Bass, levels 2/3

Instructor(s): Cary Black

We’ll focus on the role of the bass in traditional and progressive bluegrass and old-time music, and also look into how the bass functions in related roots music styles including folk, country, blues, and swing. We’ll spend some time on technique, including how to produce a powerful and accurate sound as effortlessly as possible; how to increase our available range of notes, and how to use them to create a steady, supportive, and dynamic pulse in various tempos and meters. Timekeeping will be a prime topic. 

We’ll find multiple ways to create stylistically appropriate, spontaneous bass parts by using bass runs, leading tones, passing tones, rhythmic accents, and syncopation. We’ll investigate the basics of walking and soloing, starting with composed lines and moving on to ideas about building a vocabulary for improvising. We’ll practice listening and jamming skills, including how to anticipate and hear chord progressions; picking up on and giving audible and visual cues; and how to navigate count offs, intros, tags, and endings. 

The class is structured primarily for learning by ear. For those who read bass clef notation (or would like to learn), there will be some written materials available. Expect lots of in-class playing time with gentle, positive coaching to help you incorporate new concepts and techniques into your playing. 

Cary Black


Basic working knowledge of note names and locations, and some ability to play roots and fifths in various keys while chords are being called. Open-minded curiosity, a desire to increase your musical knowledge and skills, and willingness to make mistakes. 


Your bass, of course! Other items could include note-taking materials, recorder, tuner, and music stand.

About Cary Black

Cary Black is a bassist, vocalist, producer, and teacher living in Sebastopol, California. Described by Alan Senauke in Sing Out! magazine as “a musician’s musician,” Cary is at home in a wide variety of musical settings. 
He’s been a member of the Kathy Kallick Band since 2013.   He worked with Laurie Lewis and Grant Street for three years, playing and singing bass on the 1994 IBMA song of the year Who Will Watch the Home Place. He’s also toured with Laurie and Kathy in support of their Songs of Vern and Ray album.

Other performance and recording credits include work with Howard Alden, Laurindo Almeida, Paul Anastasio, Ernestine Anderson, Alan Bibey and Grasstowne, The Boys of the Lough, Larry Campbell, Petula Clark, Mike Dowling, Nokie Edwards (Ventures), Bob Franke, Katie Glassman, Mary Gauthier, Nina Gerber, Sylvia Herold, Dan Hicks, Rob Ickes, The Harry James Orchestra, Ed Johnson, The Kingston Trio, Keith Little, Rose Maddox, Marley’s Ghost, Carol McComb, John Miller, Alan Munde, Mark Murphy, Scott Nygaard, Mollie O’Brien, Mark O’Connor, Peter Ostroushko, Dean Parks, Van Dyke Parks, John Reischman, Del Rey, Raul Reynoso, Peter Rowan, Charles Sawtelle, Paul Shelasky, Paul Siebel, Cyd Smith, Kay Starr, Sally Van Meter, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Linda Waterfall, and Glen Yarbrough. 

As a teacher, Cary is well known for his patient, encouraging, intuitive, and coherent teaching methods. He enjoys accommodating a variety of learning styles while maintaining a relaxed, efficient, and fun class atmosphere.  He was an adjunct faculty member in Music Theory, Ear Training, and Improvisation at The Evergreen State College from 1994 to 2000. He has taught at music camps throughout the West, including the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, California Bluegrass Association Grass Valley Camp, California Coast Music Camp, Colorado Roots Music Camp, Monroe Mandolin Camp, Walker Creek Music Camp, Centrum Swing Workshop, Greater Yellowstone Music Camp, Bluegrass at the Beach, B.C. Bluegrass Workshop, and Wintergrass Academy.