When I was first learning how to read music it was painful.
I had no idea and no coach. What was I to do? Well, as most of us do, I just slogged it out until it became painfully obvious that I needed someone to guide me.
I, even with very little theory and reading ability, was accepted to the Berklee College of Music and it was there that I got my first real guide.
My bass instructor John Neves, upon our first meeting, proceeded to tell me that I needed to learn to read rhythms and gave me a copy of “Modern Reading in 4/4 Time” by Gil Breines and Louis Bellson.
I didn’t understand really, “Why would I need to read a snare drum book?” I quickly found out!
Let’s take a piece of sheet music, any piece will do.
Download the enclosed sheet music below:
What do you see? Pitches and rhythms and staff for Tablature (we will get to that in a minute).
I see a picture of notes going up and down and rhythms.
It is obvious that if you just look at the notes, they go up and down. So, if you spent the time learning where all the notes are, both visually and on your instrument, you would then have half the battle won. The notes are the easy part.
Download the Random Note Generator below:
It’s the rhythms that present the problem. And the rhythms also present a problem when reading Tablature and moreover with TAB you still don’t know what the rhythms mean.
As a matter of fact, if rhythm is the obstacle, and both TAB and Pitches are, in some people’s minds, interchangeable, why not just learn how to read music!
Well enough of me on a soapbox, what I want to do is show you how with just 1 note, you can create interesting basslines by creating and then reading rhythms.
Let’s pick the note C
Ex. 1 – We can play quarter notes which is means 4 beats per measure.
Ex. 2 – We can do straight eighth notes which means 8 beats per measure.
Ex. 3 – We can do sixteenth notes at 16 beats a measure.
That is all fairly straight ahead, right?
Where it gets a bit dodgy is when you subdivide or syncopate.
Ex. 4 – The 4 bars use a combination of quarter and eighth notes and quarter and eighth note rests.
Ex. 5 – The 4 bars I include a quarter note rest on beat 1.
Ex. 6 – The 4 bars gets interesting, I add the tie. The tie combines the notes that are tied.
Ex. 7 – We now add in some 16th’s and ¼’s.
Ex. 8 – This 4 bar phrase deals with 16 thnotes 16 thnote rests.
Ex. 9 – We now combine everything with both rests and ties.
Now remember, this is just with one note!
David C Gross has been the bassist for a lot of folks. He has written 14 bass books and 3 instructional videos, hosts “The Bass Guitar Channel Radio Show” on www.cygnusradio.com Monday nights 8 PM EDT, and hosts the “Notes From An Artist” podcast. He also teaches online and through a correspondence course @ www.thebassguitarchannel.com