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Studying the bass by isolating practice to one string is one of the hallmarks of many of the great teachers on the east coast. First, it immediately forces a student to stop playing patterns. Second, playing on a single string forces the tempo down so that different melodic choices must be explored. And third, it makes you really think of what notes you are playing. The single string study series is an excellent way to help a student hone in on the "zen" of their instrument. It should be stressed that these books are not for the light of heart. They are intense exercises that only give results after many months of practice. Therefore if you are serious about exploring the bass and becoming a "world-class" bassist these books are for you.
This book's purpose it to help a student learn the notes on each string of the bass guitar. There are some definite right and wrong ways to approach this goal. If you are a beginner at trying to read music on the bass guitar you will find it most challenging. Stringed instruments are unique in that there are so many places to play the same note. For example, the bass guitar has 4 places to play a C one octave below middle C. Example One shows the location on middle C on the bass clef and a C one octave below middle C. Example two shows the four places this note can be found.
You can easily see that this can present a problem for a bassist. Just to play one note a decision has to be made on which string to use. To further complicate things the bass is a transposing instrument sounding one octave below the written note. Therefore if you see the note C one octave below middle C written on the staff you will play the C on the 3rd fret of the A string (see example 3).
Therefore you can see that you are sounding a pitch an octave below any written note when you read bass music. Many composers do not realize this so you will many times encounter a situation where you have to transpose your part up or down an octave. Just to recap a little, you have four actual pitches that correspond to the C one octave below middle C (see example one), but because the bass is transposed down one octave you will be playing a sound that is one octave below the written pitch.
Students find this concept to be quite confusing. Therefore here is one more example. If you are reading a part written for bass it has been transposed. If you see a C one octave below middle C written, the pitch that will sound in reality is the C two ledger lines below the bass clef. (See example 4)
All examples found in this book are written for the bass guitar and therefore have been transposed. If you see a middle C on the staff you will play this note at the first fret on the B string (See example 5) or at any of the other places you can find this note as previously discussed.
When you work on the examples found in this book do not look at your bass to find the pitch. One of the main ideas of this book is to get a student proficient at knowing where a note is by feel and not by looking at the fretboard. I recommend playing these exercises with a major chord drone for each key. That is, if you are in C major, record a repeating C chord and use your ear to help you confirm if you are playing the right pitch.
These exercises should be played quite slowly to begin with. When you reach Exercise 5 and begin playing notes on any string take advantage of open strings so you can keep your left hand above the 12th fret as much as possible. This will prepare you for the high ledger line notes that show up more often than you probably would like.
This book contains ledger lines up five lines above the staff. It is uncommon to find the bass notated above the 3rd ledger line. If notes are needed above this range it is common to find them notated in the treble clef. With the advent of 5- and even 6-string basses a bassist must prepare themselves for these higher ledger lines and also learn to read in the treble clef. Therefore it is suggested that you get a copy of the treble clef version of this book so you can get proficient at reading in the treble clef.