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How has bass education improved your playing?

Discussion in 'Ask Jeff Berlin [Closed]' started by JeffBerlin, Jan 19, 2018.

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  1. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    Many players tout the lessons that have been taught or shared by educators. I thought that it would be an interesting discussion by asking people that studied at music schools, website lessons, bass camps and gatherings, private instructors, bass clinicians, and print materials a question.

    Are you improved in your bass playing from all that you have done to improve your playing?

    If yes, can you share how your playing was improved?

    Please don't mention any names as I don't wish to discuss any individual or educational source by name. Just state if you attended a school or studied with a teacher and describe how you are now playing better because of what they taught you. Thanks!
    Michael F Clef and seang15 like this.
  2. kohanmike

    kohanmike Gold Supporting Member

    I started playing bass about three years ago when the leader of my ukulele group asked for volunteers to fill in our sound. For almost fifty years before, I played guitar, but never learned music. When I started on the bass, I realized I needed to learn the ins and outs, so I took private lessons from Denny Croy at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica. He taught me all about patterns, but made sure I knew what notes I was playing, which in itself helped me learn the bass fretboard and a little theory. I now do all my own bass arrangements, and I play with a lot more confidence.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2018
    Bassurfin likes this.
  3. I had excellent teachers who guided and shaped so much of what I know and play today: playing technique, reading music, understanding chord structure and harmony, unlocking transcription, professional behaviour, etc.

    I wasn't very disciplined or organised when younger. Truth be told I was lazy, disorganised and a procrastinator. My teachers encouraged me to continue, and motivated me to practise by organising hundreds performances that stretched me and developed me to the well-rounded artist I am today.

    Without them I would most likely have given up, or at best be a quarter the player I am today.
  4. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    I started out as a classical guitarist 57 years ago, because my father was one. But i heard a Beatles record so i snuck down to the basement with my transistor radio to figure that stuff out. By the time my father caught me, it was too late.
    Flash foward to 1985 , doing demos and the bass player didnt show up , so i laid down the bass parts....and got hooked. SRV and classic rock ruled the roost at that time.

    Flash forward to late 90s and i had bought a cheap upright on a whim and needed lessons cuz urb is serious stuff. I enrolled in the local community college which had a great jazz department. When i enrolled, i was a unconciously incompetent player - I sucked as a musician and didnt know it. At my first performance class, the instructor let me know that. And so began my re education. I quit my band, and spent the next decade totally focused on music when i wasnt doing my day job. 2 jazz gigs a week, which then turned in to freelance for everything from hip hop to zydeco plus a mega church sunday gig.

    If i hadnt gone to school, i pobably would have remained a guitar center wanker.
  5. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    Btw, I still hear my instructors advice in my head when I am practicing. All of them had pearls of wisdom....and if I paid attention, i would have progressed a lot faster.
    natobasso and eJake like this.
  6. RNG1

    RNG1 Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2015
    Thanks for sharing, been playing for 35 years and want to “really” study so this was inspiring.
    IamGroot and natobasso like this.
  7. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    I used print materials to further enhance my bass playing. I believe it has helped me to be able to learn and memorize the fretboard and to be able to read bass clef written music and charts.
  8. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    I went to music school for Trumpet and grad school at a conservatory for French horn. I never took any serious bass lessons, but my training in theory, ear training and just know how to prepare for rehearsals and performances were the issues that helped my bass playing. That and knowing that as you play an instrument, let your body tell you what is comfortable and efficient. A conceptual reading of "The Inner Game of Tennis" was also extremely valuable.
    Groove Doctor and IamGroot like this.
  9. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    In my day job, on the job experience easily and quickly outstripped my formal education.
    In bass playing, it was gigging that improved my playing more than any classes or studies.

    In terms of "factual musical content" the one thing that improved my playing the most
    was achieving a reasonable level of rhythmic literacy:
    how to read, write, and think in explicitly notated rhythms.
    It improved my awareness of what I was playing, what others were playing, what the drummer was doing,
    and gave me a rhythmic confidence that freed up a lot of my attention for less "factual", more visceral aspects of my playing.
    mistahlee likes this.
  10. My first training was on the banjo where I learned about tab. Yes I did have an instructor. Each song had it's own specific riffs, runs, fills, etc. Took off the 5th string and played Dixie banjo for awhile, enjoyed this much more than Bluegrass. Started playing with a Country band and after awhile the director asked me to get a rhythm guitar. So I did.

