Advice for teaching

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Super_Red, Jun 27, 2005.

  1. Let me start off by saying hello. After lurking around some sites, this seemed to be the place to be (my first message board - I'm such a noob) :smug: There's a lot of great information and some cool cats on here.

    I've been playing for 15 years now - everything from jazz and string ensembles, to pit orchestra, to studio and rock gigs. My instructor was a guitarist who taught bass, so much of my technique was self-learned. I stopped taking lessons when I was asked to replace my teacher at a gig I was subbing for him at (that was a pretty good feeling).

    I guess what I'm looking for is:

    Of those of you who took lessons from a bassist, what did they do right? How did you measure your progress?

    Did you jam/improvise with them - if so, did they play bass or guitar?

    Any feedback is appreciated. Thanks in advance - I know this is very general.

  2. I never had any lessons from a bassist. A good friend of mine, who plays guitar, taught me the basic stuff that applies to guitar or bass and got me started on my own track, but most of my "training" has been self-study. I really wish I'd had an instructor (bassist) during my delicate years, as I picked up a TON of bad habits that I'm still tryin to break 10 years after I started. This site, and others like it on the net, have been an invaluable resource to my playing. I constantly see stuff that I've dabbled in on my own over the years, which would have been much easier to learn if I' done it the right way, and I say "Gee, THAT'S how it's supposed to be done..."

    So yeah.. if you possibly can at all, get an experienced bassist to guide your studies. It'll save you loads of time and headaches trying to unlearn things that you thought were right.
  3. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    I took lessons from a gigging bassist/cellist for the 1.5 years I was able to take them.

    He made sure my physical technique was good.

    He didn't let me slide through any assignments. If it wasn't 100%, we did it again.

    We only worked from bass clef sheet music for the sight reading stuff (Chuck Rainey's The Complete Electric Bass Player: The Method Volume I is what we used for sight reading etudes). No TAB at all.

    We worked on theory, 12 bar blues, 12 bar jazz blues. He always emphasized building up a 'toolbox' of approaches. Once I got those down solid to where I didn't have to think about them, then I was able to mix & match to taste when building my own lines. (Approaches being things like R-3-R-1/2 or R-5-R-1/2 or R-3-5-7, etc.)

    When we jammed he would mostly play guitar so I could understand how important it was to keep the groove going while the guitarist was doing their thing. He also played keyboards from time to time as well as bass.

    We had just gotten started breaking down & transcribing songs by ear when I had to stop taking lessons. :( I wish I was able to continue at that time but I was in my last year of college and those senior level courses are a bear. At some point I'll be taking lessons again though.

    Anyway, long story short, the things I got from taking lessons with a bassist were, technique, theory, groove and feel. I have a couple guitarist friends and when they play bass they really try to pack tons of notes in, like they were still playing guitar but an octave lower than normal. Bass requires its own approach. You need to play the spaces to make things swing.

    Oh yeah, we always used a metronome. One thing a bassist has to have is solid solid solid time. Triplets nearly killed me before I was able to evenly distribute 'three in the space of two'..
  4. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I get so many things from my teacher that's it doesn't do it justice just to say that I learn this or that. Beyond the music, I have a teacher that I respond to well, and understands me, (of course, I've been with him for many years), so I get such enjoyment out of my lessons, that it helps the musical aspect stick. But, as a teacher myself, I recognize that there are so many crucial aspects to the lesson, from a musical side.

    He is a bassist, and teaches me on upright and electric. Unless I have an agenda, he always has a plan for me. The great thing about him isn't his bassplaying, (he is a phenomenal player), the great thing about him is that he's a great teacher. He understands how to break down a concept, and show it to me in a way that I'll understand. Do we sometimes "jam" and "improvise"? Yes and no. We don't "jam", where that is to say a sort of random playing without a specific concept at play. We certainly do improvise as I play a great deal of jazz with him.

