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bass cleff reading question

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Matthew Bryson, Jun 10, 2005.

  1. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    If I have a standard tuned bass guitar and I want to play a piece of sheet music -

    will the "G" that is the lowest line of the staff (bass clef) *always* be the "G" that is on my fourth string, 3rd fret?

    If I played that same written note (G written on the bottom line) at say the 10th fret on the 3rd string, or the 15th fret of the 4th string (which would make the top line of the staff the "A" that is located at the 14th fret of the 1st string I guess...) would this technically be wrong or is that something that a player is allowed to choose?


    (I'm trying to teach myself to read & write)
  2. seanlava


    Apr 14, 2005
    The low G on the bass (at the third fret on the E string, not the fourth) corresponds to the G on the lowest line of the staff. The G at the 10th fret of the A string corresponds to the top space of the staff. While playing a different octave than what the staff indicates is not "wrong", it does change the character of the bassline as written by the composer.
  3. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    Thank you.

    :confused: That's what I said... 3rd fret on the 4th string (E string)
  4. It would be technically wrong if you're trying to play the notes written, which I assume would be the point. Instead of the G on the lowest line of the staff, you'd be playing the G in the highest space. If you're trying to teach yourself to read, you need to play the notes as they're written.

    But as for being allowed to choose, it does happen every once in a while that when you're *interpreting* a written part, you play a note in an octave higher or lower than what's written. But you do this, if you do it, for musical or technical reasons, and in the consciousness that you're departing from the written part. In some situations, however, you will not have that option, and you must play the part exactly as written, which means you don't get to change octaves.

    Basically, though, you have to understand that if you're going to read and write well, you cannot treat all Gs or As or whatever as equivalent. The octave that a note is in matters. You cannot freely substitute the G in the highest space for the one on the lowest line. They are not the same.

    I'm talking specifically about reading written parts here, not about interpreting them or improvising parts.
  5. jadesmar


    Feb 17, 2003
    Ottawa, ON
    You neglected to mention that this only applies when reading scores or parts transcribed for electric bass, double bass or other instruments that are transcribed an octave higher than they sound.

    When reading parts transcribed for piano or cello etc, the G on the lowest line of the staff corresponds to the G at the 10th fret of the A string, or the open G string.
  6. Of course. I assumed that he would be reading music written for the bass, not piano or cello. If someone hands you a bass part that shows a G on the lowest line of the staff, the G on the 3rd fret of the E string is what you play.
  7. Of course, you're free to choose whatever fingering for that note you prefer. If you were playing a five, you could play it equally well at the eighth fret of the B string.
  8. Tyler_W


    Jun 15, 2005
    Woodbridge, VA

    ^^^^ what he said
  9. The only exception would be choosing WHERE to finger the notes
    Open G string
    5th fret D string
    10th fret A string
    15th fret E string

    (is it just me, or am I seeing a cycle of 5s? ...not 5ths, just 5's)
  10. slybass3000

    slybass3000 Banned

    Nov 5, 2004
    Your were doing fine up to the "A". The note you describe on the staff would be played on the 12 th fret of the A string or 7th on the D and 2nd on the G. The A note you play on the 14th fret would be written in the 4th space ABOVE the staff!
    Of course you're allowed to play the written note(actual pitch) anywhere you want as long you respect the right octave. For almost every note on the bass there is about 3 to 4 places where you can play them except for the lowest and highest notes.
    One last and stupid thing you have to know is that the bass actually sound an octave lower then written.
  11. Thanks for pointing the difference between what the bass note sounds like and what it's written as. I remember trying to tune my bass to to the written notes with a piano player--it didn't work out.

    Scott in Okinawa
  12. And that is one situation where you must learn to hear what the octave sounds like to tune.

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