15 Best Bass Guitar Books - Reviewed and Listed
There are many great bass guitar books out there that can teach you general techniques, music theory and nuances associated with specific players. Whilst I haven’t read every bass guitar book, I have read many and have compiled a list that has been most useful to me!
1. The Improvisors Bass Method - Chuck Sher
This book came out in 1979, and whilst it will look quite dated, the information within is fantastic and I believe it be one of the best resources for a bass player. The book is for both acoustic and electric bass and will teach you how to play bass with an emphasis on technique and method.
The book covers:
- Basic theory
- Scales studies
- Chord studies
- Rhythm studies
- Creating bass lines
- Chord voicings
- Analysing tunes
- Chord extensions
There is also a great section of transcribed solos from the best bass soloists of the day.
2. Standing in the Shadows of Motown: The Life and Music of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson
This book is a must have for a bass enthusiast, especially if you love Motown. The book explores the interesting life of James Jamerson, as well as explore his famous bass playing style. Jamerson played with all the biggest aritsts on Motown and this book features transcriptions from artists such as:
- Stevie Wonder
- Marvin Gaye
- The Temptations
- The Supremes
- The Isley Brothers
- And many more!
3. Soul Fingers: The Music & Life of Legendary Bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn
I’m a massive Blues Brothers fan and I strongly believe that they were probably the greatest band ever in the history of bands! Donald “Duck” Dunn was the session bass player for Stax records and played with artists such as:
- Otis Redding
- Elvis Preley
- Sam & Dave
- Tom Petty
- Albert King
He was probably most known for his playing with Booker T and the MGs, who later formed the instrumental backbone for the Blues Brothers band. Overall, after reading this book you’ll realise that Dunn was a master at playing to suit the song and is a most valuable lesson as a musician.
4. Concepts For Bass Soloing - Chuck Sher
This book is really carrying on from the Improvisors Bass method and explores ideas to aid soloing on the bass. The book includes the incredible Marc Johnson who performs some breathtaking solos, all transcribed in the book and explained. If you’re looking for help regarding bass solos then this book should help!
5. The Latin Bass Book - Oscar Stagnaro
Latin music is a whole new world and one that rarely gets taught (in my experience) as it is quite specialised. If you’re looking to expand your musical vocabulary or master Latin bass rhythms then this book is a must! Again, no tabs so you will have to be able to read music.
6. Scale & Mode Etudes For The Bassist - Simon Goulding
Simon Goulding was a fantastic bass player, one that I had the pleasure of meeting and learning from! However, he sadly passed away in late 2021.
Nevertheless, he left an extraordinary legacy and luckily wrote down much of his knowledge in several books. One of them is the Scale & Mode Etudes for the Bassist. I guarantee you’ll learn scales that you’ve never heard of!
7. Bass Workshop Volume II - Simon Goulding
This book covers:
- The basics Revisited
- Harmonic Exercises
- Rhythm & Reading
- Improvisation & Soloing Tools
- Your Musical Toolbox
- Bass Duets
He also has many many other great learning resources which I highly recommend looking into.
8. Ultimate Slap Bass - Stuart Clayton (Bassline Publishing Books)
I got this book quite early in my learning journey and it taught me many great things. However, I strongly advise getting a teacher to show you the basics of the Slap bass technique. As I found out that my technique was extremely painful and wrong about half way through the book, so had to go back to the beginning! So look for a teacher first!
However, this book is excellent and the audio tracks supplied are high quality. In fact, all of Stuart Claytons books from Bassline Publishing are of tremendous quality and a great place to find books on your favourite bass player!
9. The Best of Victor Wooten
Victor Wooten’s playing is just extraordinary. Theres a great mix of virtuosic technical ability, great note choices and showmanship. This book is only a brief introduction but is worth it alone just so you can play Amazing Grace using harmonics you probably hadn’t thought existed.
A big tip that helped me understand his techniques was to find online videos of him playing/demonstrating, and slowing the video down to see exactly how he did it. I
10. Play Like Jaco Pastorius
Jaco Pastorius is arguably the greatest bass player of all time and there have been many many books written about him. However, I quite like this one as it includes five full transcriptions of is most famous bass lines, as well as look into excerpts from other well known tunes. This book primarily looks at Jacos playing from a bassline perspective, so If you’re looking to understand his solos, A Portrait of Jaco: The Solos Collection is a great choice.
11. Billy Sheehans Advanced Bass
Billy Sheehan’s undoubtedly one of the best rock bass players out there. There are a few characteristics that set him apart from other players, such as:
- He carved out high frets to allow greater string bends
- He has two outputs, one for each pickup to allow greater tone customisation
- He plucks with three fingers
This book explores these unique characteristics of his and covers many other great playing tips.
12. 101 Bass Tips - Gary Willis
Gary Willis is perhaps best known for his Jazz Fusion band Tribal Tech, and after hearing a few of their tracks, you will understand that he’s a fantastic player. In this book, Gary covers lots of useful professional tips that will aid a bassist become successful. I will say that experienced player may already know a lot of the material in the book, however for the beginner, it is very sound advice.
13. Sonorous - Zander Zon
Zander Zon plays the bass in a way that is very different to your traditional way of approaching the instrument. Zander produces an entire arrangement on the bass (which has been done in the past e.g. Jaco Pastorius, Victor Wooten, Jeff Berlin) however where Zanders playing differs is with his string choice. Zander uses piccolo strings which allow him to tune the strings to a variety of notes, and this produces increased arrangement capabilities with open strings and the use of harmonics. Overall, it’s a very interesting playing style, but due to the drastic change in string tensions/size, would require a bass to be set up completely differently than your typical bass.
14. Jeff Berlin Bass Mastery: A Complete Reading Course - Jeff Berlin
15. How to Master the Electric Bass - Howard Head
I couldn’t resist adding my own books to this list. If you want to understand music theory relevant to the bass guitar that’s taught in a logical way as well as how to do a setup, learn bass techniques (fingerstyle, plectrum and slap) and learn how to completely know the whole fretboard inside out, then please consider having a look at my book! More information can be found here!
16. Electric Guitar & Bass Making & Marketing - Leo Lospennato
This book is really just a bonus to the list, and I absolutely love it. What better way to understand one’s instrument than to know how its constructed and made? This book covers not just the bass but the electric guitar too. However, be careful as you may want to become a guitar luthier yourself after reading the book!