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Mindset question

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by PorkPieHatBass, Jun 29, 2004.

  1. Ok, I'm trying to get my sight reading down but I'm having a problem when it comes to how I think about my playing. I'm trying to learn where all the notes on the neck are, but there are two ways to go about this, and I'm wondering how you guys think of it.

    The first way is just to memorize hand positions (i.e. half position on E string is 1=F, 2=F#, 4=G, etc) and do this for all the hand positions on all the strings. This makes sense because it makes sure you have proper technique in terms of hand position while you're playing. The con is that it's a lot of information to memorize and thinking about which position to go to next is another daunting task to learn.

    The second is just to know where each note is on the neck on each string (i.e. basically have an idea of where G on the E string is). This makes sense to me because then you don't have to worry as much about strict positions, and it will presumably allow for more fluent playing, as you can shift more without thinking of what the best hand position is. The con, though, is that technique may suffer some.

    I'm just wondering what all your thoughts are. My teacher has said learning positions is how he did it, but he did it in a wierd fashion. His teacher taught him things like G position on the E string, so the first finger is on G. That way, I guess he sort of learned it both ways, having to know where the first note is, but also knowing the proper hand position. Any advice?
  2. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    If I understand you correctly, IMO, learning notes on a FB by hand position or visual pattern is just a crutch and will lead you into a dead end if you become dependent on it. Learning notes where they lie on the FB takes more work but in the end leads you to the most flexibility on how you're going to play. You won't be dependent on say, hitting the G on the E string with one particular finger in one particular hand position.

    Instead maybe just use hand positions to get you used to where notes lie and then later be able to hit those notes with any finger in any hand position. That way your playing remains flexible and require less effort depending on the situation.

    For example, piano players don't go by hand positions. They go straight to the note they wanna hit and by practicing alot it becomes natural - and so does sight reading. But because of the way the piano is laid out, finger positions constantly change and get inverted in all kinds of ways, so it's not something they can rely on. It takes more work but in the end, you don't get trapped into thinking in boxes like many do on guitar (including me) - which also sounds like the way your teacher learned the notes. In hindsight, IMO, I'd avoid that at all costs .
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I think that the thing that is going to work best for you in the long run is to continue to listen to your teacher more and type on the Internet less. Your teacher hears and sees you play every week, we don't. Their advice and suggestion is more likely to be spot on than ours, given the circumstance.

    Generally, positional playing has a lot going for it. It wasn't something that somebody DECIDED, it evolved from common practice. One of the things that really was an obstruction coming over from electric bass for me was an over reliance on patterns, positional playing has really helped me to link the fingerboard in some very healthy ways. IT'S NOT ANY ONE THING. Positional playing puts you in the ballpark, you still have to hear the note that you want to play in order to get it under your finger. Playing in positions, playing in tune, playing the note you mean to - it's a bunch of stuff going on all at once. The idea is not to "think" about what position you are in or where you are going. You do all of this work and drill so that the shifting is elegant, simple and gets you to the phrase you were hearing.

    Sight reading, hell, no matter what methodology you use there is gonna be **** that is easy to play and **** that you are going to have to work out the fingering for. If you are early in your approach to this instrument, I would advise you to be a little LESS eager to disregard instruction from somebody who's been doing this longer than you.

    And that you are paying.
  4. There IS alot to learn. The proper way to learn DB, IMO, is sloooowwwwwwwlly and correctly.
  5. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Good advice above, but I can't help but to interject (Hey! I'm for the other Team! -- an obtuse reference for folks my age).

    Knowing how to read successfully, no matter the instrument (ok, except maybe DRUMS) is a matter of knowing your key and recognizing shapes. And, of course, having an idea of what you're looking at might sound like.

    First, as far as where things are on the bass. Listen to your teacher, and perhaps check out my fingering thread (Newbies Section, above).

    Second, there are a couple of things to look for when reading. First, rhythmically you tend to see the same rhythms a lot. Going through some drum method books will help you with this. There's one in particular that is grat for this, but I can't remember the name of it or who wrote it. Ask a drummer about the 'Syncopation Book'. They'll know what it is that you want.

    Third, you can get yourself in a better position reading the pitches themselves with a few pointers.

    First, if you understand your key, then any note on the page with no accidental is somewhere in the scale. If it has and accidental, then it's not. Pretty simple.

    When looking at a run of notes, you can see if it's a scale or chord shape by noticing if the notes are skipping lines and spaces or hitting every line and space along the way.

    Second, you can tell where on the neck you want to be by taking note of the highest and lowest note in a particular passage. In the case of a walking bass line you can look measures / systems ahead and see where you want to be headed.

    Third, have an eye ahead of where you are.

