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Are you always prepared for your students?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by vindibona1, Sep 12, 2019 at 8:55 AM.

  1. vindibona1


    Apr 18, 2015
    I supposed this thread will have several angles... one being a vent/rant. As a preface, my primary instrument for decades has been trumpet. I teach trumpet privately and have also taught band (and Language Arts) in school situations. On the side, I've taught Alpine Skiing for over 30 years and am Level III Certified through the Professional Ski Instructors of America. 've studied guitar as a kid, played bass "casually" until recently. But I have also continued to be a student even in my "senior" years. My point? I have been and am on both sides of the situation as both teacher and student.

    I started taking bass lessons with a young fellow. Musically he knows his stuff. He has a string bass orientation, also teaches piano and plays guitar fairly well from what I can tell. When I interviewed him I told him of my background and we agreed on an intial lesson. When I came for that lesson he was prepared. Had an idea of what I might need to work on. Ran me through some exercises to test my skills, strengths and weaknesses. I thought he was pretty good. The second lesson went about the same. In that lesson he threw a tab chart at me as reading tab is one of my weaknesses in spite of being a good standard notation reader.

    The following lesson didn't go quite so well and I was frustrated and perhaps a bit angry. I had had a phone conversation prior to the lesson and told him that I thought I should be working on some chordal things and he agreed. So lesson time came and he was there with a classical guitar in his lap. We ran through the etude (standard notation) and then the tab. He said I had the etude down well but was "missing the style" of the tab piece (McCartney Oh Darling). Not technically difficult. He said "go home and listen to the tune". At that point I got a little miffed. What I think he SHOULD have done was to DEMONSTRATE what I was missing rather than sending me away to figure it out for myself (one of my weaknesses as well- otherwise I wouldn't need lessons now, would I?). The I addressed the issue of chords. He wasn't prepared for that either although we had discussed it. So he began drawing chord progressions on a piece of paper (freehand) and said "go home and look at your Real Book and find tunes that have ii V I progressions. "Shouldn't you have printed one or two samples for me?" I thought. No bass for demonstration. No printed preparation. $70 for a 1 hour lesson. As a music teacher myself I found that totally unacceptable. I subsequently put the rest of my lessons with him "on hold" until I decide if I'll go back. How should I have felt? Am I unreasonable in my expectations?

    As a teacher I am ALWAYS prepared for my students, whether it be private or class lessons. I have to teach a group trumpet lesson this afternoon and I already know what I'm going to teach, the material I'll use and how I'll present it. No guesswork. Just adjustment if the students don't get it straight away.

    How about you? As a teacher are you ALWAYS prepared for your students? Or do you wing it on the fly? As a student, what do you expect of a teacher?
  2. Malcolm35


    Aug 7, 2018
    Lessons plans, I don't need no stinking lesson plan. The guy looking for students said.
    Flooflox, jefkritz and eJake like this.
  3. When I taught at the college level, we followed a curriculum, and I was always prepared. Each year in the program had its own lesson plans, with emphasis each semester on a different style or technique.

    When I teach private community students, the lessons are tailored to the individual student, but I make sure to hit certain components at every lesson. Basically, I documented each student’s progress and assignments, reviewed the notes prior to the next lesson, and yes, if there was music to be read, or a song to transcribe, I made sure to have the sheets or audio files on hand.

    I think it’s reasonable to expect some preparation, but you’d be hard pressed to justify spending an hour preparing for an hour lesson.
  4. vindibona1


    Apr 18, 2015
    I don't expect the guy to spend an hour preparing. I don't spend that much time. But I do spend time during the week thinking about what I'll prepare. But of course, he knew what I was working on from the past lesson. Shouldn't he at least have had a bass on hand to demonstrate, particularly as he thought I didn't quite capture the style. "Go home and listen" isn't instruction. I already did that, and obviously missed something. IMO he should have been able to show me what I wasn't getting. HAND WRITING chord charts during the lesson wasted the time. It should have been PREpared in advance so those precious moments we could be working on the introduction of the music, again with him demonstrating on the instrument.
  5. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    Sounds like you are not planning to be receptive to anything this guy has to say from here on out. Nobody here can judge the guy’s teaching skills.
    Picton and eJake like this.
  6. eJake


    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    It's important to build good relationships with students/teachers. If not, it is usually a waste of time.
    Malcolm35 likes this.
  7. vindibona1


    Apr 18, 2015
    Not true at all. I'm not receptive to wasting my time during a lesson with the meter running when the dude isn't prepared. I think musically he has a lot to offer. If I'm going to take regular lessons with someone as I had with him I want his best- and I think he owes me that, just like I feel like I owe that to my students.
  8. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    A better question would be: are your students always prepared for the lesson? :)
    Nashrakh likes this.
  9. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    I second bolophonic .

    All the info we have comes filtered through someone who expected something vastly different and is clearly disappointed with the way things are running.
  10. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    I think you are quite justified in your response. If I walked into a bass lesson and the guy had a classical guitar there but no bass, I'd walk out. If all he is gonna do is point you back at other resources, you can do that yourself and save $70.
    mambo4 likes this.
  11. BassWaffle


    Apr 10, 2011
    Yeah, from what you told us I think your stance on the situation is relatable.
    For context, I am a public school band/strings director. Don't teach much privately but I have had a lot of different teachers for bass and saxophone.

    What doesn't work for you, might work for someone else. What your teacher views as helpful and acceptable is going to fluctuate in its acccordance with your expectations.
    It sounds like the first two lessons were good; although its not ideal, people drop the ball sometimes or just don't act how you expect. If I were in your shoes I would voice what I didn't like about the last lesson prior to the next lesson, and see if he is willing to accommodate. If the next lesson also misses the mark, yeah maybe find a different teacher.

