What we teach in the Berklee Bass Department

Discussion in 'Ask the Berklee Bass Department' started by Steve Bailey, Jan 4, 2014.


  1. Steve Bailey

    Steve Bailey Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2013
    I get lots of questions about "what is taught in the Berklee Bass Department". I am going to post what is included in my Private Lesson Syllabus. And I will encourage our professors to do the same so that you can get a taste of how diverse our faculty is, but with a common thread of "fundamentals first".

    PLEASE DON'T MAKE COMMENTS IN THIS THREAD as I am going to make this a sticky for informational purposes. Feel free to comment in a thread you create. Thanks, Steve

    PS, I will say it a few times, just for emphasis! ;-)

    PLEASE DON'T MAKE COMMENTS IN THIS THREAD

    PLEASE DON'T MAKE COMMENTS IN THIS THREAD

    PLEASE DON'T MAKE COMMENTS IN THIS THREAD, Start your own or jump on another.
  2. Steve Bailey

    Steve Bailey Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2013
    This is a list of the ingredients that I use, and that are in constant development. The "core" ingredients have remained the same since high school, though.


    1. Reading in many styles including "classical", straight eighth, triplet, odd meters, extended range, chord voicings etc….. It's gotta eventually groove.

    2. Transcription, analysis, and performance of classic basslines, from Paul Chambers to John Paul Jones…..It's gotta eventually groove.

    3. Transcription, analysis, and performance of classic solos, in many styles and often from "non-bass" instruments. (sax, guitar, piano, drums, etc)…it's gotta groove.

    4. Theory, traditional and contemporary including modes, harmonic analysis, and application in various styles of music, which has to groove.

    5. Technique… on the electric; Left Hand Mastery of the fingerboard which includes 4 specific sets of fingerings (one finger per fret and extended) for major and minor (natural, harmonic, and melodic) scales, vertically and horizontally across the fingerboard. Vertical and horizontal chromatic scales, and altered scales, and modes of melodic minor IF the student leans in a "jazz" way. Consistent Right Hand attack and alteration is also big part of it. We work on that a lot as most players tend to favor one finger or the other as a "starter". I favor all three. If the student uses a pick, we work on string crossing, attack evenness, and transcribe some Steve Swallow, Carol Kaye, Carles Benevent, or Dave Ellefson.
    For fretless, things slow way down and the fingering system becomes paramount, combined with critical listening. I have them practice in the dark, or with a blindfold to help improve their muscle memory for shifting, and they "HAND-EAR" coordination. (As opposed to traditional HAND-EYE coordination, which they get above.)

    6. Technique… Double bass. A firm technical foundation is mandatory. I have taken "experienced" students and had to break down their left hand fingering and bowing, just to rebuild it because they wanted technical virtuosity in the style of Eddie Gomez, Ray Brown, Scott Lafaro. This requires efficient and systematic fingerings. Simandl, Nanny, Kreutzer, and Jim Stinnett books are some of my tools. Arco discipline is a must, long tones are a must. I teach thumb position early to get the student away from the traditional "upward motion fear".

    7. Ear Training.. We work on hearing harmonic and root motion. I like to take songs of various forms and harmonic density and "drop the needle" in various points having the student hear where they are, all while keeping time and adjusting time to "find" themselves. This is a great "real world" technique.

    8. Styles Focus… Starting with one chord change, then 2-4 bar phrases, then Blues forms, then extended forms we work in various styles focusing on authenticity which includes Feel, Note Choice, Phrasing, and TONE. Although this is the shortest description, in many ways it is the most crucial to ones "workability" along with….

    9. Repertoire... Learning the songs, tunes, lines, that will help the student master all of the above. I usually assign about 50-70% of this repertoire and allow the student to bring in what they like for the rest. I don't care what style it is as long as efficient technical principles are utilized. I look at it from the perspective that the same 12 notes and rhythms are used in ALL music, and therefore ALL music can be approached academically. Whether its Jimmy Blanton, Dave Ellefson, Lee Sklar, Paul McCartney, James Jamerson, Michael Rhodes, Bona, Marcus, Berlin, Trujillo, Larry etc… etc…. ALL are worthy of study. ALL!!! Same twelve notes…. Rhythm, Phrasing, Dynamics, Space, Tone, Relation to the "pulse" (ahead or behind the beat) and other criteria change..

