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Picking the correct notes?

Discussion in 'Music [DB]' started by The513Sojourner, Jun 28, 2012.

  1. The513Sojourner


    May 31, 2011
    Hi all. Please go easy on my for this one. I really am trying...

    After playing BG for a number of years, I've gotten my first DB. I know I'll never be a Mingus, but regardless of that, I'm having a go of it. First- I never learned to read treble clef, let alone bass clef, but I've made my own flash cards and I'm attempting to rectify that situation in a big hurry. Second- The only music classes I ever had were those offered in my public school eons ago, and even then I never took anything after 8th grade. So needless to say I've checked out half my local library's worth of music theory DVDs, and books (Dummy-series books, Simandl courses, Jazz theory books, etc.). I am what you might classify as an "80's/90's punk that recently found a new home in Jazz". But I digress...

    Believe it or not, I found a local guitarist via Craigslist that's in the same boat musically. He's from more or an industrial music background, but we're both recently hooked on Jazz and trying to mend our musical ways by actually learning all of that which we once abhorred ("theory"). Anyway, I suggested we both try and learn what I thought was a simple swing/jazz number called "Beyond The Sea" by Bobby Darin to cut our teeth on so to speak. Which leads me to my problem: Bass clef transcription. Ok, so it's not technically transcription, since I found the piano sheet for the song and it has the bass clef. My problem comes down to what I am assuming is ear? When the sheet says "A", which A should it be? Obviously it can't be an A on the G if the song calls for something low, but which low? How do you know if it's supposed to be an open A string or something around E5?

    It's all a bit of a black art at this point. I really *do* want to learn, it's just a matter of knowing the correct terms to Google. I'm in my mid-30's, kids, wife, career (outside of music obviously), so I don't have the time or extra money to go back to school for music. If one of you could help point me in the right direction it would be GREATLY appreciated. :)
  2. Ryker_M


    May 10, 2012
    London, Ontario
    I may be able to help you out if you could provide a picture of the music.

    While an A on the G string might sound pretty high, it's no where near the A's you get into on woodwinds (like sax) and guitar.

    Keep in mind, that E5 is around middle C. A bass is tuned to E1, A1, D2 and G2.
  3. The513Sojourner


    May 31, 2011
  4. Ryker_M


    May 10, 2012
    London, Ontario
    Well, the bass part would of course translate 1:1.

    The guitar part is already there (for the most part) with the piano chords. However, if you'll notice above the staff; there's a chord chart.

    I'd suggest you base your transcription of that. The notes of that chord can be used to make up a whole series of different notes and rhythms you can use. So long as the notes that make up the chord are used, it will sound correct.

    In my personal opinion, I'd just use those chord diagrams. Take the notes of the chords, and create some rhythms around it. If you'd like, I'd create a midi file for you (provided you can't make it yourself) so you can take a listen.
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    No it wouldn't, because this is a piano chart and the bass line drops BELOW where bass is written (bass parts are written an octave above where they sound), so as soon as you drop below the E one ledger line below the staff, you aren't reading a bass chart.
    To the OP, playing jazz is about improvising a line based on the melodic and harmonic material from the composer. It ain't about "trying to be Mingus" but it IS about having the chord changes to the tune and creating a line that moves that harmony forward in a meaningful way. There are a bunch of threads that talk about building walking bass lines, I'd suggest spending more time with those.
  6. The513Sojourner


    May 31, 2011
    All- Thanks for the replies!

    Ed- I've done quite a bit of reading, both on TB and books from our local library, about walking bass lines. I feel Jazz *is* a language that is spoken by the musicians in that very moment that they play it. That's what makes the replay value so high, and I can only assume, it fun to play as well. I totally get that. I've only had my DB for two weeks though and for now I'm content with trying to play along with what I hear. My take on it is 1) Learn a few standards and learn them well as they were recorded, and then 2) begin to work in some of my own flavor once my confidence level is there. As for the Mingus reference, what I meant was that the man was an amazing bass player. Given my late start and all, I'll probably never be half as good as he was. That being said, it doesn't mean I'm not going to try like hell to be! :bassist:

    I have a couple of the bass clef "Real Books" on their way to my local branch (Cincinnati has a GREAT library system btw). My intention is to pick six or so to practice. It should give me something fun to switch over to between Simandl exercises. I also found an iPhone app for sight reading music. Should be a little less conspicuous than my index cards during meetings. ;)

    Speaking of flash cards, an other sets of homemade flash cards you might recommend me making? I have made a set of Major and Minor chords, and plan on making the Dominant set today. I'm guessing scales would be another good one, but what about the music terms (accelerando, adagio, allegro, etc.)?

