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Memory/Reading Question

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by bassman2020, Aug 27, 2012.

  1. bassman2020


    Dec 8, 2010
    Should it be the goal to memorize a basslins so you don't have to ever look at the notation once you've got it down? I have a bassline down cold but I mess up when I go back to reading the notation. Thanks in advance for your comments.
  2. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Nobody else can tell you what your goals should be! :)

    The answer likely depends on the type of gigs you're playing. In most of the styles I play (rock, blues, funk, reggae) it would be considered unusual to have a music stand on stage reading along. On the other hand in a classical performance or student recital it would be totally normal.
  3. As Mushroo said; "It depends".

    Most everything I do is without sheet music. So I do a lot of assuming. If the song is called, with out the key being given, I can tell the key by looking at the rhythm guitar's fretting hand and from that I assume what I think the chord progression will be and then wing a bass line from there.

    Course I play Country and Country is a dirt simple I-IV-V7 chord progression and a root-five with chromatic runs to the next chord is going to work.

    I used to take a music stand on stage, but, found that winging it and flowing with the rest of the guys worked out better. Understand that did not happen over night.

    So to answer your question, I'd say if you can wing it and not get fish eyes from the guys, keep going with the flow. Of course do your best to cover the song I'm not talking about being sloppy.

    As to the music stand, if you are comfortable with it, use it, however, the goal is to leave the stand at home.
  4. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Straight answer no.

    Remembering what you have played is just the internalising of the music.
    As you have found out because you have learned it you have stopped reading that songs notation, so you mess up. This is why you have to continue to learn to read, and by that I mean actually read and associate the notes to playing.....not let yourself go through the motions.

    If the song becomes memorised then fair enough, but do not sit and try and memorise it.
    This is two seperate tasks, learning is a Frontal/Parietal lobe task where as the remembering it for the long term is an internalised task from the frontal/parietal lobe via the Hippocampus. It is not fully understood how the relationships work, but it can be liked to that once you learn a task in the frontal/parietal area it is stored for recall via the Hippocampus.
    Similar in the way a computer works using RAM.

    Your reading skills are there to recognise notes and play them, not to recognise and remember. As you have found out if you assume you know a song it is hard to read it and play it from sheets, your assumption over rides the need to read because it assumes you already know it. When you read it again you have two areas fighting for control of the process, you tend to skip through it using it for reference to remind you rather than for you to follow. This is how cheat sheets works, or chord charts, or notes etc. they remind you of enough to make the internalisation come to the fore and perform.

    The great thing about reading skills is you do not have to learn anything other than reading, you do not need to remember, understand, or even like what you are reading, you just read and play it.

    So a word of warning, pay attention to reading, and i mean reading what is on the page, not assuming what is on the page.
    Your reading skills are developed because you have no real need to learn and remember the music, it is remembered to you by the fact it is written down. So it is when a task is learned, you do not need to follow the instructions so to speak.
    But if a certain piece or song has been re-arranged say, then you tend to miss the nuances of the new arrangement in favour of what you know, because you are using what you already know, rather than what you should be learning.....you read into it things that are not there, it's like you fail to see it, untill it is brought to your attention, then you start to read again.
    But this process of assumption and reading goes on, but the more it is done the better the player becomes at using it, i.e. reading for the sake of reading, not learning or remembering as the task.

    Like I said you will internalise, you cannot stop from doing it as much as you can fail to recognise a face you see everyday, or if you met a person with your parents name, their image or memory of them races through your mind, the trick is like I said remember to read what is actually on the page, not what you believe to be on the page.

    So to this end I would say if a song becomes learned to memory then treat it with caution and you can remember it different? Sometimes you cannot remember it at all to even explain it, but you can play it through. This is because once you start playing it, you are reminded of what comes next rather than any individual part.
    Such as what comes after L in the alphabet?
    Reading music means you do not have to learn it, but if it happens you still have to read.
  5. willbassyeah


    Oct 9, 2011
    Just my personal opinion i think it is very unprofessional to play on stage with a music sheet. I mean there are exception for last minute gig. Imagine you went to watch phantom of the opera and the actors and actresses are reading their script while acting live on stage, to me it is the same with music. Music sheet is meant to be for rehearsal.
  6. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    When you go to the opera, all of the musicians have sheet music in front of them and they are very much professional.
  7. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    I totally understand what you're saying, but... last time I went to the opera, the singers did NOT have sheet music, and the orchestra was hidden down in the pit. ;)
  8. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    But what they they do have are prompters, in the old days this was a person in the pit front of stage covered by a pellmet so only the stage could see them. There job was to prompt or read out any part, give stage direction to any one that needed it. These days flat screen auto cues do the job as do in-ear monitors......just because you do not see it does not mean it is not there.

    There is a BIG difference between learning new scores every week for different productions or artists, and learning a song you will play as part of a set for years and years. The longer the use the less need for sheet music, but that is the beauty of it any decent reader can just turn up and replace a missing player...no fuss.....no stress....and certainly no need to learn or rehearse it.

    As you say different use, but at least this gives a perspective to it.
  9. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Did not know that about the opera teleprompters, thanks! :)
  10. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    The beauty of them is they can look like stage monitors, or be hidden in very discret places. Elton John was caught using one with the lyrics of some of his classic songs being relayed to him.

    Many older rock bands/artists use them as just a way to keep performing, but some do defiantly use them for every thing they wish to say, or can have them up-dated with info from the venue name to the City, even some current events relating to where the are.

  11. jfv


    May 5, 2003
    Portland, OR
    Being able to read implies another very tough hurdle...
    Playing without having to look at your left (fretting) hand.
    Oh sure, maybe you can try and glance back and forth
    but every time you do there's a chance of losing your
    place, so being able to never have your eye need to leave
    the page is optimal.

    I can do this on a double bass, but electric is tougher, you
    don't have some of the physical positional aides. Its a goal
    of mine.
  12. wrench45us


    Aug 26, 2011
    high school marching band our new band director insisted we all memorize our music, so we were given about a week to do that and then we marched and played w/o sheet music.
    Picked up a skill, but after another week or so I couldn't tell you if I was playing what was written anymore. Same thing ended up happening in concert band even though we were allowed music there. The only thing we used the music for was to count the bars of rest.
    I think it actually denied the reinforcement that would have come with working with the music. Picking up bass now I have to work against just memorizing and staying in touch with the notation as I play.
    not tab, but some books have note numbers and I find it much easier to use those (1 3 5 3 ) than read staff notation and have to fight against that-- again useful to merge that knowledge, but not one to the exclusion of the other
  13. No reason to fight against using R-3-5-3. If you are playing Pop, Rock, Country, etc. why not go ahead and embrace chord scale degree.

    Probably most of the sheet music on that type of music will be in fake chord or lead sheet, neither of which have the bass clef shown.

    So if there is a bass clef use note name and standard notation and if there is not a bass clef then use the box and chord scale degree.

    Trying to force one way for both is counter productive. Of course that is IMO.
  14. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    If I say A string, 3, 5, 12, then say E string, 3, 5, 12, how many people actually see the notes immediately?

    Quite a few I bet, the thing is once you know a number applied to a note relating to a position, you will always relate other information you know with it to reinforce it.
    The thing about tab is it uses numbers to associate fret positions, so that means notes.....if the bass is in tune. So you tune across the 5th fret, so you reinforce two A notes, two D notes, and two G notes...one is open string, one is fretted at the 5th fret.

    And so it goes on. Many players would be surprised at what the actually know of they were put to the test.:)

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