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What is so difficult with Standard Notation?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Hambone, Mar 23, 2002.

  1. I don't think this has been asked in this way before. We've all seen the arguments as to why, and how one should get with standard notation, but why do any of you think it's much more difficult than tab??

    I may be looking at this the wrong way since I do read but, IMO, standard is almost as simple as tab, it just has all the info you need worked into it as well. As a matter of fact, standard notation can really be help when visually studying the relationship of the notes one to another as one might do when learning scales and modes. Now, I'm absolutely NO technician when it comes to theory - I really didn't get that much in school - rather, I was taught to read so my level of understanding grows from this approach. I like it when I can look at a piece of music and sing the part based on the notes given rather than the position on the fretboard. Much more satisfactory than simply learning the patterns. I sure can tell which compositions I should stay away from :)

    So, what is it about standard that you find so intimidating??
  2. Ciaran


    Apr 4, 2001
    Speaking as a youngster who has only recently begun to read music, I don't find reading intimidating.It's just that with tab if I see something like:

    E ||---3---3--5---
    I think "third fret and fifth fret".

    But if I see written music I have to think "what note is that?" then "where is that on the neck".
    So it just takes a bit longer.

    This is just me though,
    hope this answers your question in some way.
  3. I can read, but not well, so right now I'm trying to get familiar with it by transcribing. Anyway, I think it's harder for the same reason that Bootsy said, you really have to interpret it more, with tab you don't really have to think at all. Also, I think it's harder on bass than on some other instruments; I play piano and saxophone, and I read for those, and I found it much easier than on bass. I guess it's probably because every octave on a piano is the same, i.e. every C looks exactly the same, and a lot of notes are fingered the same way on a sax in the same octave. But every fret on a bass looks the same, so you have to think a little more.

    Just my theory anyway.
  4. It's not really intimidating, it's just that you're learning how to read in a different language. Just takes time and practise. For me, being good at sight reading is to be able to do the musical equivalent of opening a book and reading it out loud.
  5. Uly, I understand in spades what you mean when you say you find it easier to read on your first instruments like piano and sax. I'm the same way but my first instrument was tuba. I can sight read just about any piece of any complexity on that instrument but have to go slower on the bass. I'm sure it's because my brain was "wired" for the tuba.

    But I think my post didn't get the response I was hoping for. What I meant is just what are the specific problems you are having with notation? Is it determining the position to play a piece in? or Is it understanding the geometry of the fretboard in relation to the notes shown? or what?? If we can help you get over some of the smaller bumps in the learning the staff, perhaps the bigger picture will be clearer.

    I think of the staff as just a center point for determining pitch. Sort of like in plane geometry where there is an imaginary grid that extends in all directions from the observer. Pick a point on the grid and it has a specific value. The staff is just 5 specific reference locations in the center of an infinite number of other lines going up and down that show relative pitch one to another. I'm sure someone with a better grasp can explain it better.
  6. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    For me, getting a grasp of the rhythmic notation was the killer...anyone can learn the names of the lines/spaces & what each note looks like on paper.
    The damn rhythmic notation, though, whew! Especially if a lotta ties or space was involved. :)

    Anyway, finally getting that stuff in order really helps-
    1)If I'm thinking of a groove at work, I can write it out before I forget!
    2)If I hear something 'cool' on the radio or cd player while in traffic, I can usually write that out(rhythmically...fill in the actual notes later!).
    3)Writing out my own grooves & without an instrument in-hand...I am able to experiment by moving the notes around on paper(like, maybe, shift/displace certain notes in the groove to the right/left of the timeline)...when I get home, I have the s*** notated & that forces me to play what was written & NOT what I feel like playing(typical, usual Keller-isms!). ;)

    Anyway, the 'hard part'(for me) was the rhythmic notation...IMO, though, it's KEY in getting a concept of time down.
  7. Ciaran


    Apr 4, 2001
    Okay, I'll give this another go.
    I think my biggest problem is nothing more than memory.

    If i see a piece of unfamiliar written music, my first problem is getting past the first note.After that I don't really have to think(too much) about what the next note is - I associate certain gaps on the staff with hand patterns ,for instance, I recognise an octave leap or a two-note gap etc.

    My next problem is with rests - How long does each rest represent? (don't tell me,I have definitions in a book here). I keep forgetting.

    My third problem is with time sigs - I'll become comfortable with them over time so I'm not going to overload my mind with too much information and panic.

