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Jeff Berlin Bass Education Packages

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by BrotherMister, Nov 28, 2017.


  1. BrotherMister

    BrotherMister

    Nov 4, 2013
    Scotland
    PVG Membership
    I'm not here to start a discussion on Jeff's playing or his philosophies. His chord tone book, or even better is the Trombone book he based it off, is one of the better books I've used to develop. So with that in mind I recently took the hit and purchased his lesson packages to see what he was up to with this stuff. For anyone interested in them or not knowing what they entail I'll give you a quick rundown of my initial thoughts.

    Package 1 - Reading

    The first package is pretty much getting your skills as a reader developed. It starts at the absolutely basics of whole notes on the first few frets on the E string and each lesson includes a a handful of etudes dealing with a specific subject such as half notes. Each lesson gradually develops to and the etudes within focus on the next subject. It's laid out in a super methodical manner for example quarter notes don't appear until you have mastered etudes that deal with a mix of whole notes, half notes, their respective rests and ties etc. So it's one of the better things I've came across to help people get off the ground with their reading, which is something I do a lot with my students.

    To begin with there are a few fingering suggestions but as the lessons develop these gradually start to disappear entirely and you are left to work out your own.

    I've spent the past month doing a handful of theatre shows so my reading is pretty solid but even I was thrown by some of the reading involved in the later lessons. There are 24 lessons in that package but by about 21 the etudes are doing some pretty complex reading.

    For anyone whose reading is pretty solid I'd say this package could be skipped out but you can still take the simpler reading exercises and mix them up. They are all written in 4 so I played a lot of the half note ones earlier in 5. All I did was make one half note a dotted one and kept the other normal to make the bar split into 3 + 2 and vice versa. Plenty of ways to take even the simplest material and make it work for you.


    Package 2 - Flats & Sharps


    This package reminds me of the Simandl book. You basically get a key and a few etudes written in that key. Each lesson has the etude written with a key signature as well as the same etude written with accidentals which I think is a nice inclusion. Reading a C# major etude as accidentals is a bit of a roast but in my experience that's almost always how it crops up in reading gigs as a brief passages through that key rather than an out and out key change.

    These etudes are deceptive. They read extremely simple but they very quickly present a series of problems that the player has to find solutions to, in order to execute some of the passages you have to change where and how you play things. It's all too easy to read a few bars and fall into playing it all down the business end until you realise that passage has a few awkward jumps that lead up to the dusty end. This has been a pleasant surprise actually as I had to really dig into some of the etudes and work out the most effective ways of getting from point a to point b as smoothly as possible.

    There are 14 lessons in this package, each lesson contains a handful of etudes as per the last.

    Don't expect this stuff to be the most exciting musical examples you'll ever hear they are pretty dry and written with specific purposes. You'll be forced to work and think more about what's happening on the fingerboard and really forces you to break out your comfort zone. I took one of the etudes in F major and played the first section in all 12 keys which opens up a whole other set of problems for you to over come.

    Package 3 - Various Scales

    This package is pretty much a straight up study of modes/chord scales. Straight off the bat the first lesson is a Lydian workout.

    Much the same as the previous package these look like straight forward read but present technical problems you have to start thinking about.

    There are 14 lessons in this package, all with various etudes within, they are all written in C. Thereby forcing the player to take them through all 12 keys.


    Package 4 - Chord Tones
    For anyone that knows anything on Jeff he's pretty big on his chord tones, something I do agree with him on.

    I'd say if you have the Trombone book, Jeff's chord tone book or seen that article from Bass Player years ago with the chord tones then this package is very much an expansion of those, in a good way. I'd say the books are more depth but these etudes are challenging. He basically gives you 4 bars of each etude and the player is left to work out the rest so you have to do some thinking again. Expect these etudes to be a bit of a roast.

    Package 5 - Approach Notes

    Package 5 is almost split in two. The first section pretty much picks up where the 4th finished. You are given the chord quality and etudes focusing on the various approaches above and below the chord tones. This includes chromatics, scale tones, double chromatics above and below etc.

