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New to bass - learning notes?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Ryall, Mar 15, 2008.

  1. Ryall


    Mar 15, 2008
    Hey all. I'm new to the bass (and any instrument, for that matter) as well as these forums. I'm pretty sure this is the right sub-forum to post this in.

    I got a Tradition bass a week ago. I've started learning several songs, and gotten the hang of it a bit. I realized how important it is to learn all of the different notes (right?), and so I'm trying to go about doing so. The thing is I'm not sure the best way to go about that.

    I don't want to just remember where the A's, for example, are, but rather learn how to play them without thinking much about it. I think that makes sense. How would you more experienced players recommend that I learn all of the notes?
  2. Kenji


    Nov 6, 2007
    Holladay UT
  3. Ryall


    Mar 15, 2008
    But that's what I'm trying to ask. Should I just go and practice hitting all of the A's and then all the B's and etc.? Should I just make up some sort of bass line that includes several notes and just mix it up to learn the different ones? I just want to know the most efficient way. Telling me to practice isn't all that helpful =\.
  4. shatterd


    Feb 24, 2008
    Practice. lessons. etc.

    www.workshoplive.com (some great bass lessons on there)

    Start with the beginners course by Alfredo Grado. He taught me the chromatic scale, major scale, major triads, scale degrees, and octaves. Now it's much easier to know the notes all over the fret board.
  5. traktor


    Jul 22, 2001
    Weed, California
    U.S. Manager for Mobius Megatar Touch-Style Basses
    I'm not a normal bass-player so perhaps not the best to answer, but I do have an idea that helped me to learn the notes.

    What worked well for me was to learn the named notes (A - B - C - D - E - F - G) on three strings in one location. (And this does *not* use any open strings.)

    No matter where you chose for this one location, the shape will be quite memorable.

    This is only nine notes. Pretty easy to learn.

    Next, you start spelling out Major Seventh chords *within just these nine notes.* In one or two cases, the root will be on the bottom, and in other case it will fall somewhere in the middle.

    When you do this, you will observe that each chord has a very distinctive shape, different from all the others.

    When this is familiar, then still operating within those nine notes, drop the seventh, and now you've got a dominant seventh chord. Play them all. You'll notice that the distinctive shapes are still visible, and still different from all the others.

    When this is familiar, then still operating within those nine notes, drop the third, and now you've got a minor seven chord. Play them all. (The named notes A through G). You'll notice that the distinctive shapes are still visible, and still different from all the others.

    Now by the time you've got this far, you'll have learned where all the notes, and also where all the chords and their roots are, within those nine notes.

    And now with just a little bit of study, you will see that these shapes extend pretty much infinitely across the entire fretboard.

    Because I'm a touch-style player, I wasn't using any open strings, but if you've chosen a position near the nut, which any bass player will tend to do, you will now find it obvious what the open strings are, and you will also find obvious what the additional notes are on the 1, 2, or 3 strings above or below the nine note section you've chosen.

    It also has the benefit that you can almost immediately start playing bass on songs, with roots, approach notes and roots, triads, and even walking ... all within or based upon those nine notes and little else.

    Now, of course in some keys there will be some chords which are based on sharp or flat roots -- like BbMaj7 instead of BMaj7 -- but if you've chosen a location at least a fret or two away from the nut, then you just shift the shape you know either up or down one fret to make the entire chord sharp or flat.

    Pretty easy, and it will be clear to your head and to your fingers.

    Nine notes to open the Universe.

    It worked well for me. Might work well for you.

  6. jschwalls


    Sep 4, 2007
    Savannah GA
    When I started lessons back in '92. My teacher would assign a note to me every week.. The goal was for me to be able to locate and play, at random, that note in every location on my bass. He would set a metronome at selected tempos and have me play the note on every beat.. I wasn't allowed to use the octave trick or use the fret +12 on the same string ( meaning the 5th fret of D string and the 17th fret of D string.. same note.)

    Needless to say I know my fretboard like the back of my hand.
    Use the list below to help get you started.

    I also, on my own, made up a blank bass neck on a sheet of paper, made a million copies of it and would write in the notes randomly. This was very useful when I could not play bass..

    HAVE FUN!!