    Again,this probably isn't what you were looking for but I can't offer much more than that.
    Good luck,
  8. i can read music, but when i wanna learn a new song it is easier just to get the tab instead of sitting down with my bass next to the cd player for an hour tryin to figure out the rite notes.
  9. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    I can site read pretty well. I know how to read the notes that are presented to me, whether they are 8th notes, 16th notes, or whatever. I'm getting better at rhythm, but some rhythmic patterns are still tricky. I just think I have the harder time playing them, as opposed to reading them. Then there are time signatures. Ugh! Still have problems with some of those. Also, some key signatures. I still panic sometimes if I see too many sharps or too many flats in the key signature. But it's all a matter of practicing my scales, which I've been doing a lot lately.

    Now, in your first message you asked "So, what is it about standard that you find so intimidating??". I never found standard notation intimidating, really. But I think some beginning bassists do because of the fact there is a lot to learn. And it most likely overwhelms them. And they turn to tablature as the easy way out.

    And of course standard notation is more difficult than tab, but so? The only thing hard about tab, IMHO, is trying to comprehend what one is looking at. I mean, it shows up as a mangled mess on the internet. Besides, Tab just shows you where to put your fingers. Notation opens you up to a whole new language.
  10. as i used a fretless instrument (cello) i used to be good at reading music because i knew how it was supposed to sound and simply played that note but with starting to play bas this changed and i am completely unable to play something in standard notation
  11. It's just a question of motivation. If i can read tab, and I'm happy with tab, then why would i want to leran standard. I would'nt (and I guess thats why I didnt).chris
  12. kirbywrx

    kirbywrx formerly James Hetfield

    Jul 27, 2000
    Melbourne, Australia.
    I am a youngster, i have have started to learn notation in the last week, and it isnt as hard as i thought it would be. I dont think its because we are scared of it, i think that it just intimidates us, and it LOOKS so confusing and that it takes more time to read. Also the fact that tabs are easy to get to, because there are so many sites on the net. yeah there are the notation sites, but tabs are easier to read for someone who has just started, hence why the young ones always ask for tabs.

    Thats just my 2 cents. :D
  13. Hambone: I've actually wondered the same thing...

    but then again I've been able to read music as long as I can remember myself (and alot longer)... :)
  14. what I don't like about notation is the confusing pitch system;
    it seems to be designed to make it easier for keyboard players to play in certain keys- the system of note naming for a start - semitone between B and C and E and F - totally outdated and has no real purpose in pop, rock or blues, where songs are played in all kinds of keys.
    - and the system of key signatures- the argument that they cut down the need to write in sharps and flats falls flat in the context of pop, rock, blues and jazz, in which there's often minor thirds slurred to major, non scale notes used as passing tones, plus chromatic scales.

    for the record I don't really like tab either- all too often the position played on the neck written seems wrong to me, plus past the octave the fret numbers don't really make sense to me, but the notes they are do.

    I'd like to see a new system where 6 note letters are used, A to F, with 2 semitones between all of them, and no key signatures.
  15. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    This is stunning, really. I'm in awe of this post - the ignorance posted above as fact..... unbelieveable.:rolleyes:
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Eh? I mean - this is a very strange statement altogether - but for a start - don't we have keyboard players in these genres? A huge proportion of pop/rock/blues songs have been written by somebody sitting down at a piano - virtually all chart music these days is written by keyboard players/programmers - music programing is based entirely on keyboard input even if you don't play the keyboard in "real-time". But anyway -all pop music can be quite adequately expressed in music notation.

    Conversely it is contemporary classical music or avant-garde which has outgrown standard notation - so Stockhausen, for example has developed several different alternative systems for notating his music.
  17. Jeremy_X


    Jan 29, 2002
    My problem is knowing where to start. I get the basic idea of it. I just can't seem to get it to work in my head. I think this is just a time issue. The only other problem I can forsee is where to play each note. That is going to trip me up, I think. Maybe not though.
    I need a teacher bad......
  18. ha ha, this is a cool thead.
    my problem is just memorizing my lines and spaces. I can read but it's like a kindergardner reading "see spot run". I'm constantly counting the lines "G,B,D,E" Oh it's an E. then on to the next note. I don't have any problem with the rhythum that's been pretty easy.
    I think I just need practice, I get spoiled with chord sheets. or I'll just read the chords above the measure, and make up my own line. good thing I'm not a professional, they wouldn't put up with me long.
  19. lump


    Jan 17, 2000
    St. Neots, UK
    You beat me to it. My jaw just DROPPED when I read that post. Then I scrolled down to read yours, and I LMAO'd.

    Bring back the Pythagorean scale!


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