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!  

How Much Is "Ear" & How Much Is "Scored"?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by SurferJoe46, May 5, 2010.

Play By Ear Or Scored Music?

Poll closed May 19, 2010.
  1. 100% Ear - 0% Scored (Maybe Blues Only?)

  2. 75% Ear - 25% Scored

  3. 50% Ear - 50% Scored

  4. 25% Ear - 75% Scored

  5. 0% Ear - 100% Scored (Maybe Jazz Only?)

    0 vote(s)
  1. Sorry - wrong area! I moved it myself

    Well - I tried to move it anyway!

    Sorry mods. I'll take my prescription meds now.
  2. This was a big change for me, too. Most of my experience playing and performing was with an orchestra or big band, always with sheet music.

    Then after a 23-year layoff, at age 50 I joined a surf and classic rock band - no sheet music. In fact, I can only think of one or two numbers where the band as a group has used any written notation. I ended up bringing a clipboard with blank music staff paper to rehearsal and making musical crib notes, then running through them at home to get the patterns down.

    I'm better at it now than I was 10 years ago...but it takes me 10+ times through any number to feel like I'm getting it down, and that's for simple bass parts.
  3. Thunderthumbs73


    May 5, 2008
    I can read. I have a music degree. However, If I want to learn a song, and save a lot of time and money, it's much easier for me to take two seconds and download the song off the internet (if available) and spend a little time learning it by ear than to (at best) get in my car and run out to the local music store to see if I can find sheet music to something, if it is carried by the store, and if it exists at all.

    Just the daily pragmatics and course of life pushes me to play by ear even when I feel that learning from sheet music would be very beneficial to keep my reading chops up. I suspect this is much the same for many, many folks.

    When downloading legit and appropriate (for bass and in bass clef and "as recorded" instead of some dumbed down EZ piano version) sheet music becomes as easy, and has as much variety as downloading from iTunes (and sometimes that's not saying much), then maybe I'll be reading more. Quality of transcription, variety, and ease of access must exist.

    I find there is much coverage of Broadway and show tunes and classical music, but legit transcribed popular, rock folk and jazz musics is covered nowhere nearly completely. So genres of interest/played have a lot to do with this, regardless of skill set, personal inclination and so on.
  4. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I chose 50/50. For my cover/pop gigs I don't use music. For my jazz gigs I use music most of the time, but there are a growing number of tunes that I know now after a lot of gigging so it's not 100% lead sheets.

    Same for church. I know quite a few, but I have the sheets there for "reference" and just in case the leader makes up his own arrangement - which is often the case.
  5. Matt Dean

    Matt Dean Supporting Member

    Jan 2, 2007
    SF (North) Bay Area
    I also choose 50/50 because while I generally learn material by ear or make up my own parts, I routinely play in 5 different bands... two main bands in which I've memorized the material, but in the three others I often read charts. I have a binder with several bands worth of material that I can pull out if I don't remember the songs.
  6. calebbarton


    Aug 25, 2007
    I manufacture for several companies including but not limited to: Bridge City Sound, Catalinbread, more.
    i always learn by ear, but sometimes we play off a chord chart, which is ok. thats why i picked what i picked.
  7. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    I voted 100% ear because I can't sight read. I play pretty much any form of rock: modern, classic, blues, Motown/R&B, punk, funk, country, pop, reggae, etc etc.

    Once or twice a year I get to hack my way through chord charts of jazz standards, but never for a full gig, so that only accounts for 1 to 2% of my work.
  8. Since moving to Az haven't played by a charts. Will look up occational pieces to base my style from.
  9. I'm out of practice sight reading music, but I can still do it. Just seems like when playing rock or blues, all the info you get is the starting chord, and then you launch.
  10. biobass


    Sep 16, 2007
    Princeton NJ area
    For my personal situation:

    well paying gigs = 100% reading (mostly musical theater).
    not so well paying gigs = mostly by ear

    I learned to play by ear and it wasn't until I had been playing for 8 years or so that I taught myself how to first read chord charts, then dots. Being able to play by ear is a great skill to have and I think it should be taught right along with playing from charts and scores.

