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Missing out by not being able to read music?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Dieps17, May 5, 2013.

  1. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    I just realized when I did my gig tonight (reading charts in a General Business-Wedding Band I was subbing in) I would read but I was also making some instantaneous editing, if a part was too busy I'd leave notes out. If it felt better to change an octave here or there I'd do it. Over time I've come to look at the chart/part as a guide and rely on my experience to decide just how literally to take it. This has just come with experience over the years, but if need be I could totally read the part. It's just that on the fly I rely on my ears, taste and the interaction with others to play what works the best.
  2. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Great point Roy, yes indeed we develop the skill to edit as we go, again another benefit of using it with experience.....it is not always reading exactly what's on the page, but player that can bring something more to the part is usually a welcome option.
  3. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification

    This is when you're reading well enough - when you can, in a split second see the part, "hear" the part in your head, and make a judgement call on whether to play the part or something else you can hear in your head. Roy is a master musician, folks. You're reading well enough when you can do this like he does.
  4. sonofabass


    Feb 10, 2006
    Endorsing Artist: Aguilar Amplification, Mike Lull,MXR,Gruv Gear, Mono
  5. unclejane

    unclejane Guest

    Jul 23, 2008
    When I did that sight reading on the trombone, the formal term for it was a "mistake" hah! But then again, I don't belong to The Dark Side of the Force like Roy Vogt does, so it was always a mistake when I did it.

    I can't wait till this project at my job subsides so I'll have spare brainpower to get back to trying to relearn at least the bass clef and get all that translated onto my fingerboard. It's still hard for me to believe I gigged for all that time and never read a single note.

    Fortunately, some of it is coming back from those high school years of trombone....

  6. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    In the big-band that I play in (albeit typically on upright bass), interpreting the bass parts is always a judgment call, because each arrangement has its own origins. Some of the parts are faithful transcriptions of recordings, or are literally the original chart. I tend to "play the ink" on those parts for a number of reasons, including historical value and to improve my reading chops. If you try to modernize some tunes, such as a lot of the early riff-based charts, they lose their reason for existing, or turn into a mush of historical and modern playing.

    Some parts are transcribed, even though it's obvious that the original arrangement intended an ad-lib bass line. Some parts are simplified, such as high school charts -- the Hal Leonard Hit Parade. I tend to ad-lib those bass parts, and they don't last very long in our book. If we like the tune, we'll try to find a more grown-up arrangement.
  7. Timmy-Watts

    Timmy-Watts I like bass. And airplanes. Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2010
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Amen, Brother. I do this on every gig. If I've never heard the tune before, I read verbatim until I have all the mentioned variables in my head and can decide if the part can stand my own interpretation based on who I'm playing with and what the situation is. That is something that comes with experience and really letting the language get under your skin. It's like when I read stories to my children. I'll sometimes see a sentence, decide on whether those exact words will get the job done conveying the story, or if I can word it my own way on the fly so they can understand or be entertained better without taking away from the story.
  8. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Song Surgeon slow downer. https://tinyurl.com/y5dcuqjg
  9. jedilaw


    Jan 30, 2008
    "Constrained by notation"...somebody actually referred to notation as a limit on creativity. Seriously?

    Look, I've been playing bass for twenty five years. Never played publicly because a) I was chicken and b) I knew I couldn't read quickly. I saw it, and see it, as essential to being able to quickly come into new musical situations and find the necessary common ground with the other players. That's just my view, and hardly definitive. It's heavily influenced by the fact that I grew up in a house full of musicians (dad played trombone in a concert band, sister is a classical singer in NYC) all of whom could read.

    I spent the last five years or so writing and playing songs on a MIDI keyboard rig. It really improved my musical theory knowledge, and more importantly reinforced my belief that reading is, as they say, fundamental.

    Think of it this way: sheet music is the recipe. You, the musician, are the one cooking the dish. You add your own flavor, your own special touches to it whenever you cook. That's where the art comes in. But it sure does help to know how to read the recipe!
  10. topo morto

    topo morto

    Mar 22, 2010
    Did you want to play publicly?
  11. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    ^ Reading and playing are two separate things. I certainly did plenty of Rock Band gigs before I got my reading together. One will help the other, but I wouldn't tell someone not to play until they read well. You can learn so much on any gig, more than you ever will sitting in a practice room and never playing with others.
    Of course, I'd understand if it were a reading gig.
  12. sonofabass


    Feb 10, 2006
    Endorsing Artist: Aguilar Amplification, Mike Lull,MXR,Gruv Gear, Mono
    +2 ;-)

    I think people who play first read later have the "upper hand " a bit because you 'get' what the idea is to a degree.

    I got my first real reading gig (a theater production) when a friend who was actually dating a bass player asked me to do a show because he really didn't care to do theater. I almost didn't do it because I thought my reading wasn't strong enough. It "wasn't" but I had enough time to listen to some recordings and 'finger' along with the music. That playing first thing made things easier and the process allowed me to see that I was making it harder than it really was.

    Forgive me - I think I may have "tagented" (yay, my made up word for the day! ) a bit.
  13. tbplayer59


    Jan 20, 2013
    Playing theater productions with key changes, time changes, odd time signatures, tempo changes, fermatas, multiple rest measures, pauses for dialogue, overtures, entr'acts, differing styles, 12 minute dance numbers, 15 second scene change music, etc., etc., etc. is a musical education for anyone who hasn't done it.
    I started doing it about 6 years ago because a friend who was doing it said they needed a bass player. It's been the biggest musical challenge of my life, and although I'm still not a fluent sight reader (I'm sure Sondheim would give me a heart attack), I can handle 80% of what's put in front of me on the first go around. Tempo and time signature changes still get me lost. I'm good for about 95% of the written material after a couple rehearsals, which is good because that's all we get.

    If you get the chance to learn to read music, please do so. You will be rewarded.
  14. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
  15. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    Just a glance into my world again:
    I just booked a weekend as part of a rhythm section doing John Tesh-style instrumentals with an orchestra for $1500 plus per diem, flights and rooms. I would have to read to be able to do this gig.
    As a few people have mentioned, some of my favorite players are educated "Street Players" like Will Lee and Lee Sklar. They can read a Rock part and make you think they've practiced it for months in a rehearsal hall. Bob Babbitt was the same way.
  16. LOL! This is a subdivision of one of my rules: People don't hear the mistakes you don't play....
  17. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    I got that from the late Studio Guitarist Tommy Tedesco. A good rule to live by!
  18. etoncrow

    etoncrow (aka Greg Harman, the curmudgeon with a conundrum)

    I call this the "only show enough to win" philosophy; more of a positive slant...

    edit: Buddy Guy is a master at this.
  19. OPBASSMAN1994


    Jul 30, 2010
    LEARN TO READ. It's one of the best things I've ever done for my playing, writing and understanding of the instrument.
  20. Stranger Danger

    Stranger Danger Feel Like A Stranger Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2010
    You have been playing for 25 years and have never played out? You have no idea what you are missing. That's like saying you eat cake everyday but you've never had icing. I feel very sorry for you. Although I can't read so you may feel sorry for me too.

    Music is for sharing.

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