Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Bass Grooves by Jon Liebman -- Review

Bass Grooves by Jon Liebman
What's Bass Grooves About?
Jon Liebman is the author of several highly respected bass tuitional books covering various styles of bass guitar. His latest book - subtitled 'the ultimate collection' - is a collection of riffs, licks and grooves in various styles. 
The grooves are collected into various sub-styles. Those styles are:

(i) Blues 
(ii) Jazz 
(iii) Rock 
(iv) Funk/R&B 
(v) Reggae 
(vi) Country 
(vii) Latin 
(viii) Other Grooves (gospel, hip hop, disco, etc)

The author's aim is to provide you with a source book for licks and grooves in different styles that you can master and add to your bass playing 'idea' book. These are practical licks that you can in working situations - ranging from jams, working bands and original bands.

How Is It Presented?
Bass Grooves is 96 pages long and published by Hal Leonard. Hal Leonard have pretty high production standards, so the printing is very clear and very readable. All of the musical examples are presented in notation and bass tab. 
Additionally there is a CD that accompanies the book that has all of the licks recorded on it so that you can hear how the bass licks sound. The bass is panned to one channel, so it's very easy to pan your stereo and then play along with the drums and the chordal backing (guitar).

Production standards on the CD are also really good - the CD sounds good and the separation of the instruments is precise, so the CD really does work as something you can practice along with.
What Topics Are Covered?
The different areas of bass grooves that are covered were summarized briefly above. Most styles of music are covered here - even if only briefly.
How Could This Book Be Better
There are some areas that would make a good back outstanding in my opinion.
Firstly - and a pet peeve of mine - the book has a hard binding. This means it won't lie flat on your music stand. I don't know why Music Publishers won't publish books that are meant for working bass players in spiral bound format - or give us the option to have that, even if it costs extra. If you use a book with this kind of binding a lot you'll end up damaging the spine and the book will fall apart. I have a number of books in my library where this has happened - and yet my copy of Standing In The Shadows of Motown (which is spiral bound) and I have had for nearly 20 years is still in really good condition.
The second area the book could be improved is in some guidance for beginners. Most beginners won't know how to take these grooves and adapt them to different keys. Or how to adapt them to different chord progressions. 
Or different styles of music. A detailed tutorial on how to do that would have been an excellent feature.

The third area where the book could be improved is with the CD. Some of the grooves will be too fast for beginners to play along too. The provision of backing tracks at say three different tempo levels would have made the grooves far more useful for many beginners.
Review Summary
Although I've pointed out some areas where this book could be improved I have to be realistic and probably the first and third areas I pointed out would probably substantially increase the cost and decrease the profit margins. So there's little likelihood of that ever happening, at the end of the day it's the Publisher who sets the rules on these kind of decisions.
This is a very good book though - and I highly recommend it. Working through each groove will give you a vocabulary of ideas that will really help develop your playing. Additionally I'd recommend that you learn to read music if you can't - these examples are provided in all keys so they are good reading practice too. You can never have enough 'good stuff' to sight read. If you only buy the book for that you'll get your money's worth.
I'd rate this book at 4 and a half stars. (The half star deduction is for the binding - I loathe solid bound music books!). This is a good addition to the library of any one who wants to learn how to play bass.

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