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fretboard vs theory?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Samie, Dec 27, 2000.

  1. Samie


    Dec 13, 2000
    Madrid, Spain
    How important to become a great bass player is knowing insideout every note on the fretboard? Should this be a priority knowing that the key of A has 3 sharps?

    has anyone reached "greatness" without knowing what note the played at each moment?
  2. Samie


    Dec 13, 2000
    Madrid, Spain
    Sorry typo it should read... should this be a priority OVER knowing that the key of A has 3 sharps?
  3. muggsy


    Dec 14, 2000
    Alexandria, VA
    A good ear can compensate for anything. In the new Stevie Ray Vaughan box set, there's an excerpt from an interview where he admitted that he couldn't read music, then also said that after he'd written a song, he'd have to ask someone else what key it was in. He just knew what sounded good to him, and after years and years of practice, he got to the point where he could express his musical ideas without thinking about what notes he was playing or trying to anticipate where he was going next. If you're not Stevie (and who is?), learning music theory and knowing the fretboard are great ways to develop your understanding of what sounds good on a particular song, and why.
  4. Yes, it's possible to become a great musician without understanding theory or being able to read. Possible, but unlikely. If you look at the number of truly gifted players who are "uneducated", you'll see that there are a mere handful when compared to the number of great musicians that know their instruments and the language they speak with them. For every SRV there's a hundred Dave LaRue's. You may not have heard of them, but trust me they're out there.

    Nothing helps you to understand why something sounds good like being able to analyze a bassline in relation to it's chord progression. Once you've done that, you can take the idea and make it yours - sort of sampling without a sampler - and when you do that it goes through the "Sammie (or insert your name here) filter" and BECOMES YOURS, not a carbon copy like the digital sampling going on around us daily. The same thing applies to rhythmic knowlege, being able to take a rhythm and break it down gives you two advantages. First you understand it more thoroughly and it makes it easier to play, secondly it will give you ideas for your own grooves. For example, I'm in a latin rock band, we play a lot of rhythms that are uncomfortable for me. But if I take the time to transcribe the rhythmic patterns, they begin to make sense to me, and become comfortable because I UNDERSTAND them. I even come up with grooves now that our percussion section (comprised of two Puerto Ricans who've been playing this stuff FOREVER) compliment me on. Knowledge is POWER. Get some! :D

    The thing is (and I've beeatched about this before...:rolleyes: ), learning the things you ask about Sammie aren't difficult, they just require a bit of time and effort. If you want to be a musician, why wouldn't you want to understand your instrument (i.e. where all the notes on your instrument are) or the basic language of music itself (i.e. the key of A having 3 sharps)? I can't even begin to understand why this is a question.

    I'm not trying to jump on you, Sammie, it's not really your fault. The society we live in (and it's not just the US from some of the comments I've read here) has become obsessed with INSTANT GRATIFICATION and ENTITLEMENT. No one seems willing to go and do the work necessary to achieve their goals, they seem to think it should just magically appear in front of them. Anything worth having is worth working for.

    The end result of this is that we have popular music today that is based on digital samples of the popular music of the past (yes, I'm fully aware that jazz players would steal chord progressions and write new melodies over them, BUT they actually PLAYED the damn chords and actually wrote a melody! :mad: ). These guys can't even come up with a decent groove on their own!

    Sammie, learn the notes on your bass, and get a good theory book or teacher and learn the language of the music you want to make. You'll thank me one day for saying that.
  5. Yes, but nothing can beat a good ear combined with a prepared and understanding BRAIN.

    Try to imagine what Stevie could have done with his ability if he'd had a better understanding of the language he was speaking. The thought boggles my mind!
  6. Samie


    Dec 13, 2000
    Madrid, Spain
    Guitarist...guitarist... you would be surprised to find out how little they know. Specially rock guitarist, they memorize visual patterns and go at them really fast. I dont think bassist can get away with that.

    Do you guys know what note you are always playing?
  7. Bass Hound

    Bass Hound

    Aug 17, 2000
    I started out on an acustic guitar and took three classes at the local J.C. that I have relied on ever since. The first two classes taught me to sight read in all 13 keys so I could follow any written music line. The last class was music theory. That class has probably helped me most because it showed me how each part of music relates to every other part.
    So, when I picked up the 4 string bass, I already knew what note each fret on each string was. I could play almost anything right off but it was very 'clinical'. I took 3 bass lessons primarily learning 'patterns' for the Major, Minor and blues scales.
    That was the break through! Yes, I know that there are 3 sharps in A, but I don't have to think of what they are! The 'pattern' makes it work regardless. Now that I don't have to use my logical brain to play, I am free to 'ad-lib' and even play some bass leads at times.
    So, I had to find the right combonation of factors that worked for me. The more you expose yourself to AND the more you are challanged to excell, the better you will become at nearly anything.
    I know a musician that could play circles around me on the guitar, when I asked her, "What chord was that?", she just said, "I don't know, it's the one that fits in!" She REALLY DIDN'T know! INCREDIBLY TALENTED professional.
    I also know a graduate of "Rochester" that teaches violin and piano for a living and can play either like a professional. We asked her to play keyboard for our band once and needed to make a key change for the lead singer. She didn't know that Ab and A are played using the same written music, I had tyo show her how to transpose it!
    Sorry for the length.

