Notation Overview

Reading music is very important. You should learn how to read music for the same reasons you learn how to read words. If you're musically literate, your chances of survival in the world of music are greatly improved. Musical notation is also an important educational tool. Through notation you will be able to visualize bass parts better and be able to conceive of music more clearly.

This is not to say that playing by ear is wrong or bad. Listening cannot be underestimated, and all musicians should learn how to pick up a tune by ear. However, playing only by ear is limiting, especially when you are trying to learn information from a book. The CD in the back of this guide is a great supplement, but it cannot replace the notation found in each chapter. Therefore, in order to get the most out of this text, make sure you learn how to read music.

All music can be divided into two parts: sound and silence. Notes represent the sounds a musician makes. Rests indicate silence. Both are written on a staff. A staff is a set of five parallel lines on which a composer writes notes, rests, and other musical symbols. Figure 3-1 shows a blank staff.

Figure 3-1.

A blank staff

The lines and spaces on a staff represent pitch varieties, and a clef is used to name each line and space. The most common clefs are treble or G clef and bass or F clef. As a bass player, you will only use the bass clef.

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