    10. Solo pieces… various chordal, self accompaniment, and multi-timbrel concepts. Artificial harmonics, Right Hand thumb-finger independence. The ultimate result being the ability to take a melody and a set of changes and perform as an unaccompanied piece. Reharmonization and chord substitutions are encouraged.

    ----------------------------------------------APPENDIX--------------------------------------------

    a. I use a metronome or drum machine when it is helpful. (establishing benchmarks, and monitoring progress. And for maintaining consistency)

    b. I prefer to focus more effort on a student's weaknesses to help create a Balanced Player. But, I let the student steer the ship some as well, working on what they want to improve for a percentage of the time.

    c. If a student does not meet my requirements or make the progress that we both want, I require them to then keep a practice log for several weeks. This is very revealing to both of us.

    d. If a student does not do the work, I give them a couple of chances to pick it up. If they don't, after 2 CTJ meetings (some will know what that means) I don't allow them to sign up for my course again. I have no hard feelings, and I do not hold grudges. If they say they have picked up their game, they can have an hour to prove it. If they do prove it, I will resume.

    e. I encourage student to record their practice, lessons, and above all, their playing.

    f. If I suggest a particular player for the student to listen to, and they don't know who it is, I require them to google everything they can, come back with 5 tunes from them, and tell me about that artists career. (I am surprised at how many historical holes there are in many young players). Then I let them suggest one to me, and if I don't know who it is I do the same

    I know I left a bunch out, but I do know that everything above WORKS for me. I may apply in different proportions and through different means, but the content stays very consistent. YMMV
  3. Bruce Gertz

    Bruce Gertz Bruce Gertz Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2005
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    I agree with everything that Steve said. The only thing I would add at this point is that I like to help a student learn how to practice all that great stuff.
    That takes place in part of some lessons or even an entire lesson. We practice together so the student gets started with me and begins to focus and move forward. Then he or she has a specific direction to go in while improving their weaknesses. Once there is progress a student can gain encouragement and begin to succeed toward mastery of certain things. Don't be overwhelmed by the huge amount of things to practice. Get the fundamentals(rhythm, reading, ears etc.) together and then tackle each of the many other items in a slow and deliberate manner. Rome wasn't built in a day. One solid, stone at a time. More later. :cool::bassist:

    I pass that on from my teacher, the late great John Neves RIP. He showed me how to practice and listen to detail. I was blessed to have his direction.

    Some of the topics I teach involve advanced Improvisation concepts. Here's a brief description of some areas where many students are lacking vocabulary.
    1. Use of symmetric, diminished scales and their relationship to dominant 7th chords.
    2. Use of symmetric, augmented (hexatonic) scales related to Coltrane's music.
    3. Use of whole tone scales w/wo chromatic tones ie; Debussy and Ravel
    4. Bass lines under less conventional chord progressions ie; Giant Steps, Countdown, Moment's Notice, 26-2 (John Coltrane) JU JU, Speak No Evil, Fee Fi Fo Fum, Whitch Hunt(Wayne Shorter) Inner Urge(Joe Henderson) Dolphin Dance, Eye Of The Hurricane, One Finger Snap(Herbie Hancock) Modal music such as Impressions, Liberia, India, So What and many more.
    5. Tetratonic voicing structures and permutations ie; Chick Corea's Matrix from Now He Sings Now He Sobs, 1968 w/Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes
    6. Two, three, four and six tonic systems, each splitting the octave equally and creating tonal centers through which one can improvise like going through a worm hole.
    7. Creating composite scales to navigate through any kind of chord, changes. I call it chain links. Basically connecting by step to the next chosen chord scale.
    8. Creating 12 tone rows using 4 note tropes in groups of 3 or 3 note tropes in groups of 4. Also voice crossing between the 2 whole tone scales.
    9. Intervalic approaches to improvisation, diatonic and non-diatonic.
    10. Building rhythmic motives and developing bass lines and solos from those motives.

