What's a good way to learn to read music?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Komakino, Apr 19, 2002.

  1. Hey all,

    How did you learn to read music? Or what's a good way to do so? I know where the notes come on the stave etc and I know aobut ledger lines, but I couldn't actually read fast or well enough to play anything from proper notation.

    Can any one give any tips?


  2. James S

    James S

    Apr 17, 2002
    New Hampshire

    Get a teacher who is an excellent reader and makes part, or all, of his living reading music.

    Then becoming a good reader is like getting into good physical shape. It don't work if you don't work.

    There are MANY books on reading out there. Most of them are just a collection of notes. For most people it takes a step-by-step systematic approach to learn to read well.

    Jim Stinnett
  3. Thanks Jim. Getting a teacher is something I want to do, but at the moment I don't have either the money or the time to do so.
  4. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    get yourself a notebook of music paper, go over where the notes are a couple times then just write random notes(don't need to worry about their rhymthm you can just write dots if you want) now slowly try and play what you just wrote, note for note, and making sure every note you hit is correct(don't glaze over a note wrong and then only make the correction in your head)
    when your done, take the piece of music paper(which you should have filled)
    and flip it upside down, now you have a totally new piece read that one.
    do this a little bit each day for a while and your reading will improve greatly.
    just in case your a bit confused, here are the notes from
    Bottom to top
    A-C-E-G - for the spaces in bass clef
    G-B-D-F-A - for the lines in bass clef
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I'll second the advice about the teacher - it's far and away the best way to go. If you can't afford one at the moment, try picking up a copy of mel Bay's Note Reading Studies for Bass. It's a good method book which starts from the very basics and moves slowly into more advanced topics while introducing new concepts one at a time. It is also one of the few Bay publications which includes no tab whatsoever, so you can cheat even if you want to.

    Remember, the whole key to reading well is to try to hear what you are going to play BEFORE you play it...so be sure and spend some time "reading" away from your instrument with whatever method book you choose. Singing what you are looking at is best because it includes pitch training, but clapping and tapping are great rhythmic exercises as well.

    Good luck.
  6. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    First, ditto on getting a teacher. Secondly, I also recommend that Mel Bay book. I picked up this book before I even had my bass yet and read it. And, yes, it starts off the basics: learning the open strings and their notation on the staff, simple rhythms, etc. then it goes on to key signatures, 8th notes and 16th note rhythms, and more. It gets advanced as you go on with time signatures and advanced reading studes. The book also gives you etudes to practice. I am always referring back to it. :)
  7. purple_haze


    Jun 29, 2001
    London Town
  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY


    You are displaying wisdom well beyond your tender years with both your advice and your name bastardizations...keep up the good work. :)
  9. lazybassass


    Jan 23, 2002
    although books can be a great help and many people swear by them id go with a teacher. for two reasons in particular,if u have a question and u cant find the answer in the book/if the books confusing in a spot its nice to be able to have sumone show u in person how to play it. i know i make mistakes without realizing it while playing standard notation and my teacher will point them out and help me get going back in the right direction. some people have no problem reading it from abook and others are more visual, i guess it would be more personal prefference.
  10. supergreg


    Jan 20, 2002
    I dont suggest this but how I read was very different from most of these techniques. I could read very basic lines and I thought I was pretty hot stuff so I joined my schools jazz band. Needless to say I havnt been doing very well but it forced me to keep reading and now I can sight read some pretty cool bass lines.

    But definitly get a teacher if you can.
  11. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    what everyone else said in addition to:

    Reading, reading, and more reading!

    Read everything you can get your hands on, bass clef, treble clef, etc... It's like a muscle the more you use it, the stronger it gets.
  12. Purple Haze mentioned an excellent sightreading sight, libster. I learned how to sight read from that site.
  13. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I would like to give a third recommendation for this book, Mel Bay's Note Reading Studies for Bass. This is the book I learned to sight read with myself.

    I would also recommend a transcription of the Bach Cello Suites. While rhythmically they don't have a lot of variety, they are an excellent source for becoming more familiar with recognizing pitches and intervals. (Of course I recommend picking up a recording to go with this).

    Third, I would recommend Arban's Conservatory for Trombone. This is a method book, with etude after etude after etude. I have yet to pick up the trombone version, but I do have the trumpet version and love it.

    Fourth, Standing in the Shadows of Motown provides some excellent chops-buster tunes. This book contains transcriptions to a number of Motown tunes that James Jamerson played on. They vary from basic to quite advanced.

    Whatever book(s) you do get, I suggest to try and do it every day, even if it's only for 5-10 minutes. You'd be amazed at how quickly your sight reading skills will develop if you do it daily, even for a short period of time.
  14. purple_haze


    Jun 29, 2001
    London Town
    JAZZBO THE HUTT is right. Check out this place for some Bach Cello Suite trancsriptions. It also has several transricptions of well known pop/ rock songs, to help you practice. The libster contains a smaller selection of transcriptions too.


    (I recommend sticking this in your favourites, you WILL want to go back)

    If the first link doesn't work, try this.


    Good luck.

  15. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I use Arban's for Trombone all the time - it's a great resource. I also like the Berklee book "Reading Contemporary Electric Bass Rhythms" by Rich Appleman. I challenge anyone to read through that thing, and the cool part is, they're all examples of stuff that's you'll actually see on a professional gig.
  16. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    How about The Latin Bass Book by Oscar Stagnaro and Chuck Sher? There are some great rhythms within that book. Learning how not to play on the downbeat ain't as easy as it sounds.
  17. At the risk of offending some people here...

    Any good computer programs with lessons in CD-ROMS of standard notation (with audio files) AND which I can use to write music in standard notation, play back what I write and see if I'm doing OK or not. The freaky thing about standard notation is having something in your head, but then not knowing... is this a 16th? an 8th? What is the pause length here? Where do I place the codas (?) and other signals used to (direct?) the musician???

    Since I can't afford a teacher until I get employed at least I could use my computer to start getting into the standard notation thing and knowing how I do... reading only just does not cut it...
  18. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA

    Download the free Finale Notepad 2002.

    It doesn't have lessons, but using it is it's own lesson.
  19. chrisbs


    Jan 12, 2002
  20. SpeeDFX


    Apr 14, 2002
    Hey guys, I checked out that libster site and I learned how to read the music, I'm so proud of myself, I can read the music like a pro (slight exaggeration, in case you didn't catch it) now. WOOT! All I need now is for my bass to get here...darn UPS.