    The next half of the package is longer lines comprising of approach notes. This moves a bit more into 'jazz' territory. You get them starting on the 3rd/5th/7th etc and going round the cycle of 4ths and 5ths. Later on you get longer lines over chords. The package finishes with a bunch of major and minor ii V I lines and you are left to transpose them into all keys.

    This package is a bit of a difficult one and requires a lot of shedding but as well as fluidity on the instrument your ear will start to develop as you start to hear the changes as well. It's without a doubt the hardest of the packages but if you spend time with it you'll undoubtably benefit, or at least become a hell of a player in the process.


    Overall thoughts

    Along with each package you are sent a link to videos of Jeff playing an etude from each of the lessons. I've not really checked many of them out, Jeff's approach to executing some of these etudes is just one of the possible ways of playing them. I'm trying to solve the problems on my own first and comparing it to how Jeff approaches them.

    None of this stuff is going to make you rip of Giant Steps in 7 in all 12 or make you slap like Marcus etc It isn't meant to do that. They are pretty much exactly what they are and what you make of them, if you don't want to put the work in then I'd say you'll get a good bit of milage out of them but if you really dig in and approach it the way Jeff wants you to then you'll have years of material in any one of those packages. They are definitely designed to be studied alongside all the other stuff we are working on rather than being a singular source for us.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
    DrMole, scottm, IamGroot and 9 others like this.
  2. Rhythmman535

    Rhythmman535 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2007
    Rochester, NY
    Can you provide a link for the lesson packages? There is no shortcut and over the years Jeff has always tried to steer people towards the fundamentals that will give them the skills to be a real musician. You have the right attitude. Congratulations and good luck.
     
  3. BrotherMister

    BrotherMister

    Nov 4, 2013
    Scotland
    PVG Membership
    You'll find them all here. Lessons
     
    WesW likes this.
  4. Rhythmman535

    Rhythmman535 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2007
    Rochester, NY
    Cool. Thanks.
     
  5. csc2048b

    csc2048b

    Apr 4, 2010
    philippines
    can't go wrong with jeff berlin so good for you.

    i agree with everything he has to say and does but i am turned off by how 'preachy' he often tends to be. all the same, i despise his detractors (proponents of rock/metal bass education; defensive non-reading professionals; and tab enthusiasts) so much more so i'll grin and bear it when it comes to jeff's sermons.

    all the same i'm sure these types despise me too and it's a free planet - enjoy hating me for seeing thru you.
     
  6. Rhythmman535

    Rhythmman535 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2007
    Rochester, NY
    He's "preachy" because he's passionate and he does speak the truth. Sometimes it's the only way to be heard.
     
    gebass6, BassChuck, Whippet and 2 others like this.
  7. csc2048b

    csc2048b

    Apr 4, 2010
    philippines
    i've been a fan of jeff's columns from the late 80s until he stopped writing for guitar player magazine. i've been a fan of his music since i first saw him with kazumi watanabe and brufford and i still love 'the spice of life concert'. i also managed to find cassette copies of 'champion' and acquired a cd of 'feels good to me'.
    i disagree and even jeff concedes that he does reach more bassists when he isn't being a blowhard.
     
  8. Axstar

    Axstar

    Jul 8, 2016
    Scotland.
    From watching interviews with Jeff, and his various lessons on Youtube, his mannerisms remind me of some of the people I encounter at my job. In particular he reminds me a few male colleagues who work in IT, a couple of whom are diagnosed with Asperger's. This isn't something Jeff Berlin himself has ever discussed, as far as I know, and I'm not qualified enough to comment, really. However I find it would explain why Berlin's opinions are all common sense to him, even if they offend others in either their bluntness or their dismissive tone. The IT guys I know are pretty preachy, but it is relatively easy to tune out the preachiness (and sometimes poorly chosen language) and simply take on board the useful information. Plus, these guys aren't built to check whether their tone is offending you or not, and you can't change how they are.

