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I'm applying to Berklee College of Music, a few questions inside

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Tehdouglas, Nov 16, 2006.

  1. Tehdouglas


    Feb 10, 2006
    Hey before I get started, financially I'm all set so don't bother with that stuff ;)

    So I've been playing Bass for 2 years nor but only serious for 1 year (by serious I mean 4 hours practice a day minimum). I'm in a band, tutor 2 guitar players (I have a year experience of acoustic guitar as well), and I have a teacher. I know a good deal of theory such as scales, intervals, various types of chords, inverting/modulating, ect. (I also use pacmans method) Im a good improvisor and can play along to something new fairly quick. My main weakness is sight reading. I can read notation okay and I'm practicing reading everyday but I don't think I could play and read at the same time.

    So that being said, does anyone have any experience with Berklee and could give me any advice on the audition? I'm kinda nervous to be honest. I used to hear that they took in anyone decent that auditioned but I don't know if things changed or what exactly a decent player is. If anyone has some insight thatd be awesome, thanks!
  2. BassChuck

    BassChuck Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    I'm not sure about what you'll be asked in the audition, but I do know from several decades of playing and reading that the best way to learn sight reading is to play with other musicians. I'm sure that people can learn notation basics working on their own... but to really have that marketable skill of sight reading you have to practice with other players.

    So, if you have money like you say you do, and you know the value of private teachers.... find a piano player who reads very well, hire them to play with you as you work on sight reading. Great fun too, when you get better at it.

    Another way would be to really get into the Abersold books and play with the CD. Good material, as you probably know already. Really made for improv, but a lot of the bass parts that Todd Coolman played are transcribed.... probably a little more difficult than your usual written bass parts.

    Another way would be to be in touch with Luck's Music and get the bass parts to orchestral literature and play with those recording. Not the kind of music that you'll see at Berklee, but an interesting look at bass possibilities. Some of the technical things that Mozart and Beethoven were expecting of bass players is surprisingly difficult.
  3. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    Sightreading is really two separate things. The first is knowing your instrument. You must be able to find ANY note anywhere on your instrument. Period.

    Second, you must be able to identify the written note on the page without thinking. Then you put the two together.

    Try to think of it this way. Let's say you want to learn to type without looking at your fingers. But, you don't know where all the keys/letters are located on the keyboard (your instrument). Also, let's assume that what you are going to be typing is in some code (e.g., each letter is written as either a symbol or number). Now if you cannot immediately recognize the symbol or number then you have to stop and think of what it is. Then once you figure out what the symbol is then you have to be able to find the letter on the keyboard. If you don't know either very well then there's that translation time that is slowing you down. In a musical situation you don't have the luxury of time to translate slowly.

    Here's what you need to do. Get some sheet music and without your instrument, read the notes saying each note out loud, don't worry too much about the rhythm if that is causing you problems b/c the goal here is to recognize the symbol and translate it into a particular note.

    You should get some drum books that have rhythms and learn to read them. When you see a particular pattern you will know what the rhythm of the passage should be. But that will be later.

    The other half of this is learning your instrument. Play scales (in all different patterns and rhythms so not to become mechanical) and arpeggios and you must say the name of each note out loud and you should sing the pitch at the same time. Pick a note on the fretboard and then close your eyes and picture all the notes that are around that note. What notes are available from that position. Find all the "E's" (all notes). How many are there of each?

    Now put the two together. Sightreading takes practice but there is a foundation to it that will help. Once you get this down a bit, you'll begin reading ahead of what you are playing and depending on the tempo you could be reading one or two bars ahead of what you are playing. But that's off in the future. For now, learn the two parts separately.

    Hope this helps.
  4. MistaMarko


    Feb 3, 2006
    June of '05 I couldn't read a lick of sheet music in bass clef if I tried. I started lessons that month, and took the lessons primarily for sight reading. I started out with whole notes, and went through one of those Bass Method Book 1 books, gradually advancing my reading skills. In doing this, I also at the same time learned every note every fret on my instrument. By December, I was reading slow ballady time music perfect. I joined two jazz bands (community one and the school one) and our weekly rehearsals consisted of sightreading. I jumped in head first and sucked bad, because of the fast jazz swing + trying to sightread it. Let me tell you, a year and a half later of constantly PRACTICING sightreading, I can sightread technical fusion jazz pieces flawlessly, no problem what so ever now. School jazz band? Cake, I can sightread those charts easy. All I can say just like anyone else is practice. PRACTICE, and don't stop, because if you don't use it, you lose it. Like a poster above said, learning your instrument and sightreading go hand in hand. Understanding basic rhythm will also make sightreading come quicker. When I go to the community jazz band's gigs, the entire set list is all sightreading, and some of them we've never played before. I just flip to the music, check key signature and tempo if it's written, then I first scan the musical ROADMAP (change of pace/direction/1st and 2nd endings/codas/fines/etc.) Once I've found that, I then look for the hardest rhythms and skim them. After that, then I skim the piece in it's entirety and put it all together. It comes faster than you think, and once you learn it, it's very easy. Best of luck to you.

