Help on teaching.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Alvaro Martín Gómez A., Dec 4, 2000.

  1. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    Dear friends from TB: I need some help from you. I've been giving bass lessons in my town to people who come and ask me for it, but now i've been signed by a high school to teach bass guitar in their music department. They are asking me for a schedule for ten semesters, 15 weeks each, one weekly hour. I know what i want (and must) to teach, but i'm not so sure about how to distribute the program. It's intended for people starting from scratch. The coordinator told me: "Set your goals per semester to a minimum", but a minimum for the first semester, for instance, may be either to learn the correct hand positioning or learn to play a major scale. I know this may be a matter of opinion, but any suggestions that guide me in this task will be highly appreciated. Thank you in advance.
  2. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Hi Alvaro,

    I don't teach bass, but I am a teacher (technically a corporate trainer), and I can tell you that designing a curriculum is not easy. Keep in mind that as you complete one semester after another, you'll find revisions or things that you'll want to change, adding and deleting as you go along.

    - Definitely figure out the content of what you want to teach. Do you want to include rhythm training, ear training, theory, technique, etc. Decide exactly what the content would be.

    - Decide how much time you will focus on each individual aspect.

    - Design an outline for the individual parts of your class. Think of what you want to teach regarding ear training. Do you want to develop someone to learn songs be ear? Think of what steps it takes to get there. So, in other words, do you want to start with relative pitch training, and then work on intervals, then chords? Do the same for the other aspects of the class.

    - Make a basic outline that just shows the order of how you want to introduce subjects. Flow is very important. You want one topic to flow from one to the other. Perhaps after you've just introduced the circle of fifths, you can do some ear training on chords, then introduce some popular songs and show how the circle of fifths is used. Always keep "flow" in mind. Also, using the information taught on a previous lesson helps reinforce that information.

    - Think of exercises, handouts, and the like, that can create audience participation. In any class, especially music, you don't want too much lecture. Think of different drills and exercises, besides just playing, that get people involved. Things that can be fun and exciting. The high school should have a supply room and a budget for certain things you might want to pick up.

    - Pad the time. Allow more time than you think you'll need. Especially if your class will be large. Every class will have fast students, average, and slower learners. The trick is to not go too fast for the slow people, and not too slow that you lose the faster students.

    - Keep it light, and have fun.
  3. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Just in case my previous post wasn't specific enough, here's a couple of ideas, certainly not comprehensive, regarding what to teach players from scratch.

    - I think first it's important to know their skill set. Are there any prerequisites for your course? Do students have to know some theory, or can absolute beginners in music come in? If there's no prerequisite, assume that you must introduce some basics of music.

    - Start with theory. Every student should know theory. There's some excellent texts the school will order at your request. I would stress the basics: pitch, dynamics, timbre, harmony, chromatic tones, intervals, chords, diatonic and chromatic scales.

    - Sight reading is important. Mel Bay books are great for this. Start with the treble and bass clefs. Identify the notes of the grand staff, then show where the bass ranges on the staff. Identify the open strings on the staff, and then move from there.

    - Some discussion on the history of bass, and the bass's role in music couldn't hurt, and could be interesting.

    - Some discussion on famous players might not be too bad either.

    - Rhythm training is important. Make sure they bring their metronomes. Start with whole notes, then half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, then sixteenth notes. Show them 4/4 and 3/4 time.

    - For rhythm, maybe you could have someone from the drum department come in and work with them once or twice. That can definitely liven things up.

    - I talked a little about ear training. Start with relative pitch, work on identifying intervals, then chords (at first it's just enough to be able to distinguish major from minor and from diminished and augmented). Go from there.

    - Then, of course, the meat and potatoes of the class is actually playing the bass. Teach some technique, including right hand and left hand placement and positioning. Show them finger-style, playing with a pick, etc.

    - Have them identify a certain note wherever it appears on the fretboard. Have them play all the Bs, or As, or Gbs, on the neck, ascending and descending.

    - Scales, scales, scales. One octave range, two octave range.

    - Arpeggios, arpeggios, arpeggios. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over....

    - Show them the proper way to smash their bass. (A Who video is good for this). Have them properly grab the bass by the neck, and bringing the guitar up and over the neck, use the hips and back to properly propel the instrument with enough force to smash the body. Also, remember to keep the strings on the outside so they don't recoil and take an eye out! ;)
  4. Another doublebassist and I were once discussing teaching
    electric bass. He laid some valuable advice on me: always
    send 'em home with a rock lick.
  5. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Jazzbo's impressive outline is almost all you'll ever need for a bass class...even the bass smashing, Who style. He hasn't mentioned, however, figuring out how you will grade the students, if, indeed you will be expected to grade them.

    Having been a teacher at one time in my life (not a music teacher, though), I found that evaluating my students' learning and performance was one of the most challenging aspects of my work. Will you be testing your students? If so, how often and how? Unless the bass class is an extra curricular activity, you may find that some type of testing or performance evaluation will keep your students motivated, especially the slackers who have deluded themselves that bass class will be a slack off class with no homework and one that requires no preparation.

    If they understand that at the start of class they will be expected to demonstrate some of what they learned since the last class, it might keep them "honest" in terms of homework.

    Oh, best of luck. You may turn out the next Jaco Pastorius or John Pattiticci.

    Jason Oldsted
  6. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Something helpful I forgot...the last principal (headmaster) I worked for, insisted that every teacher write the objective or objectives of the class on the blackboard, so the students know what the class is about that day. Then at the end of the class, both the teacher and students know how closely they came to achieving what was desired. It helps stay focused. Some students are very good at derailing a lesson plan. Sometimes that works out very well, because a valuable class results unexpectedly. Other times, more often, a "derailment" results in a wasted class which turns off students who are serious about their studies.

    Jason Oldsted

  7. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA

    (anybody seen Alvaro lately?)
  8. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Seems like he's not coming back JAZZYBOO...Maybe he saw the replies but just didn't answer back?
  9. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Yeah, but I figure there's some worthy information in this thread.
  10. Jazzbo's curriculum is good, but if I was a young, stupid teen who just wanted to pick up the bass because they saw Mark Hoppus doing it, I would fall asleep in 5 minutes.

    Even though it was a joke, what David Kaczorowski said is true: "Always send 'em home with a rock riff." In other words, keep it interesting for the young'uns, don't pound them with theory and expect them to get anything out of the course, they will tune you out. Do something fun like having someone bring in their favorite song, then have you pick it apart and show what theory elements you can find in the bassline (as crude as some may be ;)).

    Another issue with Jazzbo's curriculum is that it seems like too much to put into so little time.
  11. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Of course it is. It was never intended to be for one lesson. Rather, it includes a good portion of the information you want to have at your disposal, to provide over a period of time.
  12. I didn't mean over just one lesson, I meant over the whole school year! Teaching large class that is completely new to music IMO wouldn' be able to cover that much ground.

    But of course this doesn't matter anymore, seeing as the guy isn't coming back. :)