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Teaching myself to read music...slow process!

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by sbpark, Feb 24, 2013.

  1. sbpark

    sbpark Supporting Member

    May 26, 2010
    I've been playing guitar for over 20 years, self-taught and recently picked up bass. I also play 5-string banjo and ukulele, and play everything by tab or by ear. I figured learning to read music would be a great way to tech myself to read music and give me a good foundation for learning to read music for other instruments.

    I'm using the Hal Leonard Bass Method by Ed Frienland. Love the book, but it's slow going and VERY humbling, especially when I could play most of this stuff very easily by ear or by using tab. But from this point on I am refusing to use tab and will be forcing myself to read from standard notation for everything!

    Anyone else in the same boat who has been playing for some time but never learned to read music until recently? If so, how has your progress been?
  2. halfjackson


    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston, MA
    Nice, man! Well...I read but I take unnecessary breaks, so I require some work from time to time. Essential Sightreading Studies for Electric Bass is good; It's a three part booklet series. Also, Gary Willis has a note generator on his website which is good too. Just keep reading every day if you can and resist the urge to you tabs when they're available. And be aware of when you are working on a piece and you transition into playing it from memory and not reading. I think that that's really hard, so I often sight read unplugged and work from several sources to keep the reading fresh.
    Best of luck!
  3. phillybass101

    phillybass101 Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2011
    Artist, Trickfish Amplification Bartolini Emerging Artist, MTD Kingston Emerging Artist. Artist, Tsunami Cables
    Two things are helping me in this area.

    1. Rythym Cards. You just concentrate on reading/tapping out the rythym.
    2. Write out bass parts. Come up with a line, and write it out yourself. Give yourself some chord changes amd make up a bass line and write it out.
    3. I am presently doing the above in lessons I still take with a local Jazz Bass Master.
  4. sbpark

    sbpark Supporting Member

    May 26, 2010
    Awesome suggestions. Thanks!
  5. sbpark

    sbpark Supporting Member

    May 26, 2010
    Awesome suggestions. Thanks!

    What set of rhythm cars are you using?
  6. Art Araya

    Art Araya

    May 29, 2006
    Palm Coast, FL
    When I first started music school I was a very poor reader. I set about intentionally to work on my reading. I spent at least 15 mins a day reading anything I could get my hands on.

    Like a previous poster mentioned, I started by concentrating on reading rhythms alone. I used Louis Bellson's book - Modern Reading Text in 4/4 For All Instrument. This helps tremendously.

    Within a year or two I was the best sight reader of all of my instructors students (he taught at several colleges and had private students.)

    So be encouraged. A little bit every day adds up!
  7. dave64o

    dave64o Talkbass Top 10 all time lowest talent/gear ratio! Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 15, 2000
    Southern NJ
    Some good ideas here already and I've done some of them myself. Some things that worked *for me* personally:

    - Practice. I know that's very basic and probably sounds condescending and/or smart@$$, but it's the truth.

    - Transcribe original pieces I have to develop as part of my lessons rather than just working them out and coming in and playing them. Writing seems to help my reading a lot.

    - Don't use books that have tabulature, even if they also have standard notation. Some people might have no trouble at all ignoring the tab, but it's unfortunately too easy for me to cheat. So I try books that don't have it all. (Does that mean I never use tab? Nope, I do. But since I'm paying money for lessons I choose to spend that money on things that will make me a better and more well rounded musician. If I choose to use tab I'll do it on my own time, when it's "free"! ;) ).

    - For me, the biggest issue when sight reading is starting in the right position and also beginning transitions to a new position early enough to get me where I need to be on the neck to play later passages. So, before even starting to play it, I first scan the piece and make notes of where I want to be at given points and also when I should start the transition to that position.

    - Related to the previous post, I look for what the lowest notes and the highest notes in the piece are. Sometimes that tells me I'll hardly have to shift position at all and might be able to pick one that makes the whole piece playable there.

    - After learning a piece, try playing different parts in different positions. Sometimes after playing a piece well I find a different positions that makes it significantly easier to play.

    - Learn to read/play a piece on both a five and on my four. The four often requires more position shifts and I find that forces me to read ahead farther so I can better prepare for the shifts.

    - Break up a piece into parts that can be played in a given position and work on them separately for a little while. One benefit is I can get some immediate success by playing parts of it. Then once I'm playing individual sections with some proficiency, then I work on the transitions between them so I can put the whole piece together. Sometimes that forces me to re-work how I play a section, but that's just part of the process.

    Can I sit down and simply sight read a piece. Nope. And I'm not sure I'll ever get to that point. But learning to read is a good skill by itself, plus I'm also finding other benefits from sight reading that I hadn't anticipated, so I keep at it. Never stop learning!
  8. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Good on you for taking the plunge! Stick with it...it can be a little slow goings at the beginning but picks up dramatically once you get the basics down, and it doesn't take long to start seeing the gains. Ed knows what he's doing and laid out a good method. Listen to him and stick with it.
  9. phillybass101

    phillybass101 Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2011
    Artist, Trickfish Amplification Bartolini Emerging Artist, MTD Kingston Emerging Artist. Artist, Tsunami Cables
    I used to use a book by Paul Hindemith. However if you google Rythym Cards you'll see all kinds of stuff you can download and print out. Once you get used to seeing the rythyms it will be easier to put the notes together. Practicing writing out the parts will also help in hand eye coordination/note recognition. Take it slow and do a little everyday if you can. You can even watch your favorite TV show and practice during the commercials. Put the cards back to back to make a longer rythyms to play. shuffle them up and repeat the process. heck, play them backwards too. Check out the Lynne Davis website too. Lot's of good stuff out there.
  10. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    I couldn't be where I am without a good reading skill.

    -Looks what the key his, then the lowest and highest notes.
    -Break the piece in smaller chunk makes it easier to learn.
    -Learn music not for bass.
    -Learn at least bass and treble clef and if you have the time the tenor clef.
    -Once you know the notes you can concentrate on the rythm, it is easier to follow rythm when you know where your fingers have to go.

    For me, reading music helped me in note recognation or playing what I have in mind. It also solidify my rythm.