    Berlin reminds me of the guy I used to room with who used to have two beers and then tell any girl he could corner about how he was going to get a 3D movie projector, or how he was going to climb a bunch of hills at the weekend. These girls would be recoiling subconsciously because the message was delivered so abrasively and intensely, and my buddy was none the wiser. This is a guy who once told me, seriously, "I've been working on my communication skills in the last year and I'm now a pretty excellent communicator. I've been teaching myself to listen to other people and show interest". Uhhu. For me this is similar to how Berlin basically lifts so much mystery and esotericism from the music. In one clip he basically says "make your left hand into a C shape and you're basically there". I have to really admire such a didactic, straight-ahead approach, even if it seems a bit odd. Plus nothing he teaches is about cheating, cutting corners of playing it by feel and simply hoping for the best. He breaks down bass playing into basically a set of processes which, with enough woodshedding, anybody could achieve. I think you could argue that some of his messages are simply too cerebral and emotionally divorced, but that comes across in his playing anyway so you know what you are in for! Simply learn every scale, every note, learn how to read music and then learn the music you need to learn.

    Far worse, for me, was reading Neil Young's autobiography. I thought he would be a sensitive, empathic soul based on the many classic songs he wrote and recorded. Instead I found myself reading page after page of an old man's chunterings about model railways, dead-start lossless audio streaming services and cars. In fact he tells you more about the car he drove to the hospital when his son was born, rather than tell us about the birth itself. He also admits that he was often the last to notice people close to him going off the rails and in need of help. That was a surprise, but Berlin is less of a surprise.
     
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  9. csc2048b

    csc2048b

    Apr 4, 2010
    philippines
    i've come across other so called teachers who 'feel' stupid like visual basic, and others who are too complicated like C++.
    jeff is somehow the guido van rossum of bass education - discards the crap and cuts quickly to the essentials.
     
    Commreman and Axstar like this.
  10. Axstar

    Axstar

    Jul 8, 2016
    Scotland.
    I struggle with Python, so I'm out! Lol
     
    csc2048b likes this.
  11. I've signed uo for this course too, I'm on the first package at the moment. I hope to master them all, or at least get the best learning out of them that I can.

    I was excited for this project to release and I've followed it since it's inception. After moving to Nashville earlier this year, Jeff set up the Jeff Berlin Music Group and Jeff Berlin Bass Education with John McCracken and Sarah Childress. John and Sarah are talented people who have really helped to drive this project to fruition. Jeff sold it from the off on the announcement that it would be a course based solely on written musical content. There was no promise of a 'hack' or a quick fix or hidden secret, just the promise that, if you dedicated a little time to work with the material, you would see an improvement in your playing irrespective of your current level.

    I have, for a long time, been a serious player but I have got by without being able to read much. I can 'read' a piece I know but not something new to me. I guess you could say I could interpret written music without really being able to read it. I really wanted to change this, so the reading course was exactly the place for me to start. I was dubious as to whether or not I really could take the tentative first steps into reading on my own but to my surprise, I got right into it. Jeff has frequently espoused that there is no time limit on your progress and I haven't felt compelled to push for progress beyond what is comfortable. Given that each package builds on the lessons of the last whilst introducing new content, I think it'll be of great value to my playing to work through them all.

    I even had the pleasure to join in an 'office hours' web conference with Jeff and Sarah last night (it started at 18:00 GMT). This was a video conference using a web programme to chat with Jeff and ask questions about the course and other things we were wondering about. The group had a multinational cast of players from around the world who had been invited to take part after pre-ordering packages from the course. Jeff entertained us with demonstrations and came across as he always has done in the videos, podcasts and interviews I've read. He's a tremendously warm and polite guy with such a genuine desire to see his students improve. His approach is straight talking and no-nonsense but with a real interest and insight into his students. He has a great sense of humour and humility too; it staggers me that I sat in a web seminar with a guy who I consider not only to be the finest electric bassist of all time but also one of the most magnificent composers and jazz improvisers of all time - and he's telling me about the mistakes he makes! That we can make mistakes, and that's fine and that's part of learning. I came to Jeff with a question about learning complex parts like the intro to 'Joe Frazier' (I struggle with learning fast, complex parts with lots of passing tones and approach notes between the 'strong' notes and chord tones). He replied with some sage advice and showed us a Keith Jarrett line that he struggles with whilst telling us that it's okay to struggle with tough music and that we must work slowly and methodically to get there.

