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

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

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  1. I'd never heard about people warming up before playing until a few months ago. When I first saw a video of someone doing "hand stretches" I though it was a joke! :laugh:
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  2. somebrains

    somebrains Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2017
    It means that the teacher has specific topics that the students are failing at learning.
    You can attempt new strategies to teach, but knowing where the process is failing is not as important as it should be in academia.

    In tech a dead letter queue is mandatory, failure to add conditions to complete dependencies in builds before moving on is grounds for immediate dismissal.

    There are new ways to refine log jams to make sure topics are understood before moving on, that way you don't lose students on the way. Much of it is conversational currently.

    My particular interest is that I get the engineers at work my colleagues give up on and I don't need to deal with constant churn.
  3. What would examples of "great ear training" be to you? This is one concept that's always alluded me when practicing.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
  4. pbassjbass


    Jun 21, 2013
    Like many others, as a kid I took piano for a few years, trumpet through high school, and started bass in high school. I had a rudimentary knowledge of music and reading, although I was certainly not fluent. When I started bass, I signed up for some lessons. The teacher was a guitar player. We went over reading a simple chart, playing roots, 1/5 (footballs) and boogie woogie. I wanted to play rock & roll, and he showed me that the boogie woogie line, was the key. Those were the notes, and you got the rest by changing up the rhythm and order. I got I, IV, V, and introduced to the II and VI on swamp pop. He taught me top play 6/8 in 2. I had $10, at $2.50 per half hour, we got through that in four lessons. He'd play guitar, and I'd play bass. It was simple reading, simply harmony, simple rhythms, simple theory (I didn't know it at the time, I thought I was learning to play bass) but it was enough to get me started with my peer group, the rest we taught each other. It did provide the framework and a way to understand what I was doing, in a context other than learning 60 songs to get through a four hour night.

    I have taken a few lessons since, I do buy for a better understanding of music, in a particular context, or technique expansion.

    As for the stage part, I wish I'd taken some acting lessons,when I was young.
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  5. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Supporting Member

    What does this even mean?
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  6. I know sax and trumpet players who can read music quite well but can't play anything unless their faces a crammed in charts. The sax player is a music teacher who plays in a local jazz ensemble. We played a gig together and I can honestly say he was a dreadful musician.
  7. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    Ha! Amazing that you remember this. And there still aren't warmup exercises. There's playing!

    At home, all one has to do is to start to play if they are practicing. Warming up happens when your are using your hands to play. There's no need to warm up to play. Just play! I do see warmup exercises as a myth of bass education.

    Regarding warming up for gigs: Barely anyone just arrives at a gig and begins to play immediately. But of this is the case, then there's no time to warm up anyway so why worry about it. Usually, bands have a minute to load in and check their gear, or checking the sound as you are miked through the P.A. This time checking your sound constitutes warming up, so there's nothing to worry about there either.

    Warmup exercises seem to be another silly idea. Just play and you are warming up.
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  8. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    Well, we clearly run in different circles. Every sax player I ever knew could play anything, in any style and didn't require their faces to be crammed. :)
  9. Tim Craig

    Tim Craig Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    When the student is ready the teacher appears.
  10. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    This sax player's face was crammed pretty good. ;)
  11. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    Good luck with your learning. Try and find a dedicated jazz player. At the very least, you can be assigned interesting music to work on.

    P.S. What anyone practices isn't meant to be applied to one's playing. This is another myth of learning. You don't learn scales to apply them to your art. You learn scales to practice scales on the bass.
  12. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    Ha! Rasaan Roland Kirk! Good point!
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  13. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    Very good point! But in the bass world, this isn't actually true for the most part.
    Fergie Fulton likes this.
  14. Bluesman88


    Nov 15, 2016
    I took some bass lessons in college before switching majors. The ciriculum included a simandl book, carol kay books and building a repertoire of memorized jass tunes. I feel like this approach did a pretty good job covering:
    -technique and the technicalities of the insturment (simandl)
    -what is expected of a modern bass player in terms of groove and feel (carol kay)
    -learning the language of music that interested me (memorizing jazz standards). I always felt like this was a pretty well thought out way to teach the instrument.

    What material would you use/recommend for teaching?
  15. AcridSaint

    AcridSaint ベーシスト Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2012
    I don't play well.
    It means spend more time playing bass and less time trying to understand jargon that is not related to playing bass :D
  16. It me
    It means don't waste your hard earned cash learning a trade that makes you no money, unless the learning is fun and entertaining.
  17. So what is the point of practicing scales, other then to practice scales? I never practice scales, probably should, but could never see the point.....are you saying that practicing is the point?

    Doesn't that create a musician who is good at playing scales, but useless at music? As derided by Carol Kaye.
  18. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    The point seems painfully clear to me. I just don't agree as it an over generalization that assumes everyone has the same priorities and goals.

    A couple of ideas to consider:
    1. You could have all the music theory and knowledge known to man at your disposal, and it would be of no benefit to you as an instrumentalist if you could not competently play the lines.
    2. Input the most incredible composition ever written into a sequencer and let it play without any sort of additional nuance applied like articulation, dynamics, touch, and feel. Compare this to performance by amateur and expert musicians, or even a good sequence programmed by someone who has mastered the language of musical touch and expression. Keep in mind that theory and musical nuance are separate types of knowledge. It's entirely possible to understand one without understanding the other.

