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Learn To Read, People!

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by brianrost, Sep 18, 2005.

  1. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I have a sobering and embarassing tale to tell.

    I was puttering around the kitchen this morning when the phone rings and the caller ID shows it's the #1 bandleader in town (a smoking bassist but is just the singer in his own band). This guy has been leading a top draw funk/soul band for over 15 years. In 2 hours they are headlining a benefit for Katrina victims and he tells me his bassist (the #1 guy in town) can't make it. Another killer bassist I know has recommended me. I'd play their show then back up any of the guests (all the top names in town) who need me. It would give me a chance to show my stuff in front of great players who don't know me, a networker's wet dream.

    Then it happens: he says "So would you like to come down and blow through some CHARTS with us?"

    I first started reading music forty years ago but once I got out of the school band I never had to read on stage. I can still read, but only at the most basic level...enough to work through charts and instructional material at home but not enough to sightread charts at full tempo.

    I do the professional thing and tell him "I appreciate the call, please thank the guy who recommended me but I can't sightread bass lines". As a result I will never again get the call to play with the #1 guys in town.

    People, do yourself a BIG favor: if you want to keep playing till they plant you in the ground, you need to be ready for anything. You can be a groove monster as well as a burning soloist, you can slap and tap and you can own all the latest and greatest booteek gear but if you can't read down a chart on the stage sooner or later you're going to lose an important gig to the guys who can.
  2. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Wow, thanks for sharing that, Brian. Sorry you couldn't make it. Blowing through chord charts and reading notation are two completely different animals.

    I'm doing a Jazz workshop where the teacher brings in new charts he arranged every week. The other bass player in the class is a nice enough guy, but he can't play the basslines without writing the note names in first. Even so, he still can't nail the lines because he can't deal with the rhythm.

    I told him the only way to learn to read music is to sit down and do it. Like anything else, you gotta put in the hours. Hopefully, he'll take it to heart. We'll see.

    I should follow my own advice...
  3. Andy On Bass

    Andy On Bass

    Sep 10, 2005
    My bass teacher really pushes the importance of being able to read notation. I've decided the only way I'm ever going to be able to do it is by sitting down, feeling like I know nothing to begin with, and put in the hours! Just picked up a copy of Sight Reading For Bass by Josquin Des Pres as well, thats definately helping me out. Sorry you couldn't get the gig mate.
  4. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    That's a bummer Brian, I'd like to also add that it's critical you read something everyday and the more gigs you play reading, the better you get at reading and reading on the job in real time.
  5. westland


    Oct 8, 2004
    Hong Kong
    I'm a pianist picking up bass, so my objective in whatever practice I do is to visualize the bass just like I do the piano, or as close as possible. This means notes and key signatures only ... I want to be able to switch back and forth and share my knowledge between the two instruments. I avoid tabulature.

    The bass is easier than the piano visually, because all key centers look the same on the neck (there aren't any black and white frets so to speak)

    Much of my 'practice' involves walking basslines, using PG Music software for jazz trios, where I can follow the bass notation. The software records the tracks of some great bassists, so I can just listen to how they build a bassline; I can turn them off, and play along with the drums and piano.

    Maybe a little lazy ... but honestly, I am getting comfortable with the neck, my technique is getting more comfortable, and it's a lot more fun than drum machines and metronomes. (I'll do some work with my drum machine one of these days ... honest!) ;)
  6. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I've said it before, I read music better than I read english - and I own my house because of it. There is no more important skill if you want to work as a professional.
  7. I can read, I just don't want to.

    I was late to the marching band season and he handed me all three songs. I learned the first one (memorized) in that day, the second one I had down in two days, and the third one I had down soon after. I put down the bass and started helping the tubas. :smug:
  8. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    I've been telling myself to do this for years. Heh. I have an understanding of sheet music, but I don't know it well enough to just haul off and play through it. Thanks for sharing this Brian, hopefully I'll get going with it.
  9. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    I've embarassed myself a few times. The up-side is you tend to learn from it, that's the main thng. I often wondered if I do it deliberately. :meh:
  10. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups

    Well that's great for your marching band that you can do that. And if you don't intend on ever being a professional bassist for hire, you really don't need it. But this thread was intended for people who ARE trying to be a professional bassist for hire, or at least I thought it was. And if you ever intend on going past marching band level, then it's in your best interests to learn how to sightread as well as you can. The best-paying gigs in every town in the world go to the readers. Why? Because other musicians assume that if you can sightread well, then you can play pretty much anything.
  11. dhadleyray

    dhadleyray Guest

    Dec 7, 2004
    KeithBMI, Your lack of experience shows in that statement. Band music? Comments like that show me the ignorance of youth. If you can make comments like that, you obviously don't aspire to paying your bills with playing the bass. You can never read "good enough." :spit:
  12. Sturge


    Sep 10, 2005
    Liverpool, England
    Wow Brian, sorry to hear that man, that's a painful way to learn a lesson. I had to fill in for a band one time and had to try and sight-read Whiter Shade Of Pale onstage... not one of my proudest moments.
  13. Very true maybe if you can squeeze a half hour a day of reading rhythms and ten mins on pitch hopefully will help but then you gotta want to do it but like they all say if you got the desire then nothing can stop you from achieving your goal
  14. quallabone


    Aug 2, 2003
    My ability to read is the #1 reason people call me. Like Pacman, it's the reading that pays the bills. Tough lesson to learn though.
  15. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    Okay, okay! I'm way overdue to correct this deficiency in my own playing. So I'm gonna do it. That's it!

    Thanks for the kick in the shorts... :eek:

  16. I for one, can't read music, and never have been able to... I started playing bass in highschool... in about year 8 or 9... and for the remaining 4 years I was getting a lesson from the music teacher at school... Reading never really came up :confused: ... It was all just tabs and technique... Since I joined talkbass I've realised the importance of reading, and I'm thinking I should start getting bass lessons again, because I've been playing for 4-5 years, and I would struggle to name every note on the neck without thinking about it for a few seconds :eek: ...

    Yea, thanks for sharing your story, really makes me wanna go and start learning!
  17. willgroove2


    Aug 16, 2003
    chicago IL
    Endorsing Artist;Essential sound products,Dunlop, Ergo Instruments
    +1,reading helps me do a wider range of gigs witch =more $$$
  18. Spikeh

    Spikeh Sex Strings

    That sucks man :|

    I'm getting into reading, 2 years into playing... I feel like I'm too old to keep learning and get brilliant at the bass / reading, but I'm determined to get to a point where I can play and read music naturally, and make some kind of money out of it.
  19. a good advice is to try to develop the kind of reading that most classical players do. well my english kind of fails, but hopefully you people will understand

    in this situation you have 10 notes on the paper

    when you play the first note, you have already been reading the 4th, and when you play the 4th you are reading the 8 and so on. it's like your reading should be always ahead of what you're playing, that way you don't encounter surprises. but this is hard work for you're short term memory.(because you have to memorise images in a short time and transform them into a fast innate response)

    In this moment i'm trying to develop good reading skills, i'm also practicing this at the piano and reading hymns and little choirs, so i practice vertical reading that moves in blocks (from one chord to another and another and...)
  20. Suckbird

    Suckbird Banned

    May 4, 2004
    Wow, i know how to read but i'm so slow...

    you know, i can see what the notes are pretty fast but when i've found out a couple of notes i have to go back because i've already forgotten the first note... i guess i have to practice reading for a while, it will help my musical deegree in school too...

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