    With the rhythm guitar I had a very good instructor that would give me three things to learn each week. When we finally got around to songs one of the things was the theory that was used in the song I was to learn this week. That led me to some self study on theory. Liked studying theory so I continued my study for many years. During this time I played rhythm guitar with that Country band and tried out some of the theory I was studying. Song writing come into the picture. If you can think up something worth telling and then put that into a verse format you've got the lyrics. And if you can follow a I-IV-V7-I progression while singing the tune, that kinda takes care of Country song writing. Yes the melody notes come from the chord's notes, or the song's major scale. I gave that chore to the keyboard. Old time Country is major, with simple chords.

    We never did come up with a finished song, but, had a lot of fun in the process. Most of us just knew how to play songs, coming up with something original was a chore.

    Like a lot of us a bass was needed so I crossed over. I'm self taught on the bass, with the help of Ed Friedland, Scott Devine, Mark Smith, Internet lessons and books. If you understand music and can play a new instrument - of the same kind, i.e. strings, woodwinds, horns, etc. once you know where the notes are located. Theory is theory, music wants what music wants, so, if we understand that we can get by with a new instrument in a short period of time.

    Again IMO.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2018
  11. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    So, did you get better from getting better?
    PJMustangFreak likes this.
  12. I guess that is addressed to me. So yes, I think I did.
  13. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    It wasn't.
  14. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    Due to my career as a full-time educator of both youth and adults spanning 2.5 decades, as well as the need to get formal education in a lot of different disciplines I tend to learn a lot on my own now -- and sometimes with a private teacher if I can't figure it out myself at first.

    I started with a teacher on piano for eight years, and took 8 of 10 exams at a conservatory in Canada. While not bass education, it is where i learned to read bass clef and chords.

    I joined our high school stage band, and had a very encouraging high school music teacher. I formed a weird quintet (bass, drums, trombone, trumpet and sax) formed. After he heard us playing "Some Skunk Funk" (a bunch of 15 and 16 year olds), he invested in us, and we played all over town and won a stage band festival he flew us out to. This guy improved my playing by critiquing my playing from a band perspective.

    I left the instrument for about 6 years, and then started learning from a book. Since we can't name names, I won't say the book name, but the guy is a well-known writer and former professor at Berkley, I believe. He is probably my favorite jazz educator on the planet He epitomizes what 25 years of full time teaching in other disciplines has taught me. As Einstein said "True genius is found in taking the complex, and making it simple". This teacher did that. He eased me into improvisation with this book, even though it was only quarter note improvisation. I had tried learning out of other books on walking , but it never stuck. But this particular book was genius in its simplicity, ending with my learning 10 standards I could play fluidly on the fly.

    I then took lessons at an online school from a well-known fusion player. This really helped me understand improvisation better.

    Then I started forming groups, and my education accelerated. I learned more jazz-oriented theory from these jazz guys who were actually quite knowledgeable. We started attracting (and hiring!) the prominent, local jazz musicians and I learned more and more from them. I'd ask as many questions as I thought they would tolerate, and learned much. One guy used to play with Tommy Dorsey orchestra and gave me an old school perspective. While not formal teachers, they give you feedback pretty quick when you don't play well.

    Then I picked up the upright bass, and took a few lessons with a very encouraging private teacher. I had made the decision to go with a smaller instrument, and he accepted me and encouraged me. He gave me enough that I was able to convert my electric bass jazz repertoire to upright and gig regularly. I found that much of what he taught me was available on Youtube, but it was his encouragement that I think made a big difference. He helped me progress rapidly.

    I find I spend my time learning new tunes for performing. Performing is what drives, and motivates my learning. And of course, being the business motor of several different groups, as well as my non-profit work makes practice time precious -- and efficient.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2018
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  15. foolforthecity

    foolforthecity Supporting Member

    I say you were a bit quick on the reply to JB without processing his question.

    As I read it, he asked if the person was (or possibly perceived themselves to be) improved by “all they have done” (whatever those actions may be) to improve their playing. A valid question.
  16. Kmrumedy


    May 12, 2004
    Montreal, Canada
    I have so much I learned from schools and great teachers. I'll share one aspect of playing that greatly influenced my playing and my career.

    Subject: Sight Reading

    I learned to sight read music in college and university.

    I was lucky to meet a teacher with a process.

    My college bass instructor was one of the best session players in the city. He was a "First Call" player....the guy that gets most of the best paying sessions. He stressed reading above all else in preparing students to be working musicians ( at the time late 1980's there was still lots of studio work).

