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!  

do you have to read music to be a good bassist

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

  1. Rav


    Dec 29, 2004
    Aurora, IL
    Personally I don't see how you could learn theory without accidentally learning to read bass clef.

    And if you don't understand theory then your not a very good bass player.

  2. DaBassman


    Mar 25, 2002
    Oneonta, NY
    McCartney can't read......he did ok for himself :)
  3. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    That just deserved to be said again.
  4. PlayTheBass

    PlayTheBass Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2004
    Carmichael, CA
    +1 And again. That's what I was trying to say, but didn't nail as well as Richard.
  5. Disagreed.

    Some people don't learn theory and pick up some technique and play from the heart.

    In my opinion it is good to learn, however I know none of it.
  6. If you want to be able to communicate to other musicians, it is probably a good thing if you can speak the language.

    If you want to be a studio musician, reading music, and reading it fluently is a MUST!

    I was formally trained as a drummer...so I can read rhythms easily, but I struggle with notes....what I have found, however, is like everything else...the more you do, the better you become.

    I don't know for sure, but from what I can gather, the BEST instrument for learning to read music is piano. Anyone agree or disagree?

    MAKE yourself learn to read music...MAKE yourself learn basic music theory.

    In the end, you will be happy that you did.
  7. Rav


    Dec 29, 2004
    Aurora, IL

    I'm having a little bit of a problem comprehending this. Are you saying that when you play a note on the bass you don't even know what note it was?

    If you know what notes your playing and where they are on the fret then all you need to do to read music is memorize the bass clef. Memorizing the bass clef takes all of about 3 days with a computer and a flashcard program and a little effort to read at a decent speed.

    Do you know how to play chords/arpegios on a bass? If so you can quickly reverse engineer this into intervals that corelate to their theoretical counterparts major 3rds/minor 3rds etc. If you really know how to play bass you could easily learn the theory to what you do in 2-3 weeks.

    Why would you want to not understand it? I don't get this artistic logic that anything that explains the art is no longer an art and thus not worth knowing perspective.

    If you met an artist who painted and asked them what color they were using and they said "I don't know colors, I just paint; the color names are all paint theory why would I need to know that" Wouldn't you think they were a little strange?

    "But this is red right" .. "red, whats that?" .. "this color your using right here between the green and blue" .. "woah dude thats all theory man you only need to know that if your a commercial artist"

    There are only 12 notes in the chormatic scale your bass is designed around. Do yourself a favor and stop forcing yourself not to learn.

  8. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    And, after a while, everything they play ends up sounding the same.

    Learning theory doesn't stop you playing from the heart. Everything you play starts from something you form in your head anyway, otherwise it's meaningless.

    The initial thought might be "It sounded good last time when I played this bit by thumbing the third fret, second string from the top, popping the note up two strings and one fret then hammer on up a fret" and it will sound great because you can transmit that thought to your fingers fast enough to also think "and play it funky"

    Or it might be "IV chord... use the maj7 rather than the minor seven to hammer on to the octave in this slap line..." and it will sound great because you can transmit that thought to your fingers fast enough to also think "and play it funky"

    Both come up with the same result... a funky lick, but the second approach doesn't involve trial and error (you can use it when jamming without looking like a dick)
  9. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    again, I think it depends on the setting... theory is just an aid to organisation and a way of explaining pre-existing musical elements... i.e. a major 7th chord is a collection of frequencies that would exist regardless of whether you knew the name of it...

    if you had a fantastic ear, and had your own internal & subconscious way of organising musical material, it's entirely possible you could be a good & interesting musician and never know music theory at all...

    from a different perspective, someone could function as a perfectly good musician in an orchestra simply by learning how to read and interpret notation, without knowing anything about the music theory behind the music.. so that's another example of theory not being essential to being 'good'

    these are not excuses for laziness... i've put in my reading and theory hours... but I try to remember a very important part of being a musician is to be open-minded to different ideas to your own
  10. haythamehab


    Dec 10, 2004

    I have been learning it for sometime dude....just chill...I'm gonna be a great bassist lol :)But anyway thanks to all of you , I don't mind whether u r harsh or not if it hepls...again thank u all for being so helpful...Wish me luck on my joureny to master the greatest instrument in the world the bass guitar :hyper: regrads to all of you
  11. Kevjmyers


    Dec 10, 2004
    Boulder. CO
    Nicely said. Besides learning to read music is good exercise for your brain. It keeps you mentally sharp and you will avoid diseases like Alzheimers.

