Top 5 Bass Books

I’m lucky enough to play some fantastic instruments, but I spend more annually on guitar books than I do on guitars. It’s an obsession. I love having a little personal library that I can dip into whenever I have a question or need to plan a lesson or just need to rekindle my love for different styles or techniques. In a world full of different products including digital downloads and videos to help your playing, you still can’t beat books on a music stand in my view, but I’m old fashioned.  Having the book accompanied by a CD is a big advantage for many players. Sadly, there are lots of mediocre books out there and a few really substandard so to help I have written 4 articles recommending my top 5 for acoustic, electric, classical and bass guitarists. We will start with the bass. These are not in any particular order.


1.     Standing in the shadows of Motown: The Life and Music of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson. by Dr Licks – You don’t have to be a fan of Motown records to appreciate just how good a bass player Jamerson was. I love this book! Jamerson is a huge influence on me and I keep coming back to it again and again trying to get the feel and the tone accurate for all of these lines. Helped by the fact that the list of people who wrote these transcriptions and introduce each piece is virtually a who’s who of session bass playing greats, Pino Palladino and Anthony Jackson to name just 2.

2.     Registry of Guitar Tutors Bass Guitar Playing grades by RGT@LCM – Ok, let me start of by saying I’m a registered teacher with the RGT. That being said before I was a teacher I was a student taking grades. The picture shows the higher grades but grades 1-8 are covered in 3 books, beginner intermediate and higher grades and all are recommended. The exams are carefully designed and even if you don’t want to take exams the structure still helps you to fill in gaps in your learning.

3.     Building Walking Bass Lines by Ed Friedland – Firstly, Ed Friedlands books are all excellent. It was hard to choose but I reached a point in my playing where I had a lot of rock covers memorized and could find my way through a 12 bar blues in several keys and what I wanted was to be able to create my own walking bass lines over jazz standards. This book made the process very clear. It’ still a very long process and this book has a follow up called expanding walking bass lines but if you feel you need a fresh challenge the examples in this book are fantastic.

4.     The Total Jazz Bassist by David Overthrow and Tim Ferguson – I tried to make this list of books accessible to all players and all styles and when it came to blues and funk there were too many great titles to choose from. There are a lot of jazz books in my collection but nothing I’ve bought since has surpassed how balanced and detailed this book is. I think it arrived at my house in the same week as my double bass which was lucky but all the lessons here are just as relevant to electric bass. Highly recommended.

5.     The Bass Bible by Paul Westwood – Always recommended to students because this book has something for everyone style wise. Playing bass lines from around the world including Brazil and Africa is such fun and did my internal sense of rhythm a lot of good. One of very few books where I think examples written in the style of important players are accurate and fun to play.


It was very difficult to limit this to five. Hopefully I have selected a range that appeal to as many possible as people and can provide most benefit to a wide range of players at different ability levels. Should you have questions, please drop me an email.


Harrison MarshComment