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Dictionary of Bass Grooves by Sean Malone. Published November, 1998 by Hal Leonard. 72 pages. CD included.

As Mr. Malone states in his introduction, "the purpose of this book is to introduce you to a wide variety of musical styles and the role of the bass." Thirty-four different styles grouped into nine larger genres like Rock, Jazz, Funk, and Afro-Caribbean are explored from the bassist's point-of-view.

Before I begin to describe some of the shortcomings of this book/CD, I'd like to praise it for what it does right. The musical examples and the notation are excellent. Every style with the exception of the R&B Shuffle is accurately represented with its signature sound, chord progressions when applicable, and sometimes even clichés. The notation is uncluttered and includes chord voicings and tempo. The performances on the CD are absolutely stellar with drum meister Sean Reinert (who played with Mr. Malone in Cynic and other projects) and other guests.

There are some things, however that could have been better. The descriptions of each style are loose and very broad introductions, and that's all. Mr. Malone lists for every style five representative bass players, when perhaps for some styles ten or fifteen names would have been better. There are no listings of typical or representative songs or albums in the style, which is unfortunate for those using the book without a teacher familiar in the styles to make "for further listening" recommendations. Sure, someone could search for recordings based on a player's name, but the point of a reference work is to help remove some of that effort from the reader. For most of the descriptions only a half page is dedicated, perhaps two to five pages would begin to provide the level of depth necessary to really understand the styles.

The description of the styles generally have only a sentence or two about the historical context of the style, and a paragraph or two about the harmonic content. Naturally, some styles require more treatment than others, but the consistent sparseness of the descriptions is disappointing.

As to the styles represented, the book covers a broad swath of modern music, and while it wouldn't be possible to cover every sub-genre of all types of music, the book performs admirably in this regard. My only complaint is that the R&B Shuffle has no shuffle parts for the bass player since the bass line, as written, is almost entirely quarter-notes. Shuffle happens on the second note of an eighth-note pair, and this example does nothing to help the reader to learn to shuffle. Even the Jazz section does little to cover the topic of swing, which is a huge part of the Jazz repertoire. Swing notation is, however, used in the Reggae style example, but there's no mention of how to play swing or shuffle.

Even though the book is intended to be from the bassist's point-of-view, descriptions of the styles and their harmonic content as representative from the other players' point of view would also be useful. Bass players, more than anyone else in the band, have to know what the entire band is doing, and this bit of wisdom escapes the book.

Performance notes on each of the pieces would have been also helpful. Something along the lines of "Be careful at measure 10, the time change is tricky..." would go a long way, especially for students not familiar with some of the more esoteric styles.

Back to the CD. As good as the CD is, its major shortcoming is that there's no count-in at the beginning of each track. The reader hits play and hears a song, there's no way to begin playing immediately; the reader will always start a measure or two behind.

In short, the book is a welcome addition to the library of bass instruction books. It performs its stated purpose well, but there are some small things missing that are absolutely necessary (like the track count-in), and larger things missing that would have made the book more definitive, rather than just introductory.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Bottom Line:   Great Idea.  Could be better