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Eyes or Ears?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by iamchipsmith, Jul 1, 2007.

  1. iamchipsmith


    Dec 15, 2006
    Ok I'm your typical 17 year old self taught bassist who gets by on mostly tabs. Bass is my first instrument and I've only been playing around a year and a half. I can play some pretty challenging stuff and have a decent amount of theory under my belt. Unlike most other 17 year olds I know how much I'm lacking in many areas. I want to become a more well rounded bassist. I'd like to move away from tabs. So here's my main question should I work on improving my ear so I can figure songs out for myself or learn to read standard notation?

    I plan on looking for a teacher in the fall when I go to college as well. If anyone has any other tips on improving myself or any free or cheap resources you think would be helpful to me please let me hear them. Thanks
  2. TheBassBetween


    Jun 25, 2005
    I'd say learn to read standard notation first. I mean, since you're playing what you're reading, it helps in your ear training as well, and for a beginning bassist, I think it's more important to be able to read music than to be able to figure out a song for yourself. Now, after you're able to read notation, THEN I'd suggest you train your ear a bit.

    But, that's not to say you can't do them both at the same time.
  3. iamchipsmith


    Dec 15, 2006
    I'm sorta curious when being able to read really comes in handy. I can't imagine many situations when it would be neccessary, at least for the types of things that I can imagine doing. I can see when it'd helpful for others though. Can you describe some situations when it'd be helpful. Thanks
  4. Both both both, says me. If you wanted to be an actor you wouldn't choose either reading plays or going to movies and the theater, you'd do both. Same deal in music, I think- each one helps the other. Reading helps theory make sense faster and opens up tons of resources for getting into new types of music, but you'll never get all the nuances from sheet music and it won't help when things turn weird onstage.
    For Iamchipsmith, even if right now you're playing strictly your own songs or stuff from favorite bands you can pick up by ear, you'll probably want to branch out eventually and reading will help you get the feel for bebop/fusion/prog/whatever. I'm old (54) and lots of guys my age own the blues box, but can't play anything else and can't figure out how to start ("Jeff Beck's notes aren't on my guitar.") Theory and reading open up worlds you will probably want to be in someday, plus you become the "cool smart guy" on the scene and impress a better class of girl.
  5. spindizzy


    Apr 12, 2004
    You should work hard to do both. A substantial amount of reading is in order but ear training is particularly useful even as it relates to reading standard notation. Allow for both now and you will not be sorry later. Tabs, at least IMHO, are not quite as useful.

  6. ryco


    Apr 24, 2005
    If you're going to college to join a jazz or classical situation I'd be working on getting my reading chops up.

    If you're planning on getting into a working rock situation then I'd concentrate, for now, on getting my ears together first.

    In college you're going to be getting a lot of both reading and ear training, so start working on both now. And get your keyboard chops together as well - it's used A LOT in theory and ear training tests.

  7. Eli M.

    Eli M. Life's like a movie, write your own ending

    Jul 24, 2004
    New York, NY
    I have a story for you. The other day I got a call from an acquaintance (who happens to also post here) and he asked me to fill in for him at a rehearsal for a musical. It was a new show, the next day, and I had never heard the score. I showed up, they handed me the bass part, and I sight-read the whole show 99% perfectly with the rest of the band. I am now known as a good sight reader who can fill in on the fly.

    By not learning standard notation, you only limit yourself. And really, standard notation is very easy to learn. You'll move beyond being a good bassist and become a good musician.

    To answer the original question, work on both at the same time. Both skills are valuable.
  8. HaVIC5


    Aug 22, 2003
    Brooklyn, NYC
    Well, if you honestly had no interest in doing reading gigs or things of that nature, and wanted to focus on the more rock and roll side of music, there really wouldn't be a pressing need on how to read. But like you said, you want to become a more well rounded bassist, and being well-rounded definitely means reading a little bit. Like others have said, I would recommend definitely to work on both rather than just one, because both are extremely important in their own way in making you a well-rounded musician.
  9. Scot


    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA

    If you transcribe music from recordings you are, in fact working on your ear training AND reading. Transcribing is huge for both. Ear training, sight reading and music theory are complimentary and should be studied simultaneously to reach your goal of becoming a well-rounded musician (which is an excellent decision in my book - pun intended :)).
  10. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Both, need the ear when no music is available or improving, but both are necessary to be a musician and not just a player. Learning to read is important because it is the language music is written in and spoken in. How can you say you know a "decent amount of theory" if you can't read music. I would say you're unaware of how much you don't know. Then people who don't read or actually learn theory spend way more time trying recognize common basic theory from listening, then figure out a way to make notes and remember it for future use. For example if you read music you come across a lesson or article, you reading, then you're trying it out, and working on making music with it. If you don't read music your trying to see if you can guess at what the article was saying, or looking for someone who does read to explain it to you, or just miss out on the new idea to try out.