    In the meantime listening is of the utmost importance. Transcribing either by simply playing along and picking things up by ear or writing down what you hear or ideally both. Written transcriptions are much more demanding as they involve notation. This is extremely beneficial in terms of learning to read music better and gaining a broader understanding of theory. Rhythmic notation can be quite complex and really help you learn to read rhythms. Many years after learning all of Ray Brown's bass lines and solos on We Get Requests with Oscar Peterson I helped a student transcribe all of the album (I did most of the work) it became clear that what sounded like a simple blues lick was in fact a sextuplet consisting of both 8th and 16th note triplets combined and plenty of syncopation. What an eye opener! And that as they say was just the tip of the iceberg!
  4. Lincoln Goines

    Lincoln Goines Berklee Bass Department Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2013
    One of the main goals I focus on in lessons is to teach the student to teach themselves- as Bruce said helping them learn how to practice- finding the best exercise for warming up or the most effective method for reading or transcribing, for example. It's a different prescription in each case, but in every case I aim to inspire, work on fundamentals that I hear are lacking, and find the groove.
    These methods, as our chairman Steve put it, are in constant development. I can only teach what I know, and fortunately very often in the lessons I am able to call upon my experiences and use material of the artists I'm playing with and or have worked with in the past. I am an eternal student myself and it is truly inspirational to work alongside so many great teachers and players, and also to learn from my students!

    Here are some general and specific concepts and methods I use in teaching:

    -Remember the three words that Ray Brown said: "Never Stop Practicing!"
    -The bass is first and foremost the heartbeat of the ensemble.
    -Playing the bass is only a part of being a good bassist.
    -Create a structured practice routine. Always start out with the things you find most difficult. If you do this, old challenges will become manageable and new ones will quickly take their place, in other words, you will progress.
    -5 minutes of intense concentration is better than 5 hours of noodling in front of the TV or computer. Listening to a CD or watching a DVD or YouTube can be informative and motivational, but it does not take the place of real practice.
    -Learn to read and write music. Period.
    -Take notes and keep a journal of the things you work on. Set goals. Real progress requires real discipline.
    -Work out grooves with a real live drummer, and not a rhythm track or app.
    -Never be complacent with your musical achievements, and keep your ears and your spirit open to all kinds of music- at some point you will find a use for it.

    In the lessons I use music from many of the jazz, funk and Motown greats. In addition to this, I also use repertoire from many of the artists I've worked with- like Mike Stern, Bob Mintzer, Dave Samuels, Wayne Krantz, Michel Camilo, Paquito D'Rivera, Tania Maria and several others. Using this material is particularly helpful when creating a simulated studio/live situation for the student.
    I also teach what I call bass orchestration. Seeing sound from the eye of bass, you are in a position to shape and guide the music happening around you- to provide the link, or "glue" between the notes and the groove. In constructing a part for a song, playing a written line, improvising, or more likely doing a combination of these things, there's always room for contributing color, motion, and life to the music... and it's as much in what you do as it is in what you don't do. I've drawn tremendous inspiration from bassists I consider to be master orchestrators, like James Jamerson, Ron Carter, Steve Swallow, Jaco Pastorius, and Anthony Jackson to name a few.

    Here are a few of the advanced methods I offer:

    -Extrapolating material from transcriptions (your transcriptions, not mine, and I would help you) and incorporating it into your own bass line / solo vocabulary.
    -Applying the modes of the melodic minor, harmonic minor, and other diatonic scales to chord changes and improvising methods.
    -The study of patterns derived from the symmetrical diminished scale and their applications over dominant 7 chords.
    -Using chromatic approaches, chord tensions and repeating note shapes in bass line construction and in improvising methods.
    -The study of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music as a departure point into other styles, and applying folkloric elements into jazz, funk, rock, and pop grooves.
    -The application of the clave as a motivic device to use in place of linear subdivision when constucting a groove.
    -Working with the fundamental / universal African rhythm equation of 3 over 4:
    3/4 in 2/4 exercises over a common pulse / harmonic rhythm. 6/8 to 4/4 exercises over a common pulse / harmonic rhythm.
    -Working with odd-meter / synthetic clave Latin grooves and various hybrid patterns over a common pulse / chord progression.

