Should I be giving lessons?
During idle conversation with my bands mates, the subject of lessons came up. I've heard my drummer mention lessons that he has throughout the week. I always thought he was taking lessons, not giving them...
He suggested I should try to give lessons. I've thought about it before, but never persued it. I would place myself at a modest intermediate-advanced level. Definitely not an Expert.
I would only consider beginners at first, but wouldn't really know how to start. I'm for the most part self taught, apart from some basic theory I learned in jr. high band class. Time signatures and some reading, That was quite a while ago, 15+ years.
So my question (finally) is what sort of lesson scheme should I work with? In my own studies I've been working with the bass grimoire. Lots of scales, modes, whatnot. Or am I even qualified?
In my search for local bass teachers, I've really only run across guitar teachers that also teach bass.
Any ideas or adverse opinions are welcome. I don't really want to 'poison the well' if you know what I mean, but I think that I would learn alot by teaching also.
I think as long as you start with beginners (at least to start with) you will be fine.
You will probably find that giving lessons will help YOUR playing as well. I teach and have found that in order to teach someone something, you have to be fully comfortable with it yourself. So it may help you break bad habbits, get tighter, re-learn things once forgotten, learn new things in order to progress your student etc
Just remember start very basic (once assessing what level the student it at).
I usually start RIGHT at the start.
Parts of the bass,
Role of bass (there are many)
Basic techniques like hand positions, strap height, pick vs fingers, thumb anchoring vs floating etc
Then usually basic execises to get the right & left hands in sync
Then your basic scales, appegios etc. I try to relate a lesson to a song that uses what we have gone over. To help them see how it is used in a musical application. PLus learning from others bass players is great.
Also discuss the relevance of groove, locking with drummers, timing, space, rhythm etc
Make sure they are fun and not boring and too theory heavy (at least to start)
Go ahead, give it a try. Maybe even give yourself a refresher before advertising tho
Do you have the right personality for it? Do you like enthusiastically explaining things to people? Do you have a high frustration threshold?
I tried it once and just did not have the patience.
I think it would be fine for you to teach as long as you're honest with your students about what you can and what you can't teach them - and you're not charging too much given your level of experience.
Remember, just because someone can play, doesn't mean someone can teach. Here are some questions to ask yourself.
Do you have the patience to explain something to a student in various ways and not get frustrated if they simply can't get it? (edit: waynobass beat me to it; didn't mean to repeat)
Do you feel capable of not just passing along information, but assessing a student's strengths and weaknesses?
Do you have sufficient time and organizational skills? You'll need to develop individual plans for each student you take on, measure their progress, and plan ahead for their next lesson.
In short, just be aware that there's more work to it than first meets the eye.
Being a teacher is a huge responsibility, and it must be taken seriously. Don't just do it "for some extra bread". Do it because you feel passionate about your art and you feel you can make a difference in someone's life. And you have to teach the RIGHT things the RIGHT way.
I tried teaching bass and guitar one summer when I was home from college. I only had one student that would go home and practice. The others had to almost start from scratch every week because they didn't practice and would forget everything. I should have made a point to the parents that the half hour lesson is essentially guidance for practice the rest of the week - they need to make sure the child practices so he will benefit from the lessons. I have had better results with adults and informal lessons. As an aside, I worked with a guy that had a master's degree in jazz guitar; I had to get to know him well before he would give me lessons because he was so uncomfortable teaching. Hell of a nice guy too - just didn't like to teach.
I found teaching to be something of a calling. I started out because I thought I could play bass, so therefore I could teach. When i was making my living as a teacher several years later, teaching music through several schools, writing courses and so on, I had learned that teaching really is a profession requiring skills quite different from being a 'good' player.
A few things to think about:
1. what can you teach and what can't you teach. Don't say "all styles" if you don't slap, for example. Also, very few people can do "all styles' convincingly - it often means someone is mediocre at everything. Also, spearate by subject. I had great success and a lot of fullfillment with giving songwriting classes, band workshops and a conservatory prep course, in between regular instrument lessons. Figure out what you can do and focus on /market towards that.
2. Learn to structure a lesson. lessons can vary due to student age and group size, but the basic lesson structure should be similar from week to week for everyone. It is something to deviate from now and then, instead of a different structure every time you give a lesson. Come up with a lesson plan that suits you.
