Jeff Berlin: Regarding the Practice of Reading Music – Ten Paramount Pointers

Jeff Berlin is an internationally known world-class Jazz/Fusion Bassist who has played with everyone from Bill Bruford, Allan Holdsworth, Scott Henderson, Larry Coryell and Pat Martino to John McLaughlin, Yes, Frank Zappa, Patrick Moraz and many more. Along with Jaco, Jeff was the preeminent bassist of the 70’s, 80’s and subsequent decades into the 21st Century. And while I have not met Jeff in person, I had the pleasure of seeing him at NYC’s fabled Bottom Line Club with the legendary Allan Holdsworth as leader back in the early 80’s.

I’ve always been a fan of Jeff’s and his impressive work ethic when it came to his instrument. Which is why, when I saw a recent posting on his Facebook page I had to make sure that you all saw it as well.

Regradless of what instrument you play, his post titled “Regarding practicing reading” should be a must read for any beginning, intermediate and advanced student of music who need to enhance or work on their reading chops. Enjoy 🙂

Regarding practicing reading:

  1. Go slow! – If you haven’t read music before, realize that you can read these etudes for the next twelve months or more if necessary. So, go slow! Don’t try to speed up reading unless this occurs naturally. Take your time! There is no rush whatsoever.
  2. Practice every day. – Read for, say, 30 minutes a day, less if you are new and need time to experience this new form of musical investigation. Regular practing is the trick.
  3. Take breaks – Practice until you feel that you have had enough. Honor that! Take a break and then go back and resume your reading. Never practice in distress as this is antithetical to quality learning.
  4. Review. – Reviewing your work confirms that you are learning or have learned what you’ve been practicing. Reviewing can be as beneficial as any approach in academic learning that you can find.
  5. No metronomes! You are learning new music. Learning something new is best done out of time giving you time to figure out what the notes are and where they are located on the bass neck.
  6. Don’t perform – This goes with metronomes in that you should put focus on figuring out the notes on the page and how to play them on your bass.
  7. Mistakes – You are going to make them. This is no big deal. If you misread the same notes or passage 25 times, remember that maybe you needed 25 mistakes to finally learn those particular notes.
  8. It doesn’t matter what you play like starting out. It only matters where you end up. – Take comfort in this fact; The only academic approach to learning an instrument that gives everyone the best chance at improving their playing is practicing harmonically sound music. This approach worked for over three centuries and it produced every musician in history, known or otherwise who wasn’t self taught.
  9. Take a year or more – Take whatever time you need to go through the music.
  10. Nothing that you love about bass playing is replaced. – If you love rock, slap, or metal, reading lessons were never meant to replace anything about your playing that you don’t wish to stop doing.

Thanks to Jeff Berlin for graciously allowing me to reprint his article over here at Jazz Guitar Life. To learn more about Jeff please visit his website to see how he can best serve your musical needs.

For over 40 years, he has stood as one of the most innovative electric bassists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Known for his one-of-a-kind tone, jaw dropping technique and highly advanced harmonic approaches to the bass, Jeff has been one of the major figures in firmly establishing the electric bass as a solo instrument well deserving of its own distinct place in modern music.

Jeff has also distinguished himself as one the premier teachers of bass education throughout the world.  For 10 years he owned and operated the Players School in Clearwater, Florida. Now in Nashville since 2017, Jeff continues his mission through Jeff Berlin Bass Education. In direct contrast to what has recently become the popular but more superficial approach to bass education, Jeff uses the proven method of pedagogical musical training; this classic teaching method emphasizes the fundamentals, such as reading music, understanding chord tones and their applications, playing in 12 keys, approach notes, and walking blues.

Please consider spreading the word about Jeff and Jazz Guitar Life by sharing this article amongst your social media pals and please feel free to leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you 🙂

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About Lyle Robinson 265 Articles
Lyle Robinson is the owner/creator/publisher and editor of Jazz Guitar Life, an online magazine dedicated to the Jazz Guitar and its community of fine players worldwide.

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