    In addition, I am a certified instructor of Tai Chi Chuan, and I teach this art in a Health and Wellness lab at Berklee.
    I have found that the whole-body awareness Tai Chi cultivates carries through into the discipline of music- both Tai Chi and music need physical, mental, and emotional balance to perform and I am constantly developing methods to help my private students find and release their own tension patterns, and relax into their instruments with breathing and subtle posture adjustments.
    I try to inspire them to tap into the fluid / spiraling / proprietary kinetic energy known as ch'i instead of relying on locked-in muscle tension to produce the sound they're looking for. Sounds crazy but it works.

    -LG-
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  6. Joe Santerre

    Joe Santerre Berklee Bass Department Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2013
    What hasn't already been covered by Steve, Bruce, Victor & Lincoln! If that's not a comprehensive approach, I don't know what is!

    My approach, briefly, to start, is to make sure the student has a balanced approach to just getting a good sound on the instrument. This means really focusing on what the hands & fingers do, how they are placed etc., This might sound elementary for a place like Berklee, but I see & hear this "under - developed" aspect frequently, especially regarding muting…,open strings ringing while playing another string (take note 5 & 6 stringers!). So, even before grooves, harmony, reading, theory, repertoire I concentrate on this, and make it a thread through the lessons. I can get more detailed with all this in a subsequent post.

    Time & groove are why we play this instrument. I make sure the student understands the "role" of bass in a band. Again, sounds elementary, but many students are under the impression that bass is only a solo instrument. If you can solo
    & play all the latest licks but can't groove on a one chord vamp
    or play a 12 bar blues, the crazy licks loose their impact because the role of the bass in the your playing has not been developed. So…,anything with a metronome and/or drum sequence is good for really isolating where a student may have issues with time. I love to use rhythmic displacement exercises & grooves in developing this in a bass student. All of this can be combined with working on reading.

    Knowing the fretboard is another focus I concentrate on in private lessons. If you can't find C on your E string, or it takes
    10 seconds, you need more practice. Much of playing music,
    especially improvisation, is responding & reacting; so if you
    are delayed in playing something because of insufficient knowledge of the fretboard, you need more practice.


    Ok, you get the idea. First instrument specific stuff. Then we can talk about playing music. Tunes.., learning melody, changes & form….any style. The important part is to get yourself to internalize the entire tune.., then you can just
    play! This means repetition, repetition, repetition!.., Another
    vastly underestimated & under realized part of playing music
    and bass! You can't just play something twice & say "ok, got it
    whats next?" When you "own the music" (you'll know it when it happens!) you will have mastered whatever you're working on.

    Teaching private lessons is such a lesson for me too! I always
    learn about something from each student. It might be a phrasing thing, a groove, a technique, a bass effect, a tune, a band. I have more to say & can get more specific but will let
    this be part 1. "Playing bass is a lifetime commitment!:bassist:
  7. Tom Appleman

    Tom Appleman Berklee Bass Department Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2013
    Location:
    Tom Appleman
    My teaching revolves around locking in with different vamps with emphasis on consistency. Whether it be the form of the bass drum pattern or the harmony of the chords, outlining and solidifying what's already there is essential. I'll play a lot of groove based music in my lessons; earth wind and fire, James brown, pfunk, chili peppers; stuff where the bassline is crucial to the tune so it makes the player responsible for the time and outcome of the song. I also work on reading out of the Simandl books for beginner/intermediate levels and the Bach cello suites for higher level all while the drum machine is on. Playing with a rhythmic source is important. Other things we read are a book of Jaco transcriptions ("Jaco Pastorious- the greatest jazz-fusion bass player" by Hal Leonard), Charlie Parker's "Omnibook", Jamerson book ("Standing in the shadows of Motown" by Dr. Licks), Finger Funk Workbook by Anthony Vitti, The Ray Brown Bass Method, Storche Habre classical etudes, and Oscar Stagnaro's book "The Real Latin Book". Other than that, we go over Real Book tunes and perform walking patterns over sets of changes and then eventually create a "wave" of a line that incorporates a mixture of patterns. In the end, listening becomes the most important thing.
  8. Ed Lucie

