Do you GOTTA have a teacher?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Gufenov, Mar 6, 2005.

  1. Gufenov


    Jun 8, 2003
    This quote in another thread got me thinking:
    That's a refrain that's, well, pretty constant on this forum.

    Some people can't afford a teacher.
    Some people don't have access to a teacher.
    Not every teacher is a good teacher.
    Some people manage to learn without a teacher.
    Some people desire to learn enough to play, without attempting to earn a masters in music theory. For some, music is a hobby, not a career.

    I won't argue that getting a teacher is a bad thing. But is it the only way to learn? To me, sometimes the "teacher" line comes off as an unwillingness to help. If the answer to every question is "Get a Teacher!," then what's the point of having a TB forum in the first place?

    So, do you GOTTA?
  2. NJL


    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    do a search, this has been talked about over and over again

    what it boils down to:

    would you rather learn correctly the first time


    have to get rid of bad habits (sometimes these habits not only prevent you from progressing, but can indeed cause you to not be able to play when you are older) and learn how to play correctly (while you could of learned correctly in the first place)
  3. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    I guess it's still early in the day -- this hasn't been jumped all over yet....

    Is it impossible to learn DB without a teacher? No. "Impossible" is a pretty inflexible word.

    Is it a good idea? Not even close. Even just a few lessons is better than none, because your reinventions of the wheel will definitely include some severely malformed wheels. Why would you want to carry sh*t like that with you forever?

    DB's not an electric guitar: it's not obvious how to make it work right.

    Take it from this self-taught guy who crossed-over from two decades of slab life who didn't take his first DB lesson until a year and a half ago and who is totally astonished at the progress you can make with guided, focused effort in that period of time: get some lessons.
  4. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    I'm self-taught. I don't recommend it. If I had access to instruction, I'd take it, even now, after having flailed around on DB for three decades.

    I will say this; learning DB without a teacher is a much more viable option with the existence of TalkBass.
  5. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Some, but very few. A lot of people on the BG side will tell you that they can't afford a teacher, then you look at their profile and see $2000 worth of gear. Wait! You can save up enough for expensive gear, but can't save enough for a teacher. Obviously there's disposable income coming in. Further, on the DB side, unless you're renting it or received one as a gift, (as I did), you gotta understand that a DB is expensive, and once again, if one can save enough for it, then one's gotta think that there's a way to save for lessons.

    Many people can't save money, or waste in on non-essentials. To the person who simply "can't afford" lessons, I always ask, "Do you pay $40 a month for cable?" "Do you eat most of your meals out, at restaurants, or do you cook for yourself at home?" "How many times a month do you go out to the movies?" "How many CDs/books do you buy a month?" "How many Starbucks trips do you make every month?" It's not about not being able to afford it, it's about how you prioritize your money.

    Now, there are options. Lessons twice a month is one choice. Or, just a couple of lessons from the beginning, as an investment in proper technique.

    I often say, "You can't afford not to get lessons."

    Yeah, but most do. Is there a community college in your area? Someone there probably knows somebody. Do you have a jazz club, or club that will occassionally play jazz, in your area? Somebody coming through there will undoubtedly know somebody. There are many ways to find a teacher. I think some don't understand that it's not as simple as wondering into Guitar Center and asking.

    And that's why you find a different one.

    And 99% of the time, they would've learned faster, more accurately, and learned more, with a teacher. Of course one can probably learn one their own, but they risk poor technique and injury, and they don't open themselves up to the experience and knowledge of one that came before.

    If this is your impression of what lessons are about, it sounds like this is the problem from the beginning. Lessons are not about earning a master's degree or becoming a professional. Lessons are about learning to play, which is what you're saying some people desire to do. If you want to have fun doing something, and enjoy it as a hobby, getting a teacher will increase your abilities and help prevent problems, which sounds like I'd be having fun.

    I'm not looking for a career, nor a master's degree in music. There are many other players here in the same position. I take lessons regularly. I have fun. I look forward to my lessons.

    Your view of teachers is an unfortunate one. It sounds as if you or someone you know may have had a bad experience with a teacher. A teacher isn't someone that's coming in to drain the fun out of playing music, and force you to do boring etudes all morning and night. A teacher is someone that helps you become a better player and musician.

    No, but most of the time it's the most efficient.

    Quite the opposite. When I recommend that someone should get a teacher, I'm doing it so that I can be as helpful as possible.