  8. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    I think it's very important to know every note on the fretboard. But when I'm playing I don't think of every single note I'm hitting, that will fry my brain. What fun is music if you're to busy being technical all the time about it?
  9. A couple of good points were brought up here:

    No, I don't think of every note as I play it. I've done all the thinking before hand, when I'm practicing. I know how to relate a particular note in a scale or arpeggio to a sound in my head. That way I don't have to THINK about the name of the note "in the moment", I just play what my mind's ear hears. Or at least I TRY ;).

    And the other good point is that you can over do the theory stuff. You have to balance the technical/theoretical stuff with some "real" playing. The technical knowledge that F# is the third of a D major chord and is a consonant sound needs to be backed up by actually PLAYING it in context, and learning to both hear it's effect when you do it, as well as recognize it when someone else does.

    The thing to remember is that as in all other aspects of life, balance is essential to success (which is why the Rams will not make it to the Super Bowl this year, no defense ;) ). Talent without theory will leave you at dead ends, theory without talent will be a sterile, boring end.
    The two together give you people like Jeff Berlin, who while he is capable of being a bit abrasive, is unquestionably an amazingly talented and heartfelt musician.
  10. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    I think theory and knowledge of the instrument go hand in hand. When I was taking introductory theory in college, I felt I had a leg up on the noninstrumentalists in the class, as I could easily discern and name intervals and chords by visualizing fretboard patterns.
  11. a couple nights ago i sat down to jam with my cousin who had just gotten a new dean acoustic/electric (nice instrument) after playing upright for a while. so i picked up a strat to accompany, and asked him for an E an octave up from the low note to tune up with. he kinda went "uh..." so i said "just play the E string on the 12th fret." he said, "which one is that?"

    but later on he was improvising some great-sounding stuff. i guess he just had a good feel for it from playing upright.

    i never did get the damn guitar in tune. the strings were so old.
  12. muggsy


    Dec 14, 2000
    Alexandria, VA
    The general consensus seems to be that knowledge is good, and I'm not arguing. I'm just starting to focus on music theory, because I know that it's necessary to my musical development. I've been a music freak for years, but I just watched and listened until nine months ago, when I decided to make a serious effort to learn how to play bass. I have learned where all the notes are on the fretboard, and my ear is slowly improving, but it's not good enough for me to know what notes will sound good on a particular song without understanding why. My hope is that if I learn theory and work at it long enough, I'll get to the point where I don't have to think about every note before I play it. My only point in my first post was that there are great musicians who don't know anything about theory, but they're extraordinarily rare.
  13. Samie


    Dec 13, 2000
    Madrid, Spain
    actually I've been playing bass for a while and I know above average theory on the piano(can play in all/any key automatically). On the bass I though I knew most notes(enough not to think about it). Mostly relying on ear and 'feel2.

    All this was 3 years ago, before I went into DAW! Now I am a recovering ex DAW addict, and I have decided to return my roots, the bass. This time around I decided to study a little more. I ran into this program called abosolute fretboard, I was surprised to see how many notes(#,b) I really did know as well as I thought. The program stresses that this is very important. That is why I wanted to know if this is just sales talk or the real thing
  14. Oysterman


    Mar 30, 2000
    Billy Sheehan.
  15. I read music then it becomes important to know where the notes are. It also becomes important to know proper fingering of a lot of scales and their modes, this helps you to avoid awkward fingerings. Playing written bass lines gives you a greater knowledge than you can learn on your own. What is the most important is to learn something new each day.
  16. Samie


    Dec 13, 2000
    Madrid, Spain

    Really? I thought he was reallly good, I've never actually seen nor heard him
  17. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Ironically, Billy Sheehan can't read music. Doesn't seem to have hurt him any, though.
  18. Samie


    Dec 13, 2000
    Madrid, Spain
    I have come to the conclusion that learning music theory is probably more important. Is no use knowing where f# is if you dont know that you are(or are not) in the key of G.

    Besides while learning to play all scales in all keys you endup knowing your fretboard pretty well. This does not necesarily mean learn to read..reading, sight reding etc a a whole different ball game. This is probably easiest to develop after you know you theory(scales-relations) and your fretboard.

    I thought of all this last night after meditating all these threads....Amazing..

    (glad to see I am no longer a new member)
  19. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Samie, I believe it is important to know what tone you will get out of each fret on your fretboatd, even if you don't know the name of the tone. I don't think you can become a really great (ie...admired and respected) bassist unless you have a intimate acquaintance with what your fretboard will give you at every fret on vevery string.

    However, even that by itself is not enough, because you have to know what to do with each tone and why some tones sound "wrong" within the context of a song while other tones sound "right."

    The easist way to reach that level of knowledge is by learning theory. Trying to sort all that out on your own without "contaminating" your musicality bu knowing the names of the notes you play will take hours and hours of woodshedding you might put to better use by developing a repetoire of sons in your favorite style or adding slapping to your techniques, etc.

    Additionally, I question why someone would want to learn their fretboard, but not know the names of the notes. There is no real virtue in being pristine and pure. If you want to be a well rounded bassist, one that does the most for the bands in which one plays, the more you know about music, the bass and how best to play it, the better off you and your band will be.

    Jason Oldsted
  20. what are some good books to buy? can anyone remember some names? a list of some good ones could really help me out. tahnks.

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