Tired of playing the same ol’ harmonic bass lines that support your melodic orchestral peers? We get it!
Beginning bass players have two major challenges when compared with their newbie violinist or viola counterparts. First, your part is rarely the melody, which means your ears work twice as hard to help your fingers’ assume their fretless position along the fingerboard. Second, in addition to bowing, you’ll need to master more techniques to create the various sounds required of the upright bass, including plucking and slapping.
SONGS TO HELP YOU STRUT YOUR BASS SOLO STUFF
For both of the above reasons, it’s helpful to learn a handful of songs that allow you to exclusively hear – and demonstrate – your bass prowess once you’ve accomplished the basics.
SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW
Initially composed by Harold Arlen for the classic film The Wizard of Oz, Somewhere Over the Rainbow ($5.95), the film’s title track is simple to play and familiar to all. This means you’ll have plenty of support from other musicians at jams or backyard gatherings and, once you’ve mastered this version, you’ll be able to play around with improvised variations.
SIX SONATAS FOR DOUBLE BASS
This collection of Marcello’s Six Sonatas for Double Bass and Piano are worth the $12.00 investment. Once you’ve mastered positions one through four, you’ll be able to work through each of these arrangements and feel like a classical star.
BEL CANTO BASSO
Originally written as vocal exercises, these melodic, Bel Canto Basso compositions (published by Zimmerman Press and available for $10) have been adapted for a variety of instruments, including the upright bass. You’ll enjoy playing the melodies, and because they were initially conceived as vocal exercises, you’ll have the opportunity to hone expressive bowing and phrasing techniques.
SOLO FROM WINSTON JACK BUDROW’S SYMPHONY #1
Keeping in line with the classical theme, we highly recommend purchasing the Progressive Repertoire for the Double Bass, Vol 1 ($20), which is the first of a series of four. Budrow’s Symphony #1 is nestled amongst a collection of folk songs, variations, and original compositions by the collection’s arranger – George Vance.
Most notably, this collection was the first English language version based on the revolutionary methods and techniques taught by world-renowned bassist, François Rabbath. You can watch a video posted on Strad of Rabbath demonstrating his Crab technique.
SUMMERTIME BY GERSHWIN
The tune, Summertime, was composed by George Gershwin for the 1935 opera, Porgy & Bess. Since then, it has been performed by just about everybody who’s anybody in the jazz and R&B worlds. We’re big fans of using free internet resources whenever possible, so here’s a free, YouTube tutorial of Summertime, arranged for solo double bass, from discoverdoublebass.com.
MONEY BY PINK FLOYD
We listed this one in a previous post, featuring 10 Beginner Bass Songs..., but it’s worth mentioning again. This timeless hit is played regularly on classic rock stations around the world and is a favorite cover tune by any garage band, in a backyard jam, or to play along with the original track. You can get the sheet music for Money and other Pink Floyd songs for $20 from sheetmusicplus.com.
MILES DAVIS’, “WORKIN’” “COOKIN’,” “STEAMIN’,” “RELAXIN’,”
We’ll leave with a four-for-one suggestion, that could be considered the Miles Davis Canon. The Miles Davis Quintet released these four albums – Workin’, Cookin’, Steamin’ and Relaxin’ from their 1956 Prestige recording sessions. Songs from the iconic jazz collection provide a rich foundation and tapestry to work on, hone, and work on some more for all bass players –beginning, intermediate or advanced – such as the original sessions’ bass player, Paul Chambers.
While you are welcome to find sheet music from the individual tracks for each album, we recommend downloading the recordings and working from ear as these sessions were inspired in the moment and don’t live in sheet music form. As a reference point, here are links to four of the standards found on the albums, one per album:
In Your Own Sweet Way
My Funny Valentine
It Could Happen to You
You can also visit, What Popular Songs Can I Play on the Bass, for more beginner- to intermediate-level bass songs that will make you sound awesome.