help with GIVING lessons

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Joe Nerve, Oct 20, 2003.

  1. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    got a message on my answering machine tonight. a fan/aquaintance of my band wants lessons. he asked a while ago and i told him i can't read music. he didn't care. he doesn't want to learn to read music or theory or anything like that. he just wants to be able to really play - and he digs my style and my playing.

    this has happened with more than just this person and i always turn them away. i don't want to turn them away anymore cuz i wanna buy a bongo!


    any ideas how i can structure lessons to a newbie who knows enough to carry a punk band right now, but really wants to hone the technical aspects of playing? teach him to read tab? :eek: teach him to practice to a metronome? (where's jeff when ya really want to annoy him?) :eek: how might i best fill an hour a week and really help this guy and or others if and when they come along.

    any and all input is appreciated.
  2. I don't know if you can. When I started taking lessons a little while ago, I started by reviewing the circle of fifths, modes and other basics. Even the technique exercises that I was shown were based on chord theory. Theory, theory, THEORY! So boring yet so practical.

    Well, maybe this question can help you: When you (Joe Nerve) are learning a new song, what goes through your head?
  3. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    I'd be very frank with any potential student and tell them your limitations, but you must know enough about bass guitar to at least get a newbie started.

    You could hook up with a more informed teacher, start out the student with orientation and when he wants to move on to more detailed studies of theory and reading, refer him to the teacher at the next level (who may charge more.)

    Speaking of charging--you may have to charge less than such a teacher. This is not to say that you don't have valuable contributions to make to a beginner, both on technique and other vital training such as keeping time, playing in tune, learning some basic basslines, maybe learning to play with a pick or fingerstyle, reading a chord chart, positional playing, and basic theory as far as you know it, fretboard familiarization, fretting notes in the most effective manner, etc.

    All that should keep you going for quite awhile.

    The very first class with your student should probably be dedicated to evaluating his present skill level, seeing if he has any obvious bad habits in his playing that can be fixed and planning with him a course of action for the next several classes so that he will be psyched to continue with you. Make sure to give him some homework each time to work on and listen to him at the start of each class to see and hear how he is progressing.

    Another common practice is to have him pick out a song he would particularly like to learn and work with him on that in addition to the other activities outlined above.
  4. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    I forgot to add this important piece of advice..."If you become a teacher, by your pupil you'll be taught."

    If you find you like teaching, you may be motivated to fill in some of the gaps in your own learning. This especially happens if a student asks you a question you can't answer. If that happens, try to find out the answer. Start acquiring a small library of theory and technique books, plus a book on reading studies and exercises for bass guitar.

    Don't be surprised if you run across a student who teaches you a few things. That could happen even if you are the most experienced teacher. Welcome it when it happens. I doubt he'll be a smart aleck about it. I'm sure he'll be pleased he knew something you didn't. Just remember, you know a lot he doesn't or he wouldn't be there paying you.
  5. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Intersting, I had some guy ask me for lesson in the interval of one of our gigs. I was like "nop, i'm not good enough" to which replied by massaging my egeo for about half a sentence and I asked him to shut up and said I'd think about it!

    The drummer in my band, who teaches at schools, said i should go for it because i'm good enough to teach and have enough knowledge to share.. but i'm very conscious of not messing it up.

    Joe, maybe all us beginner teachers shoudl kep a post open on here once we start dishing out lessons where we can dicuss stuff that works and stuff that doesn't?!!

    good luck
  6. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    First of all, sounds like the guy wants to learn from you because he was inspired by your playing. He heard something in there that he could not do, that you can.

    If your playing doesn't involve much theory, that doesn't matter. You still have knowledge to share, and you have jumped hurdles that this other guy hasn't gotten to yet.

    Teaching isn't for everyone though. There are loads of great players out there who couldn't effectively teach another person how to play if they were at gunpoint, because it isn't in their nature to do so.

    It may take a little while to pin down exactly where he wants to go, but a key part of giving lessons is to find out what the student wants to get out of the lessons. That usually helps give you an idea of where to begin.

    A good way to start a first lesson is with the fundamentals. Basic technique and time. Jam with him and pay attention to what he comes up with. You might also show him a few scales or patterns that you yourself use. As Bop said, that will usually give you a good idea where he is and where to go from there.

    Remember, your goal is not to show him how to play like you, but rather how to improve as a player and develop his own style. Give compliments when you hear something you dig, but don't hesitate to point out mistakes.

    Hope this helps... :)
  7. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    So true. The teachers that taught me the most weren't the greatest of players and vice versa.

    I started posting this earlier but realised that we're dealing with Joe Nerve. Joe is employed in education so he probably already knows all this......
  8. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Re: this guy who's gonna be giving me a ring...

    I'm going to take the root of learning some of the music he's into so I can introduce theory to him that way.
    He's well into the peppers apparently so that's minor pentatonic and root octave patterns covered ;)

    I believe that at least a basic bit of theory is essential if you want to be good player. So there's no way I'm just going to teach him riffs etc and take his money.
    I want to try and incorporate some theory into everything I teach so it is not just a trick, it is a better understanding

    that's my idea anyhow.
  9. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Bop posted:
    Another common practice is to have him pick out a song he would particularly like to learn and work with him on that ...