    So decision learn to read music and expand the world of music available to you. Or you can reinvent the wheel finding your own way to do the same thing, or just be a Xerox machine of other peoples lines and riffs.
  11. iamchipsmith


    Dec 15, 2006
    Thanks for all the help guys. I'd like to make it clear that I'm not going to college for music, I didn't mean to mislead anyone. However I plan on spending as much time and energy as possible being involved in music. I'm unsure how seriously i want to take music at this point and am unsure whether I want a career in it. I also want to clarify that when I said I know a decent amount of theory I was speaking relative to my current band situation. In this case I know more than enough. However I'm well aware of how much I don't know. I'm often amazed and inspired by things I see other bassists or other musicians do and hope that one day in the long future I can be like them. Posting this thread was one step I was taking to further myself in that direction.

    Well having said all that I think I will pursue both with maybe more time spent on my ears. I think that having a better ear will lead to making playing more fun which will lead to me playing and practicing more which should then lead me to becoming a better reader. Anymore discussion or tips are more than welcomed. I'm still looking for any programs, books, etc I could use to help with either my reading or ears. Thanks again for all the help guys.
  12. tswd


    Jun 20, 2007
    It really depends on what you want to do. If you're not thinking of becoming a professional studio musician, don't worry about standard notation. Remember: Paul McCartney can't read music. That should tell you something.

    I live in Austin, TX and it's amazing to me how many people who are trying to make it in music can't read it. I was once asked if I could read music before an audition, which I was pleasantly surprised by. When I got there, they handed me a chord chart of the songs. That's their definition of "reading music". Outside of cover bands, the bass parts usually won't be written for you, anyway. It's your job as the bass player to write the bass lines.

    You're better off learning to play by ear. Not so much so that you can play what you hear on the radio, but so you can play what's in your head. You want to hear it and then have it come out your instrument. That's more important.

    I learned standard notation in high school and am glad I know it. I can't improvise well, so I need to write things down. For me, being able to write out my bass lines helps a lot. It helps me remember them if I go on vacation for a while. But that's me. You may not need to do that.

    One piece of software that I found quite useful is Guitar Pro. It's a tab editing program, but has standard notation over the tab. It's helped me a lot.
  13. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    I've been doing everything by ear for close to 30 years, and have found it impossible to learn to read music.

    Learn to read music, go out and play music, and the rest will take care of itself.
  14. gjooro


    Mar 27, 2006
    First: get a teacher
    it will solve all your problems
  15. The very idea that you are in any way obliged to choose between the two is absurd.
  16. iamchipsmith


    Dec 15, 2006
    I'm not so much choosing as I am deciding which to invest more in to. Although I see your point. Again I plan on finding a teacher in the fall, until that point I am unable to.
  17. Reading cant make up for lack of ear, but a good ear can make up for lack of reading. Both is always preferable.
  18. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA

    Sounds like you are confusing reading and sightreading. Many talk about reading being hard or an unnessary don't know those are two different skills. Reading is being able to read music, write music, and will a little time play some written music. Sightreading is ability to look at a piece of music and play it musically pretty much the first time. That is a big money making skill for studio and touring work. It does take time to learn to be a good sightreader. Requires a lot of reading on a daily basis, and some people sightreading comes easier than others.

    Learning to read makes a lot of great music available to you and is just a matter of deciding to do it. In the beginning you'll have spend ao few extra seconds figuring notes or rhythms out whenever you look at something. but doing it regularly it will become second nature with little effort.
  19. iamchipsmith


    Dec 15, 2006
    True, I do plan on being able to read to some extent no matter what. Sight reading was probably I more accurate term for what I was talking about. Thanks. I think I'll try to learn the basics of reading while putting a lot of my time in to ear training. Does anyone know of any ear training websites?
  20. Ear. Reading will make music too much a visual form.

    Not saying don't do both - do both but 65% ear 35% reading.
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