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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. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    Let's say, a car mechanic (not a NASA engineer!) must always learn something new about the cars. You can have that "intellectual plateau" but even a "simple" car repair mechanic must always learn something new!
    The cars are always changing.
  2. smtp4me


    Sep 30, 2013
    Philadelphia, PA
    I may get flamed for my response, especially from the self-taught crowd. I agree with Mr. Berlin.

    My musical education began with formal piano lessons as a child. From there, I moved to saxophone and more formal training, including at school (eventually including college). I am actually a "self-taught" bass player, but the phrase means something different in my case - I already had music knowledge/background when I decided to play bass - I was only teaching myself where the notes are on the fingerboard and the mechanics of playing that instrument.

    As Mr. Berlin mentions, music is another type of language or communication. If a person never studies language academically, they can of course still learn how to speak. When they study language formally, their vocabulary expands and they learn new words to express thoughts/ideas/feelings with better precision than if they did not study. Music is similar - you can play bass without a single lesson, and a music education will allow you to communicate more effectively. It also creates a common language where musicians can speak to and understand each other.
  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    For classical musicians, there are plenty of etude books. I own a couple. The well-known Simandl method books have accompanying etude books. I also have some duet books which I bought when my daughter was playing cello, the books are for two students or the teacher and student playing together. You can work through any of these books on bass guitar.

    While not etudes, there's plenty of sight reading material out there for various non-classical bass styles.

    For jazz, that's what fake books were created for :thumbsup: There's plenty of them out there...Real Books, Omnibooks, etc. Open them up, start reading. There are a number of books with transcriptions of both walking lines and solos from recordings by famous bassists like Ron Carter and Paul Chambers...I know of one book devoted to Paul Chambers bowed solos!

    Carol Kaye's Electric Bass Lines Volume 4 is full transcriptions of songs she recorded including "Good Vibrations" and Joe Cocker's version of "Feeling Alright". There are some full transcriptions in a few of the other volumes as well.

    There are R&B books like "Standing in the Shadows of Motown", "What Duck Done", etc. which have full transcriptions.

    I even have a book on playing bluegrass bass that included a full transcription of a solo on "Grandfather's Clock" (which uses harmonics in the melody).
  4. Matthijs


    Jul 3, 2006
    I'm a self tought hack on bass, but I do know a thing or two on learning and teaching. What you're claiming about everyone learning reading and writing in the same way is simply not true. We all learn in very different ways. Even if the teaching systems would be uniform (but they are not, there are lot's of differences between schoolsystems and countries), the way we make use of that system differs vastly. Some children hardly use the system and learn by watching and imitating their surroundings, some really need pre-detemined excercises. Even if they are sitting in the same classroom. That's not nescessarily a distinction in talent or intelligence, it is mainly a learning strategy, which in itself does not predict the final level skill. The best working teaching systems are able to cater to those individual strategies. A lot of schools, including music schools, are limited in that ability. They still work because of the skill of individual teachers to adapt to the indiviual and because people hardly ever stop learning, even if you're not helping them.

    You are right in that learning music is not fundamentaly different from learning anything else. What that tells us is: there is no single teaching method that will be the best method for everyone. A good teacher will have more than one tool in his toolbox. Some of us (like me) prefer to find our teachers on the stage or work environment besides us, some do best when they teach themselves from books or the internet, some need a teacher they can relate to, some need a strong hand and rigid training schedule. Some might need a metronome from time to time, some don't :). All of us need to get thrown out of our comfort zone from time to time.
    Wasnex, gln1955 and Fergie Fulton like this.
  5. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Berklee has required classes in harmony (you can download scans of the workbooks online). Like any college, they offer a wide curriculum that covers subjects like composition, arranging, recording technology, music history, music education (yes some people go to college to become music teachers) and more. Students don't just sit in classes and blow bebop all day long.
  6. Get the Bb real book and start looking for the correlations in structure, melodies, and progressions in the songs!
    DeltaTango and Whousedtoplay like this.
  7. J_Bass


