3. Not Learning To Read Music
I'd like to preface this post with two statements:
Learning to read music does not make you a better musician.
Learning to read music will not make you a worse musician.
There is nothing more divisive in my experience as a music educator than student's attitudes towards being presented with a page full of little black dots, and not a TAB number in sight.... I see a range of emotions pass over their faces: fear, frustration, confusion, dread and I can empathise with all of them, because I've been there. On numerous occasions I've been handed music by a band leader or teacher and felt my palms start to sweat and my heartrate increase as I look at the seemingly mystical collection of symbols and lines on the page and wonder how I'm going to figure out what it all means and play it on the bass. So, as an educator I believe I have a responsibility to my students to limit the potential for such stressful encounters and also give them the tools for continued self learning and musical growth.
Learning to read music does not make you a better musician. Being able to read music does not, in itself, improve your musicianship. What it does do, however, is greatly improve your learning potential, as the amount of quality educational material for bass written in standard notation far outweighs that in other transcripts. And the great thing is, it's not hard! I believe with the right teacher, almost anyone can learn the basics of reading music within the hour. I've begun writing a short music reading course specifically for bass players and you can download pt.1 here.
Learning to read music will not make you a worse musician. There is a certain degree of false pride on both sides of the 'reading fence'. Those who can read, often look down on other musicians who are musically illiterate and brand them amateur or unprofessional. Those who don't read often have blind ignorance towards the potential benefits of learning and hide behind phrases like "Jimi Hendrix never learned to read, why should I?" Well, first off, you're not Jimi Hendrix. Second, why be so defensive about something that has no ill effect to your playing? Learning from TABS and youtube videos is rife in todays internet age, with no shortage of free resources and quick fix tutorials to help you learn material quickly. But in my experience, the majority of these videos and TABS are pretty inaccurate and poorly presented. Conversely, most of the standard notation transcriptions I've come across are cohesively constructed and far more accurate.
Being able to read music is only one facet of my musical vocabulary. Without diligent focus on ear training, theory, technique, time/feel, being able to read dots on a page is next to meaningless. But without it I wouldn't have travelled the globe, paid my bills, played with so many incredible musicians or been able to communicate my musical ideas clearly and efficiently to my band mates. Could learning to read be holding you back from reaching the next step in your musical development? Don't limit your potential, book a lesson with a local teacher now and see what you've been missing out on :)
Download my guide to reading for bass players here