    Ed Lucie Berklee Bass Department Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2013
    I play the Bass Guitar (and do not double on the upright) so I approach the instrument with guitaristic technique as it is the bottom end of the guitar family (the upright is in the violin family). I encourage my students to constantly grow 'closer' to their instrument so that it truly becomes an instrument of their inner music and not something they are wrestling with; this is a life-long endeavor. I develop my lessons for each individual person based on their ability, tastes, strengths and weaknesses, as well as what I perceive they need in getting to know them.
    First I focus on achieving a strong, rich sound by developing good right hand (assuming a right-handed player) technique. This involves control and evenness with the first two fingers. Additional techniques like pick, thumb muting, slapping etc are addressed but sound is still the primary focus.
    Secondly I begin fretboard knowledge with guitar technique using 'one finger per fret'. I teach one and two octave chromatic scales as an exercise in covering the entire fretboard. Then the introduction of the five basic triads and inversions, four part chords, as well as corresponding scales and modes. This is first done in one octave and then two. I have very specific and logical fingerings for all of this. I also emphasize the application of all of these scales and arps.
    Third is teaching the function of the bass in the music. If music is melody, harmony and rhythm then the bass' role is to play or support the harmony through the bass line and the rhythm. This is primarily done with chord tones. The scale and approach notes are connecting these chord tones. So I emphasize the knowledge of harmony and how the bass supports it.
    Fourth is the rhythmic aspect. This is as, if not more important, than the harmony. The feel is so critical I cannot emphasize it enough. All the great players we look up to are there because of their feel. I consider the rhythm as the time and the style coming together to create groove. So all important styles are covered; jazz, rock, r&b, blues, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, fusion, etc.
    - I encourage students to use metronomes, drum machines, loops, and play along with recordings.
    - Students must read and write music, they MUST.
    - Create your own bass lines and grooves from a chord, or a vamp or whatever....if you hear something, figure it out!
    - PRACTICE- I believe it is better to break down practicing into short segments. For instance; play scales and arpeggios for 15 minutes, practice reading for 15, play a groove and improvise for 15, work on a specific tune for 15 , etc. If you have more time start over or do something else but PRACTICE.
    Finally I always address student's interests. So if they want to work on a specific song or a Jaco groove or creating chords and comping or harmonics, or even helping them with other subjects like harmony or ear training, etc we always
    find the time.
    Learning music is a never ending path, we are never "There" and playing music is much more than just mastering an instrument, there is a whole spiritual mystery to it all. Teaching is more than just teaching information. Quite often it involves helping and advising students through situations they find themselves in. That is why I mentioned earlier that I approach each student as the unique person they are.
  9. Danny Morris

    Danny Morris Berklee Bass Department Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2013
    When I meet a new student the first thing we do together is make music. I get on the piano and the student plays bass. We jam on anything. The purpose is to create, improvise and for me to see and hear where the student is coming from. I listen and deduce what aspects of the students musicianship are strong and what aspects need attention. Then we talk about goals and aspirations. We talk about habits, experiences, music playlists, and general maintenance of health.
    Then I lay out a plan of study. There are four components specifically that I address: Groove, Ears, Sound (Timbre), and Taste.

    Having command of your GROOVE, the ability to play rhythmically with accuracy and soul is at the top of our list of things to work on. Here we will use the concept of subdivisions. They help you play with other musicians. A subdivision is a measurement dividing each beat into subgroups that help you to define your groove. If you’ve never used this concept while jamming or playing written parts, you will be amazed at how effective they are. Your fellow musicians and your audience will immediately notice a difference in your playing!!

