1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

Jeff Berlin asks - What Is Taught Without Only Teaching the Facts!

Discussion in 'Ask Jeff Berlin [Closed]' started by JeffBerlin, Jan 2, 2018.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    Hi to All. Happy New Year! It is great to be back on Talkbass. I've already engaged in chatting with many members about learning how to play and it has been a pleasure.

    Some people believe that there are many ways to learn how to play. I agree, and for me, this is the problem! There are a multitude of learning approaches when only a couple will do for everyone no matter what style of bass they play.

    In other areas of learning, even if the manner of teaching might vary, everything that is taught is based in fact of those subjects. They aren't taught an in-time performance when learning those things.

    Everything has its own time flow when performing those tasks. Top people don't stop to think too much if they have already learned their subjects. Here are a few examples.

    1. Driving
    2. Swimming
    3. Dancing
    4. Sports
    5. Learning a New Language
    6. Cooking
    7. Instruments other than the bass
    8. Law
    9. Medicine
    10. Math

    I feel that since practically everything is taught and learned out of time, bass would best be learned this way as well if one decided to seek out a teacher or a school (this explains why I dislike metronomes; they don't give you a chance to think about what you are learning.

    I feel that being taught the bass is best done as a narrow and specific academic experience. I feel that nearly all other learning suggestions, while sounding nice, haven't produced positive results for most bass players. I feel that any lesson or lecture that mentions Groove, Feel, Communication, Spirit, Heart, Locking with drummers, Playing to the Audience, "Whatever you play is OK," or "You can learn from everything" are examples where you are being taught things that don't require paying a teacher to learn. These are not the most important aspects in how you should be taught.

    Here are two thoughts of mine that will fuel this discussion:

    1. Learning is different than Playing!

    2. There are only two ways to learn; a. being self taught and all that goes with it, and b. learning musical content based in harmony, melody, and rhythm.

    Your comments are welcome.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
  2. J_Bass


    Feb 7, 2008
    Porto, Portugal

    When I studied piano, as far as I can remember, I was never taught scales or chords individually, I learned that in another class, music theory. On the piano I always was taught by books, like Bach etudes, Mozart pieces, etc..

    When I had bass lessons, I noticed that in the lessons, most of the times, I was playing modes, scales, that kind of thing. Very rarely music. Shouldn't this be the opposite?

    For instance, shouldn't there be books with actual music (like in the piano) for bass? Exercises like the Bach Etudes? Wouldn't this be easier to learn the notes on the fretboard, by "osmosis" while playing the etudes, instead of trying to memorize it from a chord chart? I think it would.
  3. J_Bass


    Feb 7, 2008
    Porto, Portugal
    Dedicated books of etudes like the piano or violin or other instrument should exist on bass too!

    I think that if you want to learn pop songs or normal rock, it is fairly simple to learn the lines. Most of the times they are very simple. Nothing wrong with that. The feeling and nuances come later.

    But if you want to play Jazz or classical, you have no books with full songs for the bass. Just books with chords or scales. This is very frustrating.

    Bass should be taught like a solo instrument, like the other instruments are. Not like a support instrument, it is very limiting that way.
  4. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather Supporting Member

    I had a head start with lessons on piano, violin, trombone and trumpet. I learned to play bass by ear. Also having perfect relative pitch helped a lot. Later I bought a learning book. I learned all the scales but honestly only practiced major and minor scales. My main motivation was to learn songs for whatever band I was in. I wish I did take lessons on proper fingering. I used to lay my fingers flat on the fretboard. Folks would ask me all the time how did I play like that. While in my 30's I forced myself to bend my fingers properly and to use my pinky. I feel like I'm pretty prominent on my instrument but admittedly fast arpeggios elude me. Being Caribbean afforded me excellent meter and rhythms.

    No questions for you. Just relaying my learning experiences.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
  5. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I guess I disagree.
    Grooving, Locking with a drummer, Playing to the audience, etc
    may not fall under the narrow rubric of academic music
    But that does not mean they cannot be usefully analyzed, discussed, and even taught.
    and it would be hard to argue that they are unimportant for a bass player.

    some examples

    Victor Wooten's (and Anthony Wellington's) old Groove Workshop DVD does a good job of deconstructing "groove" into some useful components for discussion and analysis -things a young student looking to "learn groove" may not become aware of on there own.

