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do you really have to learn how to read music to be a good bassist?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by tanman636, Feb 22, 2009.


  1. Generally, as dave says, knowing more is always a good thing. But in practical terms, spending a significant chunk of time on playing another instrument might or might not work out for you specifically. For example, if you have limited practice time available, expending a good chunk of it on learning to play another instrument might mean you can do less work on your primary instrument. For another example--not saying anything about you or anyone else personally--but if you play your second instrument badly, it's not necessarily going to help you on your primary one.

    OTOH, to the extent that another instrument gives you another and fuller perspective on music, on how to play, hear, feel, and understand things, then it could be a very good thing. I've played both guitar and bass for many years and feel that's been extremely useful for me, though I think guitar has helped my bass playing more than the other way around.

    As for your specific question, congas can be kind of hard on the hands if you really get into it. You might prefer to save your hands for the bass.

    In all honesty, I feel that understanding and being able to hear what's going on with other instruments may be more important for a bassist than actually learning how to play them. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to be able to play a dozen instruments fluently ... but I don't actually need to. For example, i can't play a drumset worth a dang and never could, but I've learned a bit about how drummers play and put a beat together, and that's been quite helpful.

    As ever, YMMV.
     
    Old P Bass Guy likes this.
  2. Old P Bass Guy

    Old P Bass Guy

    Nov 26, 2017
    Arizona
    Sorry about straying from the thread. I wasnt sure about the best place to introduce the question. If you point me in the right direction I will post the question wherever I can get the most information.
     
  3. dave64o

    dave64o Talkbass Top 10 all time lowest talent/gear ratio! Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 15, 2000
    Southern NJ
    Wasn't trying to make a big deal out of it. Just pointing it out for future reference. ;)

    There's rarely a reason to not start a new thread if your post isn't on topic. Maybe the General Instruction forum might be a good place to start a thread with your question. Possibly Miscellaneous? But it was a good question, so may as well ask it. No doubt you'll get lots of opinions. :D
     
    Old P Bass Guy likes this.
  4. Old P Bass Guy

    Old P Bass Guy

    Nov 26, 2017
    Arizona
    Thanks Dave. I didn't take it as a negative at all. I appreciate your input.
     
    dave64o likes this.
  5. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Might help you rhythmically, dunno about bass playing. Learning guitar would help more. Even keyboard.
     
    Old P Bass Guy likes this.
  6. Old P Bass Guy

    Old P Bass Guy

    Nov 26, 2017
    Arizona
    Thanks Russell, I think I have a pretty good plan in place for learning the bass. Just want to improve my rhythm abilities.
     
  7. RicPlaya

    RicPlaya

    Apr 22, 2003
    The Mitten
    I wish I could read music

    I'm just a hack that plays covers for fun with buddies on the weekends as a hobby. Too busy with career and family for much anything else or to take the time to learn theory and how to read music. The little time I have I need to practice the tunes we are working on. So I guess it depends on what your goals are. If I had a chance to do it all over again I would take the time to learn how to read music. I feel it would open more up for me as far a where to go on the neck and allow me to understand more theory versus being in the constraints of the tunes I am playing as composed by the original artist.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2018
    Old P Bass Guy likes this.
  8. Algo

    Algo

    Dec 3, 2008
    Santiago, Chile
    All the accounts I've seen i.e the pro players in youtube like Scott, Mark or Adam are unanimous in saying yes, you need to know how to read to 'make it'.

    Which is different from being "merely" a good bass player. So no, not necessarily but it'd be advisable.
     
  9. If you can play anything by ear and never forget a bass line, you don't need to read music.
    Otherwise, you do need to read music.
     
  10. Do you really have to use capitalization to be a good writer?
     
    Passinwind likes this.
  11. Old P Bass Guy

    Old P Bass Guy

    Nov 26, 2017
    Arizona
    So, your sayin you need to be Rainman to avoide learning notation?
     
  12. Well, learning another instrument, even a "rhythmic" one, isn't necessarily going to improve your rhythmic abilities. If you don't learn to hear, feel, and replicate rhythm at a more useful level, you won't play the congas well, and if you don't play the congas well, it's hard to see how that would improve your bass playing much. And if you do improve your ability to hear, feel, and replicate rhythm, you don't need to "mediate" that through the congas or any other instrument; you can apply it directly to the bass.

    I'm not saying don't do it; it could be fun and maybe even helpful. But it won't guarantee any rhythmic improvement. You still have to do the work of applying rhythmic know-how to the bass.
     
  13. Or Glen Campbell
     
    Old P Bass Guy likes this.
  14. Old P Bass Guy

    Old P Bass Guy

    Nov 26, 2017
    Arizona
    EXACTLY!!
     
  15. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Could be. Hard to say, but trying won't hurt.
     
  16. RicPlaya

    RicPlaya

    Apr 22, 2003
    The Mitten


    I started off as a drummer in my youth and started playing bass in my mid 20's. Being a drummer was essential to having any success at the bass. Knowing timing and groove has allowed me to pick up the instrument quickly. I didn't start off playing drums well and had natural timing. It took years of playing and practicing to develop. That being said, someone with the best knowledge of music theory; will not be able to play anything if they do not have timing and rhythm. It all depends on where you are lacking in your playing ability. If it's timing, work on it by learning drum patterns and grooving to music on the congas will help. If it's theory, start transcribing bass lines and studying theory. It can only help.
     
    Old P Bass Guy likes this.
  17. What is the definition, of a good bass player, are we using? Make it in a weekend warrior pub band even
    a really good one? Maybe not. Session player, on-call reserve touring bassist? Yep :|
     
    IamGroot likes this.
  18. Groove Master

    Groove Master

    Apr 22, 2011
    Montreal
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    It won't hurt to know how to read that is for sure!!
     
  19. If you don’t read music, certain opportunities exist for you: playing alone, jamming with friends, playing in a garage or bar band, studio work with your band, sub work if enough prep time.

    If you do read music, in addition to the above opportunities, you will be eligible for a few more: playing in theatre bands, playing union gigs, playing in big bands, teaching at a community college, subbing for variety bands on short notice, studio work as a hired gun, theme park and cruise ship jobs, high profile church gigs.

    Reading and sightreading are just additional tools in your musical toolbox. Each tool can potentially open new doors.
     
    DJ Bebop, JimmyM and Old P Bass Guy like this.
  20. saabfender

    saabfender Banned

    Jan 10, 2018
    Indianapolis
    Yes. No. Now what?
     

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