    Next on the list are your EARS. Training your ears to hear chords, root motion, melodic shapes, and song form will make you a more valuable bassist. A vocabulary of bass ideas combined with a healthy instinct (acumen) improves your ability to create functional, creative and groove heavy basslines. Knowing when to embellish a bassline and when to hold your course steady with a repetitive line is an important compositional and arrangement concept which we will address in our lessons and discussions. A trained ear is at the forefront of making all these decisions.

    Next is your SOUND. A good bass player can attain their sound on just about any instrument because the sound comes from your hands and technique. We all have a unique voice. A clear intention is to help guide the student toward making the most of your practice habits so that you can bring out your unique groove and sound/timbre while performing. Playing along with tracks is a favorite practice routine that I like sharing.

    TASTE is the vibe that folks get from hearing your musical contribution on a track or in a live performance situation. My favorite compositional device for improvising basslines is silence. Don’t ever forget, a rest, tacet, is sound too! All your musical decisions will result in consequences that ultimately define your taste.

    Each semester is measured thru growth. The performance of songs during your final test measures your skill level and how it has matured.

    It is a true pleasure working with students at Berklee and watching them progress, eventually graduate, and become professionals playing and touring the world. I have had the wonderful experience hearing and watching my students grow into adults, raising families of their own and sharing their life experiences now as professional colleagues. Funny thing to always remember, we are all students!

    Health and music,
    Danny Morris
  10. Dave Clark

    Dave Clark Berklee Bass Department Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2013
    I consider myself monumentally blessed to be at Berklee. While my principal teaching responsibility at the amazing Berklee Bass Department is bass-centric, it is also person-centric. While the first order of business is to help the student have a good program for improvement in the various aspects their bass playing, with a view towards extending strengths and balancing skill areas, it is natural for conversations to be wide-ranging at times, although never as an avoidance strategy from the primary business at hand (improvement of bass playing).

    For this piece in TalkBass I brainstormed the following (doubtlessly incomplete) list of topic areas which have entered into my work and play with my teachers, my fellow musicians, and my students:

    Topics:

    Right hand technique
    Left hand technique
    Coordination of RH and LH technique
    Touch & Sound
    Dynamics
    Articulation
    Damping
    Fingering concepts
    Time/groove/beat/pulse; metronomic & human
    Rhythm
    Harmony
    Line construction
    Scales
    Arpeggios
    Patterns
    Voice Leading
    Phrasing
    Counterpoint
    Improvisation
    Walking
    Riffing
    Soloing
    Form
    Styles (my faves are Jazz, Funk, Latin, and Classical)
    Listening
    Ear training for the Bass player
    Transcription
    Analysis
    Reading/Writing
    Repertoire/memorization strategies
    Ensemble awareness and response/reflex/intuition/interplay

    Principles:

    Preparation/Proactivity
    Whole body awareness
    Coordination of opposing and related muscle groups
    Anatomy
    Relaxation/Action
    Ease of use
    Economy of Motion
    Practice Planning, Time Management, and Results Appreciation/Assessment
    One Day at a Time
    Balancing Motivation & Discipline with Chill & Dude-ology (Doing & Being)
    Balancing Honest self-assessment and Radical self-acceptance
    Focused Concentration/Panoramic Awareness/Point of View/Open-Mindedness
    Health & Well-Being
    Craft, Creativity, Artistry, Inspiration
    Communication & Relationships
    Performance & Recording
    Gear & Technology
    Business
    Culture
    Enjoyment!!!

    Hope to see you here sometime, whether it is as a College student, your attendance at a special program such as the Berklee Five Week Summer Performance Program or the Victor Wooten/Berklee Summer Bass Workshop, a Berklee Online course, as a Visiting Clinician, or, as happens over time…all of the above!