    "Get a teacher" is not the answer to every question. Look at the plethora of threads in this forum that discuss a variety of topics. "Get a teacher", however, is the answer to some questions.
  6. ctxbass

    ctxbass Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2003
    Central Texas

    I also studied violin and I'm sure that having a good teacher really trained my ears. I'm a self-taught bassist; started on a Fender bass and transferred much of that knowledge to the DB. The two instruments are not as similar as one might think. I've slowly been able to shake off some of the ill effects and bad habits that came from years of developing a haphazard technique and playing on a poorly set up instrument. If I had had a teacher, much of this could have been avoided.

    There's a reason they call it the "school of hard knocks".
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Me too (except for the three decades part). I don't have enough time to list all of the stupid habits I taught myself, but I will say that having even a part-time teacher (as I have now) is WAY better than having none at all. At least this way, when I start to do something incredibly stupid, he can call me on it before it gets ingrained. Given the choice, I'd vote for at teacher for technique if nothing else 100 times out of 100.
  8. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Gufenov, I've been to Pittsville, so I know what you're saying. Not exactly a hotbed of DB activity, is it! I'm originally from Manitowish Waters, pop.660, I can relate.

    So, I guess the literal answer is "no", you don't absolutely need a teacher. At the very least, I'd try to get a couple of lessons at the outset, just to keep from hurting myself. As for me, I get around the bass okay, but I've had to undo some bad habits that I picked up early on. Not very efficient. I think my incessant gig schedule over the last 20 years has helped me to figure out the best ways for me to play the thing. Sorta like the blind pig that occasionally finds the acorn.

    I do sometimes wonder how I'd sound now if I'd majored in bass, rather than trumpet, when I attended UW-Eau Claire. What the hell was I thinking?!
  9. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Actually, that three decades thing could be construed as inaccurate. There was a period of time in the 80's (The Big Hair Years) when there was no demand for double bass, at least during the time I was based in California. I played a lot of slab, as much as I do DB now. I guess it's different now, but then, you could get a decent DB for next to nothing. There was a lot of funk, funk jazz, happy jazz, pop jazz, but not too much in the way of acoustic jazz for me. So there's a bit of a lapse in the DB activity right in the middle.

    Thank god that's over with.
  10. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    So far, I'm "self-taught" on DB. I'm more than halfway through my third year of lessons on electric. The reason I use "self-taught" on DB is because I'm not actually self-taught in the sense that I've never asked anyone for help on DB, I just haven't had a formal lesson yet.

    Even 10 or 15 minutes with a teacher can help you immensely. Not this past Friday, but the one before it, I went to see a big band with an orchestra section peform some standards and some originals written by Greg Runions, the vibes player (he also did ALL of the arrangements.) At the time, I'd been playing DB for about a month out of the Rufus Reid book and Simandl 1. After the show, I went on stage and talked to the bass player for the big band (there were 3 others in the orchestra section, one of whom I spoke to for a few minutes during intermission) for about 15 minutes. In those 15 minutes, he helped me immensely with small pointers -- especially about balancing the bass and usage of the thumb on your left hand. Those 15 minutes quite possibly prevented me from injuring myself to the point of not even being able to play at all in a couple years.

    Teachers are an immense help. Get one if you can. Also, note that next Monday, I'm starting hour long classical upright lessons every two weeks from the guy from the orchestra section that I talked to during intermission in addition to my once a week, half hour long BG lessons the same night.
  11. Gufenov


    Jun 8, 2003
    Thanks for the input, everyone. Please let me clear up one misconception - I don't have a "problem" with teachers or taking lessons. I'm not trying to suggest that getting a teacher is a bad idea. My point is that we've got some members that are pretty quick to admonish a poster to get a teacher instead of just answering their darn question!

    If I ask how to change strings, do you me how to change strings? Or do you tell me to take it to a luthier? Or tell me to go get a teacher? Or, maybe you just tell me to go do a search and find the answer myself?

    I've spent a lot of time here at TB, although I don't post a lot, and this is actually the first thread I've started. I've certainly benefited from the knowledge that's shared here, and I thank those of you who have freely shared.
  12. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    An thoughtful and admirable post. The quoted part, though, I don't agree with at all.

    I am a guy who spent time measured in decades doing the self-taught thing. It wasn't a lone wolf stance or anything thought-out -- I'm just that way. I have self-taught myself practically everything I know. I know a lot about self-taught.

    The idea that a teacher gets in the way of original expression -- or, to use Jason's terms more carefully, that a teacher reduces the likelihood of finding said expression -- is not true and not valid IMO.