    Oh, and to put this Trane back on the track (pun intended), I'll circle back to my original question. What do you call the process of determining which notes/fingering to use when trying to transcribe sheet into something the bass can play? There is an abundance of sites and TB threads with a lots of good information, but in this particular case I seem to lack the appropriate words or phrase to search with.

    Thanks again for all your help.
  7. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    The one thing that ryker said that I DO agree with is - take the chords from the chart and play your own line rather than trying to "rewrite" a piano bass line. Check out the thread REALLY Learning a Tune and apply that methodology to BEYOND THE SEA and see if that gets you closer to where you want to be.
    But the question your asking doesn't really get you anywhere useful. The notes on the staff are not just names, they are specific PITCHES. If there's something that's out of the range of your instrument you have to use your ear and not some formula to determine whether or not you need to take the whole line up an octave so that the lowest note will now sit in the range. Or if an octave jump to get that note into range is fine. But I still think you're missing the forest for that big round thing in front of you...
  8. The513Sojourner


    May 31, 2011

    Thanks a million!

    Yep, and after reading your sticky, I now have a nice knot in the middle of my forehead. I'm working from home today, so I'll get right on it!

    Thanks again. :cool:
  9. Josh_Schwalbach


    Jul 10, 2012
    I think you've hit on one of the most difficult aspects of reading music with string instruments. On a keyboard instrument, each note on the page corresponds to just one key on the keyboard; there is only one way to play that note. On a string instrument, there could be anywhere from one to four different ways to play that note. This makes learning to sight read more difficult on string instruments (IMO). The other frustrating thing that is common among bass players is that we often learn to play the instrument before learning to read music. It's like being able to speak a language, but not read it! I went through this when I transitioned from BG to DB and again when I started learning viola da gamba (different tuning).

    The first thing to know is that there are no absolute rules about where to play a note. If you see a low A, for example, you can decide if you want the brighter sound of an open string or the darker sound (and perhaps the added vibrato) that you get on the "5th fret" of the E string (to use BG lingo ;)). Sometimes the choice is also one of convenience. Which one will likely be more in tune? Which one requires less shifting regarding the notes around it? The best practice for learning to read would be to get a book of scales. There are literally hundreds of different ways you can finger a 3 octave scale (simandl only provides one), so I would recommend looking at Rabbath book 3 or Levinson School of Agility. Pick a single key every day and practice scales using at least 3 or 4 different fingerings (while looking at the page, not your hands!) and in 3 months or so you will notice profound improvement in your sight-reading abilities.
  10. As for picking the octave while transcribing... listen to the sound of your own instrument, hear how it changes character with each octave. You can usually pick that out of a recording at some point, and then it's a mater of following the relative movement. Inconvenient if you have to follow it backward, but that's how it goes sometimes.

    In terms of reading, while scales are useful I've always found them somewhat overrated too. You want to get or write out every arpeggio you can find, of all kinds of weird chords, and read those too, in every reasonable fingering. Then shuffle them so you're leaping all over the place, like the Simandl exercises do. Make up things that will not just stretch your reading, but your technique as well, and try to read them in even tempo.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think that you are still missing a couple of points that others have tried to get across, but as you say - after 2 weeks, you wouldn't expect to get that far - but given that you are in your 30s - there's still plenty of time for you to get as far as you want with Jazz! :)

    I think that others are worried though - that you don't get the wrong end of the stick. So you say you are hooked on Jazz - well the thing to realise about Jazz and especially Jazz bass lines, is that those guys you hear, were all making up their own lines and responding to what was going on around them - that's what makes it Jazz.

    I realise that you are just talking about practice and where to start - but as they say - start as you mean to go on! If you just look at reading written lines, then that can be a useful exercise - but it aint Jazz!! :p

    I wouldn't get stuck on reading things from a book and trying to reproduce then exactly - that's a good approach to classical music or anything where you are playing a set repertoire. But if as you say, you want to play Jazz, then get improvising as soon as you can!

    I have been on a lot of Jazz courses with some of the best Jazz educators in Europe and they have always said that they get absolute beginners improvising from day 1. I have seen/heard the results of this and while it may not sound as "polished" as somebody playing a written line note-for- note - you do feel that these people are making great progress...?
  12. There is a download on this page at studybass.com that correlates the fretboard to standard notation.

    I had the same question at first...this helped.
  13. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    I'm not going to say what, specifically, you should be doing.

    I will suggest that you be patient. The more you learn, the more you understand how much more there is to learn.
    Don't compare yourself to anyone else.
    Success is progress toward a worthwhile goal, regardless of how big or small the amount is. Progress is progress.
    The great irony is, when you attain your goal, you lose your opportunity to be successful unless you establish a new goal. That's the good part of having alot to learn.
    Select as intermediate goals stepping stones toward the desired end result.

  14. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    KC Strings
    Enjoy the process. Relax and go where the music takes you.

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