Books to get to learn classical double bass

This list will help you develop new skills.

With Jason Heath · San Francisco, CA

The following are materials that I recommend for both classical and jazz double bassists.  Clicking through many of these links will help to support the blog and podcast, which I really appreciate!

These are my “Desert Island” classical double bass technique books.  I’ve worked through a lot of various systems through the years, but these are what keep landing on my music stand:

Method Books

  • Vance, George: Progressive Repertoire for Bass vol. 1, 2, and 3 – The Vance books have become the gold standard in young bass education.  These three volumes take players from the very first notes on the instrument through the Dragonetti Concerto.  Highly recommended. Here’s a podcast excerpt featuring Gaelen McCormick talking about the benefits of teaching with Progressive Repertoire.
  • Vance, George: Vade Mecum – George Vance’s Vade Mecum scale system is a great technical complement to the Progressive Repertoire series.
  • Simandl: New Method for Double Bass – The standard for over 100 years in double bass education.  There’s a lot of debate in the bass world about how to actually teach this material, but it remains an extremely important text and is a part of the education of most bass players.
  • Rabbath, Francois: New Method for Double Bass – This method took the double bass world by storm when it was first published.  Introducing a set of six positions that utilize pivoting to reach notes was quite a departure from other technical approaches.  Even though this book is decades old, it is still making waves as a “radical” text.  It’s an extremely valuable book and will change your thinking about the bass.
  • Petracchi: Simplified Higher Technique for Double Bass – Petracchi’s technique book is another pivotal work in bass technique.  This book organizes the left hand into a precise measuring device, with diatonic, semi-chromatic, and chromatic positions that use the thumb as an anchor point. This book will change your upper-position approach and open up many new possibilities.
  • Sevcik School of Bowing Technique – This valuable violin bowing technique book has been adapted for the bass.  The Sevcik bowing book presents various bow strokes and techniques in a logical and organized fashion and is one of the quickest ways to advance your right-hand technique.  Most major bass teachers say that students are about two years behind in the bowing technique department compared to their left-hand technique.  This book is great for fixing that disparity.
  • Zimmerman: Contemporary Concept of Bowing Technique – Also known as the “A and E” book due to the way it’s notated (you’ll see what I mean if you order it), this book is an in-depth analysis of exactly how the bow works in various types of strokes.  A classic text–highly recommended!
  • Flesch, Carl: Scale System for Double Bass – If you can figure out how to effectively practice this book, it could be your greatest “secret” technical weapon ever.  Covering scales, arpeggios, and double-stops in one, two, and three-octave combinations, these exercises can be mind-bogglingly complex, but if you persist and find a way to make these materials work, the payoff in intonational security and technical facility can be tremendous.
  • Double Bass: The Ultimate Challenge – Jeff Bradetich’s magnum opus on double bass technique is an incredibly well-put-together resource on all things double bass.  Jeff is a master teacher and provides an invaluable resource in this visually appealing book.  Here’s a YouTube video I did with Jeff several years ago about the book.

Etudes:

  • Simandl: 30 Etudes – This is another “gold standard” educational text for double bassists.  These etudes start out quite simple and increase in difficulty substantially throughout the series.  Double bassist Gaelen McCormick has been performing and teaching these 30 Etudes on her YouTube channel.  This is an incredible resource–check it out!
  • Sturm: 110 Studies – I’ve been using this book for years.  I find the etudes to be melodic, to the point, and beneficial to my overall technique.
  • Storch-Hrabe: 57 Studies Vol. 1 – This is another classic text for bass, though I’ve never really connected with these etudes as much as other bassists.  Still, they’ve been used for years and provide a lot of benefits.
  • Bille: New Method for Double Bass – This is another much-loved series of method books that I haven’t used much in my own practice.  But so many people have recommended it to me over the years that I feel obligated to list it here.

Solo Repertoire:

This list could easily be a mile long!  Here are some of my favorite solo works that I teach and play, arranged roughly in order of difficulty:

Orchestral Literature:

Oscar Zimmerman Series of Complete Bass Parts

Duets/Trios/Quartets:

Twelve Classical Duets
24 Classical and Modern Duets
Telemann: Canonic Sonatas (Trombone Edition)
Bottesini: Passione Amorosa

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