1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Read or ear ? What do you prefer ?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by TKnights, Apr 15, 2018.

  1. TKnights


    Jul 16, 2017
    Bangor , ME
    I've noticed in the last many years that musicians aren't reading as much as they used to . When I was playing mostly horns (in the early 70s) it was much easier to learn a song with the music written out for you . Of course , then , I was doing stuff that required playing as written . But , since I've gone to bass full time , it seems to be a mostly ear thing . Now , it's nice to have a score handy for reference . But , I think you get better feel when you play by ear . It leaves you open to your own interpretations . And having a good drummer to work with makes it even better .
    retslock, Strung_Low, Artman and 3 others like this.
  2. jchrisk1


    Nov 15, 2009
    Northern MI
    Always by ear first. I feel that I retain it better that way. When I run into problems, I will read the music. But, I haven't read music in so long, it takes me a while to get it. I've been working on my reading, but lately work has been consuming all of my time. I never use tabs. I've got a bit of a photographic memory, and it just confuses me remembering numbers on lines.
  3. Paulabass

    Paulabass Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2017
    I learn it by reading it (sometimes) but then I play something completely different. Right now I'm learning four bands repetoire, so i'll read first, to get it into my brain quickly, but then I'll never look at it again.
  4. TKnights


    Jul 16, 2017
    Bangor , ME
    I had a hard time reading while playing early on due to a reading disability. But I learned a few tricks to get me through . When I was in school I would memorize the music and then just use the sheet music as a reference or to make sure I was in the right place . This enabled me to get some full orchestra and pit orchestra gigs(French horn and trombone) . And one of my favorite teachers taught me to read a couple of measures ahead of where I was playing . That trick came in very handy while doing rock gigs . I was able to sing one verse while going over the next verse in the back of my head . I could do the same with the bass parts .
    Torrente Cro likes this.
  5. Paulabass

    Paulabass Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2017
    ^^ Only a little off the subject- Quite often at Univ. entrance auditions, they will get you to play your selection backwards to prove you did not memorize it.
    jackn1202 and JimK like this.
  6. Kind of hard to play songs you have never even heard before by ear and do them justice.
  7. no choice for me, I can barely tell a C from a G.
  8. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    By ear 99% of the time. There are no really good charts for what I need to learn
    on a gig and only one band has submitted charts in the 20 + years of gigging.
  9. Paulabass

    Paulabass Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2017
    I do it about thirty times a weekend. Typically, I listen to a few bars first, then drop in. I've been doing it a long, long time, and admittedly, caused a train wreck or two in my time.
  10. I've been doing it too, I'd rather be handed a written out part with lyrics so I can do justice to the original. I don't care to be playing with guys who sit in and crap all over a song and don't want to be that guy either.
    Micah D, dralionux and Matthew_84 like this.
  11. Paulabass

    Paulabass Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2017
    ^^ I hear you. I have a really good band too.
  12. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    It's not easy BUT fortunately there are teachers who are really, really good at teaching this skill. I used to think I was completely "tone deaf" until I studied with Eyran Katsenelenbogen at NEC; he's such a good educator, he could probably teach ear training to a radish!
    nbsipics likes this.
  13. InhumanResource


    Dec 28, 2012
    Ear? More like memory. You only need to read the piece if you haven't learned it yet
  14. The last strictly 100% reading gig I did was for Mary Wilson (formerly of the Supremes) where all her bass parts were the J Jamerson parts note for note , but transposed to be in her key. With out being able to read the entire 1 + show down with only a 1 hour slot for rehearsal, I would have been able to do the gig by ear. And I considered it a privilege to do the gig.
    My normal band (a 10 piece with horns) never rehearses, so the BL writes charts for everyone, and all songs are played cold on the gig, having an ear helps with the easy stuff, but some of the more difficult things would be almost impossible without the reading chops.
  15. The best players I know can do both.
  16. DavC

    DavC Supporting Member

    May 17, 2005
    Tallmadge , Ohio
    i played trumpet/keys / bass ... back in the day ... i used a 'C' trumpet ... since i was usually to drunk to transpose while playing keys/trumpet at the same time .. !!

    reading is important ... but the shock of going from a Classically trained pianist , ... into Jazz studies was quite a shock .. ! then i had a greater appreciation for ' playing by ear ' ...

    i think we should know/use Both .. !
  17. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    Chord charts when I can, by ear the rest of the time.
    Deak likes this.
  18. Seeing as I can't read a note and have a good ear, I guess 'by ear' is my choice.
  19. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    both = all good! ;)
  20. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    Perfect world*:
    * Go directly to step 3 for most country, blues, some rock
    1)Sight read the music without the instrument (hear it in your head) . Understand the key, repeats, drop outs, overall chord progressions, etc.
    2) Listen to the music with sheet music & pencil but no bass.
    3) Play along with the music
    4) Practice the rough parts with a metronome
    5) Nail the track
    6) Embellish
    7) Play song multiple times without music.

    I do a lot of by ear transcribing with youtube. Anything - Gangnam style and Party Rock Anthem, SouR Girl, accordion music.

    I also look at other parts, esp. horns, for ideas.

    I have thousands of songs on sheet music digitally, filed by artist name. Subscriber to Muse Score Pro but really dont use that much except for practicing double bass bowed parts.i

Share This Page