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Stackimo

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Hail Lowdowners,

 

Due to the recent thread on Scales and the renewed interest in music theory by a majority of our fellow Lowdowners, I have decided to start a new thread to help the many of us, who can not read standard notation. I am hoping that some of our very experienced brothers and sisters can lend a hand to answer questions and offer up tips that helped their experiences with this subject.

 

I will offer up my first question in the following post.

"Some people are like "slinkies". They're not really good for anything;

but they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down a

flight of stairs."

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I have personally learned a hand full of scales, but while playing them off the roots of any particular piece of music I have selected, I typically pay little attention to all the notes within the scale. My initial goal prior to learning to read music is to make sure I can call out any note at any time throughout the neck.

 

Therefore, my first question is this. If my ultimate goal is to read standard notation, should I be calling out sharps or flats? Which are most typically used on sheet music?

 

I have a feeling I know the answer to this one, but I wanted to start this simply.

"Some people are like "slinkies". They're not really good for anything;

but they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down a

flight of stairs."

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Unfortunately, you need to know all enharmonic note names. "Enharmonic" means a note is spelled differently, but sounds the same in tempered intonation. Ab=G#

 

Best way to learn standard notation? Get a method book, like the Simandl, and cipher out the bass notes position by position. If you look at the exercises in Simandl, you'll discover for each position the book is divided into "A-B-C-D" exercise which give you the URB fingering for that position enharmonically. Then you'll see "E-F-G-H" which are exercises using those 3 notes. Then you'll see a series of exercises using ONLY those notes. Later on in the book, there is a section of exercises using ONLY the position notes, and then shifting exercises with the previously learned position.

 

Spend a couple weeks in each position of 30 minutes a day, and you'll be reading standard notation in 3 months...at least notes.

 

Reading rhythms is also a chore; there is another book for that..."Modern Reading in 4/4 Time." It ONLY has one note for the entire book, but uses every possible rhythm.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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Using sharps and flats is a spelling issue. You could use the wrong one and people would still know what you mean but it makes more sense if you spell a word correctly.

 

Dear and deer sound the same but are spelled differently.

 

Here's one explanation:

 

Every major scale has seven different notes, we all know that. Those seven different notes have seven different letter names.

 

It's easy in the key of C which is where every theory book in the world starts:

C D E F G A B (and back to C for the octave)

 

now let's look at the key of G:

 

G A B C D E F# G. It's not a Gb, that would give us two of the letter G and no letter F.

 

Here's the key of F:

 

F G A Bb C D E F. If you called the note A#, you'd have two A's and no B.

 

Does that help with the concept?

 

You will learn a lot if you get out a pencil and some music manuscript paper and start writing out all your scales. Do not use an instrument or any reference material. Just pick a note and start writing scales.

 

Here's the first note: D

 

Here'e another one: B

 

and another one: Eb

 

Of course you know that a scale goes:

whole step whole step half step

whole step

whole step whole step half step.

 

(interesting. the top half of a scale and the bottom half of a scale have the same intervals. this has implications for fingerings)

 

How did you do? I hope you didn't use any flats in the keys of D or B and you didn't use any sharps in the key of Eb.

 

You should write scales in all these keys:

C F Bb Eb Ab Db C# Gb F# B Cb E A D G

 

I know that Db and C# sound the same. But they are spelled differently. Same with B and Cb and F# and Gb.

 

When you finish, you can start writing out chords.

 

Writing down music is a good way to learn to read. Try writing down something you already know how to play. Start with the notes, you can worry about the rhythms later.

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Wonderful answers. Exactly what I was looking for. I now know when to call out a sharp or a flat and I have also been given some examples and exercises on how to improve my reading.

 

Although the above information will keep me quite busy, any other techniques that can be used is appreciated. I will be putting a book together for organizational purposes.

 

The name that continues to be mentioned is Simandl. Christmas is approaching. Is this the book that is suggested:

 

Amazon for the book

 

Thank you

"Some people are like "slinkies". They're not really good for anything;

but they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down a

flight of stairs."

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That's the right book and the right edition.