    The ability to read opens up a much wider universe of gigs, allows you to potentially learn new music faster, in no way hinders any kind of musical creativity (noting that there is as much if not more musicality in the nuances of attack, tone, dynamics, phrasing, etc as there is in note choice), but the ability to play by ear allows you to play for lots and lots of situations where there are no charts or scores. Lots of room for both!

  11. pfschim

    pfschim Just a Skeleton with a Jazz bass Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2006
    SF Bay Area
    I play jazz, world music, funk, lighter rock material and a whole lot of original music in the jazz and world music genre.

    The Jazz is mostly reading, outside of the gazillion standards that I know by heart after years of doing it. The world music, funk and rock material is about an even 50/50 reading/ear. The original material we do is all initially written (some full charts, some just chord charts with melody notated) and then jointly arranged by the band through rehearsal.

    As a sight reader as well as a decent "ear" player, I'd say they both have their place and function. I have seen killer sight readers (i.e. lots of "legit" type players) who can't play by ear to save their lives. IME, strictly sight reading only players can often have real issues with "feel" too. OTOH, I have also known absolutely great "ear" players who just can't hang in more reading oriented environments like a big band or other larger ensemble that uses charts to keep some sort of musical order. Also, many ear players just don't qualify to audition for many of the better paying work like show/theater/commercial gigs. Great "ear" only players are kind of like idiot savants - super skilled in a very narrow way that does not translate into very much of the flexibility that is often required of professional working musicians.

    As a musician, not just a bass player, I'd say its important to develop and continuously refine all the skills that a musician ought to have, including reading and playing by ear (amongst many others :cool:).

    but most importantly ... enjoy!
  12. In my case I came to the electric bass when the instument was young - 1962. I took my new prized possession to my music teacher who burst out laughing at the thought of it. He told me it was a bastard instrument and would never last. So I never learned to read. Most of my career I have learned the tunes from the recorded tracks. For the big 60 my wife presented me with piano lessons as an aid to learn to read.

    Recently I joined up with a swing band that uses charts. They have another young bass man who has been very kind to me with advice and friendship. I am now reading at a low level but when that fails I fall back on my experience to fill the gaps.

    Who knew that guys who write out some of these charts have no "ears". Some of them are so far away from the recordings that they are supposed to be taken from it's unbelievable!

  13. melodicly


    Oct 22, 2008
    New Orleans, LA
    I picked 25% as I've been doing a lot of fill in work lately that requires me to take a CD home, learn it by ear and chart it out myself. I have a bad memory so depending on the complexity of the music and the amount of rehearsal time I get with the band (rarely any at all) it's either simple cheat sheet or full scores. My band however decided years ago that we would ignore all of that. No talk of chords names or extensions, keys, time sigs, etc. I take some time every now and then just to break it down, and am amazed how often we play a minor 9th or tritone away from each other! Of course we have also had "spontaneously combusting drummer syndrome" and L.S.D. (lead singer disorder) to deal with so when people are auditioning they always ask for charts (in spite of having a CD to learn from) but I wouldn't want to have to chart this stuff out much less read it. What key sig would you put for a guitar playing an open voicing of E-7b5 and the bass playing in F-7b5? When I was playing in wedding/corporate bands however, I would have picked 75%, but I realized that life just isn't for me. I do enjoy sitting down with some random charts and sight reading them even though I don't do it near as much as I would like to.
  14. This is really revealing. I was sure that the pros were ALL 100% sight readers, but this gives me more hope.

    Citing Stevie Wonder and Jose Feliciano was going to be part of this post, but I screwed that up and then lost the original question, but you guys have taken it and run with the subject.

    Perhaps when one of the mods wakes up after last night's gig or whatever they did last night - then it'll get put in the correct posting/category.

    Again, thanks and this only goes to show that there is hope for me yet.
  15. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    Ya got that right! That's why, as valuable as reading is, you've always got to apply the "ear test". And when in doubt, if the twain should fail to agree, always trust your ears! :meh:


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.