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Reading Music Made Easy. Sort of.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by markjsmithbass, Jan 9, 2018.

  1. Hi everyone. Been out of the forum for a while but I was messing around with some of my older lessons and thought this one might be useful for any of you wanting to learn to read music. It's one I released form the Bassic Fundamentals course and gives you an introduction to reading in as simple a way as I could muster.

    Back when I was starting out I always found reading to be one of those things I could easily lose interest in because it can seem such an uphill struggle. Eventually I taught myself by keeping things SUPER EASY!. By taking baby steps from the absolute basics (reading 2 notes) I found I could keep my interest levels higher and saw a much faster development.

    Needless to say it all worked out and the bulk of my professional bass work over the past 20 years has involved sight reading. Some of you might be aware that I've turned all of this into a full blown Simple Steps To Sight Reading course but this lesson is a separate Youtube introduction that kind of gives you an insight into how I teach it.

    Anyway, I'll leave this here and hopefully it's of some help!


  2. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    great work.
    I realize that it's an old clip, but even as an intro, I wish you had got beyond whole notes

    If someone were to watch the video asking "is reading for me?"
    They might be turned off by the boring whole note stuff

    Rhythm notation is by far more exciting, fun and valuable to a bass layer (just my experience)
  3. The course will obviously goes waaay beyond any of this. This is just a very simple introductory example to show how easy reading can be if you approach it from the absolute basics. The idea is to keep it easy at every juncture.

    Ironically, you've actually pointed out the main problem most people are going to encounter in learning to read. They often start by wanting some kind of musical payoff right from the start. When a child is learning to read you have to start with the absolute basics to begin with. Letters, syllables etc. You don't even move into words until they have that down.

    I've found that by teaching this way I've had much faster success. As a little background, after leaving uni in the 90s I ended up teaching in my old music school for a couple of years and I obviously had a syllabus to work to and goals to be met. 99% of the bass players had absolutely zero reading ability even though a few of them were at a decent level of general playing. But they were all going to have to get through sight reading exams at the end of every year.

    The usual standard of reading in lessons in something like a music school starts way above the ability of the average bass player and I've noticed that many teachers just take a bulldozer approach of handing out relatively tough reading like Jameson charts, assuming a certain level of understanding. After all, these players are studying at (supposedly) higher education level. F*ck em if they can't deal with it!

    So I took a completely different approach and started them all with these absolutely idiot proof exercises, whatever their general playing level. Within a few weeks they were all reading basic stuff and over the course of a year they could all read enough to just about get through the exam material. If I'd have just given them piece after piece in the way I'd been taught through much of my own academic training I really don't think they'd have made any progress.

    Remember, we're talking 16 year old kids that just want to play in punk and metal bands. Nothing wrong with that but they would usually have no interest in learning stuff like jazz and reading was waay down the priority list. Some of them had been sent to the college by welfare because they'd expressed an interest in learning music (they didn't even own an instrument). The college had a foundation level music course that would take that kind of student. Don't worry, I won't go near that rant on the funding and money side of music education.

    Anyway to cut the story short, I was able to motivate those kids into reading because they would be seeing it as something easy and simple and as soon as I was able to point out their progress after a few days it inspired them to push that bit harder. No longer was it the dull and boring part of the lesson they instinctively rebelled against. Just a little progress and ability can do wonders for motivation.

    All my lessons are kind of born from this kind of experience. It's why I approach everything from a ridiculously low baseline (no pun intended). You can't assume anything in teaching a subject.
    DenverontheOne, xaxxat, hs123 and 2 others like this.

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