1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Bass Lessons

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by iplaybass, Dec 18, 2001.

  1. iplaybass


    Feb 13, 2000
    Houston, TX
    I recently started giving my old neighbor bass lessons per his mother's request. I am currently working with him on technique, the notes on the fretboard, and very basic scale and chord spellings. Since this is my first student (I am NOT a bass teacher), I was hoping some of the more experienced bass players out there could suggest some sort of progression of material to teach him. Also, just for reference, he is fairly young and not prone to remembering or understanding complex concepts like the Circle of Fifths. Thanks guys, this is as much a learning experience for him as for me.
  2. I'd say, go slowly, start with scales (what is a scale? What is it made up of?) and intervals, and go slowly from there. One major concept a lesson, maybe more if he/she is a quick study.

    The other thing that made a BIG difference was that my bass teacher, especially that first day, showed me scales and intervals on BOTH bass and a keyboard. The keyboard tends to make more sense in a way, and gives you another way of seeing things.
  3. I would start by showing him how fieldy get's that "clicking sound" :eek:

    I would suggest trying a few methods of teaching scales and see what one he's seems to "get" the most. Try teaching by numbers for Modes Like 1=maj. 2=dorian 3=phy. 4=lyd. and so on then and show how they are created with the wwhwwwh step progress. But most importantly make sure he get's whatever your teaching him before you move on. Don't just assume that he understands because he say's "uh yeah i get it :confused: " have him show you and move on when you think he's ready. Also make sure you let him know that it's fine if he does not understand something and he can ask as many guestions as he want's. If all else fails go back to the clicking sound.
  4. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    My advice would be to work slowly. Make sure they can do everything right (not perfectly, just right) before you move on, and make sure they'll remember what you're teaching. Don't make a lesson a cram session.

    Always start with:

    Tuning (harmonics, NOT 5th fret stuff). Make sure you both are in tune. Very necessary. If you can, come to the lesson tuned, and have him tune so you can watch/help him.

    Warmups and proper technique. 1 finger per fret, skip one fret between your index and middle finger for 5 fret reaches. Run up and down the fretboard, and make him say the notes as he goes (once he's able to), mixing sharps and flats. Make sure he says both. Also, make sure to get their thumb behind the neck, parallel to his middle finger. Very important. Use fingertips to press down on fretboard, left wrist out a little bit, etc etc. For his right hand, make sure he is muting open strings, with your preferred method (I prefer to mute with my thumb over any string lower than I'm playing), and that he is properly alternating whichever fingers he chooses to play with. Remember, the order of the alternation is not important, just that he alternates.

    If you get to it, do a major/minor scale, probably in C (C major/A minor). The notes are easier to remember, so they'll work more on remembering their spacings and sounds. Make sure they say the notes as they go. In further lessons, try to refrain from using CM/Am, but for now, try it.

    I wouldn't go much beyond this in the first lesson, because it is a lot to cover. Just really make sure he understands how to tune, and how to practice his technique. This first lesson plan is just MY opinion, and someone may disagree with me, so take it as you will.
  5. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    No follow-up?
  6. I would also tell you to split your lessons in two, in the first part you teach theory and in the seccond part you teach him songs that he likes and that you feel easy for him and you can even try to show him the theory behind the song that he his playing, when I first learned bass my teacher did that this way and I found it very interesting because you can really see what's theory for.
  7. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    1) make sure the lessons are fun - if that means he doesn't learn so fast, no problem - if the guy is playing music as a way to relax, a break from work etc. the last thing most people need is a teacher beating them over the head with yet more dull stuff to learn.

