1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

Best Method for Learning/Improving Reading Standard Notation

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by gtaus, Oct 23, 2010.

  1. gtaus


    May 3, 2007
    I asked this question in another thread, but it seems to have been lost in the 28+ pages of that discussion and I never got a reply. So I will ask the same question here as a new topic in hopes that someone can offer suggestions. My question:

    What method book/lesson plan/software programs would you guys recommend for an adult who can read SN, but not sight read fast enough on bass to make SN truly useful?

    Also, for the true beginner, like the OP, who probably does not know either tab or SN, what program would you recommend they start on for the proper start? Obviously, the OP stated that his music instruction was boring, and I noticed that he never responded to any of the replys on this thread, and then just dropped off the TB forum completely after a few months. I have some nephews that have started to show some interest in guitar/bass, and I would like to be able to recommend a method of instruction that will not bore them to death from the start. And I realize that is a tough order considering learning real guitar/bass has to compete with Guitar Hero and Rock Band these days....

    Anyway, thought I would lead by example first. So I will add sight reading to my daily woodshed workout routine. Again, I can read SN, but I'm just not fast. Any recommendations?
  2. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody Commercial User

    Sep 9, 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Manager of Brand Identity & Development, GHS Strings, Innovation Double Bass Strings, Rocktron
    It sounds silly, but the easiest way to improve your sight-reading skills is to just do it. My old teacher would pull out a page in the Real Book, let me look at it for a minute and then I had to play the melody (it was in treble clef) up to speed right then and there. It started out very frustrating and tough, but with time it got easier and easier.

    In regard to having your nephews learn to play, I'd try to find them a teacher that would incorporate modern music into their lessons of the basics. When I used to teach, we'd go over a couple of scales, and then I'd give them some examples in modern music where it's used. That way, they never had to be bored and try the "We'll never use this!" argument. A couple times, one would come in and say "I heard the major scale in ______ on the radio!" and they'd be excited.
  3. blockopastorius


    Sep 6, 2009
    The thing that improved my sight reading the most was necessity, i was in a steel drum band that gave me notation that i barely knew how to read, but if you sit with it long enough and try not to think about the note names then you'll get better. The key to good sight reading is the coordination between your eyes and your hands. The actual concept of sight reading ends when the note name actually pops into your head. Try working on a new piece every day.
  4. Samsound


    Sep 28, 2010
    To piggyback, find material from a variety of genres and difficulties. Start with the easy stuff (half notes, etc), and spend time each day practicing the reading. Work your way up to the more difficult stuff. And ALWAYS use a metronome or drum loop.
  5. slybass3000

    slybass3000 Banned

    Nov 5, 2004
    The best way from my experience is to learn the basics on your own and then play written music in real time. My reading experience comes from playing in big bands. No choice, the music is moving and you can't stop. Try this approach with any books with cd's.
  6. gtaus


    May 3, 2007
    Thanks for the positive responses, guys. I'll be adding about 10 minutes of concentrated sight reading to my practice routine. Just need to associate those notes on the staff to the notes on the fretboard. I know from playing sax, I got to a point where I didn't even think about the notes on the treble clef staff, I just played them. I suppose that is what I should be shooting for on the bass clef with the bass guitar.
  7. ahbassman


    Dec 8, 2009
    Dallas, Texas
    I played trumpet all the way from 6th grade thru high school. My junior and senior year of high school i joined jazz band. I was a decent sight reader before but man after joining jazz band, it was exponentially better. Learning out of necessity as others who have posted, it definitely works.
  8. Eminentbass


    Jun 7, 2006
    South Africa
    Endorsing Artist: Ashdown Amps and Sandberg Basses.
    Try see if you can locate any trombone or cello method books. They start off easy and get progressively harder. The plus side is that the exercises are often built around chord tones and scales, so you get to recognise those intervals and learn to figure out how to navigate the position changes involved.
  9. gtaus


    May 3, 2007
    I would never have thought of that. Thanks.
  10. Eminentbass


    Jun 7, 2006
    South Africa
    Endorsing Artist: Ashdown Amps and Sandberg Basses.
    Gtaus, I hope you don't mind me thread-jacking for a moment but this seems the most appropriate place to ask this question. It relates to the Rabbath and Simandl double bass methods. Can anyone who is familiar with these methods shed some light on them and how they may be useful for efficiently navigating the fretboard while reading and not having to look at the bass?
  11. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I learned cello from Dotzauer, then taught myself electric bass using my cello method books. Later I learned upright bass from Simandl. But in addition, while I was working through those books, my teachers also had me learn pieces that were appropriate for my level. For instance I have a little book of Bach for the cello, that I played in fourth grade.

