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Getting to the Next Level

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by zac2944, Oct 19, 2005.

  1. zac2944


    Dec 28, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    I'm trying to take my bass playing to the next level, but I'm not exactly sure what to do. I've done some searching here and can't seem to find what I'm looking for. Most posts seem to be geared toward the beginner/intermediate bassist. Maybe some of you guys can help me out.

    A little background: I've been playing bass for 16 years. With the exception of a few short breaks, I have been in at least one band at any given time. I have taken about 3 years worth of lessons over the years, taken music theory classes, have taught myself a lot about jazz theory, my reading is rusty but has been good at times, and I constantly work on improving my technique.

    To be objective, I made a list of areas where I would like to improve and came up with the following: Reading, Jazz/Harmony theory, adding complex/fast passages to solos, singing what I play (ala Otiel), advanced technique, and ear training. I hope that the right teacher could help me find more areas to work on.

    I have recently started working on my reading skills and have been looking for teachers. I have taken two "first lessons" in the last month from teachers who claim to teach advanced level bassists, but both of the teachers had little to offer. The first lesson lasted about 15 minutes, with the guy admitting that he was probably not the right teacher. The second lesson was from a Berklee guy who could read better than I could, but for the most part seemed to be at the same level that I am. I'm still looking for a good teacher, but how do I find one? I can't afford all these "first lesson" failures. Where do I find a teacher that can really do it? BTW, I'm in Boston, you'd think it would be easy.

    I've also thought about just continuing to teach myself by reading and studying everything I can get my hands on. I have been forcing myself to sing along with everything I play for the past few months, and I learn new songs every week by ear for the band I play with which should be good ear training.

    Has anyone else been in my position? How did you make the jump to the next level? If I get a teacher, how do I know they're any good without dropping $40 or more for a first lesson?

    Thanks for you help guys, and sorry for such a long post.
  2. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Why not call Berklee and see if they offer private instruction or audit courses for guys like you?
  3. zac2944


    Dec 28, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    I'll have to look into that. I'm afraid that going through Berklee might be too expensive.
  4. It doesn't sound to me like you need a bass teacher. Reading, theory, soloing and ear training aren't bass specific things. You can probably improve your reading most through practice. You can take classes on theory and ear training specifically, rather than getting them through bass lessons. You can learn about soloing from lots of guys who aren't bassists. I recently attended a demonstration on soloing given by a pianist who used a trumpeter, saxophonist, and vibraphone player to illustrate his points; it applied to any instrument.

    You may want a teacher for technique things, but I think that after a certain point you're going to benefit most from experimentation, since you don't need the guidance that a beginner does.
  5. Good Point !!
  6. zac2944


    Dec 28, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    I'm surprised that a teacher isn't the answer. Just about every post that I have read usually recommends getting a good teacher as the key to getting better.

    The things that I want to learn are all in context of bass playing. For example, I don't want to just learn theory, I want to learn how to use it in my playing. Ultimately, I want to go from being a very good bass player, to being a great bass player.
  7. RhythmBassist01


    Aug 31, 2005
    There lots of books on the theory of harmony.

    Tonal Harmony by Stefan Kostka, Dorothy Payne
  8. A lot of the time the people asking for advice are beginner and intermediate players, and it's a safe bet that a teacher will help them out a lot. If you're at a level where it's difficult to find a teacher who can give you what you need then I think you're going to be best served by learning from in-depth sources and applying it specifically to the bass on your own. If you feel that you need some help applying that then maybe you can find a teacher to help out with making sense of what you learn and using it on the bass. At a certain level it's hard to learn everything you need from one guy, even if you still want some experienced guidance.

    It's important that you don't limit yourself to bass teachers alone. I got a lot out of some lessons I took with an orchestra conductor who can't even play my instrument (the horn) beyond the most basic level.
  9. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    I feel inclined to say that at that kind of level you dont neccessarily need regular and frequent lessons, like weekly or even monthly.

    I see music theory and the basics of effective an efficient technique as 'teaching a man to fish'. Once you have that understanding, and you clearly do, you dont need someone to check you're on the right path every five minutes, you often just need some well considered inspiration and a point in the right direction from someone with a great deal of experience.

    I've found that the last two bass specifc lessons I've had have given me enough to work on for months. I suspect that when you do find the right teacher, you'll find the same thing. Just once sentence "try this, because..." and you're like "wow!" I MUST go practice NOW!"

    Most of the more advanced players I know - mostly who have taught or are teaching me - take regular but less frequent lessons.

