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Standard Notation?? Is it a must???

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by WarPig, Jun 15, 2005.

  1. :crying:
    I've been playing bass for about 25 years. I always had a good ear, and no problem picking up tunes, composing my own grooves.....whatever. Technical skills are also well tuned.

    I recently started down a path to uncover what I have missed all along by being profoundly weak in theory. So I picked up a couple of books w/ CD to try and fill in the holes.

    Whatever knowledge these texts have to offer comes with the requirement to learn to sight read standard notation in order to extract the secrets.......hmmm :(

    I've found this kind of playing SUCKS, cuz as soon as the page of music isn't in your face, the song is gone. I've had this same issue with sight reading piano.

    :help: Is there a GOOD book on theory development written for TAB?
    Tab is cool, its far less confusing, and when you look at tab - you're looking at your fretboard.
    OR :rollno: , should I just slug it out and do the work with standard notation?

    Any helpful suggestions would be greatly appreciated
  2. Do the work with standard notation. Tab is worthless for theory, because it doesn't deal at all with musical relationships, only with physical ones.
  3. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    +1. Besides, nobody on a pro level uses tabs. I've heard of kids in modern rock bands using tab to communicate ideas, but I have to read music all the time on my gigs and have never been given tabs once. It's unheard of. So yeah, you want to learn theory, learn notation.
  4. seanlava


    Apr 14, 2005

    Once you know the names of the notes on your instrument, and can read standard notation, everything else comes much quicker. I guarantee you that if you sit me down next to a tab "reader" and give us the same piece of music, i'll know the tune in 1/4 the time it'll take him to learn it. (plus i'll be able to play it with variations, and play it in other keys too.) Standard notation isn't a stumbling block, it's a springboard to improvement.

    Standard notation is cool, it's far more versatile, and when you look at the staff, you're looking at the whole universe of music.
  5. DrewBud


    Jun 8, 2005
    I agree that TAb is just a shortcut. Learning to read standard notation will be much more useful and will open doors to different learning methods and gigs.

    The Key to learning is to pick something fairly simple and start out slow. Walking bass lines are great for that as you don't have to worry about the rhythm, just the notes.
  6. slybass3000

    slybass3000 Banned

    Nov 5, 2004
    I think I feel your pain and frustration about learning to read notation.
    BUT, you have to give it a good try because all the positive aspects will follow:
    1)Sight-read on gigs
    2)Play music that doesn't exist with TAB
    3)Analyse tunes and harmony is a snap
    4)Compose music that can be played by others quickly

    Plus, I always found TAB to be so off because it is a software that dictate you where to play the notes. There is nothing like finding your own fingerings to play a bassline. Tab will show you the notes and a certain path that is probably not the way it was or should it be played. You'll get some really bad information out of it.

    So, hang on and give it time and effort. It will pay off!!!
  7. Learn standard notation, definately, it is invaluable...but, TAB is more than a short cut, but rather something that is commonly overlooked by those (including myself a month ago) who have depended on standard notation for a while. The reason that it is useful is actually BECAUSE it gives you specific fingerings; that's not a downside, just an opportunity. Ideally, I want just the standard notation, but if I really get involved in the mechanics, I want both. Tab is practical on an advanced level just as much as it is practical to teenagers who don't know anything about music.

    I disagree. You don't need to physically see the amount of lines and spaces between each notes to appreciate their values, though I do agree that it will help.

    I knew standard notation far before I started music theory, but when I did start, I didn't use tab or standard notation, but rather letters and roman numerals because I already knew all the notes.
  8. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I will say this about tab...tab has come a long way in being able to effectively communicate musical ideas by itself. It used to be that you had to have the notation in order to figure out note values, and now they finally figured out to put stems on the numbers and include rests to show note values. It improved it greatly.

    However, you still have to learn what the note stems and rests mean, which is pretty much half of reading notation. And while it allows guitarists and bassists to communicate with each other, it excludes everyone else. A keyboardist doesn't know from tab. You show him a tab and he's going to ball it up and throw it on the floor for all it means to him. You want to talk music with other musicians, and you have to use notation. They're not going to learn tab.

    As for whether it shows note relationships as well, I don't think it does. Sure, you can count frets and figure out how far a major 4th is from the root, but it won't tell you what that root or what that major 4th is called. You never learn the names of the notes with tab, either. And reading chords by using tab is a freaking nightmare!

    In my opinion, tab is nearly useless unless you never deal with anyone but guitarists. It does show you where to put your fingers, but it teaches you very little about making music. It's all show and no blow. Tab tells you what to do. Notation tells you HOW to do it. You know the old saying, "Give a man a fish and he'll eat today. Teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime." Tab is giving a man a fish, and notation is teaching him how to fish.
  9. If you just want to play bar bands, tab is fine. If you want to get in the studio to do free-lance stuff, get cracking on the std notation.

    Anybody bother to write out actual bass clef music in the studio anymore to give the bass player? How often do you end up just reading off a treble clef lead sheet? So being able to read the melody might come in handy? Maybe you should actually focus on reading treble clef as well as bass? It would give you a lot more music to read, seems harder to find bass specific charts.

  10. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Steve, sure, you get music written out in bass clef all the time. However, you will also get stuff written in treble clef, chord charts, Nashville numbering, what have you. All depends on how sure the leader is about the parts he wants to hear. I'd say chord charts are the most common thing you get, followed by stuff written in bass clef. But yeah, there's still arrangers who can write in bass clef.
  11. Jimmy:

    That sucks, what' the ratio of bass/treble charts you see? Do you really need to be able to read both clefs equally well, or concentrate on bass clef? The joys of transposition... I read treble clef from almost 20 years of playing trumpet in my younger days. Being a Bb instrument, I was pretty good at transposing piano music (C instrument, like guitars) on the fly on trumpet. But for some reason it was hard to transpose bass clef into treble... probably lack of practice, limited bass charts available to practice on.... Plus where the notes were on trumpet was instinctual, but had to think about it on bass since I hadn't played it very long at that point.

