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Easy way to learn the notes on the bass and the circle of fifths!


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Some people just have a hard time with it. When I was at primary school I learned to play the recorder. Despite my half-hearted approach to practice, after many years I could read the treble-clef, replicate melodies I'd heard by ear, and do a passable job of playing songs that I had never heard before from the sheet music (provided it didn't include the few notes I was too lazy to learn the fingering for). It was only many many years later that I realised that the note names go in alphabetical order :blush:

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[quote name='linear' timestamp='1397219954' post='2421917']
Some people just have a hard time with it. When I was at primary school I learned to play the recorder. Despite my half-hearted approach to practice, after many years I could read the treble-clef, replicate melodies I'd heard by ear, and do a passable job of playing songs that I had never heard before from the sheet music (provided it didn't include the few notes I was too lazy to learn the fingering for). It was only many many years later that I realised that the note names go in alphabetical order :blush:
[/quote]

Tell me. That ridiculous method of teaching Every Good Boy Deserves Favors etc. Instead of teaching the bottom line is a G, next space is an A, next line is a B etc.Until I worked out the alphabetical order nothing made sense.

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I find the easiest way to learn the fret board is playing Pentotonic Natural minor and Major first on G string only, then D, etc. Say the notes as you go, and you learn the string plus the notes of the scales, so 2 things in one. Just one other point, from my tutor, you know you are getting there when you are bored of doing it

Edited by timmo
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The purpose of this post is to encourage other people who are reluctant to learn to read music.

if I can encourage just one person to do so then my effort will have been worthwhile.

It takes very little effort but the rewards are great.

It is much easier than learning to speak English, never mind French or German.

There are only 12 notes to learn.

They go Chromatically up and down the strings.

Across the strings they are in the order of the circle of fifths.

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Guest bassman7755

[quote name='PeteFromCorby' timestamp='1397139993' post='2421083']
O K I can see your not convinced about the usefulness of this.
[/quote]

I'm not, The reason being that to know the notes "cold" i.e. well enough to be useful in say a gig situation, you cant rely on a system that involves having to work through a sequence from some other note.

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[quote name='bassman7755' timestamp='1397603993' post='2425677']
I'm not, The reason being that to know the notes "cold" i.e. well enough to be useful in say a gig situation, you cant rely on a system that involves having to work through a sequence from some other note.
[/quote]
Yes, if someone says C#, then I need to know where they all are without spending time working it out.

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[quote name='PeteFromCorby' timestamp='1397670080' post='2426326']
Is it not useful to know that every C# is between a G# and a F#
[/quote]
I do know that C# is the 4th of G# and that F# is the 4th of C# etc. and it's good to know the cycle of fifths (and indeed fourths in reverse, and your scales etc.) but none of that tells me where the notes are on the fingerboard.

In fact, once I am playing a certain key, let's say C#major, then I'm not even thinking where is the F# note, I am just playing the fourth because I know on the fingerboard where the fourth is in relation to the root. And if someone were to say to me, 'hey, what note is that?' I'd be as likely to reply 'fourth' as 'F#'.

However, the problem with your original observation is not that it's unwise to know the circle of fifths - quite the opposite, it's very good to know it - but that's not the way to learn the fingerboard.

You might equally as well have said that in standard tuning the bass is tuned in fourths e.g. BEAD at the 7th fret. OK, totally correct, but it doesn't learn me the fingerboard and never will.

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  • 2 weeks later...

To the OP: Fourths across the fingerboard will give you four notes. What happens to your method when you run out of strings?
What we are all talking about is the same thing: the theory of notes and their relationships, and in turn where each of those notes appear on our instrument. You can't really have one without the other, unless you don't learn to read music for what the notes are and do everything by shapes. At some point however, someone is going to ask you to play a particular note, and you will need to know where it is. Find all the G's on your bass and write them down. Lots of places, not many different notes. This is essence of the difficulty in learning a stringed instrument. You should see both the shape on the fingerboard AND it's corresponding notated shape and (most importantly) know exactly what it sounds like (eg a C min7 arpeggio from C to Bb should look like THIS, HERE on the fingerboard, and look like THIS notated and you know it sounds like THIS).Understand these relationships and there is no need for a system or an "easy way" to learn anything.