    E string:
    Open = E
    1st fret = F
    2nd fret = F# same as Gb
    3rd fret = G
    4th fret = G# same as Ab
    5th fret = A
    6th fret = A# same as Bb
    7th fret = B
    8th fret = C
    9th fret = C# same as Db
    10th fret = D
    11th fret = D# same as Eb
    12th fret = E octave

    A string :
    Open = A
    1st fret = A# same as Bb
    2nd fret = B
    3rd fret = C
    4th fret = C# same as Db
    5th fret = D
    6th fret = D# same as Eb
    7th fret = E
    8th fret = F
    9th fret = F# same as Gb
    10th fret = G
    11th fret = G# same as Ab
    12th fret = A octave

    D string:
    Open = D
    1st fret = D# same as Eb
    2nd fret = E
    3rd fret = F
    4th fret = F# same as Gb
    5th fret = G
    6th fret = G# same as Ab
    7th fret = A
    8th fret = A# same as Bb
    9th fret = B
    10th fret = C
    11th fret = C# same as Db
    12th fret = D octave

    G string:
    Open = G
    1st fret = G# same as Ab
    2nd fret = A
    3rd fret = A# same as Bb
    4th fret = B
    5th fret = C
    6th fret = C# same as Db
    7th fret = D
    8th fret = D# same as Eb
    9th fret = E
    10th fret = F
    11th fret = F# same as Gb
    12th fret = G octave
  7. DeanT

    DeanT Send lawyers, guns and money...

    Get yourself a set of these flash cards. They will be very helpful in learning the fretboard.
  8. Ryall


    Mar 15, 2008
    traktor: I didn't fully understand what you meant..Sorry :meh:.

    jschwalls: Thanks a ton man. That will save me lots of hassle.

    I used google and found a site where I can make blank fretboards. I made a couple blank ones like jschwalls said, and I also printed a real one with all the notes included. Hopefully I learn them in no time.

    So the fastest and most productive way to learn them is to just keep playing them over and over, then?
  9. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Yep, keep playing them over and over. It will come with time.

    I would suggest that, when you feel comfortable, you incorporate this: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=50170

    This is a very important thread and will serve you well.

    Also, to help support that and you're continued develoment, check out the "Practice Practice Practice" thread that is "stickied" to the top of General Instruction. Also, click on my home page and learn that too. These several tools will help guide you along your path of musical discovery.

    I, of course and as always, recommend a teacher as well.
  10. traktor


    Jul 22, 2001
    Weed, California
    U.S. Manager for Mobius Megatar Touch-Style Basses
    Hi, Ryall,

    Sorry. I was trying to write very compactly, and it must have failed to communicate.

    I've actually written a method book that explains this method, and it produces very rapid learning. You can get a copy for free. Details are given in this thread --

    TalkBass Thread about Jonesin' for a Tapper

  11. edspyhill01

    edspyhill01 Guest

  12. Get a teacher in your area. It's a worthwhile investment.
  13. jweiss

    jweiss Supporting Member

    Jul 5, 2007
    Park City, Utah
  14. tolson36


    Oct 20, 2003
    If your goal is to be able to read music notation and play as you are reading than it's most important to know where all the notes are and find them instantly.

    However, if you are in a band that's going to be performing the same material over and over---working on new stuff, but not reading from charts to play, then it's completely possible to play without memorizing the entire fretboard--just part of it. Every band I've been in has had at least one guitar player (some pretty good) that couldn't tell an E from a C. They learned by sounding it out and then woodshedding the patterns.

    I started by memorizing the note locations for the E, A, and D strings just up to the 7th fret and still couldn't go instantly to other notes.

    After awhile, you know how to find the other locations by methods such as finding the octaves (lower and upper) from your current location. Or that the 12th fret is the same note as the opens--etc. Or that the same note is on the next higher string (5 frets down) and there are other relationships. The nice thing about bass is that the relationships hold true between all strings. So after awhile--it's almost like pattern recognition. The note location of the root note--provides the anchor. Within the chord you need to know where the upper and lower 5th's are, octaves, 7ths, 3rds, etc

    If you are jamming--it's helpful to know starting points so that if someone says the chorus is C, F, G---you know where to find it. Like I said, I can still only go right to the notes for my first three strings and up to the 7th fret. But I play in a cover band--don't do jazz, and don't sight-read music notation. All I need it for is to get started on a song--once I learn a song it's just a learned pattern to me.

    one pattern for the verses, another maybe for the chorus--and maybe others for things such as a pre-chorus, or a break. Keep in mind that any big changes in a song---either a lead part, key change, or other types of breaks usually occur after the 2nd chorus. This is the AABA structure (of popular music) and it's amazing how it holds true to form for so many songs. I am always surprised by how many musician's get surprised by this--especially drummers. I always say--it's the same as the last song dude--right after the 2nd chorus. :)

    So, to reiterate, how important it is to be able to instantly locate a note on the fretboard is dependent upon what you see yourself doing. In cover band land, I would say the average guitar and/or bass player has to think for a second if someone says it's a C-F-G transition. There are songs I have been playing for years that if someone asked what the notes were I couldn't answer instantly because they have become patterns to me.