    It's simple, really: expression is expression. Have idea, express idea. If you really are an artist then you express what you want to express. If you wait for accidents to provide you with expressions of your inner vision, or if your inner vision is only some Little Thing put in place by a teacher or some other authority, then you are masquerading as an artist. In my books that's your fault and not any teacher's fault.

    If all I can think to paint are black velvet Elvis paintings what kind of artist am I to whine about what my teacher did or didn't teach me? The teacher has something you don't: knowledge and experience. Go get it and use it for yourself.
  13. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    GET A TEACHER!!! :mad:

  14. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    I recall a thread similar to this on the "other" side a bit ago.

    This person had enough money for like two lessons ($100 if you study with me ;-)

    Anyhoo, I suggested that said person find a teacher wherever he could 10 miles, 100 miles wahtever. Explain the situation to the teacher. And I garuntee that in those two or three lessons you will come out with enough "homework" to last 6 months if not longer.

    Most teachers that i know and that are compassionate humans will work with people to give them the most bang for their buck.
  15. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Man, I am all for anyone playing the bass and working on developing their playing. I am totally and completely for that.
  16. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    Nothing wrong with thinking outta da box and working out those complexities I just think it helps to have the real good on the table right next to the cool new stuff.
  17. Brent Norton

    Brent Norton

    Sep 26, 2003
    Detroit, MI
    I've been playing music for 18 years. I've drummed, I play guitar and slab and, of course, I also play the double bass. I've never once had a real lesson. Man, do I regret that now...

    When I was younger, my aversion to lessons was on two fronts: 1.) Impatience, and 2.) Ego. I felt that theory and lessons on the "proper" way to do things would only limit my potential. In hindsight, I realize that whatever real potential I may (or may not!) have has remained bottled up due to lack of real knowledge about how music and playing it really work. How ignorant is that?

    I have "gotten by" for years. I've always got this project or that going on, I've gigged throughout the years on a relatively consistent basis, and my playing has generally been well-recieved by bandmates and audiences. But to this day, I can't read a solitary note. I spent much more time on TONE than ability - putting the cart in front of the horse, as it were.

    If I could take it all back, I most certainly would have done things differently. Of course, it's never too late to get started with REAL instruction, but I'm aware that I'll have to un-learn years upon years of bad habits first. One of my top goals this year is to get that ball rolling and finally learn a bit about what I've been doing all these years. I can't tell you how excited I am to see where real instruction can take me.

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    Alright.....I spend a lot of time on this board offering knowlege that I have obtained. So I find it a little odd that some would call my statement an unwillingness to help. A teacher can help you find an instrument(which is what I was refering to I believe), and show you proper technique so you DON"T HURT YOURSELF. You don't absolutely need a teacher once you get going, but of course it will help.
  19. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    For the sake of discussion, I will add that we are all self-taught. The hours and hours of practice and skill development that take place on your own is really when you learn to play the bass.

    The value of the right teacher is that he or she will offer a great deal of guidance and counsel. I spent about 18 months laboring on the DB before getting hooked up with a serious teacher, content that my 16 years on the slab would guide me sufficiently. In the first six weeks with a professional player/teacher, with the same amount of practice time away from the lessons, I was able to advance far more than I had in the 18 months.

    The deal is, all too often, a simple correction or suggestion from a teacher can get you over a hump in just a few minutes, whereas on your own, you may take many, many hours of rehearsal to stumble upon the right approach or otherwise conjure up a self-made alternative.

    As for TB, I think the real reason, the "get a teacher" thing pops up so much, is that, often, it really is the only reliable and reasonable answer to the question.

    If one asks "why does my bowing sound like cats bumping nasties," there is really no way to answer that. Often, the only real way to diagnose something as multi-faceted as playing a double bass is through prolonged, up close observation. The truth is, willing or not, it is all but impossible to offer a whole lot of meaningful information about a specific player and his or her needs unless you have a pretty clear picture of what is going on.

    It isn't a whole lot different than calling up the mechanic, asking what's wrong with your car and expecting a detailed explanation over the phone.

    When the questions are more general or stated clearly enough that a reasonable answer is possible, it is my experience that most of the folks at TB will step up and offer their insight.

    If not, it's true that some can be a little terse. Some of that is probably real, and some of it is the nature of faceless communication.

    Plus, with nearly 72,000 posts in TBDB alone, the archive is fairly exhaustive. If this thing survives the destruction of humankind, the next wave of intelligent life could probably create and play a DB from this resource alone.