    Name is Randy, by the way.... where'd you get Steve from? :D LOL

  12. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I have no idea where I got Steve...could it have been...oh, I don't know...maybe...YOUR NICK???!!! :meh: :meh:

    I have never received an actual bass chart written in treble clef. I have, however, received chord charts with a melody written in treble clef, but in those cases I just make up my own part. And once in a while I have received chord charts that might have a couple bars of bass lines or unison parts written in treble clef. But I've never gotten an actual bass line written in treble clef. The ratio of chord charts vs notated charts that I get are about 1:1, with only a very few of them having any treble clef reading.

    Having said that, it's important to know how to read treble clef, but you don't have to be as good at it as bass clef.
  13. I think you misunderstood what I said. Tab does *not* show you the musical relationships.

    For example, imagine a simple bass line written out in bass clef. Now imagine the same line written out in tab for (1) a bass in standard tuning (EADG), (2) a bass in drop D (DADG), (3) a bass tuned a whole step down (DGCF), and (4) a bass tuned in 5ths (CGDA). Those are four different tabs (four sets of physical relationships), but only one line (one set of musical relationships). In standard, the line is written in one, and only one, way, and the musical relationships are clear. A keyboardist could play it with the left hand; a tubaist could play it; a singer could sing it. And it would sound the same. Tab makes it look like four different things. That's what I mean about it not reflecting the *musical* relationships, and about why it's no good for studying theory. In theory, the musical relationships are paramount, by definition; how you physically reflect those relationships on your particular instrument is actually irrelevant *for theoretical purposes*. Remember we're talking about theoretical purposes to begin with (see original post).
  14. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
  15. jadesmar


    Feb 17, 2003
    Ottawa, ON
    I am confused.

    Isn't the purpose behind reading music that you don't have to remember the song? You can just read it.

    If you want to play a song strictly from memory, there is a little more work involved. (Like rehearsing it with and without the music.)

    Also, if you are trying to learn theory, how does memorizing songs help?
  16. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000

    I can hopefully answer this for you.

    IME, it helps because you'll have a deeper understanding of why and how the song/bass line works together. You'll start thinking ok, I can go to the 5th here, or I can add a Maj7 here. Especially, if you start to transcribe the material. Dig what I'm trying to say?
  17. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    since tab does not define any rhythm and only pitch how
    will this help you if say you are unfamiliar with the songs yo uaare trying to learn from tab ? it will not help you.
    tab is a total waste of time.
  18. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    No, the purpose behind reading and writing is being able to COMMUNICATE in as concise a fashion possible the pitches and rhythms you want played. That's why a guy that's been dead for over 400 years can still have his music played. Or a guy that's still alive, but across the world. You can send nothing but sheets of paper with notation of music that has never been heard before and WITH ABSOLUTLEY NO VERBAL INSTRUCTION recreate the composer's intent. And, with enough experience and skill, can imbue those notes with true poetic beauty. When you look at a symphony orchestra, those guys aren't sight reading the music for the first time. All of that stuff has been hearsed and rehearsed, performed any number oftimes throughout their career etc. They almost without error, can prolly play most of that repertoire from memory. It's like having a back on a chair, you don't really need it to sit but you can relax a little more if its there.

    Strict memorization of songs doesn't "help" learning theory. Understanding the function of the harmony, how the melody fits with harmony etc. THAT'S the theory. What being able to hear chord quality and function helps with is NOT having to memorize songs, you just HEAR whats' going on, where the harmony is going.
  19. Pardon my little rant here guys but...............

    I have seen a recurring theme on TB where posters assume that learning to read notation is "learning theory" Please repeat.... "reading is not theory" .... :D

    Learning to read notation has about as much to do with learning theory, as learning to read does with learning grammar. You do, however, have to be able to read to understand the material. You cannot properly learn theory without being able to read notation. Most of the other posters are correct in their expainations of TAB. It is only a schematic, or mechanical instruction. It has nothing to do with theory, and is proprietary to a specific instrument.

    The study of musical theory is not the study of an instrument. It is seperate from any instrument. As a matter of fact, most college level theory courses never even discuss specific instrumentation, in depth. Theory is, the study of intervals, scales, harmony, time etc... that define the structure of music. If you are only interested in the bass, and the bass clef, to the exclusion of other instruments, then you will never completely understand theory. In mathematics, the calculator becomes a necessary tool, in music theory the keyboard is your calculator because it is truely the "band in a box" The keys are, without a doubt, the best tool available to physically demonstrate musical relationships, and as a bonus it's also color coded. :cool:

    IMO the best (not only) way to start exploring theory, is in a formal setting. Most community colleges offer theory classes, at a reasonable price. It helps, at least in the beginning to have a standard cirriculum, and a paced and graded learning environment. This scenario gives the student defininative feedback as to their progress in mastery of the material

    As far as notation goes, yes every musician should learn to read notation, at least for their instrument, whether or not you ever really study theory. If you cannot utilize the language of a culture then, you cannot effectively communicate with other members of that culture, and will limit your opportunities within that culture. Yes, musicians are a culture. :)

  20. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    A very moronic culture, but a culture nonetheless. Well, only the ones of us who play for a living are moronic...the ones with day jobs are smart.

    Simply put, notation is the alphabet, theory is the language.

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