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How do I teach a blind kid to play bass?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Deedeevicious, Jan 25, 2013.

  1. Deedeevicious


    Aug 8, 2012
    Hey everybody,

    I'm a punk bass player, root notes only. I dont really have any music theory or real fundamentals except knowing the minor pentatonic scale by heart. Ive been playing on and off for about seven years and play in a Hardcore punk band.

    I'm moving into a new place, in the basement of a house. In the house lives a family including a young, probably 7 or 8 years old, blind boy who is a really talented piano player. I heard and saw him play and he is a true natural.

    He really wants to check out my bass and I really want to teach him so he can play it himself. Im sure I can just use my intuition and own knowledge to help him get going but I just wanted to put this out here on the forums.

    How do I go about teaching him? What is the first thing I should teach him? Any advice or help is appreciated.

    Thanks! I think this might be the best thing I will ever do in my life. This kid has more musical talent in his finger than I have in my entire body.
  2. jgroh

    jgroh Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    I wonder if there was a way to put raised "dots" on the frets so he could feel where he is on the board...at least to get started. So on the 3rd fret there is one raised dot, two on the 5th, etc etc. I dunno, just an idea.
  3. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    I think you could do it by ear.

    If you each have a bass, and you are in tune, start with open E. Should be obvious when he's found it, right? Then move on to the first fret. When you get to fret five, move to the A string.

    Identify the notes as you go along, and keep it up until he can find a note by himself.

    Then move on to I-V.......
  4. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    It's been said that the loss of a sense makes the other senses stronger, and it sounds as if this is true in this case as well. My advice would be for you to learn a very small bit of piano and let him follow you by ear. His sense of hand to head (as opposed to eye) should develop rapidly. Just make sure that he either has a strap that puts the bass at a consistent position relative to his head or sits in a similar fashion. I play fretless with my eyes closed regularly, so if I can do it, someone with a strongly developed sense of "lack of sight" can probably do it better.

    Playing simple chords on piano is a piece of cake - making it swing or rock isn't so easy, but that's not necessary to get his feet wet on bass. If you use CMajor, all you need to do is to alternate white keys starting on C to play all the chords in CMajor.
  5. Deedeevicious


    Aug 8, 2012
    Yeah, thats simple and straightforward. He will catch on quick too. Cheers!
  6. Deedeevicious


    Aug 8, 2012
    All great advice so far. Appreciate it.
  7. Small pieces of tape on the back of the neck for fret markers could help...
  8. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I actually did for a while. It was an amazing experience. I had 32 students and he progressed faster than all the rest. Here's what I think you will discover (although blind persons are just like the rest of us in that we're all different..... ironic, no?). His sense of touch is already far and away better than ours. If he is OK with it, start by actually putting his fingers where they go. Literally let him feel the difference in the spacing of the frets at the far end versus the top end of the board. He'll get it almost immediately. He will remember the notes on the fret board so fast it will make your head spin. It's as though he will paint a picture of the board in his mind and recall it with no effort at all. Just like on the piano keyboard, muscle memory and his heightened sense of touch will astound you and probably piss you off how fast he will pick up on what you show him. And don't even get me started on their ears. Oy. It's really impressive. And then he will be able to take off on his own.

    My blind student (a 12 year old) stuck around for about 6 months. But I think the last couple of months were because he liked me and felt sorry for me. Ha! Cuz he didn't need me any more! I wish I had kept up with him. Last I heard he moved to Texas a couple of years later.
  9. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    If you can install some sort of raised bumps for fret markers he's golden, really.
  10. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Don't need them. He will feel the tiniest little differences in the wood on the back of the neck (things you and I wouldn't notice) and they will be his guides. My blind student picked up my bass once and asked me how I got the scratch "right there". I had to hold the bass under a lamp to see what he was talking about. Those little imperfections act as a road map to them.

    OP, I'm really excited for you. This is going to be a really cool experience for you I think. If he is a cool kid, you will have more fun than he will. (Although he will piss you off every now and then when he just gets something faster than you ever did.)
  11. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Again, really nice sentiments. Your hearts are in the right place. But he will know the fret board up and down so fast it's ridiculous. Keep it simple. Think about a piano keyboard. All of the white keys feel exactly the same. So if you are only playing white keys, and can't see, you have to just KNOW where you are. And they do. They just know. You ever see tape on Stevie Wonder's keyboard?
  12. Deedeevicious


    Aug 8, 2012
    That is so rad, Two Fingers!! Yeah, Im very very excited about this.
  13. gard0300

    gard0300 Supporting Member

    Jan 10, 2011
    Vandalia, Ohio
    If he's really that talented of a piano player, he may teach you. When you can't rely on sight, you ear is all you got. The ear is never wrong. :)
  14. Dbassmon


    Oct 2, 2004
    Rutherford, NJ
    Gard is right on. My guess is the best thing you can do for him is get a bass in his hands and leave him alone for a couple of weeks. When you come back, you may be blown away.
  15. Deedeevicious


    Aug 8, 2012
    Haha! I hear ya! Thats what I was almost thinking. Maybe I shouldnt over think this and just let the kid jam all he wants on the bass. This kid has something I dont and Im truly stoked for him. All the other advice will probably come in handy later on, tho. Cheers!
  16. Deedeevicious


    Aug 8, 2012
    I guess, I should say, Im truly stoked Im going to be part of this kids life. He's going to help me at least as much as I can help him, most likely a lot more.
  17. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    Post updates!
  18. gareth dunster

    gareth dunster

    Dec 8, 2009
    Makes you wonder if learning a song with your eyes closed might be better.
  19. Deedeevicious


    Aug 8, 2012
    Will do, for sure! I move in on Feb. 1st.
  20. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Just explain that that the bass is tuned in 4ths, each fret is a semitone, teach him how to play a C scale then let him get on with it for a few weeks.
    Because he already plays he will work out from that simple info where the notes are and how he can relate to them.

    Let him play for a while to see what he does naturally, then make correction, do not try and be correct to start with. He will use what is natural to him, all you have to to is adapt it or change it...it is easier to relate to a change in what you do when you have a relation of what not to do.