Blog Post #7 - The Monk Montgomery Electric Bass Method

A significant portion of my research is currently focused on the practise of Montgomery's playing techniques, harmonic concepts, note choices, etc. The Monk Montgomery Electric Bass Method is a useful tool in this process. Not only does Montgomery go into some detail about his history with, and approach to the bass guitar but there is a substantial amount of musical notation covering scale practise, II V I lines, transcriptions and bass duets. 

The purpose of this blog post is not to go into detail about the book itself. That is covered elsewhere on the website for those who are interested. It is more to discuss how I use the book as part of my own practise regime. Ideally, I would like all of my practise time to be devoted to the material in this book but my life as a professional musician and teacher does not allow this to be the case. Often, I will have to devote time to learning material for shows or for particular student's needs. However, I am able to devote a substantial amount of time to the material presented in this book. 

I have owned the book for a couple of years but it was very difficult to locate. As soon as I became aware of it, I knew that it would be an integral part of my research. I was fortunate enough to find a copy on the internet for a price of around £90. I am pleased that I bought this copy as I haven't seen another one since. My approach to practising material in the book in the past has been somewhat haphazard. Since the beginning of 2022, I have taken a much more thorough path through the book. 

Although I will certainly practise the scale exercises in the manner suggested, I have done many of these in the past so decided to begin my study of the material with the II V I lines of which there are over 100. I am approaching the half way point of these exercises and expect this section to take at least another month when done alongside my other practise commitments. Each II V I line is played 4 times per key (all 12 keys are played). I find this practise process intellectually and physically demanding. Intellectually, because each line needs to be transposed into the different keys and played in an efficient manner on the instrument. Physically, because the right hand thumb is being used on the bass guitar and there are many 'closed keys' on the double bass. Once the first few keys have been played, the line becomes easier to transpose and the playing becomes almost meditative. 

As a musician and a teacher, I have found that people approach practise in a wide variety of ways. When working on a piece or with reading and improvisation, I do these with complete quiet in the room. When practising exercises which are more repetitive, I find it helps me to watch lectures or hear talking. Rather than distracting me, I find that this keeps my brain alert and engaged with the process. Although I know very little about Montgomery's practise regime, he had stated that he would practise double bass through the night and in the darkness. Out of consideration for my neighbours, this would not be an option at present. 

I am slowly integrating the material from the book into my teaching of jazz on the bass guitar. Particularly the II V I lines which I am currently studying. Even in the early stages of the II V I lines, the material is demanding as there is a substantial use of the diminished and whole tone scales as well as tritone substitutions and chromatic enclosures. This means that I can only use the material with advanced students. The person who I have been teaching it to so far has been very receptive to the material and is disappointed that the book is unavailable. The lack of availability of the material is unfortunate in my opinion. As Montgomery is the first bass guitarist of significance, I believe that his approach to the instrument is of great benefit to the student. The notated materials are incredibly thorough and having being a student of the bass guitar for over 20 years, I have found this book to be one of the most valuable sources of information. 

It is my hope that one day, the book will be rereleased. In the meantime, I plan to adapt some of the concepts and make PDF's available for free on the Educational Material page on this website.