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do you have to read music to be a good bassist

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by haythamehab, Feb 2, 2005.

  1. haythamehab


    Dec 10, 2004
    do you have to read music to be a good bassist or tabs and your ear will do it...
  2. Victor Wooten can't read music. There you have it.
  3. buddahbass


    Dec 22, 2004
    Pittsburgh, PA
    it depends on what you want to do. i got by for 10 years with just my ear. but after i learned to read, all kinds of oppertunities came up that would not have other wise. i
    wouldn't say you "have" to, but why not become the best player you can!
  4. proc83


    Jan 18, 2005
    Whaa? Really? Victor Wooten can't read music? :eyebrow:
  5. i like tictacs

    i like tictacs

    Feb 2, 2004
    Victor Wooten can read music just fine...
  6. FzzyNoNoseChimp


    Mar 13, 2004
    Well let's just say both have their own advantages, but to really excel, you should be good at both listening and improv, along with being able to read music. Heck most of the stuff I play in jazz is improved, but a good portion of the time, I'm reading the chart to tell me what progression it is so I know what notes to improv, yet there are other times where you just read off the page. You can be successful with only one, but learn your basics in both and you'll be far better off!
  7. Yep there are great players that can't read music ie: Billy sheehan / Aston barret etc..
    I'm sure Victor can read ? Anyway you can get by without reading but I tell you that if you can read as well as play by ear then you are two times better Kapesh
  8. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Umm...what? If you go to Vic's site, he gives notated examples of the lessons he gives. Ones that he notated HIMSELF. And he also transcribed the notation in the book he has with his songs in it.

    Personally, I'd say yes. You don't have to be able to read to be able to speak, but I've never seen a good public speaker who can't read.
  9. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    it depends what you mean by a good bassist... :)

    obviously a bassist who can't read wouldn't be considered good if he was attempting to play sessions and work with a chart and couldn't do it...

    but there are many other bass playing situations where a good ear will be far more useful than the ability to read notation...

    so, my answer is: you don't necessarily have to read music to be a good bassist... (although it can hardly hurt)
  10. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    Why would you say such a thing??? Vic is known as an excellent reader . . .


    Jan 25, 2005
    Gilbert, AZ
    By definition, a session bassist HAS to read, and Victor is called for a variety of gigs.

    Matter of fact, I saw him on Studio Jams (a BET program where they take various musicians and throw them together to record 2-3 songs), and he had sheet music in front of him.
  12. I do no think you NEED to know how to read music, but overall it is a great talent to have! It has come in handy quite a few times for me. :D
  13. FunkySpoo

    FunkySpoo Supporting Member

    Feb 6, 2002
    Like it's been said above. It depends on what you want to do.
    If you want to be a session player then yes you must read and read very well. Time is money and in a studio time is alot of money. No one is going to pay for you to figure it out on the clock.

    On the other hand if you in a band and you doing originals then you don't have to know squat. There are plenty of examples of bassist out there who don't know a thing about music but play their songs very well and are making records, touring and playing to huge crowds.

    So what cha wanna do?
  14. jadesmar


    Feb 17, 2003
    Ottawa, ON
    A good bass player is one that is able look at their own limitations on the instrument and build a practice schedule to eliminate these limitations.

    To be a good bassist, you should not limit yourself by deciding not to read music.
  15. PlayTheBass

    PlayTheBass Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2004
    Carmichael, CA
    We shouldn't give the impression that both have their advantages in the sense that it's a trade-off, like you're somehow losing something if you learn to read. Bottom line is reading is not necessary to be good or even great, but reading will add to your overall musicianship. And if you want to be the best you can, then I think it's pretty much a must.

    Look at Jaco: he didn't read to start with, but look how fluent he became at songwriting and communicating with other musicians once he did learn to read!

    As jadesmar said above, why limit yourself?
  16. Ahh the good old days eh geoffkhan brings back memories :D
  17. jvbjr


    Jan 8, 2005
    This thread would be a lot less interesting if you could not read English.
  18. People have made good music without being able to read music, certainly. That's a given. However, you should remember there are absolutely NO situations in which knowing how to read, in and of itself, will hurt you, and plenty of situations in which it will help. There is no downside to learning how to read music.

    How much you need to learn how to read depends on what you want to accomplish. But I'm a little confused about what, exactly, that is. In another thread, you said you wanted to be a "great" bassist. To me, if you want to be great, you want to be as good as you possibly can, and that means learning as much as you can, among other things. Yet you also said you want to accomplish this in a short time, and in this thread you appear to want validation for the choice *not* to learn--that is, you seem to want us to say, oh don't bother with that silly note-reading stuff.

    Do you see how the two parts of this picture don't quite go together?

    If you really want to be a great bassist, you won't ask if it's OK not to learn something. You'll soak up whatever you can, wherever you can. And you won't insist that it happen in a short time--you'll take as long as you need to to get to your goal.

    Sorry if this sounds harsh; I don't mean to be. But you know, sometimes no shortcut is available and the right answer isn't necessarily the one you want to hear.

    Again, no, you don't absolutely have to read to be a good bassist. But I can't imagine why someone who aspired to be a "great" bassist wouldn't want to at least try to learn to read.
  19. that means nothing. first off, most people i meet that arent good sight readers just tell people they cant read. that doesnt mean they dont know how notation works. you can also write music without being able to sight read. they are two different things.
  20. But the initial question wasn't about being a fast *sight* reader, it was about being able to read music period, at any speed. Or at least that's how it seemed to me. The poster is just starting out and hasn't had time to learn much yet, so it seems clear that he's asking about being able to read music *at all*.

    From what Govithoy said, it's clear that Vic can in fact read and write music, regardless of how fast a sight reader he may or may not be.
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