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[quote name='XB26354' timestamp='1398876390' post='2438581']
To the OP: Fourths across the fingerboard will give you four notes. What happens to your method when you run out of strings?
What we are all talking about is the same thing: the theory of notes and their relationships, and in turn where each of those notes appear on our instrument. You can't really have one without the other, unless you don't learn to read music for what the notes are and do everything by shapes. At some point however, someone is going to ask you to play a particular note, and you will need to know where it is. Find all the G's on your bass and write them down. Lots of places, not many different notes. This is essence of the difficulty in learning a stringed instrument. You should see both the shape on the fingerboard AND it's corresponding notated shape and (most importantly) know exactly what it sounds like (eg a C min7 arpeggio from C to Bb should look like THIS, HERE on the fingerboard, and look like THIS notated and you know it sounds like THIS).Understand these relationships and there is no need for a system or an "easy way" to learn anything.
[/quote]

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I always found it harder on the bass (or guitar), its not like on the piano where it is built into the thing and pretty obvious.

But having said that, there are actually only 7 notes (you don't have to worry about flats and sharps, they are obvious if you know where the natural is), so it is not to hard to get totally familiar with where they are.

I would also agree with the comment about working out where a note is based on another (apart from sharps and flats) is complicated. When I sit at a piano and someone says a note, i never have to 'think' where it is, related to another I just know.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Guest bassman7755

[quote name='PeteFromCorby' timestamp='1398892459' post='2438844']
My bass has 88 notes and I know them all. It, just a simple map. Why would anybody not want a map.
[/quote]

I don't think the usefulness of the cycle of 5ths is in any dispute - its arguably the most important construct in music along with diatonic scales, but I personally wouldn't (and wouldn't encourage anyone else to) use it derive fretboard note names in real time because I would worry that it would become a crutch that would prevent me from achieving ultimate fluency in note naming.

The same argument applies to for example interval recognition by ear. By using a "system" such as comparing them with those from well known songs I'm giving my brain an easy way out which prevents me from attaining the sort of instant near 100% reliable recognition that functional ear training can yield.

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being a complete newly to playing an instrument and being completely addicted to learning (at a reasonably ripe age), this thread is very useful. Im trying all ways, and now theta circle makes a little bit of sense :-) thank you :-)

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[quote name='rosscoe' timestamp='1401055067' post='2459679']
being a complete newly to playing an instrument and being completely addicted to learning (at a reasonably ripe age), this thread is very useful. Im trying all ways, and now theta circle makes a little bit of sense :-) thank you :-)
[/quote]

The circle is basically a map of the key's. If you look at it as if it were a pie and every song has a piece of that pie. For example, if I'm learning a song and I decide that the key tone I'm hearing is F, then I look at F on the circle then quarterise the circle so I only see F & one note either side & the minors in the middle then I can see the basic chords that are used in that piece. Provided that my initial assessment was correct and the song is indeed in F, then I don't need to faf about looking for the right chords because the circle tells me what they are.

I hope that makes sense.

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[quote name='Horizontalste' timestamp='1401302901' post='2462283']
The circle is basically a map of the key's. If you look at it as if it were a pie and every song has a piece of that pie. For example, if I'm learning a song and I decide that the key tone I'm hearing is F, then I look at F on the circle then quarterise the circle so I only see F & one note either side & the minors in the middle then I can see the basic chords that are used in that piece. Provided that my initial assessment was correct and the song is indeed in F, then I don't need to faf about looking for the right chords because the circle tells me what they are.

I hope that makes sense.
[/quote]
that helps loads thank you :-)

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