    Another idea is the lesson time. This guy sounds like he's more comfortable giving you a practice framework and expects you to do a lot of the heavy lifting on your own. It sounds like you are expecting him to walk you through a lot of the material in-lesson. Both are totally acceptable approaches to how a lesson should be. You have actual experience with this guy, do you think this is accurate? If so, maybe consider switching to 30 min lessons. You'd probably get about the same amount of content out of it and it would cost around half as much.
  12. jefkritz


    Oct 20, 2007
    iowa city, IA
    I think your response is fair. I'd tell him straight up what you told us. Any good business person is open to feedback, and prefers that to losing a client. Give him one more lesson to prove himself. And then he's always on the hook to be prepared. If you want half-@$$ lessons, you can probably find some for less than $70 for an hour.
  13. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    If I, as a competent notation reader, had a $70/hour teacher throw tab at me, I'd move on.

    I am probably certainly biased , but tab is beginner /amateur stuff, not teacher level stuff.
    Unless you are unable to translate notation into fingerings, there's no place for tab in a lesson.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2019 at 10:06 AM
    BassChuck and RyanOh like this.
  14. vindibona1


    Apr 18, 2015
    I understand your comment. The purpose of the lessons is to fill the holes in my knowledge/experience gap so that I can function professionally under any circumstances. Reading standard notation is my strength. Tab is my weakness and there are going to be times when I'll need to be better at tab, both in playing and deciphering what it says musically. I don't fault the guy for that. In addition to the tab he's given me some Al Patitucci etudes which are in standard notation and take me all over the neck. What I didn't like is that he wasn't prepared to demonstrate style as he didn't have a bass at the lesson. THAT, combined with not having music already prepared, though we had discussed via email days before.

    Perhaps my 40 years of teaching experience makes me "old school" and I believe in knowing EXACTLY what I'm going to do with students long before lesson time. I can understand the situation on a first lesson when you're feeling the student out, but because I teach I know how to introduce my needs and direction. I was pretty clear over the phone with the guy before the first lesson and in that lesson he was prepared. A little less on the second lesson, only saved by the fact that I could only get one of the two etudes under my fingers and he did have that one tab chart printed out. But the third lesson... The guy was lazy AND unprepared. Done. I don't have another $70 to waste. So I'll search for another teacher who will think of my lessons as more than a cash register.
    Malcolm35 likes this.
  15. Malcolm35


    Aug 7, 2018
    Yes it is time to move on.

    Good luck.
  16. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Based on the word of the more experienced professionals around here, I'd bet the times you may be handed tab (outside of a lesson) will be close to Zero.
    Wasnex likes this.
  17. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Yep...I am a retired pro and I never used tab in my job. I occasional see it online when I am researching tunes, and don't really find it hard to figure out. It's not particularly useful for bass.
  18. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    If he isn't willing to prepare, he shouldn't be taking your money to teach. Perhaps time for a sit down to discuss whether he should be your teacher. Especially as you have taught, I see no issue finding out what your mutual expectations are. Sending someone home to prepare their own homework is unacceptable IMHO.
  19. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    I have a different perspective.

    I don't know exactly what the intent was, but I could see a classical guitar working really well if the OP is learning on a 4 string.

    The OP indicated he wanted to learn some chordal stuff. No idea what this means, but I assume it means he wants to learn to play bass over chords. So having a chordal instrument in the lesson makes perfect sense IMHO. This would allow the instructor to plays chords on guitar, so the OP could improvise a line on bass.

    If the teacher needed to demonstrate fingering it's not too much of a leap, since the lower four strings of the guitar are the same as the four strings on the bass. I have been in many situations where a guitarist showed me the bass line they wanted me to play, and I did not find it the least bit confusing.

    I get the impression that communication may be the problem here. The OP has an idea of what he wants, but hasn't communicated it effectively. It sounds like the lesson went of on an unexpected tangent because the instructor thought the OP wanted something else.

    @vindibona1 , try improving communication and confirming the instructor understands what you want to learn, rather than getting angry and shutting down. However realize that some intermediate steps may be required before you can get to the desired material.

    On the other hand. Not every student and instructor are a good match. If repeated lessons do not meet your satisfaction, by all means find a different instructor.
  20. BrotherMister


    Nov 4, 2013
    PVG Membership
    I'd be lying if I said I had every single lesson prepared, I do try to but the handful where I'm pushed for time or whatever I still have enough experience and resources as a teacher to make sure the lesson is productive and relevant. Even if it's just mentally deciding and running through some things I've never came up short.

    Where I'm at a loss is why not reading tab is supposedly a weakness? That blows my mind and is an absolute waste of time if someone is telling you that reading tab is something you need to work on. Ask them how often they have seen tab in a real world musical situation, it doesn't exist. Usually any resources that have tab also have the standard notation on them. I don't get why you are being told to learn someones fingering, which more often than not aren't the more ergonomic set of fingerings, when you could have the notation and work out through trial and error which gives you a deeper understanding of the neck.

    However, I don't agree that sending you off to do homework is a short coming of someones abilities as a teacher. I actually feel that's a very good approach in that you are forced to use your ears to dissect a recording rather than have someone show you. What you'll take out of the source might be different from what he took from it. What I tend to do is listen with a student and talk them through what I'm hearing and getting them into the habit of doing the same at home. Then I'll leave it with them and see what they come back with so I can get a deeper insight into how they approach musical problems on their own. My double bass teacher used to send me on my way to work out fingerings etc so she could see what I came up with first, then when I'd bring it back we would dig into it making adjustments and corrections together analysing it as we went along.
    Wasnex likes this.

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