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To Read Or Not To Read
Do I need to learn to read sheet music in order to play the bass? There are TABS out there, right? I've even written songs and can play them on my bass - without ever learning to sight-read.
The age-old question of whether or not a person needs to be able to read sheet music in order to play an instrument is a matter to be solved internally. Some people play just fine and have never studied formally. Others are deeply devoted to the art of musical structure and consider it the most important part of playing an instrument.
So, why don't all bass players want to tackle the fundamentals of sight-reading? Why don't we all want to learn theory and the way music is put together - just leave TABS behind and delve into the intricate world of staves and notes, rests and clefs? One answer might be "it's too hard to learn." Others might be "I can play fine without it," or "I haven't time to take lessons." After all, you're standing up there with the band. You're playing music and the audience loves your bass grooves.
The biggest question of all? "What can sight-reading give me that I don't already have?"
The simplest answer is, "you'll never know if you don't try." Ahh, I'll bet you thought it was going to be some scholarly nugget about mastering the intricacies of musical form and advancing your true understanding of this fine artistic endeavour, didn't you? Nah. If you're asking the question, "what can it do for me?" then you already have a natural curiosity. And that's all it takes. You want to know. Starting on the path of learning to sight read can be as simple as that. I want to know.
Now, just follow up your "I want to know" sentence with "I'm going to try." One note at a time. Isn't that how you learned to play TABS? You have a lot of energy for making music, and playing the bass is very important to you. Getting some fundamentals under your belt should be, too. Anything that can contribute to the betterment of your performance is going to do you some good.
Roy Vogt's Teach Me Bass Guitar - Self-paced bass instruction DVD course. Theory, sight reading, great tunes, and plenty of FUNdamentals.