    However, it facilitates the early learning process of a song because it's easier to speak in notes; speaking in patterns can't be easily done as patterns are visual. I find that the quicker I transcribe a song to a pattern--rather than notes--the quicker I learn the song. Recognizing songs as patterns rather than note--also means you'll understand that changing a song's key is just changing the starting location--usually.

    I'm quite sure that some will disagree.
  15. nsmar4211


    Nov 11, 2007
    I'm all about the patterns....... still working on the notes. I can *find* any note .......but past the 7th fret I gotta really think about it instead of instantly finding it. Comes from too many nights in blues jams where you don't get to move up the fretboard much before you run into a guitar players area :).

    Considering I'm in a cover band.......I'm ok :)
  16. traktor


    Jul 22, 2001
    Weed, California
    U.S. Manager for Mobius Megatar Touch-Style Basses
    Here's a trick ...

    You already have double dots at fret twelve. Using something temporary, like Avery colored stick-on dots, mark double dots at fret seven, and fret two. In the other direction, mark fret seventeen, and fret twenty two.

    Now you have double dots up and down. These double dots are a *fourth* apart. And the strings are tuned a *fourth* apart.

    So if you know what's going on in the area of fret two (double-dots), then move up to fret seven (double-dots) and the pattern of notes you know is exactly the same, but *one string lower.*

    This means you only have to learn the (new) notes on the highest string.

    Once you're comfortable with the notes and their pattern around fret seven, move up to fret twelve. The notes and their pattern that you know around fret seven (double-dots) will be exactly the same at fret twelve (double-dots), except they're all now found *one string lower.*

    Rinse and repeat for fret seventeen (double-dots). Rinse and repeat for fret twenty-two (double-dots).

    Now you know the fretboard.
  17. Ryall


    Mar 15, 2008
    Ok. Cool. I'll try to incorporate that down the line as I improve. I tried to figure out what that thread was talking about earlier but it didn't all make sense to me. I'm very new to the musical world, as this is my first instrument experience. It'd help me a lot if someone could give me a link or something to explain what 3rds and 7ths and 5ths and roots and all that are - Kind of seems like gibberish sometimes. I know what an octave is - I think. It's just the full scale of notes right? Like from an A to a G would be an octave?

    No worries. It prob. wasn't your fault at all lol. I didn't understand all the terminology. Like I said above, a link to some of these things would help a lot. I'll check out that link when I get a chance. Thanks.

    Also, I've just started today to practice tapping a bit. I was using the lessons on Ultimate Guitar. I only got to lesson 2 so far, and I want to get the splitting hands thing down before moving on (it's quite tricky :(). Are these lessons A-O.K.? (I only put the first 2 lessons below; There are several more)

    Cool, I'll look into this when I get a chance as well. Thanks.
    Cool, I'll look into this when I get a chance as well. Thanks.
    I'll consider lessons. I'd much rather teach myself via the internet and save the money and time. But I'll consider the idea.

    Good post. Yeah, I can almost immediately imagine where the C, F, and G is (on the first two strings, anyway - which would be the ideal ones to play, I think), so that's a good sign lol. But yeah, I agree the objective would be to know where they are and find/play them effortlessly.

    I've said this earlier in my post, but I'm unsure as to what the 5ths/7ths/3rds/anchors/root notes are. Any thread or article or anything I could read?
    Ok. I think I understand. I'll keep that in mind. Thanks.
  18. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I'm afraid you wont be playing the notes without thinking about it for a few years. I am assuming you're speaking of learning the neck, not the staff...

