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How useful is SN?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by d8g3jdh, Feb 9, 2006.

  1. d8g3jdh

    d8g3jdh Guest

    Aug 9, 2005
    I'm probly gonna receive mass flamage along with a Fuqua-ing, but anyways.

    What are some of the benefits of learning standard notation? I don't mean chord charts, I can see how handy those would be as a form of musical communication. I mean, outside of classical training, how often will you come across a situation where intamate knowledge of the bass clef proves to be useful? I just can't picture subbing for a band (even a jazz band) and them giving me a sheet of SN and telling me "play that." And I already know everything else that has to do with standard notation (time/key sigs, rythym signs, note/rest lengths, etc). I just ain't too good with the bass clef, and back when I played alto sax I was naturally inept with sight reading and the treble clef.

    Is it worth my precious time to learn to sight-read? Convince me.
  2. SmittyG


    Dec 24, 2003
    Texarkana, Texas
    Here are some ways I use standard notation:

    1. When handed a jazz chart (or lead sheet) it is really great to be able to read the melody and know the context for the chords I'm expect to back. BTW, you will have to be able to read treble clef for this--never have seen one with the melody in the bass. (It might could happen; I just haven't seen it.)

    2. When studying classical pieces for bass clef instruments, which are great reading and technique lessons, you won't have chord symbols or tab.

    3. When I create a riff or lick or motif or idea, I like to write it out in standard notation. That way I can see the "flow" of the piece better.

    Hope that helps.
  3. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Biggest benefits for me-
    I am able to chart out my own **** (& transcribe others' grooves/lines).
    Being able to write out the rhythmic side is a huge aid when looking back at a groove from yesteryear. I found some of my notes from the '70s written in non-Standard notation...pretty much useless today.

    Being able to write out the rhythmic part helped me get a better concept of 'time'...if someone sez they want something played on the "& of 1", the "e of 2", "3" and the "a of 4"...I can visualize in my head what & where they want those hits to occur. Saves time vs. having the guy play what he wants over & over & over, etc.

    Too, there may be a day when someone will hand you a written-out figure & want it played as written...you never know.

    The point is-
    Why not put more tools in your chest?
  4. DB5


    Jul 3, 2001
    Austin Texas

    Amen to that ;)
  5. For me it's not even a question. If I could not read notation I would lose out on 40% of my income. Some regular situations where I must read are:

    1) Subbing on a Broadway style gig. I often will sub on shows where you show up and play the gig with no rehearsals. Good $$ and I would not get these calls if I couldn't read.

    2) Studio dates. Sometimes they want you to "do what you do" and other times they want you to play what's written. Usually chord charts but often there will be a unison passage, shots, etc and those are written out.

    3) Subbing in bands. In salsa there are often unison parts where you are playing a line with the horns/rest of the band. These are written out. (if the chart isn't already too messed up)

    4) Practicing/learning. Classical literature is great practice. Learn treble clef too.
  6. Exactly. Sometimes I wonder why these posts aren't titled "Should I limit myself by not learning to read music?" This is not intended to flame the original poster, just to give a different perspective on the question/issue.
  7. MD


    Nov 7, 2000
    Marin Co. CA.
    No flame intended but...
    Is it worth your precious time to become a well rounded bassist? If it is, then learn to sight read.
    If it's not, why should anyone try to convince you?

    Well, when the day comes that you're handed a sheet of "SN" and told to "play that", you'll see the picture, even though you know everything that has to do with "SN". Except read it of course.

    So where is it you're looking to go with your bass playing?
  8. Actually, that happens more than you'd think. Quite a lot of charts of all types, including jazz, incorporate written out bass clef figures.

    Knowing SN is also handy if the only music available is a piano score; it's nice to be able to read the LH part.