    Very best wishes – Dave Clark
  11. Whit Browne

    Whit Browne Berklee Bass Department Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2013
    Whit Browne has some suggestions.
    Well, my esteemed Berklee Bass Brothers have just about listed everything, some wonderful tips to better ourselves on the Bass.
    Here are a few things that I would like to add:
    (1) ASSESSMENT: The first thing I do when meeting a new student , is to assess the strengths and weaknesses. I then make suggestions on how we can strengthen the weaknesses and we come up with a game plan to accomplish this.
    (2)LISTEN: listen to ALL styles of music. Absorb. Sing the root motions, sing the melody.
    (3)SOUND : they hear ya before they hear ya! Get a big sound...turn up the bass! If the walls aren't shakin', you're not playing right!
    (4) GROOVE/BEAT/TIME: they feel ya before they hear ya! Play along with recordings, get the groove. Get a big beat ! Boom, boom, bam...make 'em want to dance!
    (5)TIME MANAGEMENT/PRACTICE: I promote a time management program, in which you work on one thing for 30 minutes. Then work on another thing for 30 minutes etc.
    Do that for 2 hours, then take a break. So, you've now practiced 4 things in that 2 hour session. So..over the period of a 7 day week each one of those 30 minute practice sessions equates into 3 1/2 hours. You'll make good progress without getting stressed out.
    (6) CHOOSE A HERO/MENTOR: choose a bass player that you aspire to be like, and learn everything about that player. Transcribe, copy, play along etc to capture the essence of that bassist.
    So, turn up the bass...Straight ahead and strive for tone!
    Whit Browne
  12. Dave Buda

    Dave Buda Berklee Bass Department Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2007
    Disclosures:
    Boston bass and berklee professor
    When you come to Berklee, you are making a huge commitment to yourself. It's important to know that the school is committed to you, but we must take responsibility for our own education in the final end. The salad buffet is laid before you, but you must eat of it to be full. If you don't eat it, it's not the foods fault! You will discover that there is a lot of variety of food to here at Berklee!


    In the end you cannot go wrong if you eat. You will take in an endless amounts of information in the Bass Department alone. I know I speak for my peers when I say that we are most interested in your effort and commitment to the bass. We all love a hard worker!
    My experience has taught me that my students greatly excel from the two of us playing together during the lesson. I wouldn't call it jamming, we are applying what we have learned in that moment. Hopefully you gained a taste of what that "funny" sounding chord sounds like within the context of all those other "funny" sounding chords! I love it when one of my students go, WOW!
    I like to use backing tracks during the lesson. Its important to me that you have what I call, "relational thinking". When we are working on one thing ,we are working on ALL things! Here is one example of what I mean:
    My students are often blown away when they discover that their groove GREATLY improves from working on reading. Often we never fully appreciate the underlying subdivisions there are in all the varieties of music. The Harmony stays the same, but the pulse and rhythmic phrasing changes dramatically. I have found that we all seem to rush sixteenth notes! Reading music has taught me that. As a working electric bassist ,I have played with everyone from the Boston Pops, to Vince Gill. Without my reading skills, I would simply have to say no, to such opportunities.
    My experience has taught me that we benefit most by spending our time focused on the most glaring weakness that appears at that time. It's essential to your future learning at Berklee. This happens when something so fundamental is discovered. It could be a lack of fingerboard knowledge. Or perhaps no understanding of scale to chord relationship when playing together. Doesn't mean we are not working on different skills coinciding though. At Berklee we have no choice but to do so. I want to play music with my students, but we cannot ignore something that is going on that will cause your house to crumble! I will be checking that basement at all times. :) For some us it could forming a walking bass line over a variety of changes.. But in the end, we are playing together. I don't sit there without my instrument just telling you what to do. I want to play with you!
    I have a real knack for teaching improvisation pertaining to the art of Bass, and soloing as well. It is my hope that we eliminate the word "solo" and call it improvising. You then see that when you are soloing you are still grooving, even if it doesn't seem so. When we are grooving on a Bass Line we are also "soloing", Nope, I mean "Improvising" ;)
    Scales, Arpeggios, Reading, and Tunes, are what we all do when studying at Berklee. I believe Groove is best learned by what you listen to and demonstration it in my own playing. If you can feel it, you can do it. I hope I'm doing a good job with that, because without it, I'll be home watching a lot of movies! Its our sound groove and feel, that makes us desirable to other musicians. Who wants to play with a bass player that doesn't feel good when playing together? I make suggestions of who to listen to. We make lists of some of the most important players to focus on. In this age of information overload, we need help prioritizing the iconic important players, from the latest media hyped players of the day. In the end that's for you to decide though.
    Reality has taught most musicians, that none of this matters until we are out playing with our peers though. Experience is the greatest teacher, and we often don't even know what are weaknesses are until they are experienced in "relation" to playing with others, in real time. It's also the best motivation of all. Nobody wants to sound bad playing with other musicians!. Get it? How we practice and the basement we make is in direct "relationship" with the music we create with OTHERS.
    I'm known as someone who plays different styles very well. I REFUSE to pigeon hole myself. I don't believe in "that's not my thing man",attitude. I want to make it my thing! I hope you do as well. I love it when a student brings in what they love! It opens my mind and gives me insight and ideas as how I shall present new information to you.
    I hope together we can find a way for you to love the process of learning music. It's not always easy, but together it's much easier. P.S> Don't forget the lunch buffet, it's waiting for you.

