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Theory book?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by backtoschool, Mar 2, 2001.

  1. backtoschool


    Oct 24, 2000
    I need to find a good theory book to study. I need some recomendations please.

    Fire away
  2. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Mark Levine's Jazz Theory.
  3. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    " MelBay's Complete Jazz Bass Book: Earl Gately, 133 pages, $19.95"

    I suggest that book without any idea how far along you are or if you read notation or tab or know little or nothing about theory or already have a fairly sound foundation, but just need to pull it all together in an orderly fashion or what.

    I also have both the books suggested above. Each is excellent in its own and distinctive ways. Levine's "Jazz Theory" is, of course, unapologetically jazz oriented. In addition to theory, it gives you background in jazz, it's musicians, its standards, how to learn songs, song structure, etc. Many of the examples are in trebel clef, not bass clef. The book is not cheap...nearly forty dollars with shipping and handling.

    "The Bass Grimoire" tells you all you could ever want to know about theory, but does not use standard noatation or tab. Instead it uses fretboard "maps" and keyboard diagrams. That can be an advantage if you don't read either tab or standard notation. It costs about $18.00.

    Some basic keyboard books can be helpful too, but as there are several excellent theory books written specifically for bass guitar, you might prefer one of those. You'll do well with any of the three books mentioned here. I know others will post their favorites too.

  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think the Jazz Theory book is a good introduction for anybody and IMO is the bestintroduction - there is a lot about Jazz but I do believe you can apply all of this to whatever music you are playing. I think the way Mark Levine gives actual examples helps make the subject less "dry".

    I think the point about learning theory is that you need to hear the sound of chords on the piano or some keyboard instrument - hence the examples, not being written in bass clef all the time, which I think is a good thing. Any general musical theory course will want you to play chords on piano, no matter what instrument is you main one. I started an Open University Course (distance learning) which started from basics on Music and the first thing they wanted you to do was play chords on piano and be able to identify them - this is useful to everyone and in fact virtually compulsory to be able to understand functional harmony.

    Mark Levine takes examples from Jazz which illustrate the theory he is talking about and I think you can follow it and it takes you from the easiest stuff to understand and play on the piano, towards more complex ideas. I think the example do get difficult to play on the piano, but any decent music teacher will be able to play chords and ideas on a keyboard and I think this is in many ways a prerequisite.

    I have tried other theory books before, but have never stuck with them - a lot of bass educators recommend studying some Jazz anyway, even if this isn't the sort of music you want to play, as Jazz does give you examples of ideas in theory.
  5. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...I agree, Bruce; Jazz actually puts the theory into practical use; also, the application goes beyond what's "theorized" in Pop, Rock, R&B, Funk, Reggae, etc
    Too, personally, I want music theory(not "bass" theory)...if you're going to play with other musicians(ie non-bassists), it helps if you're speaking the same language(I guess). ;)
  6. backtoschool


    Oct 24, 2000
    I guess I'm looking to take everything I know and put it together. I like the sound of a music theory book. Thanks guys.
  7. Lance Jaegan

    Lance Jaegan

    Dec 23, 2000
    "On the Sensations of Tone" by Helmholtz
    "Hearing and Writing Music" by Ron Gorow
  8. I'm currently using "The Improvisor's Bass Method". It's an outstanding book. The chapters get into more advanced stuff as you progress. Charts from various artists are in the back too. I love it. Recommend it to anyone out there.
  9. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    BacktoSchool, whichever theory book you do eventually buy, be careful not to make the mistake I made several years ago. While at Indiana University which has an excellent school of music, I decided to take advantage of that and check out the university book store.

    My thinking was that a music school at the university level would have the very best theory books. So I bought one that was nice, thick and heavy believing I had purchased THE most complete theory book available. Plus it was nearly forty dollars, so it had to be good, right?

    Well, guess what! This book was written for students who planned to play in symphonic orchestras. All the drills and examples were taken from Classical, Barogue and Romantic music. Much of it was in grand staff, meaning it had clefs for every instrument in the orchestra. Excerpts from the great composers were used.

    And was it hard to understand, or what? It was so complex, I got bogged down early on and gave up on it. I ended up giving the book to my bass teacher at the time who played double bass in an orchestra.

    In summation, there are a multitude of theory books available. If possible, go to a book store, open up the books, check and see if they are giving you what you want in a presentation that is comfortable for you.

    Two other things, if you do buy one that turns out to be too complex for your present level, keep it, because in a few more years you may find that you have progressed enough to understand it. And second, whatever book you buy, if you have questions, many people here can explain the concepts to you. Have fun.

  10. Essential Bass Technique. Sorry, forget the author, but a very good introduction to the technical side of the instrument.
  11. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    As a supplement, please consider adding "The Harvard Dictionary of Music."
  12. Yvon

    Yvon Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2000
    Montreal, Canada
    I second the Mike Levin book
  13. bsplyr54

    bsplyr54 Guest

    Mar 3, 2001
    Champaign, IL
    hey man im taking a music theory class and the book we use is really helpful. It covers more than just the bass, so if your only looking for a bass book this wont help as much as the others. It includes lots of different theory, beyond just sale memorization. It will help with any composing you try. Its called The Elements of Music by Ralph Turek, vol 1. Hope this helps.
  14. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Another vote for the Levin book. I think it gets bonus points for the "Don't even think about moving to New York without knowing these tunes" section.
  15. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    Ed Friedlands Building Walking Bass Lines is a very good and informative book.
  16. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    I second that. Plus I'll add that ANY book by Ed Friedland is an excellent tool for a bassist looking to expand his technique. Friedland also did a series of Bass Workshops for Bass Player magazine. They are worth checking out at:


  17. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Whoops! I forgot to mention that Ed Friedland has two books on walking bass lines. Though the first is an excelelnt introduction by itself, the second expands walking even further. Both books come with CDs, too. That is cool because you can then hear how the bass is supossed to sound.


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