Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by sheepdip, May 16, 2004.

  1. sheepdip


    Apr 14, 2004
    This is something that I have thought about because I see so many posts indicating that a lot of Bassists don't read music only tab.

    My experience with the playing Bass is limited but I do play another instrument and I wanted to give my personal experience with reading music.

    It is possible to learn to play without reading music. There are people out there who have learned by themselves and play well and it is not my intention to hold them in a lesser light. I have a friend who plays the piano and he was over about a month ago and after he played for a while I told him that he would expand his playing if he would learn more about the notation. I asked him if he knew what key he was playing in, he said "well I guess 'C', theres no black keys being used" I said "look at some music and start reading the sharps and flats" he looked at me and said "what do they look like" I was totally flabbergasted and didn't have the faintest idea of how to respond to the fact that he did not know what a sharp or flat looked like written down. Which brings me to here......

    Written notation is the Picasso and Michaelangelo of the music world. Every note, slur, tie, bar line, measure, rit. forte tells us something that you will never get out of tab. These marks on paper are the brush strokes of composers that give meaning to what you are playing and there's more....try to see whats not written down. Look for the phrase ending, how does this phrase end and not only is this the end but it's also the start of the next section how is this played? Start putting shape to your music, music is always going somewhere, it's either beginning or ending. Each measure has something to say and it is up to you to convey it to the listener. The complete musician will never be satisfied with his or her performance. You can play a piece until you say "Oh thats nice I have this piece down" and next week, year go over it again and say to yourself "why didn't I see that before, I should have done this or that". You may please the crowd but you will never be satisfied and this is a good thing, you will always be striving to do better.

    If you can't read music Get out there and start today, you will thank yourself down the line for the effort that you put forth.

    My .02c your mileage may vary :D :bassist:
  2. I'm beginning to see the good sides of being able to read music too. Anyone have some good resources to learn to read and play music (instead of the abundand 'name-the-note' things)? I'm mostly looking for example lines to play.
  3. sheepdip


    Apr 14, 2004
    Pick up a copy of "How To Read Music" by Terry Burrows. It's a good start. :D
  4. nate22


    May 5, 2004
    go to and sign up! 4 week's lessons for only $50! Basic reading class starts on Monday :)
  5. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Mel Bay's "Note Reading Studies For Bass" by Arnold Evans. Starts you off easy and by the end provides you with some advanced lines to read and play.
  6. I play guitar and bass both by ear. I play mostly rock tunes and R & B with the people I play with now. I use mostly the major, minor, pentatonic, blues scales, and various modes. I know a little theory, is my point in telling you that. We improvise alot. We have played with some schooled musicians before who have trouble staying in a groove if the music is not written out for them. They seem to be very uncomfortable in situations where they need to be a little spontaneous and create something that fits. I am not saying that all musicians who read music are that way. By all means, most of the greatest improvisors also read music. I guess the point I am trying to make is that it is just as important to develop and good ear and learn to feed off other musicians on the fly.

    Having said that, I agree wholeheartedly that reading music will unlock doors for any aspiring musician. I know what the notes are on the bass clef, but that's about it. I plan to learn to read in the near future, and believe that all musicians should take the time too do so.

    I also know many spectacular players that have never read.
  7. SlavaF


    Jul 31, 2002
    Edmonton AB
    (Please don't flame me here)

    I've been playing bass for a little over 2 years, and I've been really developing my ear, and I find that really important in doing what I do. Despite some effort, though, I've never been able to read music. I can barely read those walking quarter note bars... :meh:

    I've never really been able to connect written music to anything I do (or would like to do). I just don't really see it as a necessity. And plus, I'd much rather have fun practising than slave over reading music.

    Is my attitude completely wrong? Should I drop everything and start reading music? I just don't really see it being that big of a benefit to me, as my ear is quite proficient, and I can easily pick up on what to play.

    That's not to say I don't know scales, modes and that kind of stuff. Basically what I'm trying to say is that nothing I do now requires sight reading (at least not that I know of) so I'm failing to see the benefits of learning at the moment.

  8. Hi Guys,

    I started learning to sight-read last year and I'm beginning to see the benefits. The main benefit is that I can get a whole lot more out of my subscription to BassPlayer magazine. All those transcriptions, grooves and exercises are so much more accessible thanks to the fact that I can (just about) read the standard notation.

    I also started playing piano this year and I am truely enjoying it thanks to sight-reading.

    The ability to sight-read (even if you're just stumbling along) is a handy tool to have and it opens more doors than you may expect.

  9. Moongarm


    Apr 10, 2004
    Honestly, once you learn how to read music well it requires almost no thought process. Well at least for me it doesn't. I'm sure others would agree though. It gets down to almost a reflex. Notes and rythms are child's play after a while and then you get down to the fun part. How to make it actual musical through dynamics, tone from fingers and the likes.

