A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Unorthodox Instructionals, Part 3: Getting Even With Drummers

This is the third of a series of posts from Tom Kenrick’s blog about unique books that many bassists would not have considered for study. This time around, its Modern Reading Text in 4/4. On Amazon, its billed as being for “all instruments”, but the blog says its for drummers and the description on Amazon says, “This book has become a classic in all musicians’ libraries for rhythmic analysis and study. Designed to teach syncopation within 4/4 time, the exercises also develop speed and accuracy in sight-reading with uncommon rhythmic figures. A must for all musicians, especially percussionists interested in syncopation.” Reviewers there speak highly of it for improving sight reading, phrasing and time-keeping.

As a tangent to this, on the Talkbass forums, I read a post titled “I hear a line in 4/4, while bandleader says it`s 6/8“. In one of the replies, Mambo4 says the following, which I found interesting:

Any rhythm can be notated in any time signature, some just lend themselves better to one or the other.
Using 6/8 simplifies the notation, avoiding triplets everywhere
foot tapping on 1 and 4 would help

I don’t know very much about notation yet. I have to get back on that after I finish this Coursera thing, but I get what Tom Kenrick is saying about note pitch variations being more limited than rhythmic variation for bass. I’ve noticed it on a very basic level when practicing chords or other things using the Cycle of Fourths. I think that its challenging, but fun, to use a limited set of notes to come up with a rhythm that can be played with small variations in a progression.

Free Bass Transcriptions

Louis Bellson’s ‘Modern Reading in 4/4 Time’ is a classic educational text for drummers. I was introduced to it by one of my tutors during my first term of music college as an accompaniment to the sight reading classes I was taking.Prior to starting my music degree I’d grown up almost exclusively on TAB and had never seriously read notation on the bass – needless to say it was a rude awakening…

This book helped me to dramatically improve my reading skills in a short amount of time, and I still dip into it if I’ve been on a reading gig and felt rhythmically rusty.

How Will It Benefit My Playing?

BENEFIT #1: Your sight reading skills will be transformed. 

This might sound obvious, but rhythm is (in my opinion) the trickiest aspect of reading notation. Variations in pitch have relatively limited possibilities, especially as most bass lines operate within…

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