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Advice for a new teacher

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by bthiemann80, Aug 8, 2008.

  1. There's been a huge demand for teaching bass at the music store I currently work at and no instructor. I've never really taught before aside from showing fellow players a few tricks and helping a few beginners along with exercises. But I have a lot of patience and knowledge worthy of passing down (or so I'd like to think). I've been playing bass exclusively for over 13 years and know enough about scales/modes/basic theory only to be dangerous.

    For all you bass insructors out there, what advice would you give a teacher just starting out?
  2. rarbass


    Jul 3, 2008
    I'm no instructor, but I remember when I first started learning I had to learn from a guitar teacher. Therefore, I was allowed to use a pick. Now before I hear about it: THIS IS NOT A BAD THING! However, if I were a teacher, I would encourage bass players to learn to use their fingers first, and then pickstyle, slap, etc. can call come later.
    In the beginning, I learned the scales mostly as patterns instead of the actual theory on them. I don't know if this was good or bad, as I was able to pick up the theory later.
    Of course, make sure the player knows the notes on the fretboard, and the relations between strings. I've seen players starting out that don't know what note they're playing, and this will really help them, especially in the beginning.

    I know I'm no teacher, but I know now what I would've liked to learn in the beginning. Modes are probably not too bad an idea to start in the beginning as well.
  3. DudeistMonk


    Apr 13, 2008
    Newark, NJ
    I'm no teacher either but...

    Old teacher started me on modes....they where annoying and I didn't see the point.

    New guy gave me chords, I saw the point, I learned them fast, now I because I understand chords I learned to understand modes and I don't mind doing them...I would go chords first....just my 2cents
  4. fretlessman71

    fretlessman71 Still beats havin' a job Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2005
    FoCo, NoCo
    I agree; modes are too advanced for a total beginner, and there's little point in learning them until you have a reason to know what they're for.

    The Major Scale, however, is the basis of ALL western music (if you go back far enough), and will be a useful eartraining tool and theory tool throughout their musical lives. Start them with this as soon as you can.
  5. Porksicle


    May 16, 2008
    Taylor, MI
    Awesome to see someone enter the world of teaching.

    First advice would be to check out the "Last Lecture" - nothing to do with music, but a lot to be taken from it.

    Now, try and relate to what your students are trying to learn. You seem to know all the things they need to know - theory, technique, etc... the key is incorporating a way to teach these things in a way that they want to learn it.

    One way I did this with my two stepkids was to incorporate popular music and songs into their studies. Instead of just using drills and exercises, I try to find passages from songs so they feel like they're playing music.

    A couple other things:

    1) Spend the first hour (preferrably free) talking with them and learning about what they want to do. Develop their lessons from there.
    2) Don't let them try and get too fancy with their equipment - I've had my kids playing on a jazz through a clean 1-10" combo, so they can focus on the music instead of the gear.
    3) If you use recorded music, try and stick with songs and passages where the bass is clear and present, and demonstrates a sound foundation.
    4) If you're going to use books, use 2 at a time, that are focused on different things. Maybe one focused on technique and exercises, another focused on theory or styles. It keeps things from getting too repetitive.

    I have my kids (and myself!) working on "Bass Fitness" by des Pres, and "The Art of Walking Bass" my Magnusson.

    Because my little girl's hands are kinda' small, we do the exercises from Bass Fitness starting at the 5th fret. Another thing to keep in mind.

    Good luck!
  6. xlows


    Oct 21, 2006
    As a student who really loves his teacher (and who has gone through a few), I can help you by telling you what he does that makes me so happy with him.

    -One big thing is that I see him as a teacher and a friend. We spend a little time each lesson talking about how our lives are going and what's new. It makes me happy to go see him every week and not feel like I'm just another chunk of time being filled.

    -I learn how to play music from him, not just bass. My chord theory knowledge has just skyrocketed since I started with him, and I'm always learning more. He uses real-world examples for why I need to know something and where it's useful when he teaches it so I never feel like something is pointless.

    -He's positive. I can't tell you how much it helps to have a positive teacher. It's very discouraging to have a downer teacher, and especially when you're having trouble with learning or handling something.

    -There's never any rush. I've had teachers try to get to too many things in one lesson and overlook bits where I screw up just for time's sake. This guy chills out and lets me spend as much time as I want or need to working on even one little bit of something.

    Hope this stuff helps you out!
  7. Great info guys! I really appreciate all the input and advise. Porksicle, I have seen that "Last Lecture" video before and I think everybody should see it, great piece. Keep it coming!
  8. Martin Bormann

    Martin Bormann

    Sep 20, 2007
    Only to be dangerous? So in other words, you really don't know them that well. I think maybe you should hunt an instructor down for that store and buy lessons yourself. No sense in teaching a student if you don't know enough yourself. Knowing the scales and theory is more important than playing the instrument. There is no offense meant to you at all.
  9. mutedeity


    Aug 27, 2007
    The way I see threads like this, if you have to ask whether you should be teaching or not the answer is no, you aren't ready. Unless you know how to explain theory, and not just show students scales and modes but explain diatonic harmony and such as well as proper technical application before you even go into concept development, you are only going to be giving bad advice and taking money you aren't really earning.

    It goes beyond that too, you have to know how to adapt to every individual student's needs and be able to identify their strengths and weaknesses before they do. You have to know how to engage them and understand where they want to go to progress.

    If I was the OP I would have a long hard think about what it means to teach as opposed to showing some people some "tricks" and scales and expect to be paid for it.
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