 

Remember a couple of things: It was designed for URB, and the fingerings, while useful for electric, are not the only fingerings possible for electric.

 

Also, this method is much more useful (and you'll get where you want to go faster) if you take a few lessons. Make sure you find a teacher who's motivated to teach you sight reading, which means they are excellent readers themselves.

 

Good Luck.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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Originally posted by fingertalkin:

This doesn't really answer your question definitively, but other lowdowners have suggested for me the Simandl "Jazz Theory Book" when I have questions like yours.

Hmmmm....

 

Franz Simandl was dead before there was jazz theory. So who did this book?

 

Mark Levine, Ed Friedland, John Goldsby have all written books we've reviewed positively.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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Unlike JeremyC or DaveBrownBass, I've not been to music school.

 

On the other hand, I've read plenty on clarinet & sax, to the point where I could sight-read "OK". With clarinet or sax it is simple. A given note is virtually always fingered the same way. Same with piano. Middle-C is middle-C is middle-C.

 

On bass, there are multiple ways to play the same note. I'm a *slow* reader on bass because I only do it as a hobby (which is why I mentioned the experts above), but I've looked into this enough to prefer reading in-terms of "intervals".

 

For example, say you're reading in the key of D major. Use the middle line as your "reference" point, and think in terms of a major scale. With the D (middle line) as your reference, with a little practice (OK a lot...), the scale degrees become obvious. Down a line? That's the 6th degree of the scale. Up two lines? The 5th. And so-on.

 

While folks familiar with URB reading may "cringe", this approach does have the advantage of not having to worry about those nasty sharps/flats - unless there's one outside the regular scale written-in, which is much more obvious. Playing in a minor keys simply requires use of the minor scale pattern.

 

Unfortunately I don't really KNOW the fretboard (where the notes are). I can find anything given about 1-2 seconds; but that is 1-2 seconds TOO LONG. I'm working on that. I'm hoping that will greatly help reading music.

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Originally posted by Stackimo:

I have personally learned a hand full of scales, but while playing them off the roots of any particular piece of music I have selected, I typically pay little attention to all the notes within the scale. My initial goal prior to learning to read music is to make sure I can call out any note at any time throughout the neck.

I take this to mean that you're improvising a bass line to go with a given chord chart?

 

If I understand what you've described, it is one of the shortcomings of learning to play "patterns" or even tab notation. They're useful devices to get you started, and you'll probably use patterns for a long time, but you're right, it's more helpful to know the actual notes under your fingers.

 

As an example using just the most versatile pattern for a (one octave) major scale (1st string: 2-4, 2nd: 1-2-4, 3rd: 1-3-4) we can play the chord progression G-C-D-G. Start by positioning your middle finger over the 3rd fret (so you can reach the root G on the 3rd fret of the E string), and then play from the pattern. Now for the C chord all you have to do is shift to the A string and play from the same pattern from this position. For the D chord, shift up two frets so your middle finger is above the 5th fret and apply the pattern. And then back to the G chord. That's great, you may have even improv'd something cool, but what notes did you play?

 

The problem with this approach is that it's often disjointed. There's no connection between the bass lines from chord to chord. Maybe you're doing well enough to recognize that at the end of the first G chord you want to move to a C chord, and you know it will sound good if you play a root C on the down beat, and you know there's one on the 3rd fret of the A string. So while playing your G major scale during the G chord you know you can play the 2nd fret of the A string last, and that it will lead nicely into the upcoming C chord. (The lead-in note from the G scale is a B, a half step below the C you're moving to.)

 

What about the transition from C to D, or worse yet, D to G? When you're up the neck and starting on the A string, how the heck do you lead back to 3rd fret on the E string? You can't unless (a) you get lucky or (b) you know the notes you're playing.

 

So let's look at that D to G transition. Playing just the first few notes of the D major scale we know we're playing D, up a whole step to E, and up another whole step to F#. The next note in the scale is a half step from F# to G. From the position I've described, this G would be an octave above the G we want to play next, so it would probably sound pretty good. However, I'm a big fan of using a smaller interval than an octave for a connecting note. F# to G is a nice small interval, although the F# on the 4th fret of the D string is a major 7th (almost an octave) above the G on the 3rd fret of the E string. But if I know I want to play an F# -- not just 1st finger on the 2nd string from the pattern -- then I can start looking for other F#'s on the fretboard. Oh look, there's one on the 2nd fret of the E string; I bet that'd sound nice.

