Check out these songs featured in the Bass course.
The I–V bass line is the backbone of roots music bass playing. Zoe explains what I–V means: I refers to the root (or first note) of the scale you’re in, and the V is the fifth note of the scale. Then she shows you how to play a I–V bass line for G, D, and A chords using only open strings. You’ll also learn how to play the first part of Hank Williams’s song “Hey, Good Lookin’” in the key of G using D, G, and A chords as well as the traditional song “Bury Beneath Me the Willow” in the key of D using D, G, and A chords.
Zoe shows you her method for finding notes on the bass as well as her basic left-hand technique for closing the notes on the fingerboard. She gives you advice on using the pad of your finger on the string, finding the right amount of pressure to use, and where to put your thumb on the back of the neck. To start finding notes on the bass, she recommends marking the side of the fingerboard with tape, and she shows you how to find the right place to put the markers on your bass. Zoe also shows you how to play “Hey, Good Lookin’” by fingering some of the notes of the chords.
In this lesson, you’ll learn to play in waltz time (3/4) and the key of B, using the Neil Young song “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.” Waltz time has three beats per measure, instead of four, and often the bass just plays one note on the downbeat. In the key of B, the I, IV, and V chords are B, E, and F#, and “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” also uses the ii and iii chords—minor chords on the second and third steps of the scale, which, in B, are C#m and D#m. Zoe talks about how long to let the notes ring out in waltz time, gives you advice about shifting between some of the tricky positions in B, and talks about feeling the three beats of waltz time.
The Patsy Cline song “I Fall to Pieces” has a great walking bass line using the triads of the I, IV, and V chords. You’ll learn it in Bb. Zoe starts by explaining what a walking bass is and shows you the triads for the I, IV, and V chords in Bb. Then she walks you through the bass line for the verse and chorus of “I Fall to Pieces” and gives you advice on pivoting your hand from position to position.
The minor-key, swing-blues song “Fever” was made popular through Peggy Lee’s 1958 recording. It’s in the key of A minor and has a cool, syncopated repetitive bass line. Zoe starts by singing and playing a verse, and then breaks down the bass line for you, explaining the syncopations and talking about how the length of each note is important to get the right feel. And since the bass line for “Fever” is syncopated, it’s a good tune to practice with a metronome, so Zoe gives you advice on using a metronome.
Learn the iconic bass line to “Stand By Me” from the original Ben E. King recording. Zoe breaks down the bass line, which includes syncopation and eighth notes, giving you advice on fingering as she goes. She also talks about the importance of note length in getting the right feel on “Stand By Me.”
The bass line to Bill Withers’s hit song “Lean on Me” follows the rhythm and shape of the melody. It’s also good practice for playing scales in the key of C. Zoe starts by playing the bass line and singing the melody of the verse to “Lean on Me.” The rhythm of the two is the same and the notes are sometimes the same and sometimes in harmony to each other. The chorus of “Lean on Me” has the same bass line but the melody is different and doesn’t follow the bass line as closely as the verse melody does.
The country song “Act Naturally” was written by Johnny Russell and first recorded by Buck Owens. The Beatles also recorded it, with Ringo singing, and performed it on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1965. In Buck Owens’s version of the song, the verse has a half-time 2/4 feel while the chorus goes to a double-time 4/4 feel with a walking bass. Zoe starts by showing you the verse feel, which has a standard I–V pattern in the key of G. Then she shows you how to play the walking bass part, which uses the 1, 3, 5, and 6 notes of the I, IV, V, and II chords in G (G, C, D, and A). This line requires shifting to a higher position, with your index finger playing a D on the G string close to the place where the neck meets the body of the bass. Zoe gives you advice on shifting and fingering: finding the notes up the neck and playing with relaxed hands.
“Nobody Knows What You Do” comes from John Hartford and was recorded on his album of the same name. It has a chromatic chord progression that is common in a lot of tunes. It’s in the key of A and starts on a IV chord (D) followed by a IV# diminished chord (D#dim) and a V chord (E), before resolving to A. Zoe explains the D#dim and then shows you the basic bass line, a five measure part that repeats throughout the song. Then she shows you some different ways to play the bass line.
The eight-bar blues “Trouble in Mind” is popular with blues, jazz, and folk musicians, and there are many recorded versions of the song. The bass line you’ll learn here is based on the feel from Nina Simone’s recording of the song at the 1969 Newport Jazz Festival: a slow, bluesy 12/8 shuffle groove. Before she shows you the bass line, Zoe explains the 12/8 feel, which is really 4/4 with all the quarter notes divided into triplets. Then she shows you how to articulate the basic line she uses on all the chords (A, D, and E, the I, IV, V chords in A). Zoe also shows you a few variations on the basic pattern, and how to vary them as you play through the song.
The Rodgers and Hart song “Blue Moon” is a jazz standard, but has been recorded by pop singers as well. You’ll learn how to play it with a simple swing, walking-bass feel in this lesson. It has a common AABA chord progression in Bb, with a repeating Bb–Gm–Cm–F (I–vi–ii–V), so Zoe starts by showing you the arpeggios and scales of those chords. Then she shows you a few ways to play through the verse and bridge progressions, starting with roots, then roots and fifths, root and thirds, and scalar versions. Zoe also shows you how to play the melody of “Blue Moon,” giving you advice on finding the notes and phrasing the melody.