    Playing to the audience is definitely something people teach

    If we agree to confine our definition of bass music to the Jeff's parameters than sure, lets get learning!
    But I think it may be a mistake to decry stuff that falls outside of that definition as not "Facts"
  6. GastonD


    Nov 18, 2013
    Belgrade, Serbia
  7. Treble clef for the melody and bass clef for the harmony. :rolleyes:

    I'm not asked to play melody. The solo instruments do that quite well.
    I am asked to call attention to the root note, lock with the drummer or if no drummer I'm to act as the beat master and lay down a groove - foundation - for the rest of the band.

    There are melody instruments and harmony instruments. Both can and do play both melody and harmony. Which one we play is dictated by what is needed. In what I play my place is in the rhythm section providing harmony and rhythm. I'm not asked to take a lead melody break, because the lead electric, piano and sometime the rhythm guitar can do this quite well. And I'm happy with the role that has been given me to perform.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
    AlekB and Fergie Fulton like this.
  8. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    I feel that bass players teach things that weren't taught before as these subjects didn't require instruction or lecturing about. For me, the assumption that bass players can't eventually figure out how to (say) relate to an audience seems patronizing to me. Bass players can figure this out on their own. Do subjects as these even require mentioning?

    If you know about me, I have a problem with today's bass educational system practically in its entirety because I believe that it is teaching things that don't require teaching. If nearly 100% of all top players learned on their own how to groove or play with drummers and relate in some manner with an audience and accomplished theses skills without being taught or lectured about them (and they all did) then what has changed where bass players in 2018 can't learn these things in the same ways. Even the people that are teaching you these principles didn't acquire their knowledge by being taught these things. If these lessons were learned by just about everyone who teaches them, then shouldn't this manner of learning them be good enough for you?
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
  9. I started my bass career playing upright bass in orchestras.

    While there was a good bit of playing of "music" - there was a very, very, very strong focus on things like scales and positions.

    There are two major "method books" used in teaching upright bass - Simandl and Rabbath. Both focus heavily on scales, positions, and the mechanics of playing.

    In Simandl - you start with exercise on the open strings.

    Then you move to 1/2 position exercises (1st finger over the 1st fret position).
    Then the F Major scale (which happens to be easily played in 1/2 position).
    Then Bb Major scale (which happens to be easily played in 1/2 position).

    Then you move to 1st position exercises (1st finger over the 2nd fret position).

    This continues through all the standard positions. Playing scales.

    Then you get minor scales, intervals, bowing exercises...

    Finally, towards the end of the first book (>100 pages in) you get a few excerpt.

    It's not until the second book that you really get any etudes.
  10. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    Good point! But realize that I rarely talk about performance. Only learning.

    My points are about learning, not playing. This has appeared to be the most difficult concept for bass players to understand, that learning and playing are not the same thing. Because they're not, I believe that people seeking to improve their playing by paying someone to help them will only improve it if they are taught musical content based in harmony, melody, and rhythm and where to find it on their fretboard. Besides, it is the most difficult concepts for a self taught player to find on their own which is why a MUSIC teacher is necessary to help bass players to play better.

    Everything else falls into a self taught system of learning. Being self taught is an entirely individual experience, and totally without rules or structure. This is why I feel that self taught bass players don't make good bass teachers; how they learned is extremely difficult to share with bass players across the board.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
  11. bass12

    bass12 Say "Ahhh"... Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Apparently, yes. Most of the people who are in school for electric bass (at least in my experience) expect to leave school with the tools necessary to be hire-able as sidemen. More and more that means being comfortable fulfilling a role as an entertainer. That doesn't mean you have to have wild antics on stage but it might mean you have to be able to engage with the audience via facial expressions, body language, etc. (just as Motown singers were trained to do in the '60s). Want to play with a pop act? Being able to play and dance simultaneously might help get you the gig. Does Berklee have a dance class? If they don't then they probably should. It's rarely just about the music - it's entertainment and different audiences expect different things.