    Here's how I memorized the neck:
    I memorized the open strings: EADG
    then the 1st "dot"(3rd fret) GCFA
    then the 2nd "dot"(5th fret) ADGC
    ...3rd "dot"(7th fret) BEAD
    ...4th "dot"(9th fret) C#F#BE
    ...5th "dots"(12 fret, 2 dots) EADG
    (the 12 fret is the octave, so it's where the sequence begins to repeat)

    It didn't take too long to memorize this, and once I had that down, all the remaining notes were easily found, only a half-step from something already I knew. I never made a concentrated effort to memorize the "in between" notes, but it became automatic within a year.

    so just memorize the dots, use that to find your way, and in time it will all be automatic.
  19. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Okay, first thing's first, click on the link in my signature.

    Second, I've thought about this now a little bit, and I was realizing that I don't really think about where notes are on the fretboard. True, I've been playing for a day or two, but I think that there are other ways of thinking about things. When I really think about, I think that I look at the fretboard harmonically. So yes, I know where the As are and the Gs and the Bs, but that's really just the launchpad. When I think about the fretboard and what I'm going to play, I'm looking at it from the perspective of 5ths, octaves, minor or major 3rds, 6ths, flatted 7ths, etc. I'm thinking about the key, the chord, the scale, the harmony.

    What does that mean to you? It means that yes, you certainly want to know where the As on the fretboard are, but you need to know your chords and scales. So as you say trying to incorporate things down the line, I disagree after further thought. Incorporate scales and chords now. It is absolutely never too early to do that, despite what some might tell you. So, you'll spend some time when you start practicing each day, hunting down the Abs and the Ebs, just for gits and shiggles. Cool. But then, practice the chords and scales. You'll be learning harmony. You'll be learning that C is a great note, and so is F, and wow! look at that, F is a fourth from C. G is a fifth. You'll begin to hear these things. I mean, it's important to know them, (click on my signature, don't forget), but it's also important to hear them. Because, and you gotta trust me on this, as you hunt and peck the Bbs and F#s for the next several months, and you continue to practice and know your scales and chords, you'll discover that now not only do you really know the fretboard, notes-wise, but you really know the fretboard, harmonically.

    So, how do you practice scales. I suggest three steps. The first is to click on my signature so that you know what in the world a scale is. You're telling me that you're still confused by 5ths and 3rds, so first you gotta learn that kind of stuff. Second, you take a stab at Pacman's sure-fire scale practice method. Take it slow and ask us questions about what you don't understand. If you really aren't getting it, there are other, less invovled things that can be suggested to help you begin to learn those scales. And finally, (although this should be done first, really), get a teacher. Maybe money is tight, I don't know, but find a good teacher and at least pay for 4-5 sessions, (you don't have to go indefinitely). This will help you grasp these important things early on in the process and save you a lot of time and frustration, and help you really get a lot out of your effort.
  20. shooter


    Mar 4, 2008
    Hey Ryall

    I am no teacher (or bassist) but ....I am in the same boat as you. ie Learning the fretboard , notes, scales, terminology etc...

    Here is a few things that are helping me a lot

    I always sit with 2 fret board maps in front of me. They are pasted in side the covers of my 'Learning Books'

    One shows all the notes on the fretboard and the other shows just all the whole notes. I refer to these frequently

    Initially ,I firmly planted in my head (by repetition and practice) what the names of the open strings are EADG. I also know that is the same at the 12th Fret (2 dots)

    EXCERCISE #1: I use one finger if I do one string practice. (One finger each note on a single string.) I work up and down the string singing/saying each note name. I start with the whole notes and then include the sharps/flats. Sharps going up and flats coming back down. Thats a chromatic scale. I always play both, past the octave.

    EXERCISE #2 : I play (and sing) the scales using only three notes per string (but all fretting fingers) and I start from the open string E. This is a pattern that once "discovered" reveals the mysteries of the fretboard. Once learnt , one can start on any of the frets within the pattern and the notes fall into place in ones head easily.(My thanx to PacMan).

    EXERCISE #3 : Move Exercise #2 to start at any fret (not open string) on the fret board (all the dots 3,5,7 are good start places). The pattern is the same but one has to finger the first notes that were previously open string notes.

    I mainly wrote this for you to assist my own learning process but hope it helps you. I keep finding that I can make progress every practice session because things "fall into place" somehow by just doing these simple things.

    Hints - focus/concentrate/slow down.
    Dont learn scales by TAB
    Have a fun playing session every practice time. ( I play with a drum machine)

    BTW - I can also recommend Absolute Fretboard Trainer Software which I use in conjunction.

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