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are you supposed to read sheet music an octave down?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by jonathan_matos5, Mar 8, 2008.

  1. :confused:

    i think i remember hearing that somewhere but it was before i picked up bass:oops:

    anyway let me put the question in context. i can already read bass clef music but, is sheet music for bass written up an octave to bring it onto the stave?:confused:
  2. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    Yes, it is supposed to be. The bass sounds an octave lower than written. Or you can look at it as written an octave higher than played.

    Six of one, half dozen of the other...
  3. Yes, definitely. Bass is a so-called transposing instrument, meaning what you read on the staff is not exactly what you play. So play an octave lower than you read.
  4. isnt it same for the geetar too?
  5. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
  6. rfclef


    Jan 19, 2007
    Woodburn, Oregon
    Unless you are playing a part written for bass... then it has already been acoounted for... play as written
  7. rfclef, the fact is however, that bass parts ARE often written an octave higher than played. this for example is the standard in the Real Books, which about 98% of jazz players like myself use every day.
  8. Illbay


    Jan 15, 2008
    Houston, Texas
    I never thought of this as "confusing" before I came here.

    Look, it doesn't matter because everything's relative. It ONLY matters to the composer and/or arranger.

    YOU just read the notes as you're taught to read them, and don't worry about the register in which they sound. Honestly, it is irrelevant in the practice of reading your part.

    Some instruments such as the Clarinet (Bb) and the Alto Saxophone (Eb) are also "transposing instruments" but in a completely different key! When the Alto Saxophonist plays a "middle C" according to what is written in his part, it sounds as an Eb a major sixth lower, etc.

    But the sax never thinks about it; it's the arranger's job.

    Don't worry about it.
  9. Illbay


    Jan 15, 2008
    Houston, Texas
    No, they SOUND an octave lower than WRITTEN. There's a difference.

    You as the bassist don't worry about this typically. FWIW the term "Double Bass" came from the fact that in the classical symphony the Cellos and Basses have the same part, but of course since the bass SOUNDS an octave lower, it "doubles" the cello (which is considered the primary bass instrument in the strings).

    See, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and those guys already had the concept of an "octaver" down centuries before the discovery of electronics!
  10. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Bass, guitar, and I believe voice are all transposed instruments. Not like Bb or Eb brass or winds they are transposed an octave. The staff relates to the piano so the open E sound on your bass is an octave lower than the written E of the staff. This is done to make sightreading easier. If they didn't do this you would be read lots of ledger lines below the staff most the time.

    Now sometimes they will write a high bass part and you will see it written like a low part, but they put 8 va on the chart to indicate it is to be played an octave higher. Again this is to avoid having to write and read a whole lot of ledger lines.

    I have some bass books that change to treble clef as notes get higher in pitch. So a bass part will start in bass clef and once it goes up above the staff it will change to treble clef so all the notes are back down in the staff, but you're playing up the neck above the 12th fret. So one of many reasons its good to learn to read both treble and bass clef.

    FYI - You might see references like C1 or E2 that is telling you a note and which octave of the piano the sound is.
  11. thanks guys i haven't ever read sheet music for bass guitar and wanted to step up my practice and play my trombone etudes on bass too. this gives me insight as to where to play on the neck:D
  12. von buck

    von buck

    Feb 22, 2008
    wolcott ct.
    Hey, lets have some real fun and throw in a tenor clef

  13. oh god i hate tenor clef lets not go there:rollno:
  14. Coincidentally, just yesterday I was reading some bass sheet music written without that octave shift. I'm not a fast reader at the best of times, but it definitely is harder to read in all those low ledger lines. Yuck.
  15. How do you know what to play when you're using one of those songbooks written for guitar, piano, & voice?
  16. BackwaterBass


    Feb 18, 2008
    If its written for bass specifically it will probably be written as it should be played. If you're reading a reduced score, where every part is on one staff, then it will be transposed an octave. Now just imagine if you were playing something like an Eb saxophone and you had to play everything a major 6th lower than written in the reduced score. Thats why they write the parts out separately for each instrument in a full score. An octave down isn't that hard to deal with, but they still generally transpose it for you when its written for your specific instrument.
  18. BackwaterBass


    Feb 18, 2008
    Its not such a big deal on bass I guess, you can transpose an octave on the fly pretty easily, and you could have some pretty messy scores with too many ledger lines unless you were to mark most of it 8va.

    I am curious now though, what do Real Books for saxophone and horns and things show? Is it written as its played or as it sounds? In my college music theory class I was taught that reduced scores are written in one key for the sake of putting everything on one staff so the conductor doesn't have to read a whole page at a time, but the scores for the individual instruments are transposed so that the reader doesn't have to do it while playing.
  19. Don't worry about it! Just play the open string E as the first ledger line below the bass clef.
    I played trumpet (B flat) a zillion years ago, and transposing while sight reading was good mental gymnastics, but I'm happy to not have to do it anymore.
    If you're learning to read music and want to have fun, go get some Bach and learn the organ bass lines - when I was first learning, that's what Jack Bruce (Cream; and a formally trained bassist with the Scottish Nat'l Symphony) advised.
  20. Backwater, I am not so strong on other instruments. But I believe a Real Book written for a Bb horn would show the key of Bb where we would play C. (In other words, one whole note lower, but it would sound correct when we play in C.) Wikipedia has a good article on transposing instruments: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transposing_instruments

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