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I need to know!

Discussion in 'Ask Patrick Neher [Archive]' started by BillyMac, Nov 11, 2006.

  1. BillyMac


    Mar 10, 2005
    Recently started playing with a new bluegrass Band. New to me as they have played together for years.They heard me play with my current band and thought that I would be a great addition.However, One of the band members assumed that I could play all their songs by ear. But I couldn't. I need to learn a song first by seeing chord books, fake books or sheet music. At least long enough to learn the song. Am I a bad bass player for needing to hear and learn a song first? Only been at this three years and never played an instrument before.
  2. PNeher


    Mar 31, 2005
    Bellingham, WA
    Hey, thanks for asking!
    First: there is no such thing, in my mind, as a bad bass player!:crying: You either play the bass or you don't! It is neither bad nor good, and neither are you bad nor good. So... with the Zen out of the way...
    Everyone takes a different amount of time to accomplish the same thing. It took me many more months to learn to walk than it did my brother at the same age. I couldn't ride a bicycle without training wheels whereas my brother learned by being pushed down a hill. Because we all learn at different rates, one's expectations are different too. If you are an older adult you will find that learning an instrument is more frustrating to you than, say, a ten-year-old. It is not that you both don't learn, it is just that your expectations are greater than the ten-year-old due to the fact that you have more life experience and therefore greater expectations for yourself. So... these guys/gals in the band may have expectations for you because you presented yourself as rather knowledgable and skilled. It is frustrating to have to say, "Sorry... I don't really know the tune, but if you have the sheet music I can read for a bit and learn it quickly." If they don't have the sheets, you're likely going to have to learn it on your own time ... whether by ear with a recording (of theirs?) or with the sheets. One other thing, sometimes "faking" it can be noticed by the other band members and sometimes not. With a few unintelligible thumps, a bassist can go only so far. Eventually you have to play actual chord tones! So, be honest, upfront. If you don't know the tune this week, admit it, but you come back the next rehearsal knowing the tune inside and out, they will respect you for your honestly and your dilligence.
    Bass Wishes, always! ;)
  3. BillyMac


    Mar 10, 2005
    I have been doing what you said. I don't fake it. I say I will give it a try. Then if I need to I say , I will try it at home, practice it and come back next week with it ready to go. So I appreciate your advice. This forum is great.
  4. bilco


    Jan 25, 2006
    Austin, Texas
    I have the opposite problem; I can pick things up by ear, but I have never been very good at reading music and even reading chord charts I get lost on the page.

    If I can play by ear, you can too. It just takes time and getting out there and practicing it. Jams are the perfect way to get there.

    There are also some tricks though. There are only so many chord progressions out there and so many possible chords that could follow the one you are on at the time.

    Some music theory rules that work on country, rock and I am thinking on bluegrass as well are:

    • If you hear a 7th chord (dominant 7th) the chord progression is almost certainly going to go up a 4th. So, if you are on a 1 chord (let's say C in the key of C) and you hear a 7th, you are going up to the 4 chord (F). If you are on a 5 chord (G) and you hear a 7th (G7), you are going back to the 1 chord (C) again.
    • If the band goes to a 2 chord (D in the key of C), you are almost always going to go up a 4th to the 5 chord (G.)
    • If you don't have it down yet, learn the Nashville number system for chords. If the other players call out numbers when you are playing something new, sometimes it is easier to me than if they call out the chord name.

    I learned to hear what's coming next by getting out and playing 4 hour pickup gigs with country bands I had never played with before. You eventually get a kind of radar for what is going to probably happen next, although I still get tricked and make mistakes by assuming the song is going to follow a traditional chord progression I know. Some songs are just strange and don't really follow the usual progressions.

    If you could get a friend to jam with you with a guitar and just play changes like the ones above, you can sharpen your radar.

    It's also okay to make mistakes....... I have spent way too many years worrying about a mistake I made instead of having fun.....

    Now, do you have any tips to help me sight read music better? I think I must have some kind of dyslexia. Even when I was trying to be a music major at school, I constantly got lost on the page and everything just looked like dots on a page.

    Bill Colbert
  5. ryco


    Apr 24, 2005
    First off, that is excellent advice you gave to BillyMac! Listening for the Dom 7 tells you something is about to happen, and 90% off the time you go up a fourth. So when you hear that sound perk up your ears! But yeah, it'll fool ya once in a while.
    The only thing I can think to add to your post is if the progression goes to a vi or a iii chord, be prepared to "go around the horn". That is vi>ii>V7>I or iii>vi>ii>V7>I. Very common "turnarounds, although these'll fool ya once in awhile too!

    The best answer I can give you, bilco, for getting better at reading is in the advice you gave to BillyMac: "It just takes time....and practicing it". Take a little time each day in your practice schedule, maybe 20 min, and devote that time to reading. If you've takin' a shot at music in school then I know you've done plenty of reading. It just takes time. I don't know of any tips or shortcuts.

    I'm dyslexic (dyslexics untie!) and ADD so I feel for you!

    Oh! And thanks for teaching me how to make lists in posts! Cool trick! I guess we all have something to share with each other!!
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