    You shouldn't have to slave at anything and make it a drudgery on yourself. That's not the proper way to learn. Take it in small doses at a time and keep it interesting and you'll progress further than you'd believe without realizing it.
  10. sheepdip


    Apr 14, 2004
  11. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    "AT THE MOMENT" is the key phrase here, because when is the "right moment"? What may happen if you plan to be in music a long time, but never learn to read until you "need" to, you may not have time to develop the fluency with reading when the necessity arises.

    Reading is not hard, but it doesn't happen overnight. Just as learning to read words and sentences took you time, so does learning to read standard notation.

    Don't let happen to you what happened to a guitarist I knew. He was really quite good, but didn't read, not even charts. In fact he couldn't even name notes on his guitar, but knew the frets by ear. He played in a series of moderately successful bands, but his dream was to play in one he greatly admired.

    Lo and behold, that dream band had an opening for a guitarist and had seen this guy play and offered him a position based on his stage playing. He went to a rehearsal and lasted one night.

    They had a large backlog of music, had charts, knew keys. He couldn't play along. They'd tell him the key so he could improvise and he couldn't even do that. He couldn't read their charts. He tried to play by ear but it was such slow going, that they told him they just didn't think he'd have time to ever learn all their music and commit it to memory.

    He was crushed by that failure because it meant so much to him to play in that band he respected so much. But to this day that guy can't read music. He stubbornly resists learning, feeling his "ear" approach is better. Well, it is his choice.

    He has a band that is doing OK. They are trying to record a new CD now, but want to change their style somewhat and are having a tough time. Again, I think his lack of general music theory may be standing in his way, but like reading standard notation, he believes theory is not necessary if you have a good enough "ear", so that is where he stands today, blocked in his efforts to record a new CD.
  12. SlavaF


    Jul 31, 2002
    Edmonton AB
    Hmm... thanks very much to those that replied, I kinda expected that. I mean in a perfect world I'd read music, but it's tough devoting the time and effort to something that's not really a necessity now. I'd rather practise things that are actually fun to do (even scales are somewhat amusing to play fast) than slave over that stuff.

    I find it hard to even understand how the more complex things (and even chords and simple rests) can be read while holding a tight groove. I guess I need the Complete Moron's Guide to Standard Notation Reading for Bass? :eyebrow: LOL does something like that even exist... :D

    Just so you don't think I'm a complete theory doofus, I'm pretty comfortable with scales, modes, keys, key signatures and the like, and I can improvise pretty well, especially in a band setting. I understand the importance of theory for being a good musician, and that only aids and improves my ear.

    Please recommend me a book that is very simple to follow but gets to the point. All I have now is "Building Walking Basslines" by Ed Friedland, and while that's helped me a lot, I still can barely read that stuff. :crying:
  13. sheepdip


    Apr 14, 2004
    Read the post by Stephanie I think that publication will help you out, in fact, I think I will get it also. I don't know any others to tell you about. It's funny but I don't remember any other training except from my music teacher when I started at age about 12. As the years progressed things were pointed out to me and they were assimulated by the learning process until it became second nature.
  14. tkarter


    Jan 1, 2003
    I would highly recommend Carol Kaye's sight reading DVD course with manual. Makes sight reading and learning fun while playing some good lines.

  15. canopener


    Sep 15, 2003
    Isle of Lucy
    Here's the book I'm using now, and it really is simple. You'll kick yourself for not learning sooner!
  16. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    there are people whose ear and reading skills are so advanced, they can pick up a piece of multi-stave manuscript and imagine the music vividly & accurately (think of Beethoven composing his best work whilst totally deaf)... however most of the time, written notation is used to show people what they should be playing... i.e. it's a set of instructions, it's NOT the music itself :)

    if it was, people wouldn't go to hear orchestra's, they'd go sit in a hall which had written music notation projected up on a big screen for them to all silently get their rocks off reading

    my point is that, while I accept that written notation can provide a hell of a lot more musical information than 'tab', it's still only ink on paper... and for the vast majority of people, music is consumed through one's ears

    it is a valuable skill to be able to read music well, one which I would highly recommend, but for 99.9% of people, it is only the recipe, not the meal itself
  17. sheepdip


    Apr 14, 2004
    I will agree with you but, those people are FEW and FAR between. How many Beethovens' have you seen? He only became deaf way after he was already an acompolished pianist and composer so the rudiments of music were already implanted in his fertile imagination. The only liberties that should be taken with notation are Rubato. I stand by my original post, reading original notation is an indispensable part of the complete musician.
  18. woodster


    Apr 24, 2004
    Hey if you`re just in a local band doing covers and improvise stuff,reading is not mantory.
    If you want to be a complete muscian,learn to read,you never know when it will come in handy!!

    It be like it was. :bassist: