high C or a 6 string the best thing to do with the stuff on page 10 starting with measure 8 is to ignore the tab and play it as written. Keep in mind that the tab is just one way to play it, not to be mistaken for the best way to play it especially depending on what technique and fingering that you use.

    For for the first 4 measures I wouldn't play the D's or the A's at the 12 fret of their respective strings, I would opt to play the A on the 7th fret of the D string and the D at the 7th fret of the G string. To me this translates to a 1 fret ship towards the neck as opposed to two fret shift towards the bridge which allows me to use a pivot i.e. thumb in the same place of the back of the neck.
  4. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Thanks! I will have a better look over what notes I am playing and the best way to play them. I do not have a 24-fretted bass, so I can't go up the optional octave as indicated anyway, was just wondering how one would play a stretch like that. And I only have a 4-string as well.

    Be well
  5. I also purchased that book a while back through Amazon.com, I think:rolleyes:
    Its a good tool for beginner bassists of classical music. The fingerings in the book did not work for me. But I mostly tap so I had to figure it out from the start. There are definately better books out there and certainly better compositions from Bach. If you are interested in learning more classical music, I would suggest buying the piano transcriptions of your favorite pieces and transposing them onto bass, with fingerings that work for you.
  6. I have this book.. I did that first one a while back.. I just finished prelude #2 in D minor.. I think that's it.. it's the one that starts off with d,f,a... anyway.. it's fun. :)

    The guy who tabbed it was a sort idiot.. according to my teacher.. and I sometimes agree.. but I can't speak since I learned the Dminor peice by tab.. :(
  7. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    I have actually been trying to do that with some Mozart pieces. I love classical music, esp. Mozart and Bach, and find it very unique to play on the bass. I've only seen Bach transcribed for bass, though.

    Anyway, back to the Bach book. Now that I'm looking throught this more, I'm finding the tabs a bit annoying. They're a suggestion, like Phil said, "it's only one way to play it."

    I have another question, regards to this book and classical pieces, I never really understood what these meant, or the difference btw. what they are: Preludes, Suites, Partitas, and Sonatas.?

    Be well,

  8. I have spent alot of time on Mozart as well. K525 is a blast to play on bass! As far the the Bach for Bass book, the fingerings would be difficult for me using standard techniques, but I have a 5 string with a high 'C' string and I play using mostly 2 handed tapping techniques (like a piano), especially when performing classical pieces, I adapt the piano transciptions to bass and those consist of a bass and a treble part simultaneously, requiring two hands on the fretboard (usually). I like Mozart but Beethoven is my favorite! His piano compositions are more difficult, and to me, are more passionate than Mozarts'

    As far as your question about the different labels of composition here is good link

    Good Luck
  9. Steve Cat

    Steve Cat

    Mar 19, 2001
    I think its a great book. I'm a moron so I use CD then go to the tab then back to the CD then tab, right?. It allowed me to play the Sonata in Gm, which is one heck of a song. I only had to change the fingerings in one or two spots, which if you can't figure out you are also a moron. I have played the bass for about six months (played the guitar for a long time, moron right?) but am down right proud of my ability to play this song. Any book that can teach me a cool song like this is worth it. I'm now on to Predule in C Major.
  10. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Thanks for the link Zonplayer! :)
  11. Niels Keijzer

    Niels Keijzer Guest

    Nov 27, 2000
    I once played a cello-duet with my teacher...I can't read so I had to learn it note for note (stupid, stupid, I know)...it sounded beautiful.
    So I guess you could pickup such a book for cello as well...and find your own fingerings.
  12. Steve Cat

    Steve Cat

    Mar 19, 2001
    These songs seem quite difficult to play in that, it looks like it may require a lot of hand stretching and changing positions?

    One more AD for this book, but it is a good book and it feels so good to play the music. I fret the E string alot with my thumb. Where this works particularly well is descending from using your pinkly on say the d sting then e string with the thumb then the g string with the index. I usually continue holding the e string letting it ring as a "pedal?" for the next note. This technique allow quite a bit of versitality across the neck, comfortably, quickly and with a good degree of strength for a five fret range. It also allows you to emphazise Bach's bass note.

    The changing positions up and down the neck just come with a little practice and is not that big a deal. Bach's music is so strong that it digs in my brain and after playing the beautiful lines a couple of time my brain and fingers got on muscle memory and just land at the right spot.

    My guitar teacher used to just scream at me for using my thumb but I'm glad I did, so did Hendrix and Stevie Ray, I don't know how many bass players use their thumbs for fretting, but it does work.
  13. BlacksHole


    Mar 22, 2000
    Rockville, MD
    I also play a few Bach pieces, but I do not use that particular book. I also have another book for classical pieces that does have tab and it seems to have the same problem cited for the Bach For Bass book. The tab is terrible. I can read, so I can easily ignore the tab, but when I have some difficulty trying ro figure out how to go from say, one chord to another, the tab could be quite useful if it was correct. I hate it when I see the supplemental tab showing a 7 fret stretch in a chord.
  14. dmabe