    Part of what has changed is that far fewer people learn "on the bandstand" today than in previous generations. Back in the day players tended to do a much higher proportion of their learning on stage, with other musicians (musicians who were often more experienced). Today everyone and their aunt goes to music school. They play in controlled environments (school ensembles), in rehearsal rooms (either alone or with peers) and they play in their bedrooms. I can't tell you how many "schooled" drummers I've played with who can't hold a backbeat. Maybe a couple of lectures on "groove" would have helped (it certainly wouldn't have hurt). Yes, a lot of people will pick up on certain concepts and approaches on their own, but many won't and I don't see the harm in teaching those concepts in an academic environment. If it makes you think then it probably isn't a bad thing.
    leeriejinx and Fergie Fulton like this.
  12. DavC

    DavC Supporting Member

    May 17, 2005
    Tallmadge , Ohio
    as i child , i didn't really need a metronome ( according to my early teachers ) as i had a good sense of timing ...

    i find it necessary for some folks to use something ( metronome , some kind of constant beat ) just to keep them going ... concentrate and keep things moving forward ... but never ever leave mistakes un-addressed .! fix them , don't practice the mistake/wrong stuff repeatedly ..! fix it , then keep moving thru the passage .

    back in the early 60's , our lesson books were all basically children's books ... regardless of the age you where at when starting ... glad That has changed ..!! learning the basics of your craft is very important ... but as i did that with classical piano , the music itself had a roadmap within it for " playing " ... which is something else we needed to learn ... learning some Latin and/or Italian during the process . Crescendo , Diminuendo , Staccotto , Legato , and other piano music shorthand , mp , f , pp , fff , sfv , various trills and strange little turnarounds ... the written music had the notes ( basics ) and a road map to play the song as the writer had intended ... which is our interpretation of what we think the writer meant ..!!?? so the ' playing ' part Was part of our piano learning process . I've never quite got that out of my brain as i've learned to play and perform with several other instruments .
    Fergie Fulton and J_Bass like this.
  13. Since nobody knows how to teach bass..what facts are there?

    Your last thread I got the jist of.

    Is this thread to relight the anti-metronome posture all over again?

    There are thousands of selftaught musicians/players out there who have been happily learning,playing, forming bands, writing hits and thoroughly enjoying themserlves with and without metronomes before you showed up.

    I've followed music closely for decades.

    I realize you are considered a knowledgable top-of-the-foodchain musician.

    But until I joined TalkBass I'd never ever heard of you. This may be in part because you are listed as a "Jazz Fusion" player and I'll admit that isn't my go-to genre.....but still.

    According to Wiki you spend a number of years as a child learning violin. You then have an epiphany around 14 years old and decide to take up bass when you hear The Beatles.
    A group with a bass player that by his own admission can't read a note of music.

    You then go to Berklee to study bass. Although I'm not sure why because no-one can teach it according to you.

    If Wiki got it all wrong then they need to be edited and corrected.

    I've learned lots on my own accord in music. Learned keys , guitar and bass from stone-cold ground zero. I've taken three lessons in my life. 2 guitar and 1 bass. All three of those lessons produced nothing as the instructor just sat there and shot the bull instead of teaching. I'm nowhere near as good as you but I could hold my own in most bands around locally. I do even better when I'm by myself composing 16-track songs in private.

    I've never played clarinet for example. But if you hand me one I'm the type of person that will keep at it on and on until I know exactly what it does, how it works and how to play it.

    I glean information from any source available and to use Bruce Lee's ideology "keep what is useful and discard the rest".

    If something works..it does. And if it doesn't..it doesn't. It takes very little time to discern between the two.

    As far as I'm concerned playing is learning and you can learn as you play.

    Can you learn without taking any musical instruction at all?


    One time I watched a documentary on an idiot-savant who one day decided to play piano.

    His mother heard him playing down in the living room while she was upstairs in bed. She thought he'd turned the record player on.

    He was playing classical oriented tunes with both hands....not just some simple little ditty.

    Before that he hadn't played a note.

    So I'm just going to continue on..happily using anything or any device if I think it will further my goals.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
  14. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    I understand the point you’re trying to make, but you are presenting it in a logical fallacy. You say that nearly 100% of players learned certain aspects of playing and performing without the aid of a teacher, so why should they players in 2018 not learn these things on their own without having to pay a teacher to show them, correct? The problem with that is that literally everything that any teacher can teach you was learned at some point without a teacher. Following that line of logic no lessons should be taken by anyone because tons of people before them learned all of those things without lessons; it dilutes the thrust of your ideas by representing it that way.