    Feb 7, 2008
    Porto, Portugal
    Wow, thank you for all the examples! I am surely going to look at your examples, very helpful, thanks again!
    Kubicki Fan and Fergie Fulton like this.
  8. Lownotes75


    Aug 19, 2013
    This site is so much richer for having you back Jeff - I agree with you but enjoy the sensible debate from all points of view!
    JeffBerlin and Herrick like this.
  9. I kinda responded, but didn't quote him as I was more generalizing to the thread itself.
  10. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I suggest you get the one in C :roflmao:

    The Bb and Eb versions are for horn players.
  11. jchrisk1

    jchrisk1 Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2009
    Northern MI
    Is this a continuation of the other thread JB started? I only ask because, it appears as though only a few people have actually answered the thread topic question. Instead, we continue to argue, because to be honest, it's hurtful to find out we've been doing things wrong. So, we go into self defense mode. Trying to justify that slightly bending at the knees, leaning back as far as we can, bass pointed to the sky while sliding a note down the neck, is music education. It's not. Neither is grooving or locking in with a drummer. You want to learn how to do that? Take music lessons and learn how to count and subdivide rhythms. Then, you can groove to anything. Or, as most of us call it, doing our jobs.
    KJMO, fjbass78, Whousedtoplay and 4 others like this.
  12. 1: Totally agree. Sometimes a lesson goes by even without playing more than, lets say, 20 notes. Or so.
    2: Isn't there a third option? I, for instance, played for around 40 years in a band, taught myself playing bass. Two years ago I decided that I knew too little, and took lessons. And I really, really regret the fact that I didn't do that forty years ago.
    So, option three: hybrid? Being self taught and taking lessons? ;-)
    Matthijs likes this.
  13. Jeff Berlin says:

    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.

    Whatever his credentials as a bass player and an inspiring teacher - and I would not presume to comment on that - what he has written above is quite simply wrong.

    First, it assumes that teaching and learning are identical, with the teacher holding one end of the stick and the learner the other. It assume that what the learner has to learn and what the teacher has to teach are the same thing. Knowledge passed from the teacher to the student and assimilated whole.

    Second, if you think about it, it means that practice is redundant. Or, at the very least, that the teacher has no part in the student's practice. The teacher's job is to tell the student what to do, and the student first understands and then goes off and does it. Does the teacher have no role in monitoring, and constructively criticising the student's performance?

    The starting point in any teaching is where the student is, not the next unit in the book. If the next lesson does not address what the student needs, then there is little point in doing it. A good teacher's primary responsibility is to audit the state of a student's knowledge and ability and help the student understand what getting better means, and what the next step is. You can not divorce performance from this process.

    There are teachers who say "This is the way to do it, and if you don't understand, then you have to work harder or accept you don't have it in you to master this discipline properly". These teachers are focused on what is to be learned, and not on how the student learns. I do not believe that anyone can be a teacher of anything if they don't accept that teaching - ALL teaching - involves listening to your student, understanding them and giving them feedback.

    Or is it (and I think this IS the case!) that Jeff Berlin is conflating two separate issues. The idea that "anything goes" is of course nonsense, and he's right to say so. You can't learn from everything. Of course not. You need to know the theory of what you're doing, because if you don't, you'll never understand a discipline to a sufficient degree to be able to do what you want to do in it. More than that, you'll never realise how much there is in the world and how much you actually can achieve. You must learn the theory from the word go. Yes, yes, yes. You don't learn anything from playing the same bassline 2000 times and doing nothing else (sorry Ramones fans!).

    And it's also the case that you can't formulate, present and inculcate rules for "heart", "spirit" and "groove".