    Here's a great example of how open his thinking is, and how it makes him such a great teacher. At a recent lesson he asked me to name a jazz tune that I was familiar with, in melody, but not by playing it. I named a tune, then he forced me to learn it by ear, simply recalling the melody in my head. He did away with any charts, then forced me to figure out the chord progression. Then we played the tune as we usually do, alternating on the melody, walking, and soloing. Another day he'll just set a rhythm, and we'll build on that. His program is diverse, it covers ear training, theory (heavily), rhythm, and every sub category of playing, (sight reading, melodies, soloing, improv, walking lines, multiple genres, and much much more).
  5. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    I'm a self-taught bassist. I've always had a good ear, but had many bad physical habits until I began working earnestly on improving my physical approach (about 2 years ago).

    I wish I had gone to a teacher years ago, but that's in the past.

    One thing I want to mention is that a good learning tool is to become a teacher yourself.

    Often, a murky concept becomes clearer when you're forced to describe it to another.

    I've had this experience when working with my son (on the bass). Being forced to explain/demonstrate things to him helped not only him, but me as well.

    Often, when he encountered problems that I had no answer for, I researched this forum to find it, teaching myself in the process.
  6. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    I lend the student a Tascam 4 track and passive DI box and ask them record each excerise I provide them. Usually it's 2-3 exercises a day @ 5 days week. If they fail to do this, they get fired and I keep the cash they payed in advance, which is what they agree to. I loathe time wasters :mad:
  7. That's actually why I started this post. I'm gearing up now to take the plunge into teaching, and was interested in this feedback while I'm preparing (I know, the best way to start teaching is to just do it).

    If I may ask a follow-up question: Of those of you who teach, would you mind sharing some of your exeriences? (good or bad)

    Do you still take lessons yourself?

    Thanks for the comments so far.
  8. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    Pay in advance 3 to 6 months, maybe more if they look really keen.

    6 months minimum course lenght.

    Don't under charge yourself. Look around and see what the going rates is, and add a bit more.

    Clearly set out the course structure and lesson plans, so they know what's coming up, and they know what to expect. You could adapt a course structure and lesson plans from any good bass/music book.

    Homework. That's where the tascam 4 track comes in.

    Keep away from gadgets and amp's. Get them playing DI from the get go. It's alot harder.

    Use flatwound strings until they getting used to it. They're not as hard on the fingers, as apposed to Stainless steel.

    Make sure their bass is well setup. Put the focus on the bass and not gadgets and amps etc.

    for electric bass, get them learning to play acoustically. Again it's alot harder then playing though an amp.

    Create assignments at the end of each lesson. If they pass, they move on, if they fail, you go back over the lesson. Take into account how well they do homework, and how well they are progressing.

    Get them to sign an agreement for the course. So if they pull out, you keep the $$

    Get your lesson plans, etc, moderated. I'm sure there would be people at TB that could quickly go over stuff for you. Or you could hire another teacher to check your work.

    Get some sort of qualification in teacher training. I took two University courses in teacher training which helped alot.
  9. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH

    You're probably a great teacher, but I wonder if your approach is a bit too one-size-fits-all. Many teenagers, for instance, wish to begin playing to imitate their idols.

    To say to such a beginner, "We'll get to your favorite Audioslave song after you've done dozens of exercises from a book for many months," might kill their enthusiasm (as misguided and unrealistic as that enthusiasm might be).

    If I were teaching a teen, I'd probably try to blend the kid's immediate desires (learning some cool licks from his favorite band) with the fundamentals you speak of.

    For what it's worth, that's my armchair-quarterback advice.
  10. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    I don't do imitation. If somebody wants play like their favorite idol, I won't be teaching them. That's for sure. I only accept genuine pupils.

    Like I said, I loathe time wasters.
  11. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Did they teach you anything on your teacher training course about motivating students, keeping them interested and the importance of enjoying learning in order for them to progress? Genuine question, by the way.
  12. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    I'm sure you're genuine.