  6. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    And to connect Ray's thoughts, if you know your arpeggios well enough and notice:
    1) Notes are moving up the clef almost linearly
    2) that there are no accidentals (or even if they have them it's not too bad)
    3) notes skips spaces or lines as the go up or down

    You know you're in for some kind of 3rd or arpeggio if it keeps going. And if it aint and it goes to the next line/space then you're in for the next note in the scale. This kind of thing helps when reading things that are moving gradually up/down the scale. You learn this kind of thing right quick playing piano. You read chords much fast if you look for the "all-lines" or "all-spaces" pattern. Helps you pick up reading big chords real fast.

    I guess for sight reading we have all these different sorts of tricks that help us read fast. Those that we mention above and then you need straight-up memorization of where certain keys are on the clef when jumping around on the clef. i.e. 3 space from the bottom is always C, 2nd line down from the top is always F, 1st line down is always A, 2nd space down from from the top is always E. Things like that. If you combine it all together with knowing where notes are on the FB, you can execute your reading pretty quickly with some good practice.

    I guess every single person will come up with those that work for them. Maybe you'll just have to find which ones work for you. For me... memorizing the notes on the clef and where they lie and physically connecting them to their locations on the FB/keyboard/whathaveyou have worked the best. But I don't think there's really any shortcut to learning to sight-read fast. I was kinda shocked when I was taking a guitar lesson with Mimi Fox and she admitted that her sight-reading skills weren't very good.

    Come to think of it... I remember the bad the acronym memorization things NEVER worked for me when you first start out learning music (ALL COWS EAT GRASS or something lame like that) - a horrible and irrelevant crutch IMO.
  7. Thanks for all the replies. Ed, as harsh as your reply was, it was appreciated. I just wanted to clarify though. It's not that I'm disregarding my teacher, because I respect him a lot and he's helped me considerably. I'm just trying to figure out whether I should think of the G independently of which hand position to use to get at it, if you get my drift. Instead of thinking of playing a G in a particular hand position, know where it is so I have more freedom with what hand position to use.

    Actually, the reason I was asking in particular is that my teacher is in Rochester and I'm at home near Boston. I'm not going to a teacher here because I have had trouble finding one that I can get to on a regular basis. In addition, my teacher at school gave me some pointers further on in Simandl to work on, and I'm basically just trying to get sight reading down for the most part. Hence my question. But you're right, I should practice more than I do right now, I was just looking for some advice while I'm doing it. Thanks again for all your responses.
  8. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    I have the first part down, frickin' over half my life already.
    Now, onto the second part.
  9. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    He's not a bass teacher, but for an approach to improv, ear training etc. you might want to chase down a Bostaon area pianist named Harry Diamond. He's out of the Tristano "school" and (studying with one myself) those guys tend to know what they are about.
  10. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Harvey Diamond, I believe.
  11. PorkPie -

    Learning positions is not about always moving to a certain position in order to play a certain note.

    Any note (a given note, in a given octave, on a given string) can still be played in three differents positions (more if you use four fingers). In each position you would be using a different finger for the same note.

    Learning hand positions is simply a way to train you to always know what notes are under your fingers at any given moment and place. If you study all the hand positions (one for each half step up the board) you will end up knowing where all the notes are on the board.

    Additionally, if you play classical music, knowing postions, helps you to plan strategically, the most efficient way to play a difficult passage. (Though that might not always be the most musical way.)
  12. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Oops, yeah HARVEY...
  13. Whether you're playing a practice excercise or a written part with a band, don't think of it as a string of individual notes. We don't read language one word at a time, we read phrases. Try to read music in phrases as well. As noted above, you'll start to recognise phrases as arpeggios or portions of scales, and you'll recognise rhythmic phrases as well. This 'phrase' approach will allow you to read ahead of where you're playing, and shift accordingly. Sensible shifts will benefit your smoothness, intonation, tone- everything.

    Which finger you play any particular note with will be dictated by where it falls within a phrase- what comes before that note and where you're going after it.
  14. rockness


    Jul 30, 2003
    Stratford, CT
    I'm beginning to understand the importance of that statement. Seeing things in phrases not only helps me when playing, it also helps when transcribing difficult passages. All those scales and inverted arpeggio practices are finally starting to come to fruition. Great advice there.
  15. Just a quick question....How many teachers are you working with right now? I've heard you talk about so many, but have lost track.
  16. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Just one, Joe Solomon. He studied and played with Lennie and studied and played with Sal Mosca (and Julius Levine), and has worked with Warne Marsh, Connie Crothers and others of that "school".

    I've had lessons (in the past) with Michael Moore, Mike Formanek, Walter Booker, had a master class with Charlie Haden, "studied" with John Neves at Berklee and had some legit lessons with this cat in Augusta named Barry Garman, who plays with the local symphony.