    But that doesn't mean that these issues are outside a teacher's remit. You can listen to your students and tell them that you think they lack heart, spirit and groove. You can draw their attention to it, make them look in the right direction and give them tips. You can open their eyes and help them see. The student's performance is their product, and helping them develop it is the teacher's responsibility.
  14. Personally I feel a lot of what is being stated needs to be taken with a grain of sand here. On top of that, and I don't want to sound rude or disrespectful, but this concept that Mr. Berlin is some sort of God that posses knowledge that is far beyond anyone's mortal reasoning here is just simply ASININE! If one doesn't understand what he is stating, maybe that's a good sign they should be learning more music theory. Mr. Berlin, if anything, is just the example of someone who has succeeded in the learning of music and is trying to spread his knowledge. Whether or not anyone agrees with him isn't necessarily important, it's the fact that he IS taking the time out of his day, and that he is indeed in some ways "stooping to our levels" to teach us. Because he chooses to and is willing to. Not once have I heard him state that it's his way or the highway when learning. He even states that whether or not one decides to use this information he's bestowed upon us is completely up to them. I've been seeing a high use of definitive statements in these threads, when talks of education should solely be discussed through shared opinions (IMHO). Take what you like, leave the rest.
    smtp4me, hintz, SactoBass and 4 others like this.
  15. Michael Schreiber

    Michael Schreiber Commercial User

    Oct 14, 2014
    Kassel / Germany
    I very much like what I think is the thought behind this analogy.
    I like it because I feel the world is flooded with "music" that is industrialized - outnumbering music made for other purposes than fast and riskless financial profit.
    Yet, there are musicians with other primary objectives.
    Hence, before discussing about music or even learning music, why not first agree on what kind of music the discussion shall be about - in order to not talk at cross-purposes?

    A dependent musician has different needs and things to learn than an independent musician.
    Even among street musicians there are different aims and thusly needs; one aims to attract attention with his technical skills - another one might want to reach the hearts of (some) listeners with a melody.

    based on my own experience - without any good or bad connotation:

    A (dependently employed) pop musician hardly can afford to take risks and needs to stick to well-established patterns or schemes; he depends on thoroughly learning theory, namely: why existing music was successful and what rules could be derived from that music in order to make new music which would at least "work;" meaning: music that would not dare but please people - attracting attention for "music" that actually might be nothing new. So, the focus isn't on creativity but on a successful exploitation of what has worked, in the past. And theory would be the tool of choice whether one wants or not. Similar to a safety engineer who needs to stick to old but proven-in-use technologies, and cannot afford risking peoples lives just for the sake of his selfish need for creativity. There may be creativity - but within safe boundaries. Until he becomes more independent and can afford taking more risks - the musician, not the engineer :D

    Whereas an independent musician can focus on what works for himself; listening rather to his heart than to a lector, a book or a teacher. Life can be his teacher. His primary objective might not be making money but his inner urge to voice his feelings and impressions with music. He can afford to scare people. Theory can be one of his tools - yet, the tool for him would be his heart and soul. Until he needs money :D

    Theory aside, me thinks that either musician has specific needs, and thus might need different approaches. And to add another point: There's more possibilities out there than teacher, book, school, and youtube - there are people, bands, events that can teach as well; things that neither teacher nor book might teach.

    That is what I think to read between @JeffBerlin 's lines, I may be wrong, though :D
  16. Matthijs


    Jul 3, 2006
    And a fourth and fifth and ...

    And you can mix them all up.
  17. Thank you! :thumbsup:
    Whousedtoplay likes this.
  18. C is treble cleff though? Were musicians here not bass players remember!! Lol

    Edit: Will leave this for others to laugh at me. Meant to say Bass Real Book!

    Edit of edit: I still think Eb real book would work just fine after second-second guessing myself. Just think of that treble cleff as a bass cleff.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
  19. baileyboy


    Aug 12, 2010
    I took 4 and a 1/2 years of lessons from a bass pro... he was quite cerebral and liked to discuss theory and such. I learn best by application. Other than learning good technique, which is what the first 6 months of lessons gave me, the rest was mostly useless to me.
  20. bass12

    bass12 Say "Ahhh"... Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    No, bass is a "C" instrument. When you see a "C" written in bass clef it is a "C" that will sound when you play the corresponding note on your bass (an octave lower, mind you). That won't be the case if you read from a Bb book while playing bass.
    SteveCS likes this.

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