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How to Read/Play Grand Staff

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by remcult, Mar 6, 2014.

  1. remcult

    remcult Supporting Member

    Dec 26, 2012
    New Jersey

    So I've been attempting to look at books like Mark Levine's "Jazz Theory", the Hanon guides, etc., and I need to ask: what do you guys do when reading music written in grand staff? For example, for the Hanon exercises, do I try and play chords as best as I'm able? Or do I separate the two, and play what's written in the bass and treble clefs separately? The instruction manuals need instruction manuals...
  2. f.c.geil


    May 12, 2011
    I started on piano, so grand staff is easy for me to read. I'd have to see examples to answer 100%, but I don't read it any differently than bass clef. So, if it's a chord, I'll play that chord (I don't try to play two hands' worth, though, just a four string chord -or less, if that's what's written), or arpeggio, or whatever. I'm not familiar with the manuals in question, but if you upload a page of it, I'd be happy to give more specific assistance.
  3. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Most of the time treble clef is the melody notes and bass clef is the harmony notes. We do not play both, as is done on the piano. Depends on what you are going to provide, melody or harmony. With band stuff I never play the treble clef - as I do not get lead breaks, the lead electric guitar or keys get the lead breaks. At home I'll mess around with some melody (treble clef). In public I provide harmony and rhythm. The vocalist or solo instruments provide melody - so they will use the treble clef. I provide harmony and rhythm so I use the bass clef.

    Do I just play chords? Roots mostly, with one or two chromatic/diatonic runs or fills per song. I'm playing Praise music and Praise is mostly just pounding out roots. Reading between the lines I think you are also asking what do you guys do with grand staff music? With that in mind....

    Here is what I do and how I play. First; I'm handed fake chord sheet music on the songs we will be doing this week. I am not given or expected to use grand staff sheet music. Just in case -- here is what fake chord looks like. http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/d/darlene_zschech/air_i_breathe_crd.htm I do not end up playing from grand staff sheet music. Next thing I do is I transpose the fake chord to Nashville numbers; 1, 2, 3's instead of A, B, C's - do a Google' on Nashville numbers. I then grab my Major scale box pattern:
    Major Scale Box. 
    G|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 1st string
    E|-------|---R---|-------|---2---|4th string
    And pound out roots hitting the chord changes dead on. Why do I transpose to Nashville numbers? If you use the box, you tend to think in 1, 2, 3's. Nashville numbers go hand in hand with the box. But, there is one more step... I also think in A, B, C's.

    I have several good real books on Praise http://www.amazon.com/Praise-Worshi...1394108302&sr=1-6&keywords=worship+and+praise and if I can find "grand staff" sheet music on the songs we will be doing this week I then check the bass clef that is printed for this specific song and look for fills and runs, etc. that could be used. I transpose those to match with the Nashville numbers I have on my fake chord. Go to rehearsal, and if the fills work I use them, if not I pound out roots.

    One important point -- everyone in the band plays from the fake chord sheet music the director handed out, so we are all on the same page together.

    I play from fake chord, but, I try and find grand staff sheet music to flesh out my bass line. Normally it does not need a lot of fleshing out, but, I like to see if something will help. For example on the fake chord I gave above standard notation led me to omit a couple of the chords (tacet) and add two 4 note diatonic runs and one 2 note lead to the next verse walking bass line "thing". Not playing those chords did add value and the 2 diatonic runs worked well, the 2 note lead in did not; so I used an old friend - liquid paper correction fluid.

    That is how I use grand staff sheet music.

    Good luck.
  4. BrotherMister


    Nov 4, 2013
    The best way to do is to just pick up piano music and just read it. Eventually it just begins to click and you can read them both at the same time. Then if you are feeling bold you can move onto organ stuff where you have 3 lines of music going at the same time.

    Another great thing to do is to get orchestra scores for symphonies/concertos/musicals or something and read them along with the music. It is a good exercise in itself but you will start being able to read multiple lines of music at one time. Like everything in music you just have to put the work in.
  5. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Are you doing it on bass or piano? If bass, I would likely read them separately. Since they're exercises, they don't have to be played together. On piano, I'd do it both ways, separately first, then you can see how each part works together to be cohesive. And it's like anything...the more you do it, the better you get at it.
  6. remcult

    remcult Supporting Member

    Dec 26, 2012
    New Jersey
    Thanks everyone, I guess I may have been unclear as to what I was asking. JimmyM got closest to answering it I think