    My students turn up 15 - 30 minutes early. If they are even 1 minute late, with out a phone call to say they will be late, they get a warning. If it keeps happening, they are fired. So they had better sync. their clock to mine.

    Also, my course isn't about "enjoying" or "having a good time", it about achieving a goal in the most efficient and effect way possible.

    I'll soon wipe that stupid grin off their face.
  13. St0nIE42


    Jun 30, 2005
    Kiwi, I don't doubt that your draconian approach is helpful with some students, but ultimately, if music isn't about enjoyment or fun, why do we do it? We certainly can't all be rock stars.

    I'm an absolute beginner. I've been browsing forums and reading quite a bit lately. I'm older for a beginner (I think); I'll be 25 in a week. For me, I really love music, and have been content to sit on the sidelines for years. I invested in my instrument so that I can go home, relax, and create my own music from four strings and an amp.

    I'm looking for a teacher in the Atlanta area, but for me, there is a goal, to be technically proficient. I'm not playing much, because I don't want to learn bad habits. I want a teacher who is willing to work on my schedule, and allow me to learn at my own pace. I want help to learn the basic technique, and I want to practice that and become proficient.

    Also, it is important to keep in mind that a music student will not always rely on you solely for their knowledge. I have some really good friends who are very passionate about music, and have been a great resource. One plays guitar, and has given some basic pointers. I'm looking forward to sharing some of my learnings with him, so he can adapt from guitar to bass. Another friend is an excellent pianist and saxophonist. I intend to learn a lot from these people as well as a bass instructor.

    I'd just say, never discourage curiosity, and non-structured learning. You can make a technically proficient bass player through strict regimen, but if you want someone who will make you proud of his style and feel for the instrument ten years down the line, you have to foster the "fun", and find where the passion originates.
  14. It sounds to me that getting fired by you would be the best thing that could have happened to them. I wouldn't waste a cent on you.
  15. Regimen & challenge are important as is keeping it fun. I can emphathize with an instructor who won't teach according to the student's rock star ambitions. Many years ago, my parents sent me to a fantastic jazz musician for lessons but I only wanted to learn rock & roll and quit after a few lessons. Years later, I look back to that time and deeply regret my action. An instructor must walk a fine line between their principles and the flighty mind of an adolescent.
  16. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    I'd try to keep a balance between what's needed to be done and what the student wants to do. A student bringing a CD in with a song he wants to learn can be a fresh break from tedious scales and other music theory that a young student will most likely find boring. Anyway, he's going to learn some theory and train his ear in the process. So incorporate that into the lesson. Have him figure out what key his favorite song is in, etc. Afterall it's the student that is paying for it.

    I had been playing bass for a couple months before I started taking lessons. The first lesson my teacher asked me what I already knew. I had started trying to learn some songs by ear (and a little music theory) on my own beforehand so I played him a bassline from a song I like. That gave him an idea of where I'm at and he corrected some technique problems.

    My current teacher (my other one moved away a few years ago) definately keeps a balance. We're working out of a new book he bought me but also I'm stlil learning my Bach and now he just made me a CD of songs with some interesting basslines to learn (some simple, some challenging).

    My teachers have inspired me to want to teach myself and I can't wait until I'm doing so. I have plans thought out in my mind on how I would like to structure lessons depending on the individual student (whether he's beginner or intermediate and also whether he's a teenager or adult...age also plays a factor).
  17. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    You sound like a real piece of work, to be perfectly honest. First off, these students you're "firing" are paying YOU. You are not paying them, so how can you fire them? It might help you feel good about yourself to think of it as "firing" people who are paying you, but all you're doing is dropping them as students. Most good teachers will drop students who are unmotivated, but telling students you'll "fire" them just sounds like an ego run amok. Second, I'm all about teaching things the right way, but if you don't make it fun, then what's the point of playing music? Might as well be teaching them how to run a forklift or a lawn mower. Third, it may make you feel all high and mighty to talk all big and bad about how tough you are as a teacher, but it sounds to me like an ego constantly in need of stroking. The lessons are not about you; they're about the student. You seem to think they're about you. Lastly, if you ever disrespected my kids the way you talk about doing on here, I'd pull them out of lessons with you, keep your Tascam, and badmouth you to every parent whose kids takes lessons off of you. Especially if you ever said to my kid, "I'll wipe that stupid grin off your face." Ever had a student or a parent take a swing at you? That's a good way to make it happen.

