To become proficient at sight reading standard music notation for bass, you must be able to readily identify key signatures. In other words, you need to be able to recognize which accidentals (sharps or flats) belong with the proper key. Music could be written with accidentals placed throughout the notation as needed, but what if you had to read through a composition which was in a key that necessitated the usage of many accidentals such as C# major or A# minor where up to seven sharps could be required? Using accidentals in this fashion would drastically complicate both reading and writing the notation. In order to simplify the process of reading and writing music, key signatures are used, and all of the mandatory accidentals are placed in the first measure of each line of music just to the right of the bass clef sign thus signifying that all F's are F#, all C's are C#, all G's are G#, and so forth.
Not only does the usage of key signatures make creating music that is both easier to read and write, but if you are able to distinguish key signatures from each other, this will allow you to mentally prepare for which notes you could be potentially presented within the composition as well as which notes you will less likely be called upon to play as long as the composition remains completely diatonic or within the key of the indicated key signature. To demonstrate, if the key signature contains a single accidental such as F#, this would imply that the key center of the composition, or at least that particular section, will most likely revolve around G major or E minor. Furthermore, this single accidental would suggest that the notes G, A, B, C, D, E, and F# could be found in the standard notation. Likewise, a single accidental would also signal the possible absence of all the other notes that aren't found diatonically within the key of G major or E minor such as Bb, Eb, Ab, or Db.
The theory behind the key signature system is very basic. The major key signatures are based entirely upon the formula or series of whole steps and half steps found within the major scale including W-W-H-W-W-W-H. In Western music there are twelve unique pitches, not counting enharmonic equivalents or the same pitch spelled two different ways such as C# and Db, before any single letter name repeats, and a major scale can be constructed starting on each of these twelve pitches. If we include the enharmonics (C# and Db, F# and Gb, B and Cb), a system of 15 different major and 15 distinct minor key signatures will be generated. As a result of these twelve different pitches, there will be twelve individual major scales, as long as we don't include the enharmonics, with a unique set of accidentals that will be associated with each major scale. If you have a basic understanding of the major scale, deciphering the major key signatures will be very effortless. Again, this system is based entirely upon the series of whole steps and half steps within the major scale. For example, the C major scale is comprised of the notes C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C or all the natural notes of the musical alphabet. While you play those notes across your fingerboard, you are also playing a series of whole steps and half steps which is again W-W-H-W-W-W-H. As long as you keep that formula perfectly intact, you can play a major scale anywhere on the fingerboard. With this concept in mind, play the note G and then follow it with the formula of W-W-H-W-W-W-H in an ascending fashion. While playing this sequence of whole steps and half steps, you will play the notes G-A-B-C-D-E-F#-G. Notice that the F needed to be raised one half step in order to keep the requisite whole-step/half-step formula intact. Therefore, the key signature of G major has one sharp, F#. Start on the note F and then play W-W-H-W-W-W-H in an ascending manner, and you will play the notes F-G-A-Bb-C-D-E-F and in the process generate a key signature of one flat, Bb. This concept can be applied to any note on the fingerboard.
The minor key signature system works similarly except that minor key signatures use the accidentals found within the natural minor scale. In other words, the minor key signatures are generated using the series of whole steps and half steps contained within the natural minor scale including W-H-W-W-H-W-W. The natural minor scale is comprised of the exact pitch content contained within the major scale, beginning on the sixth scale degree of the major scale. Consequently, the natural minor scale is synonymous with the Aeolian mode or the sixth mode of the major scale. If you know how to play the natural minor scale, then figuring out the minor key signature system is easy.
When comparing the major and minor key signatures to each other, you will notice that they share the same accidentals. For example, if you superimpose C major and A minor, you will note that they contain the same notes C-D-E-F-G-A-B. Neither key has a sharp nor a flat. By starting on the sixth scale degree of any major scale and playing the same pitches found within that major scale, its relative minor scale is generated. The term "relative" indicates that the two scales are related because they share the same set of pitches and have an identical key signature. For example, C major and A minor are relative keys so you could say that A minor is the relative minor key signature to C major or that C major is the relative major key signature to A minor. Likewise, G major and E minor share the same number of accidentals (one sharp, F#), and you could thus state that E minor is the relative minor to G major or that G major is the relative major to E minor.