3. Have a good grasp of certain repertoires. Make sure you know lots of good riffs and parts in all styles, and be able to present them and hand them out on paper.
4. Write down exercises and file them away so you can retrieve them for your growing body of students.
5. To do this seriously you need to think of it as building a practice - something that you do with a body of students on a weekly basis. Keep track of who you teach and what you teach them. A good year is when 13-20% of your students do not come back in the new season. Have solid 'no-show' policies, etc. Think of your students socio economic circumstances and price accordingly. Think of what to charge when you travel to them vs. they come to you. and so on.
6. Who are your target markets? adults in their 30ties looking for a hobby? They are fun to teach because they want to learn - but they usually dont practice because they have no time. Kids? can be great fun to teach - Often sent by their parents - have time to practice but often dont. The bottom line is: as a successful teacher, you are often an entertainer of sorts. You want them to keep coming back, and give them the idea that they enjoy themselves and learn something. be understanding. Accept that most of your students can't or won't practice nearly enough.
7. Children also have short attention spans. Keep those private lessons short and price accordingly. Make sure you can identify and work with any type of client.
8. organize a presentation. It gives them something to work towards, is great fun and a massive sense of fullfillment for the students.
8. After a while it becomes a business and you need to think of taxes etc.
Take an intro to music course at a local college. This will put up a step on on many other bassists.
In fact since it sounds like you're considering this a career I would invest in a 2 year degree with a couple of business law classes thrown in
A bunch of great points made here. My mind is set at ease will still realizing that this will be a major undertaking. Aside from having a business location, what are some pros/cons associated with taking lessons to them vs holding lessons at your location? Do your students typically already own their instruments?
I didn't read every post, so if this was already covered, that person is brilliant like me. :D
Here's a business tip. Charge by the MONTH. And they pay for the chair, not a lesson. What I mean by that is people will run all over you if you let them. Odds are many of your students will be younger. They are flighty little guys who will just "not feel like coming" sometimes. You should set up payments by the month. You get paid at the BEGINNING of the month BEFORE that month's lessons, not AFTER lessons you have already given. I would tell my students' parents....
"You are paying for me, and that chair right there... NOT a lesson. Me and the chair will always be here. So if you don't make it, I'm sorry. Me and the chair will be here the whole time. So, if your son is not sitting in the aforementioned chair, you paid for an empty chair."
Now, of course I would make exceptions for emergencies and things. But if you don't bill at the beginning of every month and hold them to it, you will get taken advantage of a LOT, and you will wind up sitting in your lesson studio doing nothing (and MAKING nothing) just because some kid didn't feel like going to his lesson that day.
If you charge by the lesson, and get paid after every lesson, you will get a TON of last minute phone calls with lame excuses as to why your student can't make it.
I made a LOT of money sitting in front of an empty chair practicing my own stuff.
In home lessons seem kind of weird to me because you're going into someone else's space which is awkward, plus you can't really control all of the distractions in someone's home. I did my teaching gig at a music store that had formal lesson rooms set up. I split the fee 80/20 with them. They also booked students for me. You might look into doing something like that so you can build a rep and transition into your own space when you have a solid student base.
Oh, yeah - a student should commit to getting their own instrument, otherwise they're clearly not serious about learning.
I've never taken lessons.
As such, I've little idea how lessons are supposed to go.
I've had plenty of beginners quit after a month or two.
I've had plenty of intermediates/novices stick with me until they were, effectively, technical masters of the instrument, can pick things out by ear and I had nothing left to teach them but chord, progression, structure and melody vocabulary, which they could, often do, and IMO should learn on their own.
I am less of an instructor than a guide, and I get plenty of "students" by word of mouth (you should read that as "I'm a terrible instructor, but people seem to like me and feel like they get their money's worth from me.")
You can likely do lessons on your own, but no shop worth their salt will want you for more than a few months. Take a bunch of lessons to see how it goes.
Here's a great way to decide if you want to teach:
First, get your hands on a couple of bass primer texts or method books. Make them appropriate to the ages and levels of students you want to add to your roster. For example, if you want to teach students as young as single-digit ages (I'll take them as young as 6 or 7), you'll need to track down some texts that aim at that level. I realized long ago that I can not write a book, there is no point in re-inventing the wheel with beginner-intermediate students, and there are a plethora of good method books out there already for all ages and skill levels.
