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Teaching self to read notation?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Chief2112, Jan 24, 2012.

  1. Chief2112


    Aug 31, 2011
    Greenville, SC
    Little background....

    I've been playing bass since September. Spent a few weeks on my own learning my way around. Spent a lot of that time learning the Major and Minor scale pattern and playing that up and down the neck.

    Finally got some lessons and and took them for two months. They were good and it helped me but I just couldn't afford it anymore. Money is tight.

    During that time I learned some good stuff. Some 12 bar blues stuff. He also had me playing the natural scale in all the different positions. It definitely familiarized myself with the freboard more. I wish I could have kept going because I also went in telling him I wanted to learn to read notation. I could tell he was headed that way but we never made it there.

    So now I want to learn on my own. I've been just trying to familiarize myself with the bass clef and what the notes are.

    I was wondering if you had any suggestions to help me learn more. I was also thinking about taking some scales. Say the C and G Major....Take it and transcribe it into notation and then playing it on my bass and saying the notes as I play them while focusing on the notation.

    Would that help? I just need some direction. I'm started to feel really limited by TAB. Yeah, I've been using them to have some fun and play some songs too. I've learned a handful of songs from TAB. Anyways, I just need to free myself and start reading music. Seems like a tough chore without lessons.
  2. mepex


    Feb 9, 2010
    In all honesty, it's a tough chore WITH lessons. I started playing piano as a kid, so 'real' notation was all there was, and in retrospect, I'm very grateful for it. I admit, although I can read music fluently, tablature is still easier to read for me as far as bass is concerned, and I'm working to fix that. There are programs out there that will display both, and you can turn the tablature off. Doing this with songs I am familiar with is very helpful.

    However, if you are just starting out learning to read music, just to cement the concepts, it's probably worth getting a book that you can refer to. And to be honest, I find YouTube very instructive. Too bad there's no Khan Academy vids on this, but there are tons of others.

    Good luck. It's worth the effort.
  3. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Learning to read is fairly easy, although practising to get really good at it does take some time. But it's well worth the effort and more. I can't imagine not being able to read.

    There's two basic elements to reading music - pitch and note duration. Getting the correct pitch for any written note that you play means knowing where the notes are on the bass, how this relates to the lines and spaces of the bass clef and how this is influenced by the key signature. Playing the note at the right time depends on you knowing how to count the beat and its subdivisions as well as knowing how notes of different lengths relative to the beat and their equivalent rests are written.

    Many committed learners could grasp the basics of what I just described in a day or so, maybe even less. Then it's just the usual requirement - practice, practice, practice. Working on the pitch and duration elements separately can help, especially with the latter (for example, tapping out written phrases without your bass to improve your proficiency with reading rhythm).

    Go to it, and have fun! I think you could be amazed at what you can learn in a month with some regular practice. There's a great link for you right here on the left of this page:

    Online Bass Lessons at StudyBass.com
  4. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    People differ in their learning styles. What benefits one person greatly doesn't do much for someone else.

    Face to face instruction from a teacher is probably the most helpful for the most people, motivated independent learners can still get their on their own.

    There's got to be some good software out there somewhere. Do you learn well from software? :meh:

  5. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    This is very true and the value of a great teacher can't be overstated. Even without a teacher, however, almost anyone can learn a lot through some carefully considered self-study, given the motivation and commitment that you mention. Such a learner will usually find ways to learn from whatever resources they can get their hands on.
  6. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Private lessons don't have to be weekly. Prepare for your lesson, ask tons of questions, record the lesson, learn everything you talk about (this part may take a month or so) and then take another lesson.
  7. If it helps, there's been a couple recent threads about reading music with some good information. I posted some flash cards that are quite good for drilling notes/names and keys, and other people posted some great links too.

    Learning to read F Clef
    New Bass Player

  8. Studybass.com for free lessons and bass clef tutor/exercise.

    Fretboard Warrior for learning notes on your fretboard.
  9. Playbassnow.com is another good one. Marlowe does a great job of breaking things down and explaining things.

