The Basics Of Music Notation
The stave, or staff, is made up of five horizontal lines running across the page. When we have about 10-12 rows of these on the page, we call it manuscript and use it to write music notation on.
Music for Bass Guitar is generally written using the bass clef:
Each line and space on the stave corresponds to a specific note on the fretboard. A clef is used to indicate what those notes are. When we use the bass clef, the notes on the stave are as follows:
We can also introduce extra lines and spaces above and below the stave using temporary ledger lines:
The Time Signature indicates the number of beats in a bar. Here we have a time signature of 4/4:
The top number tells us the number of beats per bar and the bottom number tells us the type of beat (don’t worry about that for now).
So with a time signature of 4/4 we are counting a repeating pulse of 1,2,3,4 – 1,2,3,4 etc.
These bars (or measures) are divided on the stave with Bar Lines:
Next all we need is a basic rhythm to get started. The Whole Note is an oval symbol:
The Whole Note lasts for 4 beats. If we place it on the lowest line of the stave (G), we have a simple note of G lasting for 4 beats. This G is at the 3rd fret of the E string:
The following example repeats that same bar four times:
Putting It Together
In this lesson we’re only going to use two notes. The low E and F on the E string of the bass.
E (open E string)
F (1st fret E string)
Using these two notes alone we can embark on our reading journey. Here is a simple 8 bar reading exercise:
Count along as you play and always look ahead to the next note.
The Next Step
As you can see, by approaching music reading in a simple step by step manner it’s easy to make progress relatively quickly. Talkingbass has a comprehensive method for learning to read in the shape of Simple Steps To Sight Reading.