    My school required students to take lessons, perform in ensembles, and listen to recording; in addition to studying theory, history, secondary instruments, and voice training. During ensemble and lessons I was directed on how to produce and shape notes. Often the answer to "why" we play a note a certain way, was based upon harmonic structure or historical context, but I have a hard time believing that the only part of this experience that shaped my musical performance as a professional bassist was music theory and knowledge of correct fingering.

    I would argue theory is eventually the most important factor for musicians who need to be skilled in composition and improvisation, and those who teach. But what percentage of bass players actually engage in composition, improvisation, or teaching; and how many good paying jobs are available to those that invest in an advanced music degree. In my experience most educated musicians are grossly over qualified for the positions they fill, and grossly under paid for the level education they hold.

    I would agree that theory could be the pinnacle of study for some, but not the main focus for all. Most people start their musical education with a primary focus on technique and a very small focus on theory. For those who pursue music academically, the focus on theory will drastically increase once the individual begins to formally study music. However, the focus on technique will remain high until he or shes begins to approach mastery of their instrument or chooses a nonperformance music major. At this point the focus on technique tends to fall off, and the focus on theory will become primary until the individual's formal education is complete. What happens next depends upon what the musician's ongoing goals and needs are. Some may pursue advanced theory studies, while others forget most if not all of the theory they learned with exception of what is applied directly to their instrument during performance.

    Often those who pursue advanced theory degrees essentially cease to see themselves primarily as instrumentalists. When this happens, a focus on technique becomes irrelevant. I believe this is where Mr Berlin may be. In a sense he has learned most if not all that he can about technique, and being a bassist is just a small facet of how he defines himself. Easy to see why theory is his primary focus. Hard to argue why it shouldn't be.

    When I was in school, I hated class with my favorite professor. She was a wonderful person, an incredible musician, principle of the local symphony, and had perfect pitch. In short, I adored, admired, and respected her. I took solfege with her in my third semester and it was a disaster. In previous semesters I had always been top of my class. But the instructors in previous classes all had relative instead of perfect pitch, so they understood much better how to relate to someone who was trying to develop relative pitch. She pushed me to the point that I lost confidence in the intervals and almost dropped out of the class in frustration. I think I ended with B because she graded on a curve. but I felt like a failure.

    It would have been incredible to study with her when my skills had advance to an appropriate level, but she really had no business teaching in a junior college. How could a god of a musician like her possibly relate to a mere mortal like me who did not posses her innate mastery of the 12 tones? I think many of us would perceive and relate to Mr Berlin in a similar manner.

    Mr Berlin, I hold you up in the pantheon of bass demigods. I understand why you think study of technique is useless and banal; because, for you it is. I don't ask that you try to get down on our level and teach or study technique. That would be silly. But I hope that you can understand and accept that the study of technique is useful and worthwhile for us mere mortals and will stop inferring that it is a waste of time as that makes us feel insulted and demeaned.

    For the record I made a very comfortable living with full benefits as a professional military musician. My formal music education ended in the third semester, but I continued to study technique and theory for an extended time as my job required intermediate improvisational skills and I was expected to perform on electric bass as well as bowed/plucked acoustic bass. Solid technical competence and versatility across styles, rather than being a monster specialized musician were keys to my success. At some point I lost my way and stopped growing, when I realized that my level of preparation and performance was often higher than the majority of others who held advanced music degrees.

    Final words: I often observed that musicians who rely most heavily on theory (composers and jazzers) often have worse tone and technique than classical players who simply read the notes. There are only so many hours in the day, so people tend to develop/retain the skills that get the job done.
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  19. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    Try to associate practicing how to read and write with practicing music. Everyone learned how to read and write mostly the same way using the same rules. And still, everyone here can write emotional and expressive posts, often with obvious individual styles of writing. Think on this because your answer lies there.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
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  20. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    Great post! I will only add that my intention is to try to inspire bass players to aim higher than some seem interested in doing. Of course this is their personal choice. But, I prefer not to address people in a manner that is adjusted to fit their comfort zone when I feel that I am addressing adult men and women that deserve to be addressed as such.

    Next, your view that one's individual goals are an issue with learning isn't true. No matter one's goals, there is a common language in use, that being notes, harmony, rhythm and melody. This is a great error of thinking that goes on in bass education that one's goals have an affect on how the learn because it doesn't matter at all what one's goals are at all. Here is why.

    But first, realize there are only two ways to learn:

    1. Being self taught which puts you entirely in charge of any decision that affects your musical life.

    2. Learning musical content based in harmony, melody, and rhythm which comes with specific rules to learn it.

    No matter what your goals are or what music you are interested in, every style of bass playing requires practically the exact same harmonic elements as every other style. This means that no matter what your individual goals are, bass players all have a common need to learn the exact same musical content before they can arrive at their goals as players.

    Here's another way to look at it:

    Everyone that writes their posts had a common background in learning (in this case) the rules required to both read and write English. No one's goals had any impact on learning these skills. Everyone is different and have different thoughts, ideas and emotions, and yet everyone started out by learning the same academic rules and academic principles to learn how to read and write. How would you explain how we all learned from common sources and yet ended up as individuals in our writing abilities?

    Think about this and associate your conclusion with learning or playing bass!
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
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