    So start with some really basic stuff on how to hold a bass and get it to make a noise then teach him a song - any song, something he listens to. The connection between you and the music you listen to is one of the most vital to make - you can play 'With Or Without You' by U2 after a hour of playing bass!! :oops:)

    Major and Minor triads - what are the notes in a Major chord? what are the notes in a Minor chord? what's the difference? far far more useful than teaching 'scales' as a raw exercise - scales are utterly meaningless unless you are harmonising them, for a bassist straight away. Many more basslines are based on outlining chords that running up and down scales. Scale stuff can be explained in terms of chords and harmony, not the other way round.

    depending on how old the kid is, I'd try and make everything that he learns applicable to a song - if you can't find a song that uses it, why does he need to know it at this stage?

    Also, encourage him to make stuff up right from the start - get those creative juices flowing and NEVER EVER EVER give him a hard time for getting it wrong, or not doing his homework - it's your job to make it interesting enough that he'll want to do his homework, it's not your place to force dull stuff onto him.

    there are way too many teachers around who feel like they have to behave like mini-dictators to justify being teachers, and it's crap. No wonder so many kids give up lessons. Seek to inspire them, not frighten or bore them... :oops:)


  8. I also feel it's critical for a student to be able to play songs that interest him. Even if it's only playing the root notes through the changes, playing along to favorite recordings is what gives a student the passion to learn more.
  9. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    That alone was worth the thread.
  10. Lol!

    Are you IMPLYING anything, Angus? ;)
  11. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Totally innocent. ;) :D
  12. Murf


    Mar 28, 2001
    On the same topic do you guys feel that the age of the student is a factor in how one should structure a lesson?, I've found that the younger students attention span is very short they invariably want to run before they can crawl and I find it very hard to keep their interest throughout a lesson, we all know how vital a good knowledge of musical theory is to the developement of a well rounded musician but try explaining/teaching that to a 15 year old who just wants to play Blink182 or rhcp (nothing wrong with that by the way) and is not in the least bit interested in the "why" just the "how".

    Its a situation whereby you can forge ahead with the theory end of things, watch their eyes glaze over and lose a student (and a handy few quid) or else just show them a few blazing chops to keep 'em coming back for more ('cos they're mates are going "oooh aaaah" over some stupid slap bass riff ) at the end of the day your being paid regardless.

    (I personally dont advocate this as I have a passion for music and I'd rather have one student who's genuinely interested in growing as a musician and if I can impart ANY info which will help them along this road then I'm happy and I've done my job rather than having 50 "monkey see monkey doers"...unfortunately the reality is that there are lots of "teachers" out there who'd rather get the bucks)
  13. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    You have to explain to them that if they want to get REALLY good, and be able to REALLY impress people, then they need to start with the basics and get the foundation of their playing solidly built. There's no magic bullet to becoming an amazing player, you just have to start small and work your way up. Explain to them (in order to make them understand) that if they want to be REALLY good, they have to start slowly and work into it. None of their idles became good over night.

    If then they still aren't serious and just want to be able to slap like silly, they're probably just wasting your time anyway.
  14. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I would suggest alternating some easier and interesting songs with some basic theory, such as intervals and major scales. Link the theory and the songs - have the student understand how the bass line is put together; don't just have them memorize notes.
    Of course, everything depends on what your student wants to get out of playing bass. If they jst want to plunk around, maybe you won't need to bother with theory, but I really think they will need it if they want to go all the way.
  15. Murf


    Mar 28, 2001
    This is what I try to do and in fairness the older students understand this the problem is with the younger guys/gals (its really hard to motivate somebody to learn theory when the pinnacle of bass playing to them is Thin Lizzys "dancing in the moonlight")

    Probably (but its easy money ;) ....but seriously the one good thing about it is that some of them (when they get a bit older or their musical tastes broaden) invariably come back with a DESIRE to learn as much as they can, so I suppose all one can do is try to plant a seed which may or may not grow into something later.

    (on a side note the one thing which really pi...er cheeses me off is the student/students who soak up everything you teach them and then go on to gig themselves and get a reputation but CLAIM they're self taught...:mad: I know I shouldnt really care (after all I have been paid) but it'd be nice to get SOME recognition for the work put in.

Share This Page