    p.s. - PRACTICE
  5. steveb98

    steveb98 [acct disabled - multiple aliases]

    Mar 15, 2006
    Venice, CA
    I would say put off Berklee for another year or so and get your reading and all your skills to a higher level. The higher level you are going in the more you will get out of the school or any music school. No need to pay for a high end music school to get the basics together before moving on to the advanced studies. Also these schools are VERY competive so the stronger the player you are the more chances you'll get asked to play by others. Bottom line if you go in at a higher level there is much more you can learn.
  6. jimbob


    Dec 26, 2001
    Charlotte NC
    Endorsing Artist: Acoustica Mixcraft; Endorsing Artist: DR Strings
    Ditto...To add to the prep time...the owner of the school I teach at attended Berklee (he is a guitarist) and said to prepare for Berklee he paid top dollar for private 60 minute lessons for classical guitar, took in as many music-based clinics as he could find, played as many gigs as he could and crammed in as many hours of practice as he could manage to get in...this was in the late 80's early 90's. If you feel reading is the weakest point of your game then maybe take some theory classes at a Community College to tighten up.

    Best of Luck!
  7. Tehdouglas


    Feb 10, 2006
    Thanks for the tips guys, I've been working on my reading a great deal lately and its starting to show.

    I think I'm going to go ahead with the audition and see what happens. If I don't make it I'll take a year and go to a community college, save up some money and practice practice practice for a year and give it another try. Maybe Berklee will accept credit transfers for the basic classes, I'll have to check on that.
  8. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    When I went there, many would take english and other classes during the summer at another college and then transfer them in.

    They will probably accept you after the audition (I haven't heard of anyone not getting accepted). However, as it's been mentioned, if you don't go in as a really good player, you won't get the most out of it. I believe that they still use a numbering system (1 - 9) with the higher the better. I would suggest that if you don't get at least 6's on your playing that you defer for a year. I usually tell people that whether or not you get a scholarship really tells you much about where you stand.

    Before I went I spent a year studying privately on theory so that I wouldn't be spending my $ on basics.

    Good luck with it.
  9. steveb98

    steveb98 [acct disabled - multiple aliases]

    Mar 15, 2006
    Venice, CA
    I didn't think of that, but I would go to community college and knock off as many General Education classes as possilbe to transfer. At same time if the community college has a Jazz or stage band that will really get your reading together. Combine commmunity college and a private instructor when you finally get to Berklee you will be able skip the basics and work on professional level skills. Plus some community colleges have really good music departments. One of the ones I went to thou still teaching traditional theory, most of the deptment were Jazz players and made classes and environment very cool.
  10. Tehdouglas


    Feb 10, 2006
    Thanks for the input guys. This is also taking into effect that I'm auditioning for the September 2007 semester and I'm really working hard with all the practicing, sometimes reaching up to 6 hours a day (with school and homework thats pretty high to me). I think I'll be ready by then if I keep pushing myself forward, but I do agree that it would be a waste to go in and learn the basics.

    I plan to have solid sightreading skills by then and I already have a great foundation for theory and still learning more each week with my instructor (and keeping myself sane with the band haha). I'm just a bit nervous about the audition heh.
  11. elmohoof


    Sep 24, 2003
    Alliance, OH
    I attended Berklee in 1972, so alot has probably changed. I was in the Performance program and we didn't have to audition. I didn't read that well when I went, and I remember that when I played in the ensembles that you played in once or twice a week, if the tempo was a fast one, and had alot of "stop time" in it, that the teacher usually would stop the band, and say "hey bass player you missed the stop at measure 16". He would than start the piece over again, and if you missed it again, he would have the next bass player waiting to play a chance. Often you would not be the only bass player to be assigned to an ensemble. I always did better when I was reading a chart that had just chord changes, still do! Good luck at Berklee, it's a great school, but if you feel that you're not a really good reader yet, and want to be, then find a good bass teacher, and practice till you can sight read at any tempo! If you do decide to go, try to get Rich Appleman as your teacher, he was my teacher back in '72. I think he's head of the department now
  12. I attended Berklee for the Spring of 2005 and it was an interesting experience to say the very least. First off... it really is expensive. So unless you really do have the money, I would really suggest attempting to find out about potential scholarship opportunities. If I'm not mistaken, these come mainly in the form of auditions. If you are not comfortable sight-reading for an audition, my advice is simply to take practicing very seriously. Berklee is a very competitive school and the majority of people that attend are up on their game. Not only that, but most do not attend Berklee with the intention of continuing their education to graduation but to make contacts with other like-minded musicians, so unless you're either A) a total monster bassist or B) a very social, decent bassist, I'm not sure if I can really recommend attending.
  13. arbitrary

    arbitrary Supporting Member

    Oct 24, 2005
    Boston, MA
    When I went in '01 all the "audition" was assesing what levels you were at for various aspects. One of which was theory, ear training, reading, and improvisins. I remember they asked me to play a wakling 1,4,5 progression. I did and it was very simple, so I became low man on the totem pole.