    All the best,

    David Buda.
  13. Dave Marvuglio

    Dave Marvuglio

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2007
    Most of my teaching approaches have been already posted by my friends above!! Making me feel there isn't much left to be said haha.

    I cover Technique, Theory, Reading, Ear Training, Improvisation, Composition and Repertoire in my lessons. The material used will differ from student to student depending on the students goals and levels.

    I also try to make the curriculum of the school come full circle for the students. I help them with their ear training and harmony classes by showing them how to apply it to the bass.

    I also help the student organize their time and set goals. Prepare for auditions. I also try to find work for my students. I will sub gigs out to students for me. Recommend them for gigs or recording sessions. etc. I feel it is important to help them find work in the industry.

    Sorry this is difficult for me to write out haha ;)

    All the best,
    Dave
  14. Chris Loftlin

    Chris Loftlin

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2013
    First let me say to think about what I contribute to a department such as this is a humbling and intimidating experience! At an given moment I am around childhood heroes who influenced the way I hear bass and former instructors who gave me the tools and taught me to respect the JOB of being a bass player. With that said I look at what I do as helping with some information that helped/helps me along the way of trying to become a world class player.

    The importance of GROOVE….feel,pocket, any of those mystical,magical terms for playing some "get down"! The thing that made you want to play bass as oppose to piccolo or be a musician as oppose to a dentist. I encourage the study of ALL bass players that made us need to do this full time. To listen and transcribe what they do and how it relates to the time,the harmony,and the emotion of the music. I don't care how many scales you know I've never heard any bandleader say " this song is not grooving… play an altered scale, that should fix it!"

    The TOOLS….work habits,reading,focused practicing and rehearsing are all things that will help you get and keep the kind of reputation for professionalism you want in this business. Unless you are planning to make your own records and perform only your songs then at some point you will have to work for someone else. They will want a bass player,not a soloist! You'll have to read a chart,make a chart, memorize a show and/or rehearse for long hours with consent changes to the arrangements. These are not things that you run across in high jazz band or your friends garage! Because Ive been there I like to show what helps me in those situations.

    There has been a lot of students who ask about Key Bass,so Ive been introducing that in my lessons also. It is now an industry standard,especially on "pop" gigs, to be a bass player can also perform the synth bass lines performed on the recordings.

    All of the amazing things that these incredible instructors previously stated in this forum are things, I think ,all of us try to teach…the cool thing is we teach them differently. As Quincy Jones says"Aint but 12 notes"! What scales to use over what chords, which Chuck Rainey or Chris Squire to transcribe,what clave for a mambo are all things you can get in this department. I think thats pretty cool!

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