How To Practice — Presentation Materials

Here are the supporting materials for my “60 Things To Practice Workshop.” Download and enjoy!

Click here to download the zip file:


Please check out my new online video lessons from Truefire . . .  

a great way to jump start your practice routine!

“Plant Bassed” by Marshall Gilkes (from the Grammy-nominated album “Köln”)

Marshall Gilkes “Vesper” (Grammy-nominated for Best Instrumental Composition)

Here’s the great trombonist, composer and bandleader Marshall Gilkes, leading the WDR Big Band. His composition “Vesper” is nominated for a Grammy in the category “Best Instrumental Composition.”






Inquiring Minds Want To Know! More Of Your Questions Answered

I receive quite a few questions from bass players, fans, and “others” from around the globe. Here is a sampling of a some recent enquiries.

  1. How to practice effectively with limited time.
  2. Your Bass Player Magazine article on “Someday My Prince Will Come” confused me! I had to re-learn the tune to play it with my wedding band.
  3. Pedro wrote with a question about Mexican/Texas Conjunto music, which I know nothing about.
  4. Hey John—Your publishing website says that your six-volume bass method will be out in 2014. Running a little behind, aren’t you?


Here are the questions and my responses:



(1) AJ from LA writes to ask about how he can practice more effectively with limited time.

Dear John,

I’m getting back into music after a layoff (family stuff – small child, work schedule, etc.) and am hoping for some advice on using my limited practice time efficiently. I like your articles from earlier in the year on modes (major and melodic minor) with the excercises you layed out, I have also been getting around the keyboard and trying to sing the scale as well as playing basic 3 or 4 note voicings along with it. This takes away time from the bass, but is this a good start? Secondly relates to building my tune knowledge. Within the Jazz world, I know transcription/learning by ear is the way its done . Problem is, this takes me a long time and I want to build up a solid repertoire of 30-40 jazz standards. So, in short, is it ok to use a reliable chart (sher, aebersold) as long as I continue to listen to historical recordings and focus on singing the melody? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks, AJ

My answer:

Hi AJ,

That sounds like a good approach. I always advise that we practice some “pure technique,” like scales, arpeggios and licks; then practice “technique applied to something musical” like playing arpeggios through the harmony to a song; then “pure music” where you forget about that and just play tunes or whatever your learning.

Since your time is limited, I would skip any transcription and just listen a lot in your free time — in the car, around the house — just make sure you’re listening to music.

Make a list and pick one or two small technical things to practice. You could possibly use things that you will apply to the songs you’re learning.

On your list, put three tunes that you want to learn, and play those tunes everyday.

Stick with the list for the 30 minutes or so that you set aside to practice, and do that every day for a week.

Then review the list, move on to a couple of different or related technical exercises, and switch some of the tunes you’re learning.

Example: You want to learn “In a Sentimental Mood” with the melody, bass line, solo, etc. Make your technical exercises relate to that tune. Practice D minor pentatonic and D Dorian scale. Practice Db Major scale (for the bridge) and the arpeggios in that scale. Do that for 15 minutes. Then work on the tune for 15 minutes. Do the same thing every day for a week. It’s important to practice something simple to (almost) perfection, rather than try and practice too many unrelated things.

Good luck with all of that!

All the best,


(2) Your Bass Player Magazine article on “Someday My Prince Will Come” confused me!

Jack wrote to me because I confused him with my article on SMPWC . . . sorry, Jack!

Mr. Goldsby ,

The version of Someday my prince will come  as proposed in your article (Bass player , August 2015) differs greatly from the bass line by Paul Chambers. I spent some time learning the one that you proposed only to have to re learn it entirely for a wedding reception .

Otherwise, your articles in bass players are awesome.

A fan.

I did my best to explain:

Hi Jack,

Thanks for checking in. The “Someday My Prince Will Come” etude was just that — an etude based on the harmony of the song. I used the original harmony to the song, which differ slightly from the “classic” version that Miles Davis played. In the last 8 bars of the original version, the changes once again repeat the BbMaj7 to D7#5 progression, moving to EbMaj7. Miles’s version inserts a ii-V: Fmin7 to Bb7 to EbMaj7 at that spot.

