Study Piece – ‘Donna lee’ (L#75)

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Click below to download the backing track for this lesson
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Donna Lee was recorded by legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius in 1978. It was at this point that the perceived role of the bass guitar was changed forever! And, when I first heard this groundbreaking recording my life was also changed forever!

Because the electric bass guitar is such a new instrument, as yet there aren’t really any true ‘study pieces’ within the ‘bass repertoire’. For this reason I love to get my students to use be-bop heads as study pieces. Because they were originally composed for horns such as saxophone and trumpet they can be challenging on so many different levels. Fingering position, speed, technical fluidity and dynamics all need to be taken into account.

Within this tutorial I discuss why we, as bass players need to use ‘study pieces’ within our practice time, and how they can have a huge affect on your overall technical ability and fluidity upon the bass.

Now grab your bass and get in the shed! ;)

Want the tab and notation for this lesson?
  • Jahmar Sparkes

    Once again Scott, tremendious lesson and something I was looking institute more, although with standards instead of classic pieces. Your tone is incredible. Kudos!!!

  • jim andrews

    love it thanks .

  • Goran Delac

    Scott you rule!!!! :)

  • Paul

    Awesome website man!

  • Emeo

    Man I like this piece… Have been wanting to learn this piece for quite some time. Now with your system of approach I believe it’ll work out for me.

  • Lionel Morrell

    Pure genius…thanks for resurrecting my interest in bass playing….cheers..

  • Jorge

    Great piece, thank you very much.

  • Johan

    Thanks Scott. You’re awesome!

  • Neil C.

    Great playing Scott, you’ve really got it swinging. Great lesson too…

  • Pete

    very nice lesson…are you going to include the entire transcription for the “bebop tune”…Donna Lee!

  • Giorgio

    Great as usual…

  • Tino

    Gracias Maestro. Un gusto recibir sus clases. Saludo

  • Miles Davis

    I believe I wrote this tune..

  • Patrik

    Thank you Scott great lesson !

  • Olegus

    Scott, thank you very much for your work!

    You are truly unique musician and teacher.

    Really good ideas and positive makes you a fairy in my eyes.

    I was spellbounded too much, when I heard that you fly only one lesson to another country.
    I wanted to do so in respect of those perfect bass players:

    Your approach, Scott, a little close (to my delight!) to approach these “unrecognized geniuses.”

    It would be very interesting if you ever devote a couple of minutes, to shed light on techniques that use these talented musicians.

    Thank you for the wonderful lessons, humor and sincere “atmosphere” that you create.

  • Anthony

    As a donator from some time ago, let me first encourage everyone to chip in to Scott’s amazing bass school.

    I have done this with Bach cello pieces on the bass, which improved my playing immensely. For me the best part is that by breaking things down, I can practice playing with my eyes closed as well. I don’t know why this has been important for me, but doing so has improved my feel for the fretboard substantially.

    I think it can also help for people like myself who need to look active on the stage. Concentrating without concentrating. Or something like that.

    And so:

    Thanks, Scott!

  • Fred

    Aww man, Great lesson Scott. At first it sounded kinda difficult, but once u broke it down for us i understood it a lot better… Thanx! Fred….

  • Carl

    scott, you`re the best…thanx for all !!!

  • http://none daz

    is this the Jaco or Charlie Parker version (or are they identical ?)

  • Hugo

    Thanks Scott. This is where I want to be: Jaco! Will you be doing a lesson on Continium as well?

  • Paolo

    great lesson! anyone know the name of the song at the beginning and end of these videos? i’m assuming the playing is done by Scott? awesome sound.

  • Eugene

    Scott! A Bass Player’s bass player – Magical !!!

  • Ben

    Great lesson….God bless you Scott

  • Ido

    Hey Scott,
    Great Lesson!!
    Nailed Donna Lee going at 180 bpm and rising.
    Got any more recommendations of some cool study pieces?

    • scott

      Teen Town lol! ;)))… I’m having a Jaco month ;)

  • 456sixstringbass

    wow man,i just don’t know where to begin,but love this stuff,i’ll keep trying

  • Arjan

    Hey Scott, I am very, very, very curious as to how you get that nice rich, deep tone. The real Jaco-tone! Is te secret in your bass, strings, amp, besides the technique ofcourse?

    • scott

      Mmmm… not sure man… I just set everything pretty much flat… it’s an active bass too – but I do back off the tone a little. Glad you like it man! Scott ;)

  • rommel

    Thanks Scott i like this piece, and i want to learn the whole thing

  • felipe

    this is the best site I’ve ever seen in my life!!
    but my computer for some reason cant open the PDF file /:
    i still love this site and i am really greatful for your teachings (:

    • scott

      Hey Felipe… try opening it through a different browser… firefox/chrome/safari etc… sometimes that does the trick! ;))) Scott

  • Ryan

    Hi Scott. This piece has really inspired me thanks. Did you start recording the bass directly? It seems that I can hear it clearer and I think it was a good move to play on the regular ole’ 4 banger for simplicity’s sake. Are these observations correct?

  • Tak

    Thanks for this great lesson, Scott. I do need the tab and notation. I cannot find it on your website. Please let me know where to find and print it. Thanks so much.

  • Richard Washington

    Fantastic work man I have been trying to get lessons to do certain things I hear and you are the first one to finally give me wht i’VE BEEN TRYING TO GET. Will be sending money soon. thanks agan. Dok

  • Jordan B. Lombardo


    I always looked at Teen Town as a big “study piece”.. Like every bass player can learn from it. I’m gonna try Donna Lee after I learn Teen Town the rest of the way.

  • Tim E

    In line with the previous lesson, can you recommend some good slap study pieces?

  • Kuba states, that Miles wrote it, although “authorship is often credited to saxophonist Charlie Parker”.


  • erwin

    Great stuff here Scott !

  • lallasman

    Awesome man ….tks!!

  • ross

    Hi Scott.
    In the video you mentioned that as well as tab/notation on your website you provide details on the exact fingering you use etc. I found the notation but nothing on correct fingering?

  • Josh

    Why, Scott, does everyone give such undue credit to Jaco for ‘revolutionizing the role of bass’. He wrote great basslines, don’t get me wrong (my tune up song is Portrait of Tracy), but many came before him that pioneered the style who are given little credit. To list as few:

    -Ralphe Armstrong: auditioned for Weather Report before Jaco, ’71?, using a fretless P bass, and got the initial job because he played fretless and Jaco then copied him. Went on to play for Mahavishnu Orch. and Jean luc Ponty.

    -Percy Jones: started Brand X in late 1973, played mostly a P bass and early fretless Wal basses, used a very distinctive bass style utilizing harmonics, double and triple stop slides, and fretless technique.

    -Jeff Berlin: recorded alongside many early progressive rock and fusion bands, recorded with Patrick Moraz and Bill Bruford in the 1975-79 period. He often shows much distaste toward Jaco fans due to their constant comparison of his melodic playing style to Pastorius, developed before Jaco even became popular.

    I know it’s not a hipster contest when accrediting bassists, but it’s gone too far with Jaco fans.

  • Pedro

    Great lesson! nice approach to bebop. I would enjoy watching you improvise to this tune!
    can’t avoid asking what happened to the end of the tune???? i expected to hear you play it throughl! especially because the last few phrases are chromatically beautiful!

  • Julz

    Hi scott,

    I got the same question as pedro : where is the end of the theme? Why did you choice not to write it in the part?
    Another question : i’ve got the feeling that you don’t use the same fingers as written on the tab…
    Can you tell us why?

    thx !

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