    The fact that they can learn it without a teacher does not mean they are better off learning it without a teacher. Maybe it would be better to focus on saying why certain things are better learned without a teacher; for example, learning to lock in with a drummer is better taught when playing with an actual drummer than a bass instructor as a metronome can’t mimic the percussive hit you feel in the chest when you’re near a kick drum. Or that learning slap without a teacher will likely only take slightly longer than with as it’s an easy technique to pick up and therefore not likely worth the cost to time ratio (this one isn’t really true nowadays considering how complex a technique slap has become, but it’s just an example).

    FWIW I think there’s validity in lessons for every single possible thing for certain people as some people simply don’t learn what you would expect them to over time. There’s guys I’ve played with who’ve played for 40+ years who still have terrible time or are completely awkward not only in front of people but with bandmates as well. I’m not saying all of these things should be added to an academic curriculum because of this, but the help should still be there for those who need it.
  15. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Etudes are practice pieces designed to help a player develop skills needed to play a piece.
    It is as you say an "osmosis" skill in as much as they give you the same technical difficulties you may expect from the piece of music/compsor it would relate to.
    So they give you the skill sets you will need to perform the piece.

    'Tune A Day' Books, were, and still are i believe, a series of books that taught you how to play via learning a tune a day. Mainly simple melodies, based in theory and gradually getting harder as you progress across he book and the series.

    The Trombone in Bass Cleff may interest you, or you can just transpose melodies or tunes into bass clef yourself and play them on your bass..i would recommend both as if you are choosing the material there is every chance you will choose material that has similar skills, or material you are already familiar with and have learned but it is just ordered different.
    One of the drawbacks of being self taught is you ask yourself questions you already know the answers to, or set yourself goals you have all ready achieved...but do not recognize.
  16. J_Bass


    Feb 7, 2008
    Porto, Portugal
    Great, thank you for the advice!
    Fergie Fulton likes this.
  17. Eric Swaim

    Eric Swaim GOD, U.S. MIlitary, Country Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2004
    Murfreesboro, TN
    Not that this matters or anyone cares but I have been teaching bass for 28 years now and playing for 39 years now. Some of my teachers were David Hyde from Hammond Louisiana, Victor Wooten in Nashville in the summer of 1990 and Roy Vogt in Nashville. Ernest Szugyi, Principle bassist with Nashville Symphony for 12 years. I am also a String Orchestra Teacher for the past 18 years in the public school system.

    Bass Students come in different forms:
    1- dont know crap and doesnt want to learn but their favorite songs
    2- wants to know theory but doesn't apply it between lessons
    3- Interested in developing new skills or style playing like slapping, chords, etc. but never do much with it other than to see jow hard it is to them. These guys are always fun to teach.
    4- The student who is all in and really develops both in his/her ability and knowledge of the instrument as well as musically. These student learn to read music, play modes and understands their function in music, and a the other stuff that fits i tbeir brain. My favorite students presently.

    There are more but I would be writing a book.

    I believe first and formost the teachers role in the early stages is:
    1- to help a student develop their love for music
    2- develop their knowledge of the instrument. How to hold it, where the notes are on the fingerboard and how that relates to reading music, etc, etc.
    3- Help develop the role of that instrument in a particular style of music as well as a group.
    4- from that moment on its experience you can pass on to the student from your own experiences in music and performing out as a bass player or any other instrument.

    I know I probably left some things out (I hate typing, my mind goes faster than my fingers on my cell phone).

    Sorry for this being so long, my brain started running.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018

  18. I think the lack of learning “on the bandstand” is true through all industries these days, not just bas playing or music in general. The emphasis on academia is producing a lot of people with great knowledge and no skill. The reluctance of any employer to let someone be “self-taught” while performing a task is detriment to a society as a whole.

    There’s talk of teaching “life-skills” to children in schools? Life Skills are learnt, not taught. Same goes for groove or stage-presence. It develops over time.
  19. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    I think it also depends upon your goals. For instance, I was a self taught golfer for decades. I became above average, but at one point thought it was worth getting lessons to try to continue to improve. The first instructor with whom I spoke wanted to spend months breaking down my swing and making it tour-ready. I told him that the PGA was not on my radar - I just wanted to be a little more consistent in my weekly games. As a result, I found a second instructor who was more in line with my mindset, and helped tremendously.
  20. somebrains

    somebrains Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2017
    There's many places where learning paths should be directed to complete understanding.
    Adding in another path/tool for further expertise shouldn't interfere, but people like easy mode when they aren't actively directed over the tough parts.


Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.