A Review of Bass Notation: Clef, Chords, and Scales

May 10, 2016

bass-guitar-music-booksMusic isn’t always natural to people. In some ways it is, and in other ways it isn’t.

For example, I think the appeal of music is universal throughout all of humanity. Everyone can appreciate music, whether it’s happy, angry, sad, etc., music brings out emotions in everyone.

You don’t even need lyrics necessarily. The music itself can elicit emotions from people that is quite astounding.

While the appeal of music is universal, the understanding is clearly not. Not everyone understands where a bass clef goes on a staff on first instinct—of course not.

This is the portion of music that is learned and taught through the ages: music theory. In this post, I want to talk about my introduction to music theory and explain why I, as a music history major, this the study of music theory is incredibly important not just for musicians but for all students.

Music theory and the bass guitar

 The guitar and the bass guitar are probably two of the most popular instruments on the planet—besides maybe the piano. Every student in middle school or high school has a guitar they he or she fiddles around with.

They are cheap, they are accessible, they are available to the masses, and they are “cool.” Bottom line is, guitars are everywhere, but rarely do new guitar students pick up a music theory book to work with bass guitar scales or to learn the fundamentals of their chords.

No, what usually happens is students have a specific song in mind that they want to play and they just learn how to play that song, without learning any of the background information that goes into the song so they can truly understand it.

This isn’t always a problem; that is a good way to get kids interested in playing music. The problem is when kids don’t ever want to progress past this basic understanding of music and music theory.

By not taking a little bit of extra time while they are learning how to play the bass guitar, they are drastically limiting themselves as musicians.

I made the same mistake

 When I first picked up my bass guitar as a kid, I fought and argued with my parents over why I needed to learn all of these weird rules, why I need to know about the major and minor bass chord charts. It wasn’t until a few years later that I truly realized how valuable this understanding of music was for me and my learning of the subject.

It’s not just about playing the notes, it’s about understanding how the notes relate to each other. That is when I started getting classically trained to learn everything that I could about bass guitar music theory and absorb every last bit of knowledge that I could.

And now look at me. I am a music history major at one of the most prestigious schools in the entire world. That is only possible when you take the time to actually understand the music that you listening to.