While not a skill that every musician learns, it is still one of the more important things that you can learn.
Every musician comes across a lead sheet or two in their lifetime and many more read notation at least a few times.
This is a skill that is not only useful for professional musicians, but anyone who takes their craft seriously.
How embarrassing would it be to go to audition for a band that you want to play for, only to realize that the only reason you didn't get the gig was because you didn't spend a few hours to learn a skill that really isn't that hard at all?
I personally think the main reason that people don't learn to read music is because they think that it's harder than it really is. Sure it takes practice, but doesn't any skill worth learning take practice?
As a composer and musician who has done more than a few gigs that involve sight reading, reading music is one of those things that come in handy more often than not. If you decide that you want to do any sort of music that involves a large ensemble or a pit band, you can expect there to be music to read.
I remember when I started Reading Music. It was a bit of a pain, but people made a bigger deal of it than it really was. I think part of that comes from the fact that there really were no good resources to go to to learn to read music. Every book I picked up, with the exception of a select few, were more complex than need be and written by people who didn't seem to remember what it was like to begin to read music.
I've decided to put an end to that.
The lessons that follow were all written from the perspective of a Bass Player who has experienced the pain of poorly-written books and a variety of materials that were more like puzzles than actual instructions. These lessons are all written for Bass Players by a Bass Player.
Before you even look at notes or Reading Music, I would suggest taking a look the page on Basic Reading. This page covers the most basic parts of a sheet of music without throwing notes at you like a flailing monkey. There is also another part that covers a few more aspects of a basic sheet of music that you'll need to know before you even read your first note. There is also a Basic Musical Definitions Page that covers a few things that were left off of the first page in order to make it less overwhelming.
Finished with learning those most basic of definitions? How about learning Note and Rest Values? It's important to know how long each note or rest is and how it relates to the music you're going to learn to read.
There are just two more pages before you look at actual musical notation that will help you with reading music. Those are learning what Sharps, Flats and Naturals are and what the Spaces and Lines (of the staff) are. Sure you know how they are constructed, but if you really want a solid foundation to build off of, you should take a look at those pages.
Ok. If you've gone over all of the pages above, you are now ready to start to read actual music! The first thing to look at is Reading the notes of the Open Strings. Since they are the most basic of notes to read, learning them first will allow you to relate the rest of the notes to something with a solid anchor.
The best key to learn to read music in (in the beginning) is the key of C, due to the fact that there are no sharps or flats in that key. Therefore, I've written a page on Reading to the 5th Fret in the Key of C. I know that it sounds like I've gone crazy or something, but I really believe that this is the quickest and simplest way to learn to read music.
So, you have a solid and comprehensive knowledge of all the notes in C up to the 5th fret. What's next? How about learning to Read Everything to the 5th Fret? Since you already know how to read in the key of C in that range, It isn't to difficult to learn to read the rest of the notes in that area. With a couple quick exercises, you can be reading a few extra notes in very short period of time.
After that you should take a look at the following lessons:
- Reading to the 7th Fret.
- Reading to the 9th Fret.
- Reading to the 12th Fret.
Those are all very similar, but since they are so important, it's a good idea to look at them one at a time.
When you've decided that the first octave of the neck is solid and strong, You might want to take a look at my page on Reading Above the 12th Fret and Octave Symbols. An octave symbol is something that I haven't really covered yet, due to the fact that I haven't really had to. As of this point, that changes. It is actually a lot simpler than it seems and will likely only take you a short time to learn.
For the last part on reading music in Bass clef, I have a page on Reading the Whole Neck. For those of you who don't have 24 frets (or have more than that), it's basically all the same due to the fact that the page is mostly a recap and a bit of practice on reading notes up in that range.
So, you're finished learning to read bass clef, at least up to a good, solid level. Another kind of reading that is very common to both the bass and guitar player is Tablature. Don't know what Tablature is? Want to learn to read it? Check out my page on Reading Notation and Tab for a quick overview, primer, and a short lesson that will get you reading Tab in no time!
If there is one thing that I would suggest when it comes to reading music, it's this: Practice makes perfect. Therefore, I have a separate section on this site dedicated to Exercises in reading music. They are useful, easy, simple, and best of all, completely free!
Along with all of this is the fact that I will be consistently updating and adding things to this site including Video and written music, all for you. Keep coming back to see what kind of new info I have for you.
Return to the Homepage from the Reading Music page