    Overall, I think the course is a great learning experience. I'm not interested in lessons on how to groove or how to get gigs. I don't want a slap class or rock school, I just want the assurance that I'm studying proper musical content that will improve my playing and the course really delivers that for me.
     
    ErikP.Bass, Evert, Whippet and 2 others like this.
  12. BrotherMister

    BrotherMister

    Nov 4, 2013
    Scotland
    PVG Membership
    India I was the guy who asked about ear training! Was cool to hear you play Joe Frazier, I'm not massively into Jeff's music (but I'll study with anyone and everyone that I think can improve my playing) but cool playing on a tune that is a bit of a roast.
     
  13. I wish I could take credit for that but it was actually Jeff playing the opening bars as he demonstrated looking for the right note to learn the music. But what an experience though, to have Jeff Berlin playing that piece for me! Talk about awestruck.
     
  14. BrotherMister

    BrotherMister

    Nov 4, 2013
    Scotland
    PVG Membership
    Package 5 has been released so I've updated the original post to reflect that.
     
  15. Commreman

    Commreman Faith, Family, Fitness, and Frets Supporting Member

    Feb 12, 2005
    New Jersey
    I did a one week intensive with Jeff 5 years ago. Jeff has a way of cutting to where you are in your playing very quickly. It was eye opening, and well worth the week of my time and the dollars spent. It changed my playing for the better - I still work on everything learned there and apply it every time I pick my bass up. My reading, my ear, and my understanding of music has improved dramatically. I attribute that to what I learned with him, plus the work that I am putting in.

    Jeff is a no nonsense guy when it comes to music, but in person is one of the funniest, nicest guys you will ever meet. My wife asked me what I want for Christmas. This complete lesson package will be it. I don't think that anyone that is serious about musical improvement will go wrong with this. It isn't a magic bullet - it is something that if you put the time in, the results will speak for themselves.
     
  16. Rhythmman535

    Rhythmman535 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2007
    Rochester, NY
    I did the One Week Intensive at the Player's School back in 2000. I share your exact sentiments. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I continue to revisit all of the information from that week.
     
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  17. BrotherMister

    BrotherMister

    Nov 4, 2013
    Scotland
    PVG Membership
    This pretty much sums it up. What you can do with the material is pretty endless but at every stage it requires you to put the effort in.
     
    geoffbassist and Commreman like this.

  18. I've seen you mention your studies with Jeff before in another thread. You really are beyond lucky to have had that opportunity. I had always wanted to study music at the Players School of Music. Instead of travelling the world studying music, I joined the police when I was 20 and that put paid to music school!
     
    Hounddog, CGDAE and Commreman like this.
  19. Commreman

    Commreman Faith, Family, Fitness, and Frets Supporting Member

    Feb 12, 2005
    New Jersey
    And you served your country and community with honor, and have a pension to boot. I have a lot of friends that were/are police officers or firefighters. You all are to be commended and respected. Music is one thing. Putting your own life in danger for the service and protection of others is on a whole different level. I thank you and salute you!
     
  20. Commreman

    Commreman Faith, Family, Fitness, and Frets Supporting Member

    Feb 12, 2005
    New Jersey
    ....so, my wife bought me the package last night. I PM'ed Jeff and let him know. he told me that if I have any questions or rough spots to get in touch with him. How cool is that?? Jeff is a mensch.
     
    India_Sierra likes this.

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