First lessons

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by marsquake, Jul 2, 2020.

  1. I finally signed up for lessons and they start today. Been messing around for many years on bass but never any formal instruction. I can read tab, that's about it. For those that have taken lessons too, what can I expect for my first day and what should I expect from my instructor?

    Anything I should be aware of, look out for or ask the teacher? Thanks!
  2. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    Every instructor is different, but he'll probably want to know about your goals so he knows where ultimately to take the lessons. But for now, I would expect very rudimentary lessons--addressing basic technique, note names on the staff, reading very simple tunes, etc. Be patient--you need all that for the good stuff to come!
    Nashrakh likes this.
  3. My goals?! Uh-oh...I better figure some out. Thanks!
    Lee Moses likes this.
  4. DrThumpenstein

    DrThumpenstein Living for the groove Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2015
    St Louis, MO
    A good teacher should start with some questions of you regarding your experience with the instrument and what you wish to accomplish through lessons. Theory, technique, the things with which you struggle on bass, etc. This information should help to guide your lessons to fit your needs. If your teacher is not tailoring instruction to your specific goals, you may as well be taking stock lessons from the internet.

    Every student and teacher is different and finding personalities that mesh between student and teacher is just as important as the material being taught and learned. I would try to avoid teachers that try to teach the same thing the same way to every student. The best teachers I have come across are good at exploring different techniques to find what clicks with a student.
    marsquake likes this.
  5. Thanks. I'll post back here after the first lesson and the rest, so that maybe if anyone else is kicking around the idea of taking lessons, maybe it'll help?
    DrThumpenstein likes this.
  6. First "lesson" down. We mostly just got to know each other. He had me play a bit to see where I was. I've been farting around with a bass for 27 years but I have no idea how to read, make, or know music. I can read tab and figure stuff out after hearing it a bit. He said my technique is good. We're going to work on building my knowledge of scales, notes, music, composition etc. My picking/right hand could use some work though!

    Instead of going over boring exercises, since I have some skill/technique, he asked me to come up with a ten song list of songs I like, that I either can or cannot play, but am mostly interested in why they are the way they are composed. So I can learn how the artist created them, why the notes are what they are and are fun to play too.

    I thought this was a cool idea and came up with this list:

    1. Steely Dan - Peg
    2. Vulfpeck - Dean Town
    3. Guns & Roses - Night Train or Sweet Child O'Mine
    4. Bill Withers - Lovely Day
    5. Live - Pain Lies on the River Side
    6. Toto - Africa
    7. Train - Mississippi
    8. AiC - Down in a Hole
    9. STP - Interstate Love Song
    10. Tool - anything

    That'll get me started. I have a lot of questions about these song arrangements, style, musicianship, timing etc. Looking forward to the next lesson!
  7. Malcolm35

    Malcolm35 Supporting Member

    For the next month or so do as your instructor says. Do not listen to us. There is a trust that needs to build between you and your instructor.

    Good luck.
    bassb66, Nashrakh and CatOnTheBass like this.
  8. DrThumpenstein

    DrThumpenstein Living for the groove Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2015
    St Louis, MO
    Sounds like you found a good teacher. That's a nice list, good variety of styles and some tasty lines. (I never get tired of Peg!)
  9. OK, update. After my first lesson, which I thought went well, I got dropped about an hour before my next lesson. Apparently the teacher was a guitarist who only recently started taking in new bass players. I guess he thought I was too advanced and my list of songs I wanted to learn/understand (See above), was too difficult. Therefore, they wanted me to work with the owner whose an actual accomplished bassist. So, I'll be having my first lesson with him on August 4th.
  10. In the mean time, I suggest you try an app called Yousician. You can start at your own level, learn popular songs, as well as theory. You can read tablature while learning to read music notation. You can use it free for 10 minutes a day until you see if you want to subscribe.
  11. proverbs10_4

    proverbs10_4 Inactive

    Jul 16, 2020
    As an instructor, I couldn’t care less what songs you want to learn are. That might sound callous, but when a student pays me his hard earned money (or parent’s hard earned money), you’re going to learn how to play music and function as a real musician. Most popular artists aren’t real musicians, they’re just people who have a talent for writing songs and can play an instrument good enough to write a song with it. You can learn those songs and use tabs on your own time.

