Rock Bass


Authored by Anthony Vitti


Course Code: OBASS-231

Next semester starts September 23

12 Weeks

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


It's essential for any bass player interested in popular music to have a solid foundation in rock music. From its roots in traditional blues, rock bass is a launching point into many varied music styles: progressive rock, fusion, country, jam band styles, and more. Rock Bass provides the foundation and vocabulary necessary to construct and improvise bass lines in a variety of rock and blues music styles. You'll start by learning the 12-bar blues form and the major and minor pentatonic scales. You'll learn how to affect and contribute to a song rhythmically, harmonically, and melodically through practice lessons covering phrasing, feel and improvisation.

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Throughout the course you'll study Berklee's bass method to Rock, Blues Rock, Delta, Chicago, and Texas blues, as well as more advanced techniques such as playing with odd time signatures, modal bass lines, and the open "jam style." Weekly lessons cover scale exercises, listening, performing transcriptions, and studying the work of legendary players like Geddy Lee, Jack Bruce, Paul McCartney, and Chris Squire. Each week culminates in the creation and recording of your own performance. At the completion of this course, you'll possess the skills to create and improvise your own rock and blues-based bass lines, and have the knowledge and ability to perform with a consistently solid sound, technique and timing.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Recognize different blues forms
  • Incorporate many different scales into your bass lines
  • Understand modal bass lines
  • Have command over different meters/time signatures
  • Understand syncopation
  • Incorporate rhythmic depth in your bass lines
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: Blues Rock 12-Bar Form

  • Why Start with the Blues?
  • Developing a Practice Routine
  • The Major Pentatonic Scale
  • Different Blues Forms
  • Phrasing and Feel: The Beatles
  • Assignment: Blues Bass Line

Lesson 2: Blues Rock with Different Forms

  • Practicing Tools
  • The Minor Pentatonic Scale
  • Alternate Blues Forms
  • Minor Blues
  • Phrasing and Feel: The Police
  • Assignment: 16 Bar Blues Bass Lines

Lesson 3: Delta, Chicago, and Texas Blues

  • Developing Good feel
  • The Mixolydian Scale
  • Different Types of Blues
  • Phrasing and Feel: Koko Taylor
  • Assignment: Texas Style Blues Bass Lines

Lesson 4: The Shuffle

  • Developing Good Time
  • The Blues Scale
  • Types of Blues Shuffles
  • Phrasing and Feel: Robben Ford
  • Assignment: Blues Shuffle Bass Lines

Lesson 5: Traditional Eighth-Note Rock

  • Being a Consistent Player
  • Scale Exercises
  • Straight Eighth Rock Feel
  • Phrasing and Feel: The Tubes
  • Assignment: Eighth Note Rock Bass Lines

Lesson 6: Playing in a Power Trio

  • Developing a Good Sound
  • Variations on Scales
  • Scale Exercises
  • Approaching Playing in a Trio
  • Phrasing and Feel: Cream
  • Assignment: Eighth Note Rock Bass Lines

Lesson 7: Syncopated Bass Lines

  • Choosing the Correct Instrument
  • Variations on Scale Exercises
  • Approaching Syncopated Bass Lines
  • Phrasing and Feel: Dixie Dregs
  • Assignment: Syncopated Bass Lines

Lesson 8: Doubling Bass Lines

  • Choosing The Right Equipment
  • Variations on Scale Exercises
  • Doubling Lines Explained
  • Phrasing and Feel: Boston
  • Assignment: Record Doubled Bass Lines

Lesson 9: The Open "Jam Style"

  • Playing Live
  • Variations on Scale Exercises
  • The "Jam Style"
  • Phrasing and Feel: Robin Trower
  • Assignment: "Jam Style" Bass Lines

Lesson 10: Odd Times

  • Playing Different Styles
  • Variations on Scale Exercises
  • Playing in Odd Meters
  • Phrasing and Feel: Rush
  • Assignment: Odd Meter Bass Line

Lesson 11: Exploring Modal Bass Lines

  • Building Speed and "Chops"
  • The Dorian Scale
  • The Aeolian Scale
  • Variations on Scale Exercises
  • Understanding Modal Bass Lines
  • Phrasing and Feel: Yes
  • Assignment: Modal Bass Line

Lesson 12: Making Your Lines Stand Out

  • Enjoying Playing Bass
  • Blues Scale Variation
  • Scale Exercises
  • Bass Line Improvisation
  • Assignment: Final Exam Songs


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Bass Performance 101 or equivalent knowledge and experience is required. Students should have at least one year of playing experience, ability to play classic rock bass lines on the electric bass, and an understanding of tablature.


  • No textbooks required


  • Students are required to record video while performing with a backing track for their assignments. Options for recording video include:
    • Smartphone
    • Digital camera
    • Webcam (using either video recording software, or the video recording tool that is built into the learning environment)


  • Electric bass


  • Students are required to capture their instrumental performance, as well as monitor audio output. Options include:
    • Input (one required):
      • Instrument connected directly to audio interface (recommended option; alternatively, the microphone options below can be used with amplified instruments)
      • XLR microphone and audio interface
      • USB microphone
      • Built-in computer/mobile device microphone
    • Output (one required):
      • Headphones (recommended option; required if multitracking and/or input monitoring a microphone)
      • Studio monitors and audio interface
      • Built-in or external speakers
  • Instrument cable
  • Note: Depending on your setup, you may also need additional instrument or XLR cables and a microphone stand.
  • Recommended: Printer, if you would like to print out examples used in the course.

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Classes. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Anthony Vitti

Author & Instructor

Anthony Vitti balances a successful performing career with a professorship in the Bass Department at Berklee College of Music, where he has taught since 1988. He got his start in the rock club scene in New York City in the early 80s, sharing the stage with classic rock bands like Twisted Sister, TT Quick, and the Good Rats. He went on to study at Berklee College of Music, graduating in 1986.

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That set the stage for a busy performing career that has included performances on numerous Broadway shows and many television and radio commercials, as well as performances with a wide variety of artists, including Steve Smith, Gregg Bissonette, Carmine Appice, Zoro, Blues Saracino, Toy Caldwell, Barry Goudreau, Abe Laborial Jr. (Paul McCartney), Jamie Haddad, Giovani Hildalgo, Marcus Miller, Chuck Rainey, Sammy Davis, Jr., Liberace, Nell Carter, Bobby Vinton, Diane Carroll, and many other artists.

Today, he performs with Herb Reed and the Original Platters, the Drifters, the Coasters (as seen on the PBS Doo-Wop specials), and Tomo Fujita and Blue Funk. Vitti is the author of numerous bass instructional books and DVDs. Read Less

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Rock Bass can be applied towards the completion of these related programs:


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

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