I also suggested in the article that you listen to several versions of the song: Scott LaFaro with Bill Evans, Norman Bates with Dave Brubeck, and—yes—Paul Chambers with Miles Davis. I gave the link to another blog site with the transcription of PC’s line, plus I gave links to videos of Chuck Israel and also Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen playing the song.


With all of those sources cited, I thought it was obvious that the article deals with a practice etude based on the harmony, not with any one particular historical version.

I hope you checked out several of the recordings and links, as well as working through the bass line and solo. Now that you’ve played the tune live, you probably have a good handle on how to lay down a solid bass line. I hope I helped a bit with that. You should be aware that certain players (your wedding bandleader/piano player, etc) will possibly use different changes. There’s no one “right’ way to play the tune, but there are several historical versions, which are touched on in the article, that dictate certain stylistic approaches.

Thanks for reading the column, and also for your feedback.

All the best,


(3) You say Conjunto, I say Conjunto . . .

I recently heard from Pedro with a question that I know absolutely nothing about. Let me know if I’m missing something here.

Dear John,

I am a bass player in a conjunto group here in Texas.  My teacher is a cat from the old school and is considered a conjunto music legend here in south Texas and knows his theory.  Recently, he showed me a song and he noticed I was not playing the right notes. The other instruments are playing major and minor but the bass is strictly major.  He kept repeating that I needed to play the first rotation of C and I didn’t understand.  So he stopped the band and said to play the first rotation of C and I did not know it.  He then told me that the first rotation of C is C then to D then to G then to E then to A then to D then finally resolving on G.  I later tried to find out what this rotation was by referring to the Circle Of Fifths but again I did not know how this “rotation” is formed.   If you can shed some light on this it would greatly be appreciated.  Thank you very much! Sincerely, Pedro

My reply to Pedro:

Hi Pedro,

Nice to hear from you. I’m really not experienced with conjunto music, so I can’t give you an informed answer about your teacher’s concept. If you say he’s an older cat, then he probably learned just by playing gigs, and he developed his own system of thinking about things—that’s a very valid way to make good music. Plus, your guy is a top player in the scene, so what he’s saying obviously carries a lot of weight. I’m not sure what he means by “rotation,” but it sounds like what I would call a “turnaround.” There’s a lot of info on turnarounds in different jazz books, and in my books.

Also check here:


and here:

Jazz Turnarounds

It seems like you understand the cycle of fifths, right. If not, look here:

Cycle of Fifths

and also download this booklet:

Jamey Aebersold Free Jazz Handbook (that’s free in the sense that it costs nothing, not that it deals with free jazz 🙂

All those links deal with jazz music, but of course you can apply the theory to any style. Good luck and let me know if you figure out what your teacher is saying in different words 😉



(4) Some keen readers have noticed that I announced the release of the six-volume Goldsby Bass Method in, ahem, 2014. Yes, my jazz bass method is still in the works!

The Goldsby Bass Method is being prepared as you read this. Although I love to write and teach, I am first and foremost a bass player, and I’ve been working like crazy, performing and recording. This is of course, a good thing. I’ve been writing and re-writing and preparing the new method for release, and I plan to have all six volumes out on the market in 2016. Mark my words, and stay tuned.


Steve Erquiaga, Ed Soph, John Goldsby – “Euzkadi” 1986

Kenny Werner, John Riley, John Goldsby

Kenny Werner, John Riley, John Goldsby – Sligo Jazz 2013

Questions, Answers, and more stuff you might not need to know.

I receive quite a few questions from bass players, fans, and “others” from around the globe. Here is a sampling of a some recent inquiries.

  1. Am I too old to learn the bass?

  2. How Do I Hold My Bow?

  3. Gig Inquiry Fail

  4. What The Sus?

1. From Vincent the bass player


Hi John, Just wanted to drop you a line to mention how much I am enjoying The Jazz Bass Book. Ive never seen so much useful info gathered in one book. I plan to order Bass Notes real soon. I am 59 years old and returning to the electric bass after about 10 years. Just about to start lessons with a upright /electric player in my area. Hope to make some significant strides in the future. Hope my age isn’t a deterrent. I signed up for your newsletter and just wanted to mention how great your book was and how much Iam enjoying it. Thanks John! 


