Preservation Hall Lessons – New Orleans Upright Bass Technique

Upright Bass Technique

GRADE: 9-12
GENRE: Traditional Jazz
TOPIC: Upright Bass
DISCIPLINE: Harmonizing Instruments


In this lesson, students will be introduced to New Orleans techniques for performing on the Upright Bass. Students will demonstrate how to incorporate the functions and techniques into their performance. 



  • Demonstrate body posture and hand positioning techniques. 
  • Apply techniques for warming up on the Upright Bass.
  • Demonstrate proper functions and techniques for playing New Orleans music. 



National Core Arts Standards

Music – Harmonizing Instruments, Anchor Standard 5 Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation.
Music – Harmonizing Instruments, Anchor Standard 6 Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.



Students should have knowledge of an instrument and an understanding of the lines and spaces on the musical staff. Teachers should review the lesson resources, media, and websites prior to launching the lesson.





  1. Tell students that in order to develop a full tone on the Upright Bass they must adopt proper instrument techniques. The “Getting Ready” techniques are body and hand positioning.


  1. Display slide 3 on the presentation, Upright Bass Technique, to review the “Getting Ready” procedures. Demonstrate and define posture and hand positioning for students. Posture is the proper way to stand with your instrument. Feet flat and firmly on the floor. Lean your Upright Bass into your body. Align the nut of the Upright Bass by adjusting the endpin. Hand positioning is the placement of your hands and fingers on the Upright Bass. The right hand should comfortably reach the end of the fingerboard. Place the left hand so all low notes are accessible. 



  1. Seat students in a circle with the Instructor in the center. Tell students they are going to practice tuning the Upright Bass. Demonstrate for students how to use a tuner or how to tune with the help of a Piano. Tune the E String (first string from the right), then the A String, followed by the D String, and lastly the G String. 


  1. Review the anatomy of the Upright Bass with students while adjusting the endpin. Display the “Bass Anatomy” slide on page 4 of the presentation, Upright Bass Technique.


  1. Once the students have their Upright Bass ready, review the “Getting Ready” procedures: posture and hand position. Allow time for students to review the techniques and get into position.


  1. Tell students they are now ready to make a sound. Model and explain to students how to warm up. Warm-up with a few major and minor scales. The Scales are musical notes arranged in a specific order. Display slide 5 of the presentation, Upright Bass Technique, to hear an example of Bass & Scales.


  1. After students are warmed up, introduce techniques unique to New Orleans music. New Orleans musicians are known for implementing the following instrument functions in New Orleans music: 
    • 2-Beat Feel, 4-Beat Feel, Slap Feel: A 2-Beat Feel is emphasizing beats 1 and 3. A 4-Beat Feel is a walking pattern in quarter notes. Display slide 6 of the presentation, Upright Bass Technique, to hear examples of 2-Beat Feel, 4-Beat Feel, and Slap Feel in the video Rhythm & The Role of the Bass
    • Walking Bass: Walking each beat of the measure with the quarter or eighth notes.
    • Improvisation: The process of more than one instrument playing a solo. Display slide 7 of the presentation, Upright Bass Technique, to hear how Bass Improvisation is used in New Orleans Traditional Jazz.
    • Ensemble: When the band performs together. Display slide 8 of the presentation, Upright Bass Technique, to learn about Playing Bass with an Ensemble.


  1. Have students practice the functions and techniques of New Orleans Traditional Jazz. Allow students time to practice at home and rehearse at school. 



  1. The teacher should assess students’ knowledge of Upright Bass techniques by demonstrating posture and hand positioning. Observe and provide feedback as students display how to warm up and apply New Orleans-style music functions and techniques.



Used with permission. Portions of this work are based on the National Core Arts Standards Copyright © 2015 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards/All Rights Reserved – Rights Administered by SEADAE.

Louis Ford, Curriculum Developer and Music Artist Liaison
JoDee Scissors, Content Producer



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