    I sincerely hope that you're just talking smack on here and you really don't treat your students like you're running some sort of bass boot camp. You sound exactly like the kind of teacher who shouldn't be around kids. I will agree that a teacher's job should be to motivate their students to show up on time, be responsible, and do their lessons, but teaching by fear is really screwed up.

    BTW, to those of you looking for a teacher, NEVER pay one 6 months in advance! You leave yourself open to getting ripped off that way. Hell, Kiwi Kid even said he won't refund the money of students he drops. Do you really want to be out 5 months of lesson payments if he gets a wild hair and drops you after a month? Pay week to week, maybe a month in advance if you're positive the teacher isn't going to move or drop you without refunding you, but NEVER EVER pay 6 months in advance! That's just ridiculous.

    Kiwi, someone in this thread said to you, "I'm sure you're a great teacher." But after reading some of your wisdom, I'm sure you're not. I have given lessons, and I have taken lessons off one of the greatest bass players and teachers alive, Dave LaRue. Dave always charged week to week, he was always very nice but firm about what he was teaching, and always had respect for the student and his/her goals. Most of all, he made playing fun, even if it was just working on speed drills and reading exercises. I think I'd rather get my teeth drilled without novocain than take lessons off a guy like you.
  18. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I think anybody who's teached for any regular amount of time, myself included, and certainly stephanie and JimmyM, will all agree that Kiwi's advice is not sage.

    While I appreciate some of Kiwi's perspective, (being a teacher isn't as easy as many hope), Kiwi's approach is one that I quite strongly disagree with. He seems to equate running organized, goal-oriented lessons, with running iron-fisted military-style regimens. The two are not the same.

    Is it important to be detail oriented, organized, goal-oriented, focused, well-rounded? Yes, of course. Can you do so while being flexible and allowing the students room to breath and change the course of the lessons from time to time? Most certainly. Anybody that doesn't believe so is a bad teacher, and you shouldn't pay them. No disrespect Kiwi, but I would never pay for lessons from you. As JimmyM aluded to, your ego is too far in the way. But, of course, thanks to the beauty of the internet and anonymity, people tell tall tales that aren't always true.

    Students showing up 15-20 minutes early? I actually don't want that. That clutters up my hallway. No, students should arrive about 5 minutes early at best. Students pay for a 50 minute lesson, if they're late, that's there time. I'll still give them what's left of the lesson. After the 20 minute mark I'll cut it off, but if they're 10 minutes late, no worries, just 10 minutes less to their lesson is all.

    As Jimmy said, NEVER EVER EVER pay someone 6 months in advance, (and I doubt Kiwi has a stable of patients just waiting to cut him $1040 checks. C'mon, be serious!).

    Super Red. You asked some further questions. I do teach, and I still get lessons regularly. My lessons are something I look forward to, and yes I do pass on what I learn. I'm not stealing my material, that's just the way it's done. Things get passed down. I add what I know and my perspective, the student ultimately adds theirs.

    The bad experiences? Few and far between. It can be unfortunate if a student doesn't like doing independant practice, but when they come to me, I look at it like this is their chance to get some practice done. I can't control what they do outside of the lesson. The cancellations and people coming late can be tough, but that's normal. If you can't deal with last minute cancellations, constant schedule juggling, and people arriving late every now and then, I suggest you don't teach. It's just the way people are. You can run things with an iron-fist, and maybe that will work for you, but very few students will respond to that. I say, be yourself, with a smart business sense blended in.

