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Reading music

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Chili, Dec 30, 2005.

  1. Chili


    Mar 8, 2005
    hey all, i have just got the complete to play bass manual, begginer to proffessional level, i've been playing for 2 and a half year tho, anyway, i'm learning to read music which is basicly at the very start of the book and found it easier than i thought it would so fair, i no what a staff is, i no what a bass cleff looks like and is for and i no that if u put a bass leff onto a staff it will be called a bass staff (i no i have alot to go yet lol) but this is what i'm stuck with:

    i no what a quarter note looks like and it has a stem and a note head, the book says a quarter note last for one beat....what does it mean last for one beat? lol, just hit the note once?

    then it has a staff with a load of quarter notes on it, i no where all the notes r on the neck more or less already, but how do u no which string its on when reading music? coz on a tab it has 4 line which represents the strings which is easy enough to remember...

    then it goes onto say extra notes can be added by the use of short lines...so it says a E is a quarter note with a line from the note head and it has another Quarter note upside down and has a longer line through the bottom of the staff near the note head, and also has a line through the note head, and also theres another E which is another quarter note upside but not as far down on the staff, about half way down the staff, why so many differant ways for one note?

    is it just a case of memory when remembering where notes r on the staff to no the note? it says to remember the notes on the staff remember 'Good Boys Deserve Fruit Always and the half notes goin along the staff, then it has the same again but remembering, All Cows Eat Grass

    theres more after this but i need to get this first lol
  2. Hey there. I'll start with your quarter note dilemma.

    There should be what is called a Time Signature after the clef sign. It will mostlikey have a 4 over another 4, or a C (which means "Common Time". 4/4 is common time). What this means is that there are 4 beats per measure, and that each beat is measured by a quarter note.
    Therefore, there will be 4 quarter notes in each measure. How long they last depends on the tempo (speed) your playing at.

    You will soon find that there are other equivalents of quarter notes, such as whole and half notes. A Half note will look like a quarter note that is "empty" in the circle part. That will take the place of two quarter notes, so you will hold it for twice as long (two beats). A Whole note will just look like a circle, which you would hold for 4 beats.

    On to translating notes from the staff to the bass:

    I think that you may be confusing the way tabs are written with the way manuscript is used. A tab is meant to be a representation of the neck. What you see on the tab is like a little picture of the 4 strings. Manuscript is totally different. The lines DO NOT represent strings. They are a way to write notes, which you then find and play on the strings of the bass. For example, a note on the bottom line of the bass clef represents the note G. G can be found on the bass by playing the 3rd fret on the lowest (soundwise) string.

    I hope this helps somewhat.
  3. Chili


    Mar 8, 2005
    kool thx, i no where the notes r, like if someone asked me where a is i could tell them, but i couldnt write it down unless its in tab, ok so if i see a quarter note on the lowest part of the staff, thats always a g? (by lowest do u mean the lowest closest to me when i'm reading it) so if it says g but its meant to be played on the D string?
  4. BassChuck


    Nov 15, 2005
    Standard music notation will show you what the note is (G, D, F# etc) and when it is to be playing in time, and how long it will sound.

    It will not show you what string you should play. So... if a note is one the middle line, its a D. But you could play it on the 10th fret on the E string, or on the 5th fret of the A string. You have to make that choice by whats easiest for you, or what kind of sound you want.

    Good luck with this, keep asking question. A good teacher will help you a lot.... bass or english.
  5. Chili


    Mar 8, 2005
    so theres 7 letters in the bass alphabet, so basicly do i just need to memorize where the quarter note is on the staff? like u sed, if a note is on the middle line its a D, so its always a D if the note or quarter note is on the middle line, even if its upside down, whats the differance between a note which is normal on the staff and a note which is upside down?
  6. The only reason that quarter notes appear to be "upside down" if for ease of writing. It helps to keep everything within the staff if notes above the middle line have the tail pointing down, and notes below the middle line have the tail pointing up. The direction of the tail of a note on the middle line is usually dependant on the movement of the piece.

    So in short, its the same note even if it's upside down. They just do it to keep the music inside the staff.
  7. Chili


    Mar 8, 2005
    kool thx, so if i were to Put D on the staff would it be on the middle line with the stem pointing down everytime i would write it? or would it not matter if it was pointing down or up, if its on the middle line its always a D doesnt matter if its pointing down or up?

    also it says extra notes can be added by the use of short lines called ledger lines, then it has 4 examples, like, It says an E with a ledger line through it is just abit lower than an F, what does it mean by extra notes can be added by these lines aswell? whats the differance between writing a E which is on the 3rd space down and writing an E with a ledger line through it below the bottom line, but it also has an E with a ledger line through the note head and a ledger line through the bottom of the stem, right beside the note head and the top of the stem is on the 3rd line down of the staff, so the note head is way above the bottom of the staff, whats the use of wiritng an E in all these differant ways when i can just write it with the note head on the 3rd space.

    i really apprisiate all the help you guys have given me, thx for havin the pateince and helping me on my way to reading music and learning theory :)
  8. whitedk57


    May 5, 2005
    Franklin, NC

    Let me answer your last question about the placement of the E on the cleff. I guess it depends on where you're playing on the neck as to where the notes are on the cleff. But, an E on the 3rd space down would be played at an octave higher than the E on the 1st ledger line below the bass cleff.

    For example (note: The letters to the left indicate the note of the cleff line or space. Also, let's just use a whole note for display purposes.)...

    A ----------------
    F ----------------
    E   O
    D ----------------
    B ----------------
    G ----------------
    E            -O-
    In the above example, I would play the 1st E on the 2nd fret of the D string. I would then play the 2nd E on the open E string. I could move the whole piece up an octive and play the 1st E on the 9th fret of the G string, and then play the 2nd E on the 2nd fret of the D string.