 

How do I get there? Well, this is where I like to put an octave, YMMV. So starting on the 5th fret of the A string we play D-E-F# and then drop an octave to the 2nd fret of the E string to F#. Now, this isn't an easy shift for your hand, because you need your 1st finger for both F#'s. So, we'll steal a page from Jamerson and throw in an open E string as a 16th note pickup to the F# on the 2nd fret.

 

But wait a minute, isn't there an easier way to play this? Try to figure out how to play the same three notes -- D-E-F# -- from 2nd position (1st finger over the 2nd fret, same as we used for the G and C chords). Can you do it without using any open strings? Now you don't have to use a "Jamerson" to make that octave jump with the F#'s ... but you can if you still want to.

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PhilMan, I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with reading intervals. As I understand from my piano-playing wife, this is common for pianists, who often have to read several notes (chords) for every one a bassist has to read. She also says it helps in transposing, because you can read the interval from one note to the next as a whole step instead of taking each note down a flatted 5th (or however evil the transposition may be).

 

As a bassist that's not transposing, though, it's easier to instantly recognize the note as written. It's not the 5th degree of a D major scale, it's an A. Not just any A, but A2. This note can be played on each string of a standard-tuned 4-string. Which do you play? Either the most convenient one or the one that sounds best. (17th fret on the E string is probably going to be your last choice.)

 

The big thing about learning standard notation is to practice it. How did you learn to read and write in your native tongue? You read a lot of books and wrote a lot of papers. Apply the same principle here. This will help you regardless of which instrument you're playing. If you play along while reading, it's like reading a book out loud. At first you'll read slowly and pause to sound out unfamiliar words, but eventually you'll get the hang of it.

 

For the instrument-specific "how do I finger this note" thing, that's practice, too. Keep in mind this is just the interface to the underlying music, just like a keyboard is the interface to your computer. Even the "hunt and peck" typist gets to a point where s/he can type rather quickly, because s/he knows where the letters are on the keyboard (more pecking and less hunting). If you keep at it, you'll gain the same kind of familiarity with the fretboard (or fingerings on a sax or keys on a piano or slide positions on a trombone or ... you get the picture). Alternatively, this is the speaking aspect of language, like everything from your diaphram, lungs, vocal chords, tongue, mouth, lips that you use automatically to speak without thinking about it.

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Originally posted by RicBassGuy:

As a bassist that's not transposing, though, it's easier to instantly recognize the note as written. It's not the 5th degree of a D major scale, it's an A. Not just any A, but A2. This note can be played on each string of a standard-tuned 4-string. Which do you play? Either the most convenient one or the one that sounds best. (17th fret on the E string is probably going to be your last choice.)

You really find that easier?? The interval route seems to make far more sense to me in terms of relating what's on the page to what's on the neck as quickly as possible - you can then read a whole string of notes using pattern recognition for the interval sequence rather than the notes. Would you really read a seventh chord arppegio starting on Eb in the key of Bb as Eb G Bb D or just see it as a seventh chord up from the fourth?

 

Every sight-reader I know reads interval patterns, not note names. I know where all the notes are, and can tell you what the notes are, but in terms of getting what's on the page out as music, I see the sequence, not each note.

 

Whatever works, I guess.

 

;)

 

Steve

www.stevelawson.net

www.recyclecollective.com

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I guess it's really a combination, to me.

 

When I read, I see a note without consciously thinking of it's name. I begin by knowing the key signature, and I also harmonically analyze what's happening and get a sense of the rhythmic pulse of the thing...this is on the subconscious level.

 

That sets up certain expectations of what's about to happen. This is not so different from playing by ear, where I begin to anticipate changes.

 

Reading is slightly harder when those expectations are a bit mixed up.

