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Jazz Bass Lessons: Learning to Read Music

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Now I'd like to talk
about learning to read music.
I want to encourage you if
you don't read music yet
because when I started playing
I played completely by ear.
And I'd like to think that
I was maybe the worst
site reader in the history of man kind.
And one of my teachers, Chris Pailor, he
told me you got to learn how to read, and
he actually really pushed me to learn
how to read and thank God he did.
Because it was like opening
up another language.
Imagine if you couldn't read a book and
you couldn't learn about all
kinds of things in the world.
You couldn't learn about culture,
art, basic things like expression,
and communication.
You couldn't read.
If you can't read,
you can't have fun with your computer.
So many things you can't do,
if you don't know how to read words.
Well, reading music, is really the same.
It opens up a world of language and
a world of styles of music.
and all kinds of information to you.
So I want to encourage you, I learned how
to read music and I even became a studio
musician where my reputation
depended on reading really well.
So if I can learn how to read it,
anybody can do it, and
it doesn't require talent, or
it just requires a little hard work.
So I really want to encourage
you to learn how to read.
So here we go, you ready?
In music, we have, and
behind me you're gonna see,
you're going to see what we call a clef.
Now there are two clefs in music.
And one is called the F clef.
And the F clef is shaped in such a way
where there's a little curly q, and
then there are two dots right around the
line of music which stands for the note F.
And I'm gonna talk about the lines and
spaces in a second.
There's also a G clef,
which is a little bit more ornate, and
you might have seen that on music.
This little thing in the left corner
of the music which kinda like really
kinda artsy and stuff.
And the little curl on the bottom
is around the line for G.
And they call it a G clef.
So, we're going to start
with that F clef back there,
because we're bass players and all bass
music sin F clef, bass clef, they call it.
So, you see the lines back there.
There are five lines and
there are four spaces.
So, I want you to think about
a little memory device.
You could say, on the bottom line, it's G.
And then it goes G, B, D, F, A.
So, I learned as a kid
Good Boys Do Fine Always.
Or you could say Good Bye Dear
Friends Adeiu, if you like french.
So at any rate it's G, B, D, F, A.
The more you work on these things.
And in the play-alongs that
you'll have in these and
also the scale assignments that I'll
give you, they'll all be written out.
So you can practice reading by,
even if you have to count the lines and
spaces at first.
The lines are G, B, D, F, A.
And that's from bottom To top.
So Good Boys Do Fine Always or
Good Bye Dear Friends Adieu.
Okay, those are the lines.
Now, for the spaces, it's A C E G.
A Cow Eats Grass,
is the famous one that most people learn.
A Cow Eats Grass.
Now at first it might
seem a little funny and
it takes a little while to memorize these
things and look at the lines and spaces.
You can have lots of practice
with all the whole notes and
the half notes that I give you in the 24
etudes section of this beginning level.
Also, I would also recommend to you that
there are plenty of books about music
reading, if you search sight
reading on the internet,
you're gonna get all kinds
of things that come up.
I have a book called 60 Melodic Etudes
that has lots of written-down notes.
There's the Franz Simandl Bass Method.
There's the Bille Bass Method,
which is also nice, B-I-L-L-E.
There's a great book called
Rufus Reid's Evolving Bassist.
There's a great book by Ray Brown,
the famous bassist called
the Ray Brown's Bass Method.
There's also Ron Carter's Building
Jazz Bass Lines, which is terrific.
And they have notes that you can read,
anything with notes that you can read.
There's also a phenomenal book by
John Goldsby called The Jazz Bass Book,
Technique and Tradition.
Which also has notes you can read.
Also go on the internet, and
there's plenty of sites that talked about
sight-reading and
learning how to read music.
So, now, I would like to
also explain that there
are rhythmic values for notes.
There are rhythmic values for notes, and
there are basic time signatures in music.
Okay, let's talk about
the rhythmic values of notes.
Rhythmic values of notes simply means,
how long do we hold the note for?
So There are things called whole notes.
And generally the most basic time
signature is called Common Time.
You'll see a C on your music for
common time.
Or, it'll say four-four,
you'll see four-four.
That's the most common time signature.
All that means is there
are four beats in a measure.
The top number tells you how
many beats are in a measure.
And the bottom number tells you that
the quarter note gets one beat.
I'll tell you what a quarter
note is in a second.
Cuz in music we have a whole note,
which is the whole bar in four-four.
That's four beats.
We have a half note,
which is an opened-up note,
kinda like a whole note,
but it has a stem.
That's a whole note.
I mean a half note.
A whole note has no stem, it's just
a big opened-up dot with white inside.
And then a half note is one of those,
with a stem on it.
Then there's a quarter note,
which is a note with a stem, and
it's filled in with one stem.
Then there's an eighth note,
which has a filled in note,
with a little curly queue
coming off of stem.
That's an eighth note.
Then there's a sixteenth note.
and it has two stems,
and a filled in note.
There are things called dotted notes too.
Some times if you add a dot to a note,
it increases the note by half it's value.
Then there are things called triplets,
Each quarter note is divided into three.
And you say, triplet, triplet,
triplet, triplet, those are triplets.