    As others have said, think about what your goals are. If you're not completely comfortable where you are musically, and you want to progress, then why not learn a skill that's not all that difficult and that may be of some use to you in certain situations? Even if you don't use it all the time, don't you see the value in having it? However, if you're comfortable where you are--and I'm not saying that's a bad thing--then maybe you don't need it.
  9. As I always tell my students, "This is a skill that even three years olds can learn. " You're smarter than a three year old, aren't you? ;)
  10. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    The biggest advantage to standard notation is that you can communicate with all musical instruments. And they can communicate with you with ease. It's also eaiser to read once you learn how to read it fluently. And can be more complex than tabs while staying simple.
  11. Most of the replies take the viewpoint of "of course, you want to be a well rounded musician, don't you?"

    I would say it depends completely on what your objectives are.

    If you are playing bass with some friends in a garage band, there may be better uses of your time.

    If you want to play with some jazz ensemble, you will need it, so you better do it.

    I wouldn't believe all this stuff about how it's so super easy though! It does take time and effort and practice, and you have to make the call as to whether or not that time and effort might be better spent on something else.

    I play in an original rock music group. Do I "need" to read standard notation? No, not at all - we are not reading someone else's music off of a page, ever.

    I am learning it, however, because I "want" to. For practice purposes, to learn and better myself as a player, I am trying to learn so that I can read some music when I want to.

    In some musical situations, it is a requirement, others it's optional or unnecessary. Only you can know if it is a good use of your time.
  12. Kroy


    Jan 19, 2006
    I would agree most with this stand point. In certain, very specific situations, it may not be a great help for you. In other's it's as basic a neccesity as it gets.

    I would sum it like this. If you want to make a living (or even extra money) via music and/or playing bass, learn to read. That'll make you valuable as a potential studio player, a sub for theatre gigs (like was mentioned above), subbing for jazz groups which use written out lines sometimes (I have several charts like this), or even as a teacher. I teach at a music store and I get most of the students that want to learn to read music because I'm the most fluent with it of the guitar teachers (we have a piano teacher who obviously does nothing but read SN). If you just wanna play in a garage band and do this as a hobby, then you might not want to put the time into it.

    There will likely be some people who will come along and mention a ton of studio players and rock gods who don't read a note of music, fine, great for them. Be sure to let me know when the A&R guy kicks in your door and offers you a big phat 6 album contract, see if he has one for me too. Like it's been said, it's just one more tool in your chest, a darned good one at that.

    As an aside, I have a number of students who don't want to learn to read music. That's fine, I won't force someone to do something they don't want to do but I find that most of those students are less committed and end up slacking or quitting on me sooner.

  13. ireidt


    Mar 6, 2005
    In Jazz band, I get peices thrown at me weekly, no chorrd chart, standard Notation. Gotta be able to play it.

    My school has a concert band that I play bass in too, also standard notation, no tab or charts. Then there is if you want to become a session bassist one day, you better know SN.
  14. ToR-Tu-Ra


    Oct 15, 2005
    Mexico City
    I think the point about reading what is written has already been made. BUT... what about the other way around? Let's say you come up with this great song and you want other people to play it... If you want the guitar/piano/horns to play an especific thing, are you going to play it for them once and again? or just sing it (it goes like this: dum dadum dada dum dumdum)?

    Another advantage I see is that ever since I stated learning "SN" is that whenever I have to come up with a bass line for something I have a much more clear idea of what I'm doing. I think: well, I'm going to throw some eight notes in this or that measure and maybe an arpeggio before going into part "B". things like that.
  15. ii-v


    Mar 27, 2005
    SLC, UT
    As a bass instructor when a student brings in a song (that is difficult) I have a half an hour to pick it out by ear and teach it, I would much rather see it right in front of my face and play it.

    Not only that I would like to speak the same language that all the other players are using. Outside of rock, just try and get a steady diet of gigs without SN and see how it goes for you. When I need people to play with and sub I do not go looking for the guy with the fantastic ear.

    When in the studio SN is not always referred to, however when writing lines on the fly it helps to speak the music language. Whether it is theory or SN I have found I would rather not go without either.

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