    Sep 6, 2000
    Greensboro, NC
    This is not concerning the Bach for Bass book but JS Bach on electric bass. Bach on bass guitar is a passion of mine and has been for a long time. I started out on upright and transcriptions of the Bach Cello Suites for double bass are common. They are common repetiore for the double student. Since I'm not familiar with the book, I'll just make some general comments. The original music of the Cello suites was written for Viola da Gamba, an ancestor of the violin family which had frets of a sort and was more a akin to a guitar in some ways than a cello. The only modern direct ancestor of the gamba is the double bass - this is evidenced by the short bow and tuning of the double bass which are entirely different from the rest of the violin family. That said, generally the Bach gamba suites work best when transposed up a fourth or fifth from the original key. I can play all of them (with the exception of the sixth) on a four string having done this transposition. But they aren't easy but infinitely worth the effort to learn. Remember to start very, very slow and work your way up with a metronome very gradually and they will come. I also went to website mentioned with the Bach info. The bass playing is good but the 1st Cello Suite sounds much better a fourth higher. The six string bass may be easier (probably required for the sixth suite) but isn't necessary. The fourth higher is a common transcription range on the double bass. For my taste and hearing, there is too much rumble in G on a bass.

    Technique wise, it is necessary to develop some facility with the thumb in the same manner that classical guitarists do. This means that in the arppegiations the thumb plays the low notes and the 1st and middle fingers play the upper notes.
  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    One of my students brought another "Josquin des Pres" book to a lesson this week, and I found the book to be a total Joke. I can't remember the name of the volume, but it contained a bunch of cheesy arrangements of "hit tunes" of classical music. The student was working on his reading skills, and was playing a watered-down version of "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" from the book. My complaints:

    1) The arrangement left huge holes in the harmony, often having a single line of repeated 8th note on the same pitch where clearly some kind of Alberti bass would be called for.

    2) The written notation was poorly laid out. It was clear that the book was all about the tab. For instance, in 4/4 time, the notation at several places showed quarter-dottedquarter-three 8th notes repeated for several measures. Okay, Mozart and Haydn both wrote over the "invisible barline" at times, but in this book, the dotted quarters were spaced as if they lasted no longer than an 8th note. The visual alignment of the notation gave no indication whatsoever of the sound. What crap...:rolleyes:

    3) The performance of the duet pieces on the CD was amateurish AT BEST. Don't take this wrong - I'm not some kind of monster BG player, and I'm not trying to make anyone think that I'm some kind of badass BGer, because I'm not (BG is my 3rd instrument), BUT...on the duet stuff, I could sightread the part better than the performance on the CD. Before I get flamed for this, let me reiterate: this reflects VERY BADLY on the crappy performance on the CD, not WELL on me. 90% of the articulation markings on the printed music were completely ignored. I saw plenty of staccato markings on the written music, but heard NARY A ONE on the recording. Funny thing is, there were no articultaion markings on the TAB. Gee, I wonder which part of the music he was reading from?:rolleyes: :rolleyes:
  16. Both of the above statements are false, the suites in question were in fact written for the violoncello (with the exception of number six which was written for a 5-string 'cello of Bach's own invention). There is a gamba sonata which is an entirely different work.

    The doublebass as we know it is not an ancestor of the gamba family, but is through and through a member of the violin family. The earliest doublebass violins were tuned in fifths a full octave below the violoncello. Due to poor string making technology and other problems inherent with the doublebass a number of different tunings have been used over the centuries. The popular 4ths tuning most bassists currently use was arrived at as a compromise approximately only a century ago. It's impossible to argue that 4ths tuning indicates the doublebass is really a member of the gamba family when out of more than four hundred years of it's existence, 4ths tuning has only been used for approximately the last one hundred. Furthermore, every aspect of the doublebass' construction is akin to the violin family. Flat backs and gamba corners can be accounted for due to doublebass gambas having been converted into doublebass violins centuries ago. At the time, luthiers discovered that these two traits had no real effect on the sound and were from then on employed as cost-cutting measures. The only link to the gamba family anyone can claim is the German bow.
  17. dmabe


    Sep 6, 2000
    Greensboro, NC
    I will be the first admit having been out of the musicology area for the last many years. I will not attempt to defend my idea that the cello suites were psossibly written for gamba. The lack of definitive evidence is due to the fact that there is no copy of the music in Bach's own hand.

    But to the other matter. Follow this link for a simple but accurate history of the doublebass byt Rodney Slatford. http://www.earlybass.com/slatford.htm . I am not sure where the tuning reference comes from but this article is helpful. :) :)
  18. It's true there is no manuscript of the suites in Bach's own hand, but by all accounts I've read there was never any question of which instrument they were written for. I believe a close examination of the music supports that they were originally written for the 'cello.

    While the information in that link is not inaccurate, it is not nearly complete. _A New History of the Doublebass_ by Paul Brun is as complete a work on the subject as possible and supports the idea that the doublebass as we know it is not related to the gamba family.
  19. Stephanie,
    Just FYI, I saw Michael Manring do a clinic the other night, and he played the Prelude to Bach's Cello Suite #1. He tuned his bass C-G-D-A -- one octave lower than a cello -- and put a capo at the 12th fret. Hope that helps. I haven't seen much Bach music, but I would imagine that the cello stuff, at least, would be really difficult to pull off in standard tuning.
  20. I just saw a Mel Bay book on Bach mentioned in Bass Player mag. How does it measure up to the des Pres?:confused: