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How to most efficiently improve music reading ability in Bass clef

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by jamiefoxer, Mar 12, 2008.

  1. jamiefoxer


    Dec 2, 2005
    I can already read music and know the notes in bass and treble clef. however, it's been a while since I seriously include music reading in my practice and I want to get my bass clef reading skills to the level where I can sight-read effectively.

    Are there any tips, secrets of the trade, etc which can help in improving retention and ability to sight-read music?

    At the point where I am, I cannot read musical notes on the electric bass faster than the half note and it's demoralizing, because I'm a pretty good, professional bassist playing by ear. But, I've realized that to acquire more knowledge and instruction from lessons with teachers and from books, I have to jumpstart my reading ability.

    Anybody successfully and expeditiously navigated through the same problem (improving music reading in bass clef?)
  2. Steve Clark

    Steve Clark

    Jan 9, 2004
    London ON
    I'd be happy with some tips but for me its just a case of picking a book/piece of music and working through it. If it's a piece of music that I can get a recorded version of then I would try and leave that until after I have worked on the piece and then listen to it to confirm I am write.

    I am doing more and more reading these days and the more you do the better you get.

    I really need to devote some time to sight reading pieces on a weekly basis.
  3. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Best tool is reading everyday.

    The key to sightreading is after learning the pitches and basic rhythms is to train the eyes how to to look at music. To see beats like the way you read words in this message. Remember rhythm is the MOST important thing in reading music. If you step on a pitch you are probably just adding to the harmony and most won't notice. You screw up a rhythm and you stick out like a sore thumb. I've written multiple times an approach to practicing reading so you can search for one of those. I don't have to explain it right now. But main idea is separate practicing reading pitch and rhythm, then combine reading the two.

    Train the eyes to look at a measure and spot were 1, 2, 3, 4 are even if not being played. Then to see the subdivision of beat as rhythmic words. Good way to approach that is get sightreading books that focus on rhythm.

    Search the forum there have been many threads on the topic with lots of good input from everyone.
  4. MistaMarko


    Feb 3, 2006
    Like Victor Wooten once said...

    "Never lose the groove in order to find a note"
  5. Liko


    Mar 30, 2007
    Sightreading for any instrument is all practice; there's no "jump-start" to doing it. Bass and guitar are harder in that there could be half a dozen fingerings for one note; as a sightreader you have to read ahead and figure out where you're going to want to be on the fretboard next so you don't jump when you should slide and vice versa. There are also different expectations based on the genres and environments you play in. If you like rock, you need to be able to sightread both TAB and lead sheets. Wanna play jazz, you learn how to read jazz charts (generally similar to lead sheets but it's mostly chords and rhythm). Country? You need to know the Nashville Number System. And if you're planning on recording movie soundtracks or playing in big-band situations, you learn standard music notation like it's a second language.

    There are sightreading method books for standard notation, but if you're serious about technical ability, buy a book of etudes for trombone or baritone horn. There's no transposition involved (a trombone's C is a true C as opposed to say a bari saxophone, whose written C may actually be a Bb or Eb) and the range is generally comparable. Make sure you have your patterns DOWN; you should know at least three basic ways to play the major scale and should be able to switch patterns halfway through the scale. You should also have your Dorian and Mixolydian modes down pat to the same degree, and have a good grounding on other modes. Otherwise practicing from an etude book is just an exercise in rote memory. The stuff you'll play in a book designed to increase technical ability will far outstrip ANYTHING you'll see as a bass player in terms of playing one note at a time, and forcing yourself to read from music will increase eye-hand coordination between seeing a note and playing it. Really you'll be learning more about what intervals look like and how to reproduce that interval while leaving room for future movement in the direction the line goes; that will be more help to you on a stringed instrument than pounding fingerings for note values into your muscles like a woodwind or brass instrument player is taught.

    Of course you should also learn to read lead sheets (melody in a staff with chord changes above). This is a radically different way of thinking about playing. You're given a chord; you must immediately know the notes in that chord. Then, because you know your scales, you know how to construct a line that doesn't include any minor seconds or notes that will drastically change the quality of the chord. Notes that lead from one chord to the next generally work in addition to the ones in the chord. This kind of reading requires intimate familiarity with your fingerboard, to the level where if I were to call out a note you should be able to play it immediately.

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