    In my view, two things gradually happen together. First, you become more confident of your fingering. Second, the material gets complicated enough that it becomes impossible to look at your fingers while playing.

    Going full circle, there comes a point where you are so good at reading that you can take your eyes off the chart long enough to glance at your hands, at what's going on in the room, other players in the band, and so forth. Truth be told, when playing fretless electric, I just have to look at the fret lines once in a while. This is despite playing non-fretted instruments all my life.
  12. i'm finding that working stuff out takes you so far,but more complex figures kind of hinder that method....i'm thinking a good piano teacher might be the key to take reading to the next level
  13. Eminentbass


    Jun 7, 2006
    South Africa
    Endorsing Artist: Ashdown Amps and Sandberg Basses.
    Thanks. I've got a dotzauer cello book that I've been working through, which has been great for my intervallic reading and wanted to order the Simandl based on what I've read.

    I've been doing some pit work for an amateur theatre company just to get some more experience in a reading environment. While I'm actually coping quite well, the biggest challenge has been reading and trying to focus on the conductor for the fluctuations in tempo on some of the more atempo orchestral numbers. Playing a four string means having to make quite a big jump every now and then if I'm playing in the lower register and a higher register phrase crops up.
  14. LiF


    May 11, 2008
    Melbourne, Australia
    I'll just agree with everyone who says just do it. There is no secret key to mastering it. I recently joined a Big Band. Before this, if you put some music in front of me, I could figure it out given a bit of time. However,joining the swing band, which is all notation, has taken my reading to another level. I will add, that I have been spending about 2 hours a day every day on the material.

    I also feel that my bass playing has jumped another level. It's difficult to explain how. In my other band, a covers band, I am a lot more confident, and the groove is more flowing and natural, and I'm tighter with our drummer. I'm also finding it a lot easier to figure things out by ear. I would recommend learning to read to any bassist wanting to improve.

    BTW, I'm no beginner, I have been playing 20 years.
  15. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    For improving reading skills i believe you have to notate.
    I try to take new players to reading along a Popular Music history tour that starts with basic blues, of the 40s then rock 'n' roll of the 50s, then the acceleration of music through the 60s, to the jazz fusion of the 70s.

    all this music used is a follow on from the previous as it starts with simple concepts to difficult ones and usually takes a good 4 weeks of dedicated work (and fun ) to get through.

    Learning a simple blues teaches you about root, 4th and 5th positions. It can also teach that the lines used are chord tones and how to recognise them on the staff.
    Rock 'n' roll will teach you about more chord tones from the walking bass lines used in it. Also rock 'n' roll has many nice nuances in arrangement as opposed to the 1-1V-V of the blues (such as in the music of Buddy Holly)
    With this basic info and the ability to transcribe it easy enough the confidence of writing develops away from the bass. keys become an understanding as do accidentals, rhythm, etc.
    This develops visualisation of music in the head, because up till now the music has had a formula to follow.
    Learning to write it down, then picking up a bass to play it confirms that you have done it correct (or not) is a classic way to learn.
    It teaches you to reinforce the visual information you have written with the audible information of playing it.
    This process merges into one at some point where you just visualise, write, and play, or hear, write, and play, and of course, read and play or hear and play. There is no point of "i am now reading", it just happens and at some point you realise it.

    By the time you take in the music styles of the 60s, Beatles, Beach Boys, Motown, rock etc. the 70s jazz fusion makes more sense because you understand where it came from.

