How to tell a good teacher from a bad one?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by MrFrancis, Dec 17, 2012.

  1. MrFrancis


    Oct 30, 2012
    Brooklyn, NY
    So I've had my bass for about 3 months. I've played around and figured out certain elementary things, can pretty much recognize any note up to the 7th fret. And worked out alot of songs on my bass...but I'd like to get deeper into the music so I'm getting a teacher. Living in NYC I have alot of options but I'm finding it so hard to fork up $40-60 a session to someone who might not be good, and I don't want to figure that out when I've already invested money an time in them.

    I also realize that I am a beginner and alot of these teachers know their stuff, so I'd like to know what to look out for and what kinds of questions to ask when looking for/speaking with a teacher!
  2. Octaves


    Jun 22, 2012
    Well, my thing was, there were plenty of good bass players out there, but not many good teachers, if you get my meaning. I went through a series of teachers, from young to old, good to bad and the one thing that i realised was that many were just there to fill in the time and make some money between gigs. In other words, as soon as their professional lives picked up, they'd dump their students. This was not appropriate! Plus, the other thing i found was not many of them had a good pedagogy, eg, a method of teaching. They just taught me random stuff like the C Major scale, modes and didn't really show me the connections.

    After this experience, i was very clear in what i wanted from a teacher. I wanted to learn theory, properly and preferably with a good pedagogy. I took a risk and contacted a local music centre in my area. The guy i ended up getting was no "big shot" (didn't have a website stating that he'd played with the whos of who of the music industry etc., like most of the others, although educationally and experientially, he is way more qualified!). He was simply a mild manored man who seemed to know his stuff.

    Several months later, i am more than happy with what he's been teaching me. He has a good pedagogy and teaches from the foundations upwards, to empower his students.

    When finding a teacher, you've got to be clear with your objectives. Eg, is it to learn technique? Is it to learn songs? Or, is it to learn theory? I had to try a few before i found the right one for me, for now. Don't be afraid to dump them if it's not working out for you :)
  3. matey


    Sep 17, 2012
    wild wild oz
    i found that a lot of the teachers didnt want a complete novice. I am probbally not a very good student, so the teacher i have now, teachers me what i want, and he is trying to make me pay attention i tend to go off on tangents the whole time :p
  4. dave64o

    dave64o Talkbass Top 10 all time lowest talent/gear ratio! Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 15, 2000
    Southern NJ
    After having mixed results with my first teacher and then finding the right one the second time, I figured out that the important things to look for in a teacher (for me, anyway) are:

    1) Does the teacher have enough experience to be able to draw on that to give you what you're looking for? This can include things like years of playing, years of teaching, varied playing experiences and genres, experience in the business end of music, and lots of other things I didn't mention, but in the combinations that fit your goals

    2) Does the teacher have a desire to teach? Studying with someone who teaching solely to make some money may not work out well.

    3) Does the teacher have the ABILITY to teach. A teacher can be a monster player but simply might not be a good teacher, for all kinds of reasons (never taught before, impatient, inflexible, doesn't have enough real experience to teach, etc.)

    4) Willingness to be flexible in teaching methods based on what works for you rather than simply teaching everyone one way.

    5) Does the teacher have the flexibilty, the wisdom, and the willingness to walk the fine line between teaching you want to learn but also help guide you down a path that will help you better get where you want to go if you're going off track.

    6) Is the teacher's style interactive or does the teacher expect you to simply sit down, shut up, listen to what he says, and then learn what he said to learn for next week?

    7) For me, this was the most important one. Is the teacher's primary goal to help you become a better MUSICIAN or is he just teaching you some bass?

    Find someone who fits all of those and you struck gold!
  5. ACalbass


    Dec 16, 2011
    The case is : you never know before hand.
    You must go through some classes to really know if you are going to learn something.
    Couple points
    Not all teachers are for everyone : you can learn a lot from the apparently less likely one,and dunk with the most qualified.

    YOU must first select which approach the teacher should have : "teachers can teach you what they know",or "teachers can teach you what you want to know".
    If the guy is well prepared and organized,first option is best.
  6. MrLenny1

    MrLenny1 Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    NY is full of good bass players.
    Ask around, find a recent music school grad.
  7. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Inactive

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    I would ask around. There are no guarantees, but you have a better chance of getting a good teacher if they have a lot of good recommendations. Also, you should be clear what your goals are and make sure that the teacher has a plan to help you meet those goals. If you want to play in the style of Victor Wooten, you'll need a very different teacher and plan than if you want to play like Ray Brown.
  8. AndreBas


    Mar 11, 2012
    If you are a willing student, there are good teachers who will do a little bit of everything in each class. If you have an hour, you can learn a scale, a simple improvisation (even better if it's applying the scale you just learned), exercises to improve technique, a small portion of sight reading, a new song/groove, constructing a bass line over changes, some theory, some bass teachers also like to do ear training. After one hour you'll have enough material to go practicing for one or two weeks on your own. Even if you covered only three subjects in an hour (20min to work on each) you will learn a lot.

    Unfortunately, many students think that the 60min of class is their practice time. Even the best teacher is bored to death by these kind of lazy students, so if they need the money, they'll just hang in there knowing that this student won't become a better player at all.
  9. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Columbia SC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    What do you want out of music? How deep do you want to go? Why kind of music is the most important to you?
    If you're serious about getting as deep into music as you can, in having the best foundation in musical principles, I highly recommend Joe Solomon. He is primarily a jazz double bassist, but he teaches MUSIC - how to hear with enough clarity to understand what you're hearing in the same way you hear language and how to get what you are hearing internally out into the air without the instrument being any kind of impediment.
  10. Kubicki440


    Feb 6, 2011
    I agree, ask for references and look at their resume (they should have one). Make sure they have the skills and abilities to meet and/or exceed your goals/expectations.

