Jeff Berlin says = Question Everything that Bass Players Teach You. Question me, too!

Discussion in 'Ask Jeff Berlin [Closed]' started by JeffBerlin, Feb 17, 2018.

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  1. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    Recently, I saw a video of a popular bass player discussing certain aspects of theory by stating that there are more than 12 keys. It’s not important who said this. Out of respect for him, if you know who I am discussing, please do not mention his name as I don’t wish to make my discussion personal. P.S. Regarding that there are more than 12 keys in music, he was correct!

    I assumed that the video was meant to explain that, by practicing an exercise in 12 keys, bass players might not be playing the music in the remaining 16 different key types that music includes ( there 30 keys where key signatures are in use.) I commented by saying that since much of the music that bass players play was written in static major, or minor. Thus, transposing the music into a possible 30 keys made no musical sense because the music that was being transposed had to remain in its original major or minor (or modal tonalities.) Hence, the statement about 30 keys wasn’t relevant to anyone practicing the bass. Playing an exercise in 12 keys worked perfectly since most transposition takes place by ear. If one chose to write out the music, then 15 key types would be applicable.

    Next, I mentioned that teachers that simplify, or make “easy to understand” lessons of music are altering educational approaches that are already perfect in their present forms since they have been proven to education everyone for a long time. I stated that some teachers seem to work harder trying to simplify musical principles for easier consumption instead of encouraging their students to learn them as they are taught. Since effort is made to simplify music education, I assume that bass teachers assume that their students aren’t either capable to learning music as everyone else has done, or, that they believe that their students just don't want to do the work to learn correctly.

    The reaction to my comments was interesting; people didn't disagree with my educational overviews. No one addressed my views related to my lesson comments, but a number of people expressed real anger for my criticizing an academic principle offered by someone who is viewed as beyond reproach. This action isn't the responsibility of the person or persons being discussed. It is entirely on the people who incorrectly decide that the persons that they most admire cannot be in error in what and how they teach. But, quite often, they are.

    In viewing anyone who teaches as utterly beyond questioning, bass players have moved from admirers and entered into a mental mindset reserved for members of a cult. In a cult, the “Leader” is perfect, almost omnipotent and beyond any criticism or questioning. Does this sound familiar?

    This is not beneficial for anyone to be like this if one is seeking to improve their playing. It is possible to love the playing of our favorite musicians and also recognize that those teachers might not be qualified to teach music, no matter how one plays. And, I suggest that people attribute this same view about me.

    In this day of poor bass education, it might be wise for people to doubt us all and not look to us for sound guidance if we are not teaching according to proven methods of learning. Nothing validates something as precedence does. It seems to be the only reliable thing to rest your musical improvement upon; if something worked in the past regarding learning, then it will work today. Only the information itself is open for change. As an example, Bach learned music as Debussy did, but Debussy learned a different form of its content than Bach learned. It is hard to argue against precedence and it is here where your best guarantee at musical improvement lies.

    Go to the internet and research how, say, ten people from any period in history that played any instrument whatsoever and try to figure out their academic backgrounds. I will bet that you will discover that every name that you choose, 100%, were guided by other musicians for free and also entirely self taught (or in charge of deciding what they wanted to learn by.) Or they were taught musical content. I don't believe that anyone can come up with a third option on how anyone learns how to play. If this is true, then it would be wise to reflect on the methods that bass teachers are teaching you to see if you are being guided by bass players trained in musical content (which gives their lessons some historical precedence,) or are you being taught lessons newly created by bass teachers who believe that change is a good thing (which technically makes you a guinea pig, your future in music resting on academic experiments.)

    Here is my list of ten artists that you can check out. If you wish, I encourage you to make your own list.

    1. Louis Armstron
    2. George Gershwin
    3. Lemmy Kilmister
    4. John Lennon
    5. Daniel Barenboim
    6. Gustav Mahler
    7. James Jamerson
    8. Robert Trujillo
    9. Son House
    10. Ruben Blades

    Finally, if you know that name of the person that I was discussing at the top of the post, I am asking you again not to mention any names. I didn't write this post to embarrass or cause harm to anyone, but to point out that teaching comes with knowing the subject that one teaches. Please keep this in mind if you decide to offer your thoughts here.

    Best regards from Jeff

    Last edited: Feb 17, 2018
  2. 5thsand4ths


    Mar 16, 2014
    I just looked at the backgrounds of the top 10 richest bass players of all time, and there appears to be virtually no academic musical background amongst them. Perhaps there is more to being a good musician than memorizing names of modes and practicing chord tones?