    Does anybody know if Geddy or Alex know how to read? Of all the hundreds of interviews I've heard or read the topic never comes up. I'm fairly certain Geddy does but I've never been certain.
  12. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I do not believe you have to know how to read in order to be a great bass player.

    Surprised nobody mentioned Flea. I believe he can read now, but up until at least One Hot Minute, I know he couldn't. He even says so in his instructional video. Someone also mentioned Jaco who couldn't read until after he was already a great player.

    I disagree that learning to read can't possibly hurt. If someone already knows how to play well, then I agree that it will only add to what they can do and know. It makes no sense to say that knowing the instrument better could hurt in any way, BUT - when bassists go to school to learn to read before learning to play I believe the following is at stake (not always of course, but at times):

    1. People can become incredibly bored or frustrated with the whole thing and give it up altoghether.

    2. People can get stuck playing in the boxes and become very stale players.

    3. People can caught up in the science of playing as opposed to the art of playing and become boring playing machines. I've seen lots of bassists who can play circles around me technically - but suck (IMO) none the less becasue every note they play in completely devoid of any feel and they couldn't create a sweet melody on their own if their life depended on it.

    Music has always been more of an art to me than a science - that's why I always felt the reading was secondary, feel primary - but that's just where I'm coming from. I would say if you want to be a great player be concerned with playing the bass, if you want to earn money,\ be concerned with learning to read - if you want to do it all, then do it all.
  13. jadesmar


    Feb 17, 2003
    Ottawa, ON
    I will concede point 1 but, a spending a few months with http://icking-music-archive.org/scores/bach/cello_suites/vc100712.pdf

    Should cure 2 and 3.
  14. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
  15. dingwallfanatic


    Jan 11, 2005
    I don't read well at all but mind myself playing a lot with people who do. They say they envy my ear and I definitely am jealous of their abilities. I think that in order to become a better musician, I need to become a better reader. It just makes sense to me.On that note, can anyone recommend a good theory/reading program?
  16. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    for reading, it's just a case of sitting down with some sheet music and just painfully grinding it out, and gradually building up speed... remember watching kids reading words, running their finger along the line and pausing over every word.. well that's exactly how you start reading music too... it's not pretty or fulfilling at first but you just have to do it

    the Bach cello suites that were linked to in PDF format earlier in this thread by jadesmar are good for drilling your note recognition in the 1st position... although they're often not the kinds of bass lines you would be likely to play

    the other tried and tested 'learning to read' book for bass players is 'Standing In The Shadows Of Motown', which has lots of transcriptions of James Jamerson's greatest lines, ranging from straightforward 8th-note riffs to his later and more difficult to read and play 16th-note chromatic stuff...
  17. dingwallfanatic


    Jan 11, 2005
    Thanks- I'll try that.
  18. Kevjmyers


    Dec 10, 2004
    Boulder. CO
    That is an outstanding book!
  19. Chad Michael

    Chad Michael Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2001
    Pacific Northwest USA
    When I was in high school jazz band, reading music was a part of the every day routine, and necessary in learning new songs. However, when we performed at a school concert and it was time for my bass solo, I was encouraged to use my ear and play from the heart...

    Later on in life, when I was trying to learn some new scales (such as Dorian and Locrian modes etc.) I had to read in order to learn.

    In playing covers, reading music had become completely unnecessary - your ear is your most valuable asset. Since I have not read music in such a long time, it would be a struggle. (let's see, Good Boys Do Fine Always, All Cows Eat Grass.. right?) It would take a good 15 seconds to identify the note, then find it on the fretboard.

    Reading music is not like riding a bike if you ask me. You never forget how to ride a bike, but fluently playing by reading music is a “use it or lose it” kind of skill IMO.

    So, reading music:

    Was it necessary to be a good bassist in jazz band? Yes.
    Was it necessary when I played my solo in jazz band? No.
    Is it necessary now that I am an ‘in demand, respected local bassist’ learning and playing covers? No.
    Will it be necessary in my musical future? Most likely.

    It depends on the situation.
  20. The Beast

    The Beast

    Jul 19, 2004
    Evil Town
    Learn to Read Music.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Mar 4, 2021

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.