    ...and Smash replied:
    Collossal waste of time, IMO. Like the Bible says, "Teach a man to fish and he'll be able to fish, but give a man a fish and he'll just keep on mooching or starve anyway."

    I learned plenty of songs and it didn't help me in the least. Finally took proper lessons, and when I was ready I could play those songs without help.

    >>> I whole heartedly disagree!

    We are talking about "teaching a man to fish".

    You dont just how them the song, you help them understand the chord changes work, how the bass line functions within the song. What he bass does in relation to the guitar. How the bass relates to the drums, the kick, the snare, the cymbals. You talk about he dynamics and feel of the song, the melody and vibe.
    Learning a song is not just about knowing the bassline it's about how the entire song works and how the bass works for ths song.

    Besides that, when you have learnt songs before you gained an understanding of theory I dont believe it was a colossal waste of time - even though perhaps did you just learnt parrot fashion what others have done before. You learnt to interpret feel and you learnt by ear - two vital aspects of musicianship.

    Do you really believe that you "learned plenty of songs and it didn't help you in the least" ?? :(

    Anyway, back on track.. You dont just show them the bassline and let them get on with it, absolutley not!
    Personally, my aim will be to incorporate some theory into everything I teach, no matter how simple. So the student understands how "that cool bass part" relates to the rest of the music and therefore has a better chance of being able to create their own "cool bass parts".

    "Teach a man a funk bassline and he'll play a funk bassline.. teach him dorian and where the one is and he'll funk all night long"

    That's what it says in my bible people :D

  10. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    We do agree on this. I wont be teaching any one with tab.
    I can read standard notation, slowly, but I'm confident I understand it well enough to introduce a newbie to it and learn more as I go.

    You dont have to sight read to read music.. .but there's no way I'm advising any one to read tab - tab is sh~te.
  11. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    i love talkbass.

    thanks guys. there's lots of helpful stuff here. i'm gonna call the kid back today to pick his brain, explain my limitations, and basically see what he wants to learn/do.

    coupla my thoughts:

    i'd like to try and put together something like an ultimate start up package of lessons. 10 lessons to really get someone playing, and then off to the next teacher. teach REAL basics theory and notes, a bunch of songs in different styles to get the fingers and brain going, exercises to strengthen hands and work on timing... stuff that that... and MOST IMPORTANTLY, i'd like to be able to teach them to play music, as opposed to notes.

    saw 2 bands back to back friday that really got me thinking about the "soulful" part of bass playing. first band had a bass player that wrote excellent parts and was skilled on the neck - but you could tell that he memorized all his notes, and was simply playing him. the music was dead. the bass playing was dead. i really don't like that kind of playing. the 2nd guy you could tell the music was coming from someplace really deep inside. he was truly expressing himself. you could feel, see, and hear the difference.

    this was something that was pounded into my head early in my playing and something i still work on. if i have anything worthwhile to pass on to a newbie it would be this. flea called this flash and smash. i have some ideas towards that end, but gotta run cuz i'm gonna be late for work. i've never been late for my job. talkbass has gotten me really close more than once. :)

    no time to edit.
  12. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I also have to disagree with the first statement. Simply showing someone where to put their fingers in order to play a song is not very useful, but at the very least it will strengthen their interest and improve their technique.

    But, what I find to be more useful is to show them a song and then show them how it was put together. For instance, if you teach a student how to play Paranoid by Black Sabbath, big deal. But if you can go on from there to explain the I-bVII chord progression and eighth-note rock bass lines, then you've imparted something they can use for the rest of their playing careers.

    Taking lessons in order to teach is a great idea. With some teachers I have specified that I wanted to learn how to teach better, and I learned a great deal that way.
  13. dave_clark69

    dave_clark69 Guest

    Jan 17, 2003
    Well if he wants to learn how to play good, i would start him off by some music he likes to play. Then teach him some cool technique which helps. Then he can go all virtuosso on his friends.

    Ask him what music he likes to play/listen to. Listen to some of their songs and find a suitable piece that you could work on, which sounds amaizing but easy.
    Teach him all of the little tab bits, like slides and what they all represent.
    See what standard he is at, so you can get out a grade x book

    Its hard becuase my teacher is can like play piano and guitar and bass, and read music and stuff, but i want to really focus on getting my grade 6. He may just want to learn a song in detail to jam with his friends
  14. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002

    Hey Smash, cheers, I couldnt have imagined you meant what I thought you meant.. we are indeed on the same wavelength :)

    Mad tho aint it, I mean I learnt to play by ear, and so basic theory just "puts names to the faces" if you know what I mean - and lets me understand better what areas to work on and structure my learning better - when actually get round to it of course :D

  15. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I disagree. If you teach in this manner, your students may be decent bassists... but they'll never be good musicians.
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