    Anyone could eventually learn to wiggle their fingers a little bit and play Chuck Rainey’s line on Peg, but it takes work and dedication to be able to improvise the way Chuck is able to do and understand what notes sound good under a D7b9 chord.
    marsquake likes this.
  12. The first instructor (guitar kid) asked me for that list. He thought it'd be better than learning scales etc I guess? I really don't know. Anyway, the reason I sought lessons after just farting around on bass for 27 years is exactly what you said...I can play a bass and read tab, but I don't consider myself a bass player at all! I can't read music, I don't know jack-crap about the fretboard or what notes are what besides EADG. I've gotten to the point where I've plateaued and want to learn how to be a musician. I don't know what I don't know....ya know?
    proverbs10_4 likes this.
  13. ahadl2500

    ahadl2500 Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2003
    Greenwood, IN
    I have had two bass instructors. One lasted about a year. I have been with the other one for the past 20ish years. I have also had 3 different voice instructors (maybe 5 years of combined lesson time here). I can tell you the following (noting of course that this is my opinion and I am sure someone will disagree)...

    - They all have different approaches; most are comparable, but one approach is absolutely inferior IMO. It is a waste of your time and money to sit around learning songs from tab unless the instructor is extremely focused on technique during those lessons. With enough time, anyone can learn to play a song from the tab (no need to pay an instructor to help with that).

    - Those that approach music education before instrument education (but also with instrument education/technique) have been more successful for my learning. Reading music, knowing theory are more valuable to me than just playing songs. Playing songs are valuable for expanding your knowledge of what has been done/can be done/technique. However, once you know theory and can read well enough, technique and a little practice will let you play pretty much anything you want. It also enables you to write/improvise, which is the fun creative part of music for me.

    My main point... start with the scales/chords/modes/theory etc. It is how most non-guitar instrumentalists learn their instruments (definitely how I learned French Horn). For some reason guitarists seem to think they know better than to use a method that has been around for a long time just because some have been successful with little or no formal education. You can definitely do it without the education, but it is much easier with it.
    BrotherMister and marsquake like this.
  14. proverbs10_4

    proverbs10_4 Inactive

    Jul 16, 2020
    I know exactly how you feel, sir. The thing about learning an instrument is what you learn while taking lessons isn't necessarily applicable on a gig. What happens is the things you learn, when learned properly, over time slowly start to become second nature. You're adding one brick at a time to a house. All you need to do is take some time and let it soak in.

    You're never going to play all the notes from the C minor scale all over the fret board on a gig, but somewhere down the line while you're jamming on 'Since I've Been Loving You' with a band you'll be able to walk that bass line without even thinking about it, just from knowing the chords.

    It's similar to a teacher making you write an essay. He'll give you the topic and then it's up to you to expound on it. When you're in a band, the leader or whoever will say "here's the chords, here's the tempo", and then you'll be able to 'speak the language' instead of regurgitating a bunch of memorized patterns.

    Good Luck!
    marsquake likes this.
  15. BrotherMister


    Nov 4, 2013
    PVG Membership
    There are so many bad teachers out there, and even more people teaching who are less than qualified to do so. Sadly here there are colleges and even universities where some of the instructors for bass really have no business teaching the instrument at all. Don't be afraid to grill your teacher while enquiring, I actually like when people do that because it shows they care about the quality of education they are getting. If someone says they play in bands that can mean anything and the scope of getting want you are looking for is pretty wide. If someone says they have a performance degree in music with specialist instrument as bass guitar then you know they are likely to be getting good content from the lesson from someone qualified in what they are talking about. They might still be a bad teacher but you are then able to identify that it is bad teaching and know what you are looking for out your next teacher. Believe me, some amazing musicians are awful educators and some awful musicians are educating.

    Before a student arrives at their first lesson I've asked the questions about what they hope to get from lessons and their experience. That gives me a fairly rough idea of what I'm working with before you even play. Then when I hear you play I'm looking and listening analytically to identify where I think you are and what we need to work on. I've got an idea how where they think things are, but they've paid me to help them get better and that's what I do. Boring exercises in harmony or ear training might be boring, but the results speak for themselves. Any music I use for teaching is directly related to a technique or concept that we are working on, so they are etudes rather than for the fun of learning the song. That side of things I let you do in your own time.