    If they have a webpage or youtube page (I imagine most teachers in that price range you listed would at least have youtube samples or a reverbnation or similar page) check them out beforehand.

    Some teachers may offer the first lesson for free. When meeting for the first lesson; have a basic outline of your goals/dreams/aspirations and basically ask the teacher how they will help you reach your goals in the shortest amount of time.

    If after a few lessons they aren't what you expected then you have a right to fire them. Fire= Harsh...? well find a new teacher I meant.

    Over the years I have utilized a number of teachers and in the near future may be looking for another soon.

  11. Rick Robins

    Rick Robins

    Jan 13, 2010
    Las Vegas, NV
    I'm so glad back in my day they taught music in public school, all the 101/102 stuff was out of the way before we ever touched an instrument.

    I agree with Ed's questions to yourself, past that I think the best question to ask a perspective instructor is: Can I meet a few of your students of your choice? His shinning stars. Hypothetically 3 at different levels (6mths, a year & 2 years) & ask them what they think or how they have done. Then see if you are able to sit in on a lesson with the 1 years student maybe? The question isn't how great of a player they are but how great of a teacher are they & the proof has to be with his students.

    They are selling you a service just like a contractor or an accountant so I couldn't see this being a problem & all it is costing you up front is some time.
  12. Find out if the teacher uses a particular method, and look into that. The main thing for me would be to find a teacher who is well versed in theory. Learning theory properly is the single most important thing for you at this stage of your musical journey.
  13. Sloop John D

    Sloop John D

    Jun 29, 2012
    The worst teachers I've ever had just had me learning new songs every week with no explanation of the theory involved or how I might be able to use techniques from the song in my own music.

    The best teachers will teach theory and show how various techniques can be applied in your own music. They may use songs to illustrate these techniques, but they always explain what you should be getting out of the song and they never have you learn songs just to know how to play them.

    If you speak with a teacher and the first question he asks you is "What songs would you like to learn?" you can be fairly certain his lessons will be a waste of money.
  14. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    I fall into a few of the teaching categories listed here.
    Pro player who teaches between work. But that is the nature of the job when you play for a living.

    Brand new players are a tricky one. The reality of their situation is it is a lesson about every 6-8 weeks for them.
    If they do the work set for them you can move them on and teach them new concepts, if not, they are paying you to watch them go over what you last worked on with them last time, and that will quickly un-inspire and demotivated them.
    Weekly lessons for brand new players can be quite a pointless waste of their money as they are not up to moving on from what they were taught the week before. It depends on the pace of the players development.

    Players with a certain amount of experience, can be easly set work, set exercises, ideas etc to work on. Again it does not need to be weekly, but set at the pace of the player, again it is the players development.

    Player with lots of experience are easy because you can point them to and turn them on to new ideas and music, because they already have developed the skills needed to tackle it, they have the qualification to take ideas and run with them. The quicker they come back to you then the quicker they are getting through the ideas you are giving them, they even present you with a few ideas you have to develop yourself to keep up with them.
    Only if you are trying to change or stop in-grained physical skills can the more experienced players present a few problems....again it is all about presenting the ideas and changing thinking.

    I for one do not mind players that come to me for a single lesson or to work on concepts that take many, the idea I work to is they should leave with something learned. Something to move their understanding and development on in either musical ideas or technical ideas.

    So for me a good teacher is one that teaches, one that can open any students eyes to musical ideas and teachings. These days with so much dis-jointed musical education appearing on the web, filling in the blanks or joining to dots is becoming a more common occurrence in the players and students I see.

    Good teachers teach good musical ideas that stay with them and en-rich the players music and playing all through their lives, bad ones don't.
  15. MostlyBass


    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    Ask the teacher what their curriculum consists of. This can usually weed out the teachers that are just 'winging it'.

    If you have a specific deficiency ask them directly, e.g. "What is your method to address learning the notes on the entire fingerboard?"
  16. MrFrancis


    Oct 30, 2012
    Brooklyn, NY
    Thanks for all these great suggestions...Hope this helps anyone trying to look for a teacher as well.

    Using most, if not all of this information I was able to weed out the great ones from the not so good ones and finally found one that was genuine and said he doesn't focus on patterns and licks..has been teaching for 30 years and even had a list of references for me to call. I told him that I have about 4-6 hours a day to practice and he said he wouldn't shortchange me and keep me at a slow pace. It is all up to me in the long run

    Probably the only downside is I will have to travel about an hour and some change to get to him and he requires I buy a few books. Gradually, but it's worth it for sure.
  17. Auguste


    Apr 5, 2012
    I paid for my first lesson which was really an audition for both us us

    It lasted 2 hours and in the end a connection was established

    I decided to have 2 hour lessons every second week as that gave me time to really get into what I was taught before being taught new material.

    Good luck
  18. hgiles


    Nov 8, 2012
    The only real way to judge a teacher is through assesment of progress by his/her students.
  19. Sounds like it'll be worth the drive to me. Hope it works out.
  20. MrLenny1

    MrLenny1 Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    My first bass lessons required 120 miles of traveling per week.
    Strict Jazz & Classical studies. 3 hours per day of practice time.
    Thanks John Repucci for turning my playing around.

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