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How to get fretboard numbers out of my HEAD?!?!?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Matthew_84, Apr 13, 2014.

  1. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010
    Hi all,

    I learned bass by playing TABS, so everything was number-based. I have tried to stop using TABS but every piece of sheet music I see these days seems to have notation and TABS. I try to ignore the TAB numbers, but every once in a while my eye catches it and then it's 7-9-10 again.

    Also, when I'm strictly using notation, I find I rarely tell myself to play a G, and instead I'll usually tell that I'm on the third fret of the E string by referring to the 3rd fret position marker.

    I want all these numbers out of my head, and replace them with notes... Any tips on how to do this?


  2. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Do not sweat it, it's just another conformation of what you learned, it will become sub-concious, and run along side with what you read, but you can never un-learn it.
    To let your sight reading of SN be dominant use and read only SN, but if there is Tabs as well, just learn to concentrate on the SN. You cannot stop the cross reference that if you play a G its number is 3 any more that you cannot stop seeing any other references....such as 1-4-5 and not see the notes to be used.

    This is one of the reasons i personally try and teach SN...tabs are just a distraction from musical ideas....they will represent them in some form, but ultimately they are a distraction that will have be dealt with if a player chooses to move on.
  3. Smooth_bass88

    Smooth_bass88 Groove it Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2006

    One of the best things you can do is just simply "play it and say it". In other words, play a chromatic scale all the way up the neck on ONE string at a time, starting with the open E, and say each note OUT LOUD as you do this, ascending and descending ...from the first fret to the last. E-F-F#-G-G#-A-A#...etc. Make sure you say the sharps when ascending, and say the flats when descending. Do this every single day, even for just 30-60 minutes.

    Then, do the same thing, but instead of ascending up and down the neck on each string, go across the fretboard one position at a time, starting in the first position, all the up to the last possible position.

    I know this seems tedious, but the constant repetition will eventually 'lock in' to your brain. Good luck!
  4. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    Mask the TAB ... ?
  5. Put your bass in an alternate tuning and play by ear.
    Do this in a different tuning each day.
    This will break the connection in your brain between pitches and fret numbers.
  6. Smooth_bass88

    Smooth_bass88 Groove it Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2006
    How will this help him learn the notes on the fretboard? If the tuning is different, then the locations of the notes (on the fretboard) will change.
  7. bluesdogblues


    Nov 13, 2007
    I really recommend you to ignore the TAB, and start read the 'real' notation instead, ..or if not, better learn by your ear...
    Any other way, the more you play you'll remember all the notes place on the fretboard and how to finger them.
  8. Precisely. ;)
    If you change tuning, then the notes change location on the fretboard, so TAB is completely useless, and you will be forced to develop other skills. Having a better ear will make you a better reader. I learned the exercise from Michael Manring. Put your bass in some random strange tuning, then play a song you know very well, like "Happy Birthday" or the national anthem.

    As a benefit of practicing this exercise, I can sight-read standard notation in tunings I use frequently (EADG, DADG, EbAbDbGb, CGDA, etc.) but I still have trouble sight-reading TAB if my tuning is different; I haven't found (nor do I particularly desire to find) the exercise to develop that skill.
  9. lyla1953


    Jul 18, 2012
    I was just watching a short SBL (Scott's) on the subject of changing habits. Something about our brains don't belong to us titled.
    He suggests and I agree, that it's pretty normal for players to change their technique(s) as they develop. He offers ways to facilitate these changes.
    Personally - even though I don't use TAB - I'm using Joe Hubbard's random note method to get a solid lock on the fret board, works well for me.
  10. Smooth_bass88

    Smooth_bass88 Groove it Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2006
    Ok, yeah. That makes sense. But assuming he's not planning on using anything other than standard tuning, other methods should also be employed. Manring is an absolute master of alternate tunings. Personally, I avoid TAB like the plague, and try not to think of my bass neck in 'shapes' or intervals, only in notes. Another good exercise is to play a major scale on one string, again, saying the notes out loud.
  11. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I would just put masking tape over the tab part, or transcribe to blank sheets.
    You could also seek non bass guitar sheet music to practice (trombone )
  12. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    I learned by tab so I used to think A string 3rd fret but even when I was still learning I was trying to learn the fretboard at the same time, so I did know the note was a C. While I do still think in numbers from time to time I generally try to name the note as well. I wish I could give you a better answer, but it was a pretty natural transition for me use notes, although I still do use it from time to time.

    When you play with you bandmates do you talk in tab or notes? My current band the guitarist and I rarely say fret numbers, although we do not have a pianist it is still easier to see the bigger picture with note names than fret numbers.
  13. INTP


    Nov 28, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    The best way to drop a habit is to replace it with a better one. What I read from your post is that when you see a low G, for example, you think of 3rd fret on E string. If it helps any, that's pretty much how I thought about it when I learned standard notation (although on upright, so no frets, but same location).

    What got me out of that rut was playing in different positions. You can't do this with a low G on a 4 string, but on a 5 or 6 string, it's 8th fret on the B. You can do with with a C note though--instead of 3rd fret on A, play 8th fret on E, etc. Play other notes in this same position to build familiarity with not only the fretboard, but also of thinking of the notes as one of several possible positions. Another side benefit for me is that playing higher on the neck is more relaxed and therefore faster.