    I play professionally, I have music qualifications from college and university. I've been playing bass guitar for 17 years and I still go for lessons with people. After a decade of playing double bass and studying with jazz musicians I began to feel some real fundamental stuff was missing but I couldn't pick out what, plus I wanted to really dig into arco playing. So I went back for classical bass lessons. The first lesson my teacher suggested we go back to the very very start and without hesitation I said yes. Why? I trusted her experience and knowledge to have identified a good reason for us to take that road. It was, and continues to be frustrating as she has picked out holes in my musicianship I didn't even realise existed, but the results speak for themselves so I continue to go for lessons with her.

    Long story short, have a serious think about what you are actually looking to learn and that will inform your decisions and be open minded to what a qualified expert might have to say you need to work on.
    marsquake likes this.
  16. Well I"m resurrecting this post after two months of...."lessons". I'm not sure I'll continue. I was hoping for a more structured plan with ideas and things to practice in between lessons, but every time I show up, the instructor asks, "So, what do you want to do today?" [You tell me!] I guess they mostly just teach kids that have never played. I somewhat already know how to play, and it seems like they don't know what to do with me.

    I have had a few lessons I thought were good. He taught me a scale(?) in the key of G...but I'm still confused about all that stuff. Reading chord charts was interesting as well. But other times we just talk or he shows me YT videos of bass players and says, "try that". Marcus Miller....really?

    I think i've come to realize that what I'm trying to learn, I'd have to enroll in a music academy or institute (music and WHY bass lines are written like they are, song-writing) more scales(?). I don't know what I don't know and i still don't after 2 months of lessons. I want to learn how to make music with other musicians and how to work in a band. I'm not interested at this point in learning how to tap/slap like Victor Wooten etc.

    Are there any good online programs I should look into? Bummed....
    Nashrakh likes this.
  17. ahadl2500

    ahadl2500 Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2003
    Greenwood, IN
    You may not need a course (though you might find one that does what you want). You probably just need a better instructor (assuming you can find one in your area). I had the exact same experience as you with my first one (lasted 6 months).

    My second instructor (who has lasted 20 years now) started with exactly what you are asking for (theory/study of writing styles). If anything it was theory overload at first. If I had not studied and practiced, I never would have made it.

    On the plus side, more instruction is being offered virtually due to COVID. You can probably find solid instruction online with a private instructor (versus a course which it sounds like you are asking about).
    marsquake likes this.
  18. As I suggested earlier, above - a learning app called Yousician. You can start at whatever level you feel like, so you don’t have to go over what you already know. They do teach Steely Dan and some of the songs in your list. It will give you a good foundation to get going. They teach reading and theory in a fun way, while you’re getting to play songs those lessons relate to. You can also just go in and work on some songs if you feel like it. Your lesson plan can be laid out in order, or can also be laid out by you, in whichever order you’d like.
    It does teach you what you’re wanting to know, including ear training. You don’t need to go to an Academy or a Music School. You can try it for 10 minutes a day for free. An unlimited use Premium access plan is about $175 a year for as much time as you want, any time, every day, for all the instruments they teach.
    marsquake likes this.
  19. This is not an instructor. He’s just jamming with you.

    Find an instructor with an actual curriculum—in fact, insist upon it. By curriculum I mean a list of achievable skills spelled out in a particular order, that builds on previous skills, with a goal of achieving comprehensive musicianship.

    I usually think the best choice for someone who is a serious student, is your local college or university teacher.
    vjaz, ahadl2500 and Nashrakh like this.
  20. It would be "...jamming with you." if he actually grabbed a bass during lessons instead of his acoustic guitar to show me stuff. Most of the time we just talk and he plays keyboard or guitar. Anyway, I am done with the lessons and started using Yousician the other day to try it.

    So far it's pretty basic stuff but I'll start slow and just grind with it. One year's worth of Yousician is the same as I was paying monthly for lessons so it's a win I suppose.