In addition to locating the relative minor key on the sixth scale degree of the major scale, you can also determine the relative minor of a major key by simply going down the interval of a minor third on the fingerboard. If you are in the key of C major, the root note is located at the third fret of the A-string. Go down an interval of a minor third, and you land on the note A at the fifth fret of the E-string. Again, the key of A minor is the relative minor of C major. You can figure out the relative major of a minor key by going up a minor third interval on the fingerboard as well. Therefore, you could use this information to figure out the minor key signatures starting from their respective relative major key signatures or vice versa to learn the major key signatures by comparing them with their relative minor key signatures.
The relative minor of a major scale should not be confused with its parallel minor scale. The parallel minor of a major scale is a minor scale which shares the same tonic pitch. For example, the parallel minor of C major (C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C) is C minor (C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-C) whereas the relative minor of C major (C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C) is A minor (A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A). In other words, the relative minor of a major scale features the same pitches but a different tonic pitch. The parallel minor of a major scale begins on the same tonic but has different pitches.
As you read key signatures from left to right, you will notice that sharps are organized in the following sequence: F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, and B#. You will note that flats are arranged in this order: Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, and Fb. After the first sharp or flat is placed on the staff, each additional accidental is notated in a precise pattern of placement in the bass clef. For example, following F#, sharps are written by going down four lines and spaces (F-E-D-C), then up five (C-D-E-F-G), down four, up five, and so forth. Subsequent to Bb, flats are added by moving up four lines and spaces (B-C-D-E), then down five (E-D-C-B-A), and so forth in the same manner. There is only one exception to this pattern. The fifth sharp (A#) continues down four lines and spaces in order to avoid placing a sharp on a ledger line.
Besides identifying the major and minor key signatures by committing the number of accidentals to memory such as knowing that the key of A major has three sharps (F#-C#-G#), you can simply refer to the final accidental for sharp keys and the second to last accidental for flat keys. With sharp key signatures, the last sharp is the leading tone of the key so the pitch a half step above it is the tonic. The key of D major has two sharps (F#-C#), and the note D is one half step higher in pitch than the last accidental (C#). For the flat key signatures, the tonic of the key is the next to last flat. The key of Eb major has three flats (Bb-Eb-Ab), and Eb is the second to last accidental from the right. The only key signature that won't work with this system is F major because it has just one flat (Bb) so it is the one key that you will need to memorize.
If a song modulates to a new key at some point during the course of the music, a courtesy key signature is typically included in the music notation at the end of the last measure of the line. This lets musicians know that a change in the key is coming in the following measure in the line below.
The Circle of Fifths is a circular arrangement of all 12 notes of the musical alphabet. The number of sharps contained within each major key signature can be derived from reading the Circle of Fifths clockwise starting with the note C (C-G-D-A-E-B-F#-C#). With each passing interval of an ascending perfect fifth as you read the circle clockwise, an additional sharp is required. Flats are added by reading the Circle of Fifths counterclockwise starting on C (C-F-Bb-Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-Cb), and with each additional interval of an ascending perfect fourth, an extra flat is added.
Classical musicians typically read the Circle of Fifths in a clockwise fashion whereas jazz musicians prefer using the circle counterclockwise because the movement from one note to the next follows the roots of the ii-V-I chord progression, the most common chord progression played in jazz music. The Circle of Fifths is an excellent diagram to use when practicing because it replicates real musical application since chord progressions often follow fragments of the cycle. In the key of C major, the roots of the ii-V-I chord progression, Dm7-G7-CMaj7, follow each other counterclockwise around the Circle of Fifths. ... Subscribe Today & Read More!
The IIB offers two levels of bass certification. The Professional Bass Certificate is the highest level of certification obtainable at the IIB and is designed as a project for bassists who are dedicated to the advancement of contemporary bass performance, the study of the bass tradition, and seek to play bass on a professional level. The Certificate Of Completion is awarded to bassists who successfully complete all 5 of the IIB's online bass courses. ... Read More!
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Jazz Improvisation is a comprehensive 20-lesson course that will help you acquire the essential skills which are necessary to connect your ears to the fingerboard, develop ideas, and communicate more fluently through the language of improvisation. Featuring dozens of fretboard diagrams and play-along tracks with exercises written in standard notation and tablature, topics covered include practice techniques, ear training, scales, modes, chords, passing notes, approach note techniques, and chord tone soloing. After completing this course, you will have expanded your fretboard familiarity, broadened your knowledge of chord/scale theory, increased your technical proficiency on the instrument, and become more productive in your practice sessions. You will possess the fundamental tools that are required to improvise great bass lines and solos on any chord type, chord progression, or song form in the jazz repertoire. ... Subscribe Today & Read More!