Beginning With Jazz

Some great places to start are great Jazz songs that have repeating bass lines - lines that are much closer to things you’d find in pop or rock.
This way you aren’t going to be asked to improvise 100% of the time, as that is where the real difficulty lies.

Some suggestions:

All Blues - Miles Davis
Song For My Father - Horace Silver
Cold Duck Time - Eddie Harris
Blue Bossa - Joe Henderson
Canteloupe Island - Herbie Hancock (not Headhunters)
Watermelon Man - Herbie Hancock (not Headhunters)
Killer Joe (the bass line behind the melody only, after the melody it gets very improvised) - Benny Golson
Footprints - Wayne Shorter
Maiden Voyage - Herbie Hancock

Check out that list.
The bass lines are all pretty repetitive and obvious, and hopefully it allows you a window in to the genre.

After that, blues tunes.
Only blues.
If you can get the blues changes and start to walk on blues changes, then you can more easily get into the longer (more jazz standard) 32 bar tunes.

Great blues tunes to learn:

Blue Monk - Thelonius Monk
Tenor Madness - Sonny Rollins
Freddie Freeloader - Miles Davis
Bag’s Groove - Milt Jackson
Meditation - Kenny Barron
Bessie’s Blues - John Coltrane

There are 7 zillion more blues tunes. Find the ones you like and learn them. It’ll usually be a variation of a simple 12 bar blues form.

Good luck!


I started this thread here to keep this list (above) intact.

While I agree that jazz is a difficult genre, it is as accessible and begin-able as any other genre. Particularly if you’re a fan of jazz.
I think we play and learn best the music we enjoy and listen to.

The ingredients that are needed to start playing jazz tunes are the same as most pop tunes, and so long as you start with a song list that keeps things contained, semi-simple and repetitive (just like you would for beginners in rock/pop/funk/etc) than it works out and starts a player off in almost all the same ways.

Granted - the knowledge to be able to sit in on a gig or read down complex charts (or play any of the later Wayne Shorter material, solo on Giant Steps, all that crazy stuff) is super intense, but - just like with other genres - the most popular and accessible tunes are usually reachable and realistically playable with some sweat and elbow grease.

I see the learning curve as very similar to most other genres - we begin by learning and repeating obvious lines and then - over time - we understand more of the deeper, harmonic structure and improvisation can become part of how we approach our playing.
In Jazz the focus is on improvisation, sure, but having gone through extensive jazz education, there are ways to approach that even from a beginning level.

I’ve had several students over the years that have jazz as a jumping off point, and the beginning of their musical application.

The blues!
It all starts with the blues.


Yeah, man! :100:


At jazz guitar teacher Matt Warnok’s website, he teaches jazz standards in the following order from easiest to most challenging. Could be a good starting place for ordering the jazz standards for learning bass.

  1. Watermelon Man - Herbie Hancock
  2. Cantaloupe Island - Herbie Hancock
  3. Freddie Freeloader - Miles Davis
  4. So What - Miles Davis
  5. A Foggy Day - George Gershwin (composer), Ira Gershwin (lyrics)
  6. Summertime from Porgy & Bess - George Gershwin
  7. Blue Bossa - Kenny Dorham
  8. If I Should Loose You - Ralph Rainger (composer), Leo Robin (lyrics)
  9. Pent Up House - Sonny Rollins
  10. Fly Me to the Moon - Bart Howard
  11. Song for My Father - Horace Silver
  12. Autumn Leaves - based on “Les Feuilles mortes” - Joseph Kosma
  13. Yesterdays - Wes Montgomery
  14. The Nearness of You - Hoagy Carmichael
  15. Misty - Erroll Garner
  16. Black Orpheus - Luis Bonfa
  17. How High the Moon - Morgan Lewis (composer), Nancy Hamilton (lyrics)
  18. In a Sentimental Mood - Duke Ellington
  19. Georgia on My Mind - Hoagy Carmichael, Stuart Gorrell
  20. The Girl from Ipanema - Antônio Carlos Jobim (composer), Vinícius de Moraes (Portuguese lyrics), Norman Gimbel (English lyrics)
  21. All of Me - Gerald Marks, Seymour Simons
  22. Take the A Train - Billy Strayhorn
  23. Night and Day - Cole Porter
  24. How Insensitive - Antônio Carlos Jobim
  25. Bye Bye Blackbird - Jerome H. Remick
  26. Take Five - Paul Desmond
  27. Alone Together - Arthur Schwartz (composer), Howard Dietz (lyrics)
  28. Beautiful Love - Wayne King, Victor Young and Egbert Van Alstyne (composers), Haven Gillespie (lyrics)
  29. Caravan - Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington (composers)
  30. Solar - Chuck Wayne (as performed by Miles Davis)
  31. On Green Dolphin Street - Bronisław Kaper (composer), Ned Washington (lyrics)
  32. Four on Six - Wes Montgomery
  33. My Funny Valentine from Babes in Arms - Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart
  34. Days of Wine and Roses - Henry Mancini (composer), Johnny Mercer (lyrics)
  35. West Coast Blues - as performed by Wes Montgomery
  36. There Will Never Be Another You - Harry Warren (composer) and Mack Gordon (lyrics)
  37. Round Midnight - Thelonious Monk (composer), Bernie Hanighen (lyrics)
  38. Body and Soul - Johnny Green (composer), Edward Heyman (lyrics)
  39. There Is No Greater Love - Isham Jones (composer), Marty Symes (lyrics)
  40. Spain - Chick Corea
  41. Giant Steps - John Coltrane
  42. Someday My Prince Will Come from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - Frank Churchill (composer), Larry Morey (lyrics)
  43. Wave (Vou Te Contar) - Antônio Carlos Jobim
  44. All the Things You Are - Oscar Hammerstein (composer), Jerome Kern (lyrics)
  45. I Fall in Love Too Easily - Jule Styne (composer), Sammy Cahn (lyrics)
  46. Stella by Starlight - Victor Young
  47. Bright Size Life - Pat Metheny (feat. Jaco Pastorius)
  48. Have You Met Miss Jones? from I’d Rather Be Right - Richard Rodgers (composer), Lorenz Hart (lyric)

Oh man - I absolutely love this list!
Thanks so much for the share.
It’s pretty much exactly what @Billy92 was asking for.
Much appreciated!


Amazing list! Love it.