    Good experiences? So very many. When a student grabs something they thought they'd never comprehend. Someone learning a tune by ear for the first time. Lights bulbs turning on. Playing music with other individuals. The so many things I learn from my students.

    I love teaching. I would do it full time if I could.
  19. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    And now, one by one, the errors...

    I appreciate students that pay the month in advance, but it's rare. Students pay at the end of the lesson. I keep cash on hand to make change. After the first lesson, students sign a statement agreeing to my conditions of teaching. This regards cancellations, arriving late, length of lessons, and return check fees.

    Students are encouraged that certain concepts take time to learn, and encouraged to stay with lessons. I've had many students just want one lesson, two lessons, three, or are regular. How many times have you heard someone say, "I can't afford lessons?" Well, you've got some schmuck asking you for 1000 dollars right from the bat and he can "fire" you anytime! Are you going to sign up? I don't care if it's Jamerson, not me. (Okay, maybe for Jamerson, but Kiwi Kid AIN'T no Jamerson). If a new student buys a bass for the first time, it's okay to just pay for 2 or 3 lessons. If they don't, cause they don't want to sign on for 6 months, then they risk learning from crap like tabs or the like, or developing bad technique, because somebody told them that it's 6 months or not. Hogwash, and just plain foolish.

    Correct. Don't undercharge yourself. But, you don't simply look around and say, "going rate is $40/hr., so I'll charge $45/hr." That's bad business. Charge a competitive rate that is fair market value based upon your teaching abilities and experience.

    Always a good idea.

    Giving students things to practice on their own is in fact important. Many students say they practice, but they're just noodling around on the bass in between commercials. In my opinion, most people don't know how to practice. Providing homework can help that.

    If a student wants to know about gadgets and amps, help them. You're their freaking teacher. If you happen to have an opinion on gadgets and amps, share it, fine, but teach them the gadgets and amps, and let them decide. If you don't know anything about gadgets or amps, then what are you doing giving them a bad name. If I've never played with a pick, I'm not going to knock it. I don't slap, but I know how, and will teach it. I don't like it, but I wouldn't condemn it if I didn't know how to do it. Heck, often if someone won't teach you something, they probably don't know it.

    Be a diverse enough teacher that you can play the bass. If your student has questions regarding certain types of strings, have the knowledge so that you may answer those questions. Do not force your opinions on students.

    I agree. A good setup is important. Further, I agree that the emphasis should be on the bass and playing, not about gear. But, like I said before, have the ability to answer gear questions.

    I don't understand this comment. Force them to buy an acoustic bass? No way, teach them on the instrument that they want to play. Have them play unplugged? Again, I don't understand why!

    Good advice, but be flexible. Don't leave someone with an assignment that you haven't adequately explained how to do. You're a TEACHER. Don't give them something that you haven't taught them how to interpret, that's dumb and cruel. Further, it's frustrating for the student and counter-productive to positive reinforcement.

    Get them to buy the Golden Gate Bridge. Because teaching is all about $$$$. Nothing more. Dolla bills y'all.

    It's never a bad idea to get feedback, but you should also have confidence in your lesson plan. And, do, by the way, have, a lesson plan.

    Just because one is good on an instrument, doesn't mean they can teach. Jaco was a horrible teacher, and terribly gifted bassist. The best bassist IS NOT the best teacher. Teaching skills are very important. While you don't need to blow through a course just for some certificate to hang on your wall and tout in front of students, a teaching course can provide wonderful training.
  20. spc


    Apr 10, 2004
    South of Boston
    How is that working for you? Do you teach for a living? Students beating down your door to commit for 6 months because that's how you think it should be done?
    Seems a bit harsh...maybe teaching them about their idols will open them up to the stuff that their idols learned from. Some people blossom into genuine pupils. I also disagree with your 6 months up front policy. Haven't you ever tried something and decided maybe it wasn't for you? Not every student wants to conquer the world. Not everyone has the time or money, or for that matter, desire, to commit to 6 months. Might be worth reading some of the other opinions in this thread.