    As for finding a teacher, as was said above, do you need a bass teacher specifically? Maybe not, but it might be ideal from a 'finer points of technique' stand point. A jazz teacher playing piano would be a great way to work on your ear and understanding for harmony.
  10. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Oh, and I'm not being picky, but your list doesnt include working on improving your sense of time... of all things to work on, this is ALWAYS on my list! :)

    EDIT.. also, ask them for a 1/2 hour, or better still, 1/2 price taster lesson! It cant hurt to ask!
  11. Hi,
    I'll preface my reply with one thing first - I am by no means anywhere near your level of playing :)

    That being said, I offer the following opinion -

    Don't try and break the tasks into pieces - everything in your list helps everything else.

    Reading / Theory and Singing what you play / Ear training are all the same excercise and I would find the nearest Jazz pianist to study with. Read the music, sing what you read, understand what you are singing and why (theory), play it on piano, play it on your bass.

    I have found that the biggest aid to learning this type of stuff is exposure to relevent examples.

    If Jazz is your goal listen to Jazz. Immerse yourself in it for a couple of years, listen to nothing else. The theory only describes sounds you are hearing and it is easier to hear the sounds first and then look for the explanation in theory rather than the other way around

    Transcribe what you hear. Chords / Basslines / Solos - when you write it out, you will gain a better understanding of how music works.

    Complex and fast passages will come when you have the basics down and you can hear as fast as you want to (something that I have trouble with).

    About the only thing that a piano teacher will not be able to teach you is technique. I guess for this you will need a bass teacher, however, many people have managed to practice their way into advanced technique using video instruction or description of technique and refinement through practicing what works and what doesn't.
    Realistically, IMO once shown (or you have worked out) how to do a particular technique, it really is just a matter of practice.

    To me, you don't need a bass teacher, you need a music teacher.

    Hope this helps

    Paul Arkell
  12. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    That's a great post, Paul.
  13. zac2944


    Dec 28, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    Thanks for the advice everyone. I think that I'll just keep teaching myself and be on the lookout for someone to study with.

    Not too long ago I used to study with a guitar player. We were in a band together, and regularly met up just to discuss different musical ideas and concepts. It wasn't like a teacher student kind of thing. We would get into stuff that neither of us knew, and figure it out the best that we could. Having both a guitar and a bass allowed us to try out different harmonic concepts, and in a sense, prove the theory that we were learning. It was a great experience. I would like to find something like this again.
  14. Learn from the great players which give a lesson in itself transcribe not just Bassplayas but all other instrumentalist that inspire you try and get inside their head in what they're licks are 9 out of 10 they play similar patterns that could use in your playing.
    As well as practicing your sightreading & technique and theory etc you would be improving steadily another thing is checkout concerts of great playas and sus out there level and if you can have a chat with them it sounds to me that you need to get into some research and inspiration from other musicians but hey you're on a good thing here so all the best in the future
  15. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    My opinion...

    If you want to get to the next level you have to put yourself in situations where you need to play on that level. For reading, you need reading gigs that are going to push you beyond what you already can do. Go to jam sessions where advanced players are blowing and throw yourself in there. The same goes for all of the other stuff that you want to do. You have to find situations where you'll get stretched, it's the only way to move on to that level that you seek.
  16. ii-v


    Mar 27, 2005
    SLC, UT
    I have a slightly different take on teachers. I think they are important regardless of what level you are at. I teach bass and have been playing for 21 years and I have a teacher that I take brush up lessons with. I believe ear training should be a part of teaching the bass and it is part of my goal to help players with this. I don't teach jazz theory for the sole purpose of bass, but to make music, even if you switched to the accordian the theory applies. Chords, solos and an understanding of what your ear enjoys are important. Finding a teacher to help you achieve that may be tough, but I believe there would definately be a benefit in finding one. There are specific exercises to increase your speed in melodic passages and these coupled with jazz theory could open up new avenues. I think if any bass player was to continue there education through private instruction they would benefit. Not all will find a bass specific teacher that can truely help them. If that is the case find a jazz comp teacher. If you can't find a jazz comp teacher take voice. Your ear training will improve dramatically under a voice teacher. Don't think of lessons just as bass, but as a musician. When I get instruction, I focus soley on comp and treble clef reading. I do both all the time, but have identified them as areas I want to improve in.
    Good luck getting further.
  17. zac2944


    Dec 28, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    Thanks for the reply ii-V.

    Based on advice that I have received here and from some other musicians that I know, I have decided to put off lessons for a while.

    My intent is to work on my reading for a few months, so that when I find a good teacher we will be able communicate better. In the mean time I have been keeping my eyes open for the right teacher.