  10. Chief2112


    Aug 31, 2011
    Greenville, SC
    I saw that in another thread you directed me to. He definitely has a lot of good stuff on there. Thanks!
  11. Sorry... Forgot that was in one of those other ones. :)

  12. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I have 2 suggestions, bedsides "get a teacher"

    1.) it can be very valuable to isolate practicing reaing rhythm from pitch. You can do it with any notation, just ignore the pitches and try to correctly count and read the rhythm alone. As a bonus, this can be done without your instrument, clapping or tapping it out or just vocalizing the pulse. My Favorite place to practice reading rhythm is on a treadmill at the gym.

    2.) for pitch, rather than absolute pitch recognition shoot for relative interval recognition, In other words, Don't Identify the note on the page ("this is E") and then find it on the neck ("E is this string/fret".) Think about it in intervals: "this note is a 3rd away form the previous note, this is that 3rd on the fretboard" This requires that you know your 12 keys and the the fret board shapes of the 12 intervals.
  13. Chief2112


    Aug 31, 2011
    Greenville, SC
    I hear all you guys on the teacher. I wish I could have kept going but the fact for me is that I just can't do it. I don't see it happening any time in the near future. Years. I'm just too busy with work and just trying to make it all work with a wife and four kids. Waaaaaaaaaah!! I know! LOL Just trying to make the point to stop torturing me with the teacher suggestions. No one wants to continue lessons as bad as I do. :)

    Thanks for all the suggestions too! Keep em coming! This forum is of great help!
  14. gttim


    Dec 12, 2009
    Atlanta, GA
    I have been using this to learn how to read notation.

    Seems to be working for me. I played for years when I was younger and got back into a while ago. So it is a bit different, but seems to be worthwhile.
  15. Pretend you can't read or speak the English language.

    Imagine teaching yourself how it's done. It's very similar with reading standard notation and playing what you read.

    Not impossible. But a challenge, to say the least, even when made easier by the internet and modern technology.

    It can be done, if you're determined.

    The key is consistent, daily effort and small, manageable chunks. Be persistent, don't get frustrated.

    I say, go for it. If progress is too slow or impeded, you can always seek a teacher later.

    And BTW, I AM a private guitar and bass teacher with 20 weekly students on my schedule.
  16. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    12 years ago when I was learning the basics of music with my bass teacher he makes me went through Mel Bay's Electric Bass Methode -1 book.

    It explain everything you want to know with exemple, it goes step by step. You have pictures and all, it isn't like a teacher but it is very close.
  17. Garret Graves

    Garret Graves website- ggravesmusic.com Gold Supporting Member

    May 20, 2010
    Arcadia, Ca
    Another great Mel Bay book is the Deluxe Jazz and Rock bass method. It has positional exersizes that still trip me up, and frankly, trip me out! I was surprised to see it is still available, as my copy was from 1990. It will force you to really read a whole long passage in only one position, which in turn really drives home the notes in that position. It also includes detailed scale and arpeggio studies, and a lot of great advice.
  18. dave64o

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

    Jun 15, 2000
    Southern NJ
    Lots of great suggestions so far.

    One thing that helped me start becoming a better reader is buying a couple of books or using web sites that do NOT also have tab. Unless you've got a lot more will power than me, it's just way too easy to let your eyes slide down from the standard notation to the tab. Take away the crutch and you won't be able to use it.

    And, as you found, transcribing is a great way to help your reading. One of the things I do whenever my instructor shows me a fingerboard exercise is to transcribe it. It takes some time, but the work pays off.

    Keep at it!
  19. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    Some more links that may help you out:

    Transcribed tunes:
    Transcriptions to practice;many with .mp3 files. Click on Transcriptions
    200+ Free transcriptions-Arcellus Sykes
    TB transcriptions thread
    1 Suggestions for music notatation software

    Sight Reading{www.studybass.com/lessons/reading-music/bass-clef-fretboard-notes/bass-clef-notes-fretboard.pdf} Note: paste web address to your search bar to download this cool doc: clef to fretboard translation. Memorize this!
    1 Learning
    Sight reading source material
    Transcribe/read transcriptions free online
  20. TorontoAlex


    Nov 28, 2011
    Subbing this threat, I've been playing for 15 years now, and I've always gotten away with not reading music. I know a bit of theory and can play by ear pretty well but its about time I learn to read. This is the year!

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