So, these things, I want you to go and
study in the books and look at,
because we could spend a whole
course on music reading alone.
And we don't really not want us
delve into a whole entire
curriculum solely on reading music.
I expect you to look up this stuff.
Look in the books.
They explain it in detail.
Learn how to count.
The note values, and let me just tell
you what the basic time signatures are.
There's four-four,
there's sometimes music in two-four,
there's two beats in a bar and
the quarter note gets one beat.
There are in this play along section, in
the play along section of the curriculum,
you will see I will be talking
a lot about six-eight.
That means there are six beats in the bar,
and the little eighth note gets one beat.
The eighth note is that filled in note
with the one little flag on the staff.
That's an eighth note.
So six eight, six beats to the bar,
the eighth note gets one beat.
And we talked about triplet filling,
triplet, triplet, triplet,
that's in there too.
So I'd like you to look at the books,
go online, read up on site reading.
Get the books.
Use a metronome.
A metronome,
one of those electronic devices, or
some times they have them
on people's iPhone's now.
And they click, steady beat,
it's perfectly steady, and
you can set it really slow,
really slow, so
that a quarter note, one, two,
three, four, super slow,
even slower than that.
And, start practicing reading,
whole notes and half notes.
In the 24 etude section you have
tons of whole notes and half notes.
24 etudes full of them.
So that would be a great
thing to look at really slow.
Just look at those notes.
Let's talk
about key signatures.
There are twelve keys.
Always for everything.
Twelve keys, twelve major keys.
Twelve minor keys.
So what happens is and
you'll see it behind my shoulder.
You'll see there is what
we call a key circle.
Now the way key circles
are organized usually if you go
around the left side, you go in the circle
of fourths and you're adding flats.
And then if you go the other way,
you're going in fifths,
and you're adding sharps.
So if we're going around the key circle,
every time
we go another notch on the key circle,
we're adding a flat.
So I'm gonna tell you a basic way to look
at it if we're looking at the keyboard.
So, C major, you notice there was,
it was all white keys,
we don't have any flats yet, right?
So, if we go to F major,
and here we start on F,
[SOUND] notice we have a flat there?
We've added one flat.
So, there'll be a little
flat in the key signature.
The key signature is this little area
next to the clef where it tells us
how many flats or
sharps are in the key, this way,
it makes it possible to have that major
scale sound just like we have here.
[SOUND] We won't get that nice open major
scale sound unless we adjust as we move to
other notes, okay.
That's the reason why
we have key signatures.
So here F major, there's one flat,
you see that flat there?
That's a B-flat.
[SOUND] And then say we go from
the key of F to the key of B-flat.
We added another flat, so
the key of B-flat has two flats.
So you have B-flat and E-flat.
So basically, as we go around the wheel,
we're adding flats.
So, F has one flat, B-flat has two.
E-flat, three, A-flat has four.
The key of D-flat has five.
The key of G-flat has six.
And then I usually have
you switch to sharps.
Okay, and
then we're gonna go around the other way.
Let's say if we go from C to G, we go up
in fifths, one, two, three, four, five.
What I was doing before was going one,
two, three, four.
[SOUND] So I was going C, F,
and then count four again.
You have B-flat.
[SOUND] Count four again and
you have E-flat.
[SOUND] Does that make sense,
you know, in fourths?
Now we're gonna go in
fifths to get the sharps.
So, key of C, no sharps.
[SOUND] Key of G, we walk up.
[SOUND] There's G.
In order to get that
major sound that we like.
[SOUND] Okay.
We have to have one sharp in there.
[SOUND] See that sharp?
[SOUND] If we didn't,
it would sound like this.
[SOUND] Sounds different, doesn't it?
[SOUND] So G has one sharp.
So, then if we go up a fifth from G, we
go G, A, B, C, D [SOUND] has two sharps.
Then A has three.
And we go A, we count up five again and
we get to E.
[SOUND] That's four.
Then we go again to the key of B
[SOUND] and there's five sharps.
Then we go again to they key of F-sharp.
[SOUND] There's six sharps.
That's a lot of sharps.
A lot of time when it comes to that
many they have something called
enharmonic keys.
So, when we look on the keyboard I'll
just show you briefly what that means.
When we go C [SOUND] and we go up to
C-sharp [SOUND] it's a raised C, so that's
why they would call it a C-sharp, but it's
also a lower D [SOUND] and it's a D-flat.
that's an enharmonic spelling we call it.
C-sharp equals D-flat.
This one here, [SOUND] this black key,
that's an E-flat and it's also a D-sharp.
This black key here,
[SOUND] F-sharp or G-flat.
This black key here [SOUND] G-sharp or
This one here, [SOUND] A-sharp or B-flat.
So, you notice how the black keys
are where the flats and sharps are.
That shows us where they are.
So we're gonna show you
the key circle here.
You can start looking at that.
You're gonna have to memorize it.
Unfortunately, there's some memorization
involved, but you'll get used to it.
You'll start to memorize that,
in key of C, there's no flats or sharps.
In the key of F, there's one flat,
and you go on through the circle.
And you kinda learn it.
And you get used to it.
So those are key signatures.
Those are very important as well.