    I would bone up on most importantly reading and jazz theory/improvising. And learn to play a JAZZ walking bass line. And get a teacher.
  14. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    This is a good example of why one needs to be able to read at a higher level when they attend. The higher level ensembles only had one bass player when I was there. As you move up the food chain, there are fewer bass players and you will be the only one there. Rich Appleman is the head of the bass program and has been for more than 25 yrs.
  15. LiamCohl


    Jan 29, 2005
    Toronto, ON
    I came in my first semester here barely being able to read a single note of bass clef notation, now Im in my fifth semester in the performance program, from some more current experience I would say dont wait, just apply yourself once here, there are bass reading labs starting from the very begining. I have lessons with Rich right now too, he is one among many amazing teachers there now, I took lessons with Lenny Stallworth first year, and Matt Garrison second. If you want to do well and make functional use of what you are learning, be prepared to never have a chance to put your bass down once you start getting towards upper semesters. There are so many incredible talented and determined players here trying to do nothing but play their instrument, it is one of the best places you could ever want to learn but, as with anything, you will get what you put into it, so there is no point in wasting that amount of time and money.
  16. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    But think what you'd be playing like if you started there at the level you are right now!
  17. Morrolan


    Apr 23, 2006
    Seems like kind of a circular argument.
  18. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    Would seems so . . . but not from where I'm standing. :)
  19. LiamCohl


    Jan 29, 2005
    Toronto, ON
    I played Bb, Bass and Alto clarinet for almost 13 years, on top of banjo before ever picking up a bass, the only thing I would have regretted would have been wasting the time I should have been spending here, I think in 4 years here plus one year afterwards, there is no question in my mind that my bass playing ability will be much greater than it would have had I taken a year off before coming here, because of the different ideas that have been brought to me from the exposure to the teachers and other students here that I would have never known of taking that year off.
  20. And to think I never thought this conversation would have ever been introduced. I'm certain it's out there but this one seems to be the right one to jump in. I've been playing for 9 1/2 years now, I'm 22 and in the Navy for 10 months.
    About 4 years ago, I was accepted to Berklee with two letters of outstanding recommendations and an awesome essay. I was stoked to hear that the school accepted me and later I found out that they accept anyone with the money. I hadn't even auditioned and skipped because of many reasons mainly because I wasn't ready. Well I had the money but I just didn't completely have the motivation/determination. My level of training wasn't up to par with the skill level I have seen or heard about. I had this idea that going to the most "prestigious college in the world for music" was going to make me a better player and I can use that to my advantage to other musicians/nonmusicians. I was good and wanted it so bad.
    I thought it was inside me but come to think about it I wasted it away doing other things. (we'll not mention it though) So I let go of this dream of mine and lived the life of a struggling/working musician inspired by my very own private instructor. I have every confidence that what he was telling me was the truth and I should listen to him. At first I felt he was lying to me and making me seem like I was a better player than I was but whatever he told Berklee in the letter he meant it. I had the spot he suggested that formal training wasn't what I need but to gig. Seeing my situation I left home, hit the road and gigged. It's what I had to do.
    I'll tell you what, I've learned more about music, gigging, chords, scales, patterns, music, life in general in those 4 years that I held off til I joined the service. Those years have stuck with me and allowed me to gain the confidence, experience and musicianship than I ever imagined as a person and musician. When I joined I played some local places and have been told that I exceeded the level of completion without formal training than most people do with the formal training.
    So my advice, two cents whatever you call it is if you have 2 years of experience (1 year serious) I would take some time off and do what I did and experience life because it makes you a better player and makes your music mean more than just notes and words or rhythym. But if you see yourself as a big fish in the pond right now, when you go to Berklee you will be the small fish. I realized that when I gigged. I practice for 10+ hours a day failing classes in high school just to play bass. I thought I was the **** and I was in my school and among my peers. It was my dream and for many here it was and for some it still is but you need to ask yourself this, "Are YOU ready?" Berklee is a big step. You should be hot **** when you go. Anyways sorry to give a life long speech good luck to you on your endeavors I'll be here.

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