Reading help needed.
I have just joined the forum and am after some reading help. To give you some back ground, I have been a pro trumpet player for about 30 years and have been starting to get into bass a bit over the last couple of years. I have decided to concentrate more on bass than trumpet now. My question is ... when sight-reading charts, how do you decide where to play it on the bass. Do you choose according to key signature or range of notes. At the moment I have tried to position my left hand according to where I work the scales of each key. For instance I will start in 5th position when in the key of Bb major. I always try to play with minimal shifting and I often find that when shifting positions that I have problems with correct fingering. :hmm:
Any help on this matter would be greatly appreciated.
I am playing on a 5 string bass if that makes any difference.
I have a degree in trumpet and another in French horn. Lots of bass players came from other instruments.
The question you are asking is the one point that makes reading a little difficult on guitar-type instruments. You can play the same note in several places, and in the end, that's a cool thing.
For just reading the chart, I always try to quickly scope out the upper and lower notes and head to that part of the neck. If there isn't an obvious range situation, then start near the middle of the neck.
You'll get some advice here about the tone quality of the note being different depending on where you place it on the neck, and that's true, but IMHO a secondary consideration to the easy of getting to the next note.
Time and experience will help, and knowing the neck as well as you possibly can is the major tool.
Good luck. One thing that helps in this process is playing things you know in different parts of the neck and in different registers.
This started making more sense to me when I learend teh 4 + 2 fingering position taught by Todd Johnson and that was apparently taught to him by Garry Willis.
I will probably mangle this explanation, but basically 4 notes -- one per finger and notes outside that range fall above and below that range to return immediately to the 4 finger home position -- where the root key falls sometimes under the 2 finger sometimes under the 4 finger -- -- in this way related keys are very close and also have their roots under a 2 or 4 finger.
That said once I 'absorbed' the basics of that system, it also became obvious in certain songs that certain phrases were just easier, sometimes much easier, to play by shifting out of that 'home' position.
That said there is less need for shifting with a 5 string. I play a 5 string.
It takes a while for it to make sense. Find a better explanation than what I've provided.
Much of the time
But not always,
Root under my 2nd finger for major keys,
Root under my index finger for minor keys.
If you're playing your scales in one position you're not preparing yourself for situations where you need to shift and shifting will not become a familiar movement. You can play your scales and arpeggios on one string or two strings.
I used chromatics and the fact the bass was tuned to 4ths.
The key is to practice in key, so learn to play in all keys....i know it sounds more work than nessesary, but it all makes sense in the future.
On the trumpet we have three valve position and combinations directly under our fingers so easy to find, on the bass we have only ever four in closed positions or five if using an open position at any one time
Add the number of frets your instrument has and the problem of getting around it is really about dexterity and thats where working in keys helps organise your fingers to deal with most of what you will encounter.
Many ways to "fret map" out your fingerings for any one piece depending on it's complexity.
The four notes under your fingers is because you have four finger available to use in any of the positions you settle on using one finger per fret system.
But because the bass is tuned in 4ths you will always find the next chromatic note either one fret to the left or to the right, above or below the position you are in....so you can mover chromatically across the strings rather than up just the one, or in any combination of them to have any finger lead your playing.
As a rule it will be the syncopation that will catch you out rather than the notes, bass is more rhythmically complex rather than melodically complex, so get some transcription and scores and just take it slow till you get it "under your fingers" then your musical instincts for what you learned on trumpet will kick in and reinforce your new bass skills.
No reason you cannot be a fluent on bass as you were on trumpet....so long as you get it under your fingers. :)
Reading ahead is your friend. I am always about 2-4 bars ahead with my eyes while reading. That way I know what position I am going to go to before I get there.
Shifting positions fluently is pretty essential - and yes, reading ahead really helps with this.
I generally try to play stuff in the lowest possible positions for most of the time unless there are serious difficulties for fingering. This is mainly due to the differences in tone mentioned in post #2. For example, an F played on 3rd fret of the D string will sound clearer and more distinct (lighter string, longer vibrating length) than the same note at 8th fret on the A string and the difference is even more if you play it 13th fret on the E string.
Thanks for your help all. :D
To the OP - there are no short cuts or quick fixes for sight reading. You need to know the positions on the bass and how/when to move from one position to another. This just takes lots of practice. Where you play a note depends on where you are coming from, where you are going to and what type of tone you are looking for.
I prefer the Simandl method, which will teach you everything you need to know about positions, but there are many other good method books available. A really good teacher will help too.
I split the fingerboard into 2 areas. Fret 1 to 6 then 7 to 12. I avoid using open notes (apart from open E obviously) unless I need them for a position shift or a particular phrase.
In C, the hand's home position is over frets 2, 3, 4, 5. You can then stretch or pivot down to the 1st fret for the F or any accidentals, the same goes for pivot or stretching up to fret 6.
Believe it or not this position is sufficient for 90% of charts I read on gigs. Most basic lines occupy the lower notes so spend some time really nailing that 1st area. Practice random notes in C, then add accidentals, then try the other keys. You can jump up when you have to for other notes on the G string just to keep you in the game while you master the 2nd position.
Once you feel OK in that 1st position, repeat the whole process in the 2nd area. The home position is frets 7, 8, 9, 10 with stretching or pivoting up to the 12th fret to cover the F# and G and down to fret 6 for various other accidentals.
In each of these positions I kind of think of scale patterns to give me a quick visual point of reference and reminder of the accidentals in that position. For example, I would visualise a neck diagram of the notes in the E major scale in that 1st position so that every time I see a D, the pattern dictates it to be a D#. Obviously, you should be aware of the cycles of 4ths and 5ths and know your notes in a key without ANY need for this pattern. I simply use it for developing muscle memory and as a kind of failsafe grid.
I find this use of 2 areas simplifies the whole 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc. position system.
I'm just finalising my video/book course called Simple Steps To Sight Reading so this is all fresh in my mind.
I tend to play as much as possible in position 1. This gives me the deeper bass tones. As my teacher has said, playing too far up the neck and you are in guitar territory. I would add that no matter where you play, keep in mind that no matter where you start with you root note, I strongly believe that it is very important to be able to reach any interval (3rd, 5th, etc) without looking. I have found this makes playing easier.
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