Pentatonic scales are five-note scales that are very singable and consonant; a lot of melodies use the pentatonic scale. The most common pentatonic scales are the major pentatonic and minor pentatonic. The major pentatonic scale consists of the first, second, third, fifth, and sixth degrees of the major scale, while the minor pentatonic uses the same notes of the major scale, but starting on the sixth degree of the scale. Zoe shows you the C major and A minor pentatonic scales and then shows you the melody to Billy Joel’s song “And So It Goes,” which uses the C major pentatonic scale. She also gives you some exercises to practice playing the pentatonic scale without using open strings.
The great bass line to the Four Tops’ song “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch” was originally recorded by the great James Jamerson, who played electric bass on numerous Motown hits. The song, whose official title is “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” was released by Motown in 1965 and was a big hit that year, and it became one of the biggest hits of the 1960s. It’s a bit of a workout on the upright bass, and includes some cool syncopations. In addition to being fun to play it’s great for practicing eighth-note lines. Zoe walks you through the eight-bar bass line that is repeated throughout the song, giving you advice on fingering and damping as she goes.
The beautiful song “Your Long Journey” was written by Rosa Lee Watson, who recorded it with her husband Doc Watson on The Watson Family album, originally released in 1963. It has also been recorded by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, Emmylou Harris, Tim and Mollie O’Brien, and many others. One unusual thing about “Your Long Journey” is that it is “crooked,” which means it has an irregular number of measures or beats. To play crooked songs, it’s important to learn the melody, so you can follow along with the melody, rather than, or in addition to, counting measures. In this lesson, you’ll learn to play the melody to “Your Long Journey” in the key of Eb (which is where Zoe sings it ), as well as the accompaniment bass part.
Zoe talks about using the bow in this lesson. She starts by explaining the differences in the two kinds of bass bows, German and French, and the grips used with each. She demonstrates the grip on a German-style bow, which is the kind she uses, and talks about bow pressure, rosin, tuning with a bow, the position of the bow on the string, and more. To practice using the bow, Zoe shows you how to play the Mary Margaret O’Hara song “I Don’t Care,” which is usually played rubato: without a defined pulse. This makes it a good song for practicing long tones with the bow.
The song “Are You Leaving for the Country?” comes from Karen Dalton’s 1971 album In My Own Time and was written by Richard Tucker. It has an interesting melody and an unusual chord progression and Zoe uses the song to talk about improvising on the melody.
Dirk Powell recorded his great original song “Waterbound” on his album Time Again and there’s also a great version of him singing it on the Transatlantic Sessions. His original recording is very crooked, and the Transatlantic Sessions version is straightened out a bit. In this lesson, Zoe shows you the Transatlantic Sessions version, which has phrases of five long beats, which can be thought of as two and a half measures in 4/4 or a bar of 6/4 and a bar of 4/4.
Carole King’s pop hit “You’ve Got a Friend” has a great bass pattern and is in the key of Ab, so you’ll get a workout in the key of Ab with this lesson. Zoe shows you the basic feels “quarter, eighth rest, eighth / quarter, eighth rest, eighth” and “quarter, quarter rest, quarter, quarter” and the Ab major scale before walking you through the bass line and chord progression of “You’ve Got a Friend.”
The Beatles’ classic “Day Tripper” is a 16-bar blues in the key of E and the well-known bass line uses dominant seven arpeggios that outline each chord, so it’s a good exercise in playing dominant seven arpeggios.
“Big Nuthin’” comes from the Roches ( Maggie, Terre, and Suzzy) and was a hit from their album Speak. The song’s groove is loosely based on a Brazilian samba, and the bass line has a cool, syncopated feel with distinct patterns in the verse and chorus. It’s also in the key of Eb, so it’s a good workout in Eb.
In this lesson, Zoe uses the cycle of fourths (also called the “circle of fifths”) and the song “Freight Train” to show you how to play in any key. She explains the cycle of fourths and how to use it to determine how many sharps or flats are in a given key, and then shows you how to find the chords for “Freight Train” in every key. She also shows you a closed-position G major scale and closed-position major chord arpeggio that you can move around the fingerboard to other keys.
Thumb position is a way to play up the neck, above where the neck and body join. Zoe shows you how to find the octave on the neck by finding the harmonic and how to close the string with the side of your thumb. Then she gives you tips on fingering in thumb position and gives you a series of scalar exercises to practice. You’ll also learn to play the melody to “Blue Skies” in thumb position.
The Talking Heads song “Uh Oh, Love Comes to Town” (from the band’s first album Talking Heads: 77) has a great, groovy bass line, played by Talking Heads bassist Tina Weymouth. The song is built around a repeating riff on an E major pentatonic scale, which is played under the verse, while the chorus goes to G major. Zoe shows you the bass part and gives you advice on translating an electric bass part to the upright bass.
The jazz standard “All of Me” was written in the 1930s and is still one of the most popular tunes at jazz, swing, and even bluegrass jam sessions. It’s most often called at jazz jam sessions in the key of C, but it can be played in any key, depending on whether it’s being sung and what key the singer wants to sing it in. In this lesson, you’ll learn it in the key of G.