Now, imagine yourself actually trying to patiently teach your young students how to hold the instrument, how to use their fingers, how to use a pick (I always encourage my students to use both), using those method books for teaching them the basics of sight reading, note value, making the connection between the letter of the alphabet/dot on the staff/note on the instrument (I use the fact that I teach students fundamentals like sight reading to impress parents and assure them that I'm teaching life-long music skills, not just "Smoke On The Water" in TAB--they really appreciate that). Are you patient enough? Can you be encouraging? How about a reward system? Sometimes the actual "music" doesn't happen for awhile, and students need to know you care about THEM as human beings. It's their only motivator for awhile. With any luck, it will eventually be the making of music. I have a big treasure chest with doo-dads and games, puzzles, Pez dispensers, inflatable sharks, all kinds of cool crap to give my students a warm fuzzy once in awhile. How about a progress tracking method? I use stickers. I write a brief note after each lesson in my students' lesson binder about what we worked on and what needs daily practice at home. If they come back a week later and show me they spent time with it and progressed, they get a sticker in their binder.
Now my older students (after around age 15 or 16) don't need so much encouragement. They are pretty much all about the music. And my adult students just want to get up to speed as quickly as possible with favorite songs, so with the older groups or more advanced students, we drop some of the coddling and just get on with it.
Essentially, if you want to take on a variety of students (which is the quickest way to build up your roster), you'll need to be very student-centered and know how to motivate a variety of age groups and skill levels.
I do help students with instrument acquisition (after seeing some of the totally inappropriate choices inexperienced students and their parents can make, I decided it is just easier to help them with that step). I will do quick set up procedures, and I have a great tech I recommend if the instrument has more technical problems (nut work, fret work, etc.) I tell my students how to take care of their instrument, do's and don'ts.
I like the suggestion to charge in advance for one month (I charge for four lessons). This reinforces that there is a commitment here that both the teacher and the student must accept.
For a short time, I would travel to students houses to teach. I found it very difficult, in part because of the travel time and expense, but mainly because I could not get my students and their parents to create an appropriate clean safe distraction-free environment. I got tired of competing with the siblings, the TV, the dog, etc. I finally went to a home studio scenario, I control the environment, and I actually picked up more students (because I didn't have to drive around between lessons, and people actually respect the fact you have created an appropriate lesson space).
There's so much more, you really need to keep researching. There are a couple of good books on the subject at amazon.com.
I think, above all else, keep learning yourself how to improve, keep researching and asking more experienced teachers what works for them. Your willingness to learn and improve as an instructor is your greatest asset.
I have maintained a stable of around 20 students per week for the past 14 years. I'm no Jaco, more a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none. My students stick with me for 2-3 years on average. I could go 40 students a week, but that would be exhausting (it is tiring if you do it right), and I still do a lot of performance-based stuff (which is also time-consuming and tiring at my age). Still, 20 students per week is a big part of my annual income, and I really enjoy it. Some of my students have moved on to much bigger and better things, which is very rewarding.
Would YOU want to take lessons from someone at your level? If not, don't teach. If you've never studied with a really good teacher, you should do that before you try to teach yourself.
I recently started giving lessons to beginners. Basic stuff, tips and tricks, very basic theory. So far everything's going well, after every session I ask if they thought the lesson was useful and the answer's always been positive.
Baby steps and small pieces
One thing I appreciate in bass teachers: ability to break down bass playing into small pieces, so that the student can grasp complex things one bite at a time.
Small pieces should still practical, though.
Two good examples of that approach (both different, though; both are my textbooks of sorts):
- Patrick Pfeiffer's "Bass Guitar Exercises for Dummies";
- Ed Friedland's "The Working Bassist's Tool Kit".
If I were to start teaching (been thinking about that too) - I'd base my curriculum on these.
Both books are great in respect of:
- explaining the overall goal: where all of this stuff gets you?
- breaking exercise into smaller "areas of attention" that you practice separately first, and then combine into playing something musical.
If I were to pick one major topic of study and practice for a bassist: time. As in TIME. You can get away with playing very few notes (or even wrong ones), but if they are right on time - you are good. After all, we are half-percussionists on our instrument :)
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