    He used two tools to fast track the process. First was the book of Bach Cello Suites. Essentially endless 16th note phrases so you get to know your fretboard intimately. But rhythmically not too difficult as you don't have to deal with complex syncopation as you would in funk or other genres. It did force you to understand basic 16th note patterns. Now the magic of his approach was the "application" of how we used the tool.

    We didn't learn the pieces. Actually, quite the opposite. Remember the goal is sight reading not reading something you know. So each class started with sight reading. He would just turn to any page and point to a single bar of music and we had to read it. At first we could read it at any tempo that was comfortable for us and only 1 bar of music. Then he would flip to another page, etc. Then when we got got good at 1 bar he moved it to 2 bars, 3 bars, 4 bars, etc. again at a tempo of our choice. Once we got good at that he opened the page put down a metronome and set a very slow tempo at 40 bpm. Then gradually the tempo went up as well as the number of bars we had to read. You made tons of mistakes at first. I mean TONS. It was really frustrating but you knew where you stood with your reading. But he wouldn't let you stop or get mad OR start over ! He didn't want us to learn the piece. Once we were doing much better at this and was gaining confidence he added the next tool.

    Carol Kaye Electric Basslines Series. I think there were 6 books in the series. We all wrinkled our noses at the books thinking they were dated with "old bass lines" that were easy to play. Boy....we're we wrong! The books progress in difficulty and what we discovered was even though we could read the notes easily the rhythmic syncopation of the lines were really difficult at first. These are not easy lines to sight read. Even today. So...same process as above. He took Book 1 opened a page and we did the same process. 1 bar our own tempo, 2 bar etc. then the metronome. Nice thing about the Carol Kaye books is the lines are only 4 to 16 bar pieces. Also, you got to " graduate " to the next book once the teacher felt comfortable you had the syncopations down. Then Book 2 and the process.

    The last piece he taught was strategy. He would bring in charts from sessions he was doing for producers and artists. These were actual charts the studio would put down in front of him. So we pretended we were doing the session. We had 2 minutes to look at the piece. He would put a piece down and ask " What do you see? How are you going to approach this?" What we learned that was invaluable was how to use our classroom music theory and apply it to real world situation. So he would talk us through it. What key is the piece in? Does it modulate? What is the form/structure? Tempo? What is the genre? Any trouble areas? (I.e. lots of notes or complex rhythm, lots of accidentals, etc.). He taught us to tackle those sections first. We developed a " mental checklist" to go through each time we attempted a new piece. You can replicate this yourself by taking any bass book that has transcribed songs you like. Open it up give yourself a few minutes to review and then give it a whirl. Come up with your own checklist.

    Remember you only get one shot! Then move on to something else. Don't learn the piece.

    There were two of us that studied with him. When we got to University we were pretty intimidated as everyone had monster chops. Then it came time for ensemble auditions. You audition in front of the entire faculty and all the bass players. They put down charts and you play with a big band. To our surprise we were the strongest readers...by far! Other students asked us how we learned it. By then, we could read anything.

    My reading ability got me into the best ensembles which got me playing with the best musicians. Musicians that were way better than me. From there everything accelerated. All because I followed a process and trusted my teacher.

    Was it difficult? Oh yeah! Frustrating? You bet! Worth it......more than you know.

    Hope this helps. Enjoy.
    slagbass, Nashrakh, LarryBama and 3 others like this.
  17. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    Early on, private lessons with a Berklee teacher
    turned my playing around.
    Went thru Book 1 of Edouard Nanny method book with him.
    It really helped me with proper fingering.
    foolforthecity likes this.
  18. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    Your teacher sounds like he has the method down. I like how he started you with one bar at any speed you wanted, and then layered it, eventually getting up to many bars at other speeds. And it sounds like he gave you a foundation.

    What about transcribing, ever have a teacher that required you to transcribe. One of the pianists I perform with is a college music teacher, and he says that's how he teaches his jazz students to solo.
  19. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    Not trying to suck up to Jeff Berlin, but studying Bach can be a transforming experience.

    I lived in a barracks overseas and had 45 min each day free. I spent a month and a half analyzing and working out what i thought was the optimal fingering for the Presto movement of the Violin Somsta 1. Used a beatle bass. Lots of insights for both technique and theory as well as a damm fine piece of music.
  20. iTzPrime


    May 30, 2016
    Had a great bass teacher, that taught me technique and music theory well. I was very young at the time, mostly listened to metal and refused to read sheet music. However he managed to snuck in pieces here and there, where I wouldn't find the tab, and I am forever grateful for handling the difficult situation so perfectly. I have no problem sight-reading and with music theory in general. Was the best teacher I had in my whole life including university.
    Groove Doctor likes this.

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