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What's More Important To You?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by capnsandwich, Mar 27, 2009.

  1. The ability to play anything by ear on the fly

    29 vote(s)
  2. The ability to read music fluently

    4 vote(s)
  3. Who cares. Shut up and play.

    17 vote(s)
  1. Is it more important to you as a bassist in a band situation to A. be able to play by ear on the fly, or B. be able to read music fluently? I've always been curious as to what an advancing bassist would want to strive for.

    Me personally, I can play by ear pretty well but my reading skills lack since I don't use it enough in my musical life. I know theory and the whole nine but reading is never a requirement for anything I'm involved with.

    I'm just kind of curious what you guys consider to be more important.
  2. I think they are equally important. If you mastered picking out songs or can simply just play what you hear after a few minutes you are more apt to do more of the same.

    Having the ability to read well is expanding your musical abilities - I think having both skills or strengthening the one you are weaker in gives you the best of both worlds - not to mention you will work more. :bassist:
  3. Good point. I used to strive to be able to read music better since I wanted so badly to get a gig as a studio player but in my studio experience I have never had sheet music placed in front of me. So I kind of quit practicing my reading. I know, stupid on my part, but I still haven't been in a situation where I needed to read well.
  4. mcm


    Oct 2, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    In my situation, my passion is blues based rock n roll, so ear is the only way IMO. I'm lucky to have a good ear though.

    Instead of putting my time for learning to read, I would rather practice getting better at singing and playing bass at the same time or work on backing vocals/harmonies. IMO, those things make me more valuable in a rocknroll scenario than reading music.

    Now, if you want to play Dream Theater, that's a different ball game!

    BUT, if your desire is to be a great all around bass player for all situations, I think reading would be a HUGE plus.
  5. dulouz


    Dec 7, 2006
    Music is a language. Can you imagine not being able to read English? Or, would you consider yourself fluent in Spanish if all you could do was read? I have spent a considerable amount of time with people who can only read, and with people who only play by ear.

    Reading and playing by ear are both essential. HOWEVER, the music does not live on the page. I recently played a gig with a jazz band I was required to sight read charts all night. The best music happened when we jammed on a dixieland version of "Bill Baley". All of a sudden the band was tight, and the music came alive.

    On the other hand, I have worked with bands where I was the only one who read music. It was difficult because I couldn't just tell them things like: "At the end of each verse there is a measure of 3/4." Concepts such as voice leading and inversions, as well as many other things just were not understood.
  6. funkybass4ever


    Dec 12, 2007
    I can do both but I impress more people by playing them their favorite tune by ear:bassist:
  7. To be a complete musician, you should be able to read and play by ear. Period.
    Not being able to do one or the other limits you to do only so much work and lessen your likelyhood of employment as a musician.
    There have been times that my ability to read has earned me the nod over bassists who were technically superior. I have also seen trained music only players who couldn't play with "chopsticks" by ear.

    Both have their place in the scheme of things. I feel they are equally important.
  8. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize!

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    The answer is going to depend to a degree on the music you play. If you play in an orchestra, being able to read would be #1.

    But I play rock/blues/country. Being able to play by ear is #1 since, even if you are reading, if the lead goes off, you have to follow. And, let's face it, I will probably be never asked to read.
  9. Beyer160


    Dec 20, 2008
    Picture the following:

    England, 1965

    PETE TOWNSHEND- Hey guys, I just wrote this great song, it's called "My Generation!"
    JOHN ENTWISTLE- That's great Pete, I can't wait to play it! Do you have a chart?"

    In a band situation, it depends on the way your songwriter works. I've never known a rock band with a songwriter who wrote charts.
  10. I get more compliments on my ear as well.
  11. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Ear. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to read music fluently. That just means that a good ear will get you farther as a bassist than reading music fluently. So don't try to use this poll as a copout ;)
  12. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I have. I've seen a few chord charts from rock songwriters. Doesn't happen often but it happens.

    Anyway, let's not forget that there are other kinds of music out there so don't sell the value of knowing how to read short. I've got a pretty good gig right now and it often requires me to read charts. Had I not been able to read, I would never have gotten the gig and I'd still be playing bars on the weekend for $50 a night. Nothing wrong with that unless you're trying to live on it.
  13. wazzel


    Dec 27, 2007
    Houma, LA
    As a rock bassest being able to play by ear would probably be the most important, then playing off chord charts, then reading actual notes. Actually reading music is probably the harder of the three. It is my weakist area and the only one I spend extra time working on.
  14. Oh, I'm not. I would love to keep my reading chops up to par but right now, with an 18 month old son and a 8 month pregnant wife, it's hard to find time to breath, let alone sight reading. You're right though.
  15. AlembicPlayer

    AlembicPlayer Im not wearing shorts

    Aug 15, 2004
    Pacific Northwet, USA
    work on your weakness
    rely on your strength
    and shut up and play :)
  16. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    And take a lesson on the birds and the bees while you're at it!!!


    Cute kid...he can rock!

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