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I'm illiterate

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Joe Nerve, Nov 5, 2000.

  1. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Hey, this is worth a shot.

    I'm playing bass for over 10 years and with all due humility, I'm pretty damn good. I'm being held back however from earning my living at the bass by my lack of being able to read. I've tried countless times with books (I have about 16), I've commited myself to practice and study schedules(and failed miserably), I tried a couple of teachers. I just get so pathetically bored and frustrated - and then I give up again. Part of my problem is that at an early age I learned to read the treble cleff, and I have some sort of mental block I can't seem to get past. I probably sound like a lazy slob, but I'm not - I practice and play a lot. I'm starting to think I have some sort of music notation anxiety (like people have math anxiety) and it's a hopeless situation. I'm not a quitter though.... I will strive till I succeed. Damn it!

    Any help???? Suggestions???? Similar experiences???? A way to trick myself into learning????
  2. Mike


    Sep 7, 2000
    I'm going thru a similiar experience now,Joe. I have been playing for about 15 yrs. I solicited a local music store to allow me to give lessons to kids,whoever wanted to learn. I had to audition. They were impressed with my playing. (That is not a comment derived from conceit.) However, when I told them I could not read notation they basically told me to get out. My lacking of reading was not a problem because they were interested in their students cultivating a proper musical education,but so they could sell books of notation . OK,I said. Here I am trying to learn to read and it is resulting in nothing but absolute frustration. Like you I've tried a regimented schedule, everything. BUt I just can't seem to get it. I dunno what to do. I live in a backwoods creep of a town with no one to teach me how to read so I am just about to give up and say to hell with it.

    Good Luck
  3. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    (Hey), Joe-
    (...that's pretty good, eh, KungFu?)

    Joe, if you can read treble clef, I'm assuming you can already read rhythmic notation; is that correct? If so, then you already have the hardest part licked! IMO, the "math anxiety" occurs with the rhythmic notation. The notes on the staff usually remain the same. What's the problem? :D

    Too bad you didn't apply for a job here(in SE Va); all the stores here want is somebody to show the kids licks & tunes.
    Anyway, just realize that notation is a set of symbols...just like our alphabet/numerals. There's symbols to communicate a PLAYED note & symbols that denote silence(RESTS). I guess some "math" skills help...Hell, most of it is being able to (sub)divide by 2,3, or 4.

    Are you having problems with the rhythmic notation? Or are you like (Hey), Joe?
    If the problem is rhythmic notation, then how about buying a drum machine? You'll be able to program a specific rhythm into the machine & HEAR how it sounds as you're "reading" it(seeing how it LOOKS). Truth be told, that's what really helped me(sinks in after awhile) :D

    Or you can buy a metronome & attempt some clapping exercises(I'm assuming you already know the "musical" symbols)
    1)Clap 1/4 notes(1 Clap per click)
    2)Clap 1/8 notes(2 Claps per click)
    3)Clap Triplets(3 Claps per click)
    4)Clap 1/16 notes(4 Claps per click).

    Then you can begin doing combinations of the above-
    1)Clap an 1/8 + TWO 1/16s
    2)Clap TWO 1/16s + an 1/8
    3)Clap a DOTTED 1/8 + a 1/16
    4)Make up your own/read them out of a book...

  4. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Guys, There is an excellent book out there for budding bass clef readers and although it's not really marketed as an educational tool, it is one of the greatest.

    I'm talkking about Standing in the Sahdows of Motown, the James Jamerson biography by Dr. Licks. It's not just a great story in itself, but also included are complete recordings of Motown arrangements sans vocals, which are transcribed and notated in the book. The CDs are mixed so you can isolate either the bass line or the whole rhythim section, so you can study the bassline or play along with the recording. I recommend it highly.

    Will C.:cool:
  5. cschenk78


    Mar 12, 2000
    Watertown, NY
    I began Reading a music about 2 or 3 years after I first started to take an interest in the bass (so I was about 16). I found that this method worked...

    Find a book with all written examples, no Tabs!!!
    Sit down with each example and work it out note for note and measure by measure until you got it. (even if it takes a week)...Then move on to example 2 and repeat this process until you can play every example in the book.

    One more thing... use books that have reletively easy materials in them, (the Motown Book may be a little much at first).

    Some good books are Jim Stinnett's "Reading Bass Clef" and Rich Appleman's "Reading Contemporary Bass Rhythms" They Should be available at http://www.BerkleePress.com
  6. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Fake, It's true that the motown book might be intense for a beginning reader, but as far as listening and grooving, it's hard to beat. Many of Jamerson's lines have sections that can be isolated and used as exercises. The books you suggested are also worth getting.

    Will C.:cool:
  7. cschenk78


    Mar 12, 2000
    Watertown, NY
    I guess my point really is that you should crawl before trying to run, ya know? I just feel that before attacking the Jamerson book you should probably have the basics really solid. The other books move a bit more slowly and are more progressive.

    That's just my opinion, I could be wrong
  8. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Fake, I fully understand your point. All I'm saying is that the basslines in that book can be divided into different skill levels. Even the ones which are extremely intricate are, if nothing else, good for studying rhythm, while others are melodically simple, so they can be played by the beginning reader without much difficulty.

    The Jamerson book is one of the few that has something to offer to players of every level - it's just a matter of knowing how to use it to your advantage.

    Will C.:cool:

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