    I guess the important thing to remember is that you need to play the entire song consistently. If you play the E on the ledger line on the D string (2nd fret), then you'll need to play the E on the 3rd space an octive higher. It won't sound correct if you decide to play these notes in the same place on the neck.

    I hope this helps (disclaimer: I am not a professional)
  9. If you're writing a note on the middle line then you just make it match the ones around it. Like if it were in the middle of some notes with the stems pointing up then it would point up too.
  10. Sippy


    Aug 1, 2005
    Yea to know which string the note is to be played on... look at where all the open notes are on the staff. If the E (ledger line below the staff) that is the open E string... now Yes It would also be an E to hit the 2nd string (D string) 2nd fret. But look where the Open D is... it's 3rd staff!!! therefore since you cannot play a note lower then the open string. if the note in the music is Lower then the open string. The note is obviously played on a different string.. In essence you play the note on the string who's open note is closest to the note to be played on the staff.... I know what I said makes little sense.. but believe me.. it's right lol
  11. 5stringDNA


    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO
    All good info being pointed out here. Getting a grasp on teh basics of notes and timing is tottally essential. I woudl really really recommend getting a teacher for learning to read music adn relate it to what is in your head already. I came from the opposite end of thigns and was taught music before I learned any instruments, so I can't really identify with your struggle, but keep workin on it and get at least a few lessons with a competant teacher.
  12. Sippy


    Aug 1, 2005
    Definitly.. I was working with a maybe not so competant teacher.. then I hooked up with this KILLER jazz guitarist.. who's an isntructor at my college.. and since i'm a music major I get private lessons with him.
  13. theshadow2001


    Jun 17, 2004
    Ok so click on this link and it might be able to explain a few things a bit better there are a few more lessons there as well that might be of use. Its not bass specific but its useful none the less.

    Remeber each line in notation has a specific note value and each space between the lines has a specific note value. That is changed by using the # (sharp) or the b (flat) sign. Wether you use a quarter note or eight note or any other note the values on the lines remain the same changed only by # or b

    In other words quarter notes eigth notes etc. Describe the length of the note only. The line or space these are used on describes the note played only. These notes can be made sharp or flat by using the relevant signs beside it.(Don't worry bout sharp or falt just yet though)

    The difference between E on the extended ledger line and E in the third space is the pitch. E in the third space will be a higher pitch but is the same note.

    If you play an open E thats the equivalent of the E on the ledger line if you then play the E sting on the 12th fret you still have the note E again its just a higher pitch (or also said to be an octave higher) this is the equivalent of the E on the third space up.
  14. Chili


    Mar 8, 2005
    i'm starting to get the whole ledger line thing now, and i have a way to memorize where the notes r on the staff, but i dont get the 44 time signature thing, when ur writing down a peice of music do u always put a 44 time sig after the bass cleff? or something todo with havin 4 beats in each bar or something, i'm pretty confused with this
  15. You always put a time signature after the clef, but it's not always 4/4.

    When you write down music you first have to decide how many beats there will be in a measure. You put that number on top. Very often that will be 4, but not always.

    Second, you have to decide which note will "get the beat". Basically, that's the note that you'll tap your foot on. It's also the one that you define the length of the other notes with, since you write tempo as the number of beats per minute. If you want it to be the quarter note, then you put a four on the bottom. If you want it to be something else, you put the corresponding number on the bottom.
    2 = Half note
    4 = Quarter note
    8 = Eighth note
    Those three are the most common.
    You pick the bottom number based on what you think looks best, and the top number based on where the accents fall in the music you're writing down.
  16. Sippy


    Aug 1, 2005
    Hey Chili, I don't want to sound arrogant but reading music is pretty important. To be a well rounded bass player it's in a lot of ways just as important as knowing which side of the bass to play! Music theory gets very very deep, and gets very tricky. Now if you're having difficulty with waht a ledger line is, and what quarter notes are, and what a time signature is and means. It would be very beneficial for you to consult a teacher. It is very easy to get misled or completely confused when it comes to reading. I really think you should consider putting the book down, and looking into lessons.. even if it's just 5 or 10 lessons on purely reading music.
  17. Chili


    Mar 8, 2005
    i'm not really havin differculty learning what a ledger line is or anything, i no the r there to add extra notes, which is all the book says, so i came on here to ask exactly what they were, coz when i learn someting i like to no exactly what it is so i deffinitly dont get it wrong, its probs the best and quickest idea to get a teacher but i cant afford a teacher at the minute so the book is all i got and mabe a few mates who no's more about reading music than me, so i made this thread just for the people who would have the patience and help me out if they wanted to
  18. FriscoBassAce


    Dec 29, 2004
    Frisco, Texas
    Independent Manufacturers Representative
    I agree about getting a teacher...perhaps you can find someone to give you one or two basic lessons about reading music to clarify your questions that you're having.

    Regarding 4/4 time, I think it's easiest to think about it this way: imagine that you are about to start a song with your band. One of your band members (most usually the drummer), would start off by saying "One, Two, Three, Four!" and then everyone comes in together on the downbeat of the "one" of the next measure. When he counted off "One, Two, Three, Four!", he basically just completed one measure of 4/4 time. In fact, you can count along, and every time you say "One, Two, Three, Four", you have just completed one measure of 4/4 time. If you are tapping your foot along to the "One, Two, Three, Four!", then each time your foot hits the ground, that is considered to be "one" beat. In this example, there are four "beats" to a measure, and each beat is a quarter note in length. I don't know any other way to explain it. If you still don't understand, find a music teacher and pay for one lesson just so you can have your basic questions answered.

    Hope this helps!