Hi Vincent,

Thanks for getting in touch. I’m glad you are enjoying the Jazz Bass Book! I’m sure your teacher will be able to guide you in the right direction.

Age is no problem when learning an instrument. The main goal would be to find some other people on your level who you could hook up with and play on a casual basis. Once you have some like-minded fellow players, then you can really start to focus on material.

Good luck and let me know how things work out.


2.  From Eric the bass player


Hi John,

I’ve always enjoyed your playing, and my question has to do with bowing. I think my hand in the bow is similar to yours, and it doesn’t seem to fall into any stereotypes. Do you use a particular bowing grip?


Hi Eric,

I use a version of the Ludwig Streicher grip, which I learned from Michael Moore. Streicher has a series of books on bass technique and there are some videos of him:

Ludwig Streicher

3. From Mr. XYZ, a trumpet player


Hello John Goldsby,

I’m a jazz trumpeter currently living in Brooklyn, NY. I’ve had the pleasure of working with such jazz greats as Art Blakey, Joe Henderson, Mongo Santamaria, Houston Person, Lester Bowie and Steve Turre.

I just found out I’m going to be performing in Pittsburgh, PA. in September with a big band. I’m planning on staying in the state for at least a week afterward doing clinics, workshops and concerts. Do you think it might be possible for me to do a performance with you.  Since I’ll already be in your state there will be no need for you to cover my travel expenses. I’ll just need my hotel taken care of. With the economy the way it is I try to be as flexible with my fee as possible.

I put my website link below for you to visit if you’re not familiar with my work.

Let me know what you think.

Talk with you soon.



Dear Mr. XYZ,

Thanks for getting in touch. I guess you used the email contact form on my website. You might have also noticed from the info on my website that I live in Germany, not Pennsylvania.

Anyway, good luck with your tour.


4. From Gary the bass player


Hi John, I’ve written before.  I have a question about the notes in a F7 sus7. What notes can I use? What’s the sus part? You mentioned the D & G in one of your articles. Are those notes past of a scale? I wouldn’t have associated those 2 notes with a sus7 chord. 


Hi Gary,

Here it is in a nutshell:

There are different ways to think of a sus7 chord. Yes, the scale that fits to that sound is also just like the F7 scale:

F G A Bb C D Eb F

but the voicing on the piano is more like this:


or this

Eb triad / F

If you play those chords on the piano, or just run the arpeggios on the bass, you have these notes (from low to high)

F, C, Eb, G, Bb

That sounds like a sus7 chord, because it’s different than the F7 because of the note Bb. An F7 chord would have the note A (the 3rd) and the Fsus7 has the note Bb (the 4th, or sus 4 as it’s called).

Usually for bass lines on a sus chord, you can play anything that does not emphasize the 3rd. For example, a couple of tunes that uses the sus7 sound are “Passion Dance” by McCoy Tyner and  “Cantaloupe Island” by Herbie Hancock.

If you play a solo, you can use all of the notes of the F7 (Mixolydian) scale:

F G A Bb C D Eb F

or you can combine triads to make the sus sound, like an Eb triad and an F traid:

F A C, Eb G Bb, A C F, G Bb Eb, C F A, Bb Eb, G etc

or you can think of the Cmin7 over the F root and play a C min dorian scale:

C D Eb F G A Bb C / over the F in the bass.

I hope that clears it up for you. Let me know if it was a specific article you were talking about.



John Goldsby Interview

From the nice folks at



John Goldsby – Peter Leitch Duo: ‘Solar’ (1992)

Here’s a ‘new’ old video for you. Peter Leitch and I played at William Peterson College back in 1992 for their Jazz Room concert series. I just ran across this cut, our version of “Solar.”



Let It Snow!

Here’s some more holiday cheer from four members of the WDR Big Band, Koeln.

  • Ludwig Nuss – trombone
  • Karolina Strassmayer – alto saxophone
  • Hans Dekker – drums
  • John Goldsby – bass

“Let It Snow” (Sammy Cahn & Julie Styne, arrangement John Goldsby)
ARD Morgen Magazin, Dec. 17 2013