10 Jazz Songs For Bass Players

This is part of my Bass Guitar Syllabus post where I recommend songs in different genres to listen to (and then ultimately try and figure out by ear). Listening to good music is a form of practice and there is a lifetime of great bass playing to be learnt from these songs!

Make sure to check out the other genres.

1.Fly Me To The Moon

In the key of C Major/A Natural Minor, this one is a common jazz standard using fairly simple chords and with a basic melody.


2. Watermelon Man

Based on a blues, Watermelon Man is a simple 16 bar tune to improvise groovy bass lines on. The 1/8ths are straight rather than swung (which you find in a lot of jazz).


3. Blue Bossa

This song features a modulation (change of key) typical of jazz standards plus a very cool bossa nova feel.

4. Autumn Leaves

A beautiful melody (which I recommend you learn along with the other tunes here) with chords that go from major to relative minor.

5. Killer Joe

Another simple song that uses more interesting non major scale harmony. You should also check out Quincy Jones' version, with the great Ray Brown on bass.

6. Rhythm Changes

Rhythm Changes refer to a 32 bar form based on George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm". Many jazz standards use this form. It's a little like knowing a 12 Bar Blues - it's a must!

7. Mr. PC

This is an easy minor blues. Make sure you know the basic 12 Bar form (learn that here). Jazz blues progressions take that form and add more chords to it - often with the addition of ii V I chord progressions as well as other reharmonisation techniques. 

8. The Chicken

Once you grasp the chord progression and learn a few shapes, this chord progression is easy to learn. It's played a lot on jam sessions and you can learn how to play it here.


9. So What

Iconic modal jazz standard written by the pioneering Miles Davis. This one uses the Dorian mode. Here's a lesson breaking the form and harmony down.


10. The Girl From Ipanema

A Brazilian classic with simple chord changes and root - 5 bass movement.

To learn more about what to learn and why head to Bass Guitar Syllabus

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