    Once you have it developing it is always lead you to new and better ideas in music because it is reading and reading is fun as it is educational. After all, all the books you will read do not always have to be serious, and so it is with music, you are allowed to have fun with other concepts, genres, and ideas.:)
  16. u2Fletch


    Oct 17, 2006
    Yuba City, CA
    Sightreading practice can be made much more interesting when you have someone to accompany you or follow along. I use a program called Smartmusic (www.smartmusic.com) this program has an extensive jazz section where you can view the bass transcription (or any other part) for a given song and play along with your own jazz trio or big band. You can adjust the tempo, loop sections etc.

    All levels of skill are represented so you can seriously challenge yourself. When I first started playing I found I could sight read walking lines in any key at only about 60bpm. It was rewarding to go back to different songs and realize I can now sight read just about anything in the 180-200 bpm range.

    The software is subscription based to unlock the entire repertoire of music but is well worth it. Students run around $30 per year.
  17. gtaus


    May 3, 2007
    I saw in the video that the software recognizes if you played the notes correctly and on time. How does the software interface with the electric bass? I am familiar with piano teaching software that is able to grade my playing, but that is because the keyboard has a usb/midi connection. Do you jack the electric bass into some device to interface with the software? Do you mic up your instrument and the software analyzes the notes?

    Anyway, love the concept. Thanks.
  18. onlyclave


    Oct 28, 2005
    Why wouldn't you make your entire practice routine sight reading? There's nothing wrong with spending 2 hours a day just reading because you get better each time you do it.

    You aren't missing out on learning technique or any of that other stuff since you have a task and a definite goal.
  19. gtaus


    May 3, 2007
    Unfortunately, I don't have even 2 hours per day for practice. I just started a new job and am working 13 hour shifts. That has thrown a monkey wrench into all my plans. Also, I'm working out of town half the week and am only home the other half. I'm not complaining, I'm glad to have the job, but a lot of my personal plans and goals are being reexamined.

    I'm not a full time musician like some guys here on the forum, but my work in a Rock 'n Roll cover band has kept me gigging almost every weekend for over 3 years now. The sight reading exercise is for my personal satisfaction more than anything else. I've never had any need to sight read for what we currently play.

    I picked up a software program to drill on the bass clef and mastered that program in less than half an hour. So I don't have any problem recognizing the notes on the staff. Now I'm trying to associate those notes on the staff to the fretboard so I can play bass sheet music without thinking (like when I played sax back in band).

    I picked up a Bass and Drum Styles instruction book that has bass sheet music in standard notation. I hope to play along with the backing tracks as I read the music. Each style has about a 6 minute backing track that goes with the exercise. Also, I recently signed on to a bass guitar instruction program on the internet where you learn songs. The instructor sends out .pdf files of the bass music in SN, and in SN+tab. So if I'm learning a new song, I'll be working on the SN alone first.

    Because of my new job, and limited free time, I have to prioritize my practice time and prepare for our weekend gigs. At least the Styles instruction book and the program I signed up for on the internet both provide me with some sight reading exercises that I can apply directly to my bass playing in the cover band.

    Honestly, before I got this job, I would practice 2 hours per day. Now, however, my goal is try to get in 30 minutes per day. So far, that has been too much of a challenge, especially when I'm out of town working the 13 hour shifts.

    Anyway, thanks for the suggestion. I'll keep it in mind for the future.
  20. Scot

    Scot Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
    Work on reading rhythms. This is a good book for studying rhythms:


    You don't need your bass to practice reading rhythms. Just set your metronome to an appropriate tempo and play the rhythms by clapping your hands. Having a system for tapping your foot is highly recommended and you should get a teacher who has a good system for teaching reading to help. Books and other material are a requirement but you should get feedback from someone qualified in this area to make sure you're on the right track.

    Reading rhythms and reading pitches are different skill sets that should be addressed separately with the goal to learn to integrate them. When selecting material to practice reading pitches look for something that is very static rhythmically such as all quarter notes. This will ensure that the focus is only on the pitches. Divide and conquer is the theme here.

    Learning theory is also important in sight reading as part of the process of reading pitches is identifying the relationships between the pitches such as triads, arps, chords, etc. Ear training and fingerboard knowledge also come in to play. Ideally, you should be able to look at a passage, see in your mind where on the fingerboard you can play it and hear the music in head.

    Whatever you do, be sure to make it fun. It is fun.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.