 

However, I don't read intervals if you mean: "up a third, down a minor second, up a fifth" and like that. I am much more likely to think "root, move to the three, then flatted three, then flat seven, progress chromatically back to the root."

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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Originally posted by davebrownbass:

However, I don't read intervals if you mean: "up a third, down a minor second, up a fifth" and like that. I am much more likely to think "root, move to the three, then flatted three, then flat seven, progress chromatically back to the root."

I'm glad to see I wasn't too off-base. I was trying to describe what you have above.

 

Now, as for my hardly knowing where the notes on the fretboard are, and having to think about which staff-line (or space) is which note, well, I'm working on it... :rolleyes:

 

Actually, I'm pretty solid in the E & A strings, but have to think in terms of octaves from those two strings to "derive" the note on other strings (on my 6-stringer). Workin' on it!

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Dave Brown provided this on another thread. This is going to be a great help. For those trying to learn to read standard notation, download this program.

 

http://www.finalemusic.com/notepad/

"Some people are like "slinkies". They're not really good for anything;

but they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down a

flight of stairs."

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Originally posted by Steve Lawson:

Originally posted by RicBassGuy:

As a bassist that's not transposing, though, it's easier to instantly recognize the note as written. It's not the 5th degree of a D major scale, it's an A. Not just any A, but A2. This note can be played on each string of a standard-tuned 4-string. Which do you play? Either the most convenient one or the one that sounds best. (17th fret on the E string is probably going to be your last choice.)

You really find that easier?? The interval route seems to make far more sense to me in terms of relating what's on the page to what's on the neck as quickly as possible - you can then read a whole string of notes using pattern recognition for the interval sequence rather than the notes. Would you really read a seventh chord arppegio starting on Eb in the key of Bb as Eb G Bb D or just see it as a seventh chord up from the fourth?

 

Every sight-reader I know reads interval patterns, not note names. I know where all the notes are, and can tell you what the notes are, but in terms of getting what's on the page out as music, I see the sequence, not each note.

 

Whatever works, I guess.

 

;)

Hey Steve! Yeah, that's pretty much the way I read. I started on trombone then moved to tuba. For the arpeggio you mentioned, I don't think it helps me much to see it as a group, although I must on some subconscious level. It's 3rd 4th 1st 1st positions on 'bone, or 1, 12, open, open valves on tuba. Go up a whole step and now the "patterns" are 1st 2nd 3rd 2nd and open, 2, 1, 2. Contrast this to bass where you can use the same fingering patterns for either key. That and the fact that (at least up to high school) most music for trombone and tuba isn't going to have blazing fast passages of 32nd notes, you generally have time to read just a note ahead if you want. (Gotta love whole notes.) I'm willing to admit that this may be a more elementary approach, but it has worked well for me.

 

If I put this in terms of my language model, it really shouldn't matter which instrument I'm playing (speaking) on, the reading should be done the same way regardless. But then I thought about how I read text, and that may have something to do with it.

 

I'm a slow reader; I still read things more or less one word at a time. (This probably has something to do with reading a lot of technical stuff.) For novels I try to pick up the pace and use "speed reading" techniques, but I usually find that disappointing. (Maybe because a short mystery story I read as a child hinged on the fact that an English professor misused the word "scan" for "skim", according to the author. This slight detail was easy to overlook.) In essence, reading a group of notes at once is like speed reading. Like I said, I know looking at intervals helps a lot for reading stacked chords for piano. You just don't have time to read each note. But because you're not paying attention to each one, isn't it easier to miss an accidental, or misjudge an interval? Just like speed reading, you're reading for context, right? Have you ever tried speed reading a computer program, where the omission of a single semicolon can be the difference between the program working or not?

 

(I don't expect answers to those questions, btw.) I'm very detail-oriented. In my line of work missing the slightest detail can spell disaster. I guess this carries over to reading music.

 

What are the downfalls of reading note-by-note? You can't read the fast passages quickly enough to play them properly. Sight reading in real time something like the melody for "Flight of the Bumble Bee" would be a nightmare for me. Fortunately, I've never had to do so.

 

Perhaps you have.

 

;)

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