    Paul McCartney


    Gene Simmons

    Roger Waters

    Adam Clayton


    John Paul Jones

    Geezer Butler

    Tony Kanal

    Krist Novoselic
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  3. 5thsand4ths


    Mar 16, 2014
    Don't use his name? Nonsense, and enough with the silly games. It's Victor Wooten. Don't like me saying that? Tough.

    Whatever causes you to constantly run other people down must be what causes me to never ever consider spending a dime on a product you push.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 24, 2018
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  4. saabfender

    saabfender Inactive

    Jan 10, 2018
    I'd previously seen the video concerning the theoretical number of keys. While 30 wasn't the preconceived answer I had, in terms of the Circle of Fifths, it was a rational and logical answer. I was delighted by his explanation as a musically useful way to conceive of a larger reality of tonal music.

    Ab isn't G#. They may be played that way on even-tempered instruments but they are not organically the same. As a trombonist playing in an orchestral context, I can say with certainty that a G# as part of an E major chord is played differently than an Ab as a root an Ab major chord. The two pitches have been artificially conflated and that's convenient in a lot of ways. Just because it can't be well-expressed on an even-tempered instrument doesn't mean it's non-existent.

    Dismissing that reality as irrelevant to bass guitarists, who should only conceive of there being 12 practical keys (plus their relative minors) is problematic. It seems your position seeks to over-simplify a complicated theoretical musical principle for easier consumption.

    The hypocrisy of your two statements was remarkable. At first, you assert that bass guitarist should ignore the idea of 30 keys because it isn't germane to the study practicing and playing of their instrument, then you accuse instructors of dumbing-down music for the presumed convenience of the student. Just because you personally don't view a musical concept as immediately useful to a student doesn't mean it should ignored or discouraged. It might benefit them in ways you hadn't thought of. After all, isn't that the magic part - when they take something you taught them and use it in new and inventive ways?
  5. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    Two thoughts. First, my seeking cooperation from TB members to stick to the topic of learning and not make things personal was something that you chose not to do. I will never again respond to any comment of yours.

    Secondly, your not investing in my lessons due to my comments about bass education doesn't affect me in the slightest, but denies you a chance to improve your bass playing. If I wanted to improve my playing and made a decision like this, this wouldn't be wise of me to do.

    I made a post trying with the utmost care to not offend anyone. You are not welcome here anymore. If you do post, I won't answer your thoughts no matter how much you attempt to troll.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2018
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  6. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    Two thoughts! Hypocricy is defined as "the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform." You didn't use the term correctly.

    Secondly, I can accept that you don't agree with my views. And, I see that you have made up your mind about my post and nothing that I can add will enter into your thinking. I have 60 years in both academic and art of music and I have been taught by some of the best music teachers in the world. If you feel that their lessons and philosophies of learning (and mine) are unacceptable to you, I invite you to share your thoughts about where you feel that I am mistaken. Looking forward to hearing from you.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2018
  7. saabfender

    saabfender Inactive

    Jan 10, 2018
    So it’s true what they’ve said about you. Also true is the maxim that if you meet your heroes they will disappoint you.
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  8. 5thsand4ths


    Mar 16, 2014
    Everyone knows who you're talking about. All you do is troll other teachers. Dont play the innocent fool.
  9. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    What would be more beneficial for you is to address where my academic views in my post are wrong in your opinion. How have I disappointed you by stating that a musical principle is flawed? I am interested to know your thoughts.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2018
  10. Are these exceptions, or the rule? I’m fortunate enough to be richer than many good musicians I know, who are far better musicians / bassists than I am. Perhaps income is not at all related to musical ability or knowledge?
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2018
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  11. Sneakyfish


    Jan 24, 2014
    London, UK
    The way I see it, the problem isn't the specific information being laid out by two different teachers. I couldn't say how many of the keys are relevant to a bassist specifically (to a musician surely all of them? Idk.), I'm not really qualified to answer that. BUT the musical information, as we all know, is concrete. It represents fixed points, the difference is always how the points are approached by these two fine musicians. So the operative issue is the 'spirit' of the method employed to elucidate the bedrock of concrete musical facts.

    If you want to read all of it then I appreciate your time! If not then I'll summarise by saying this:

    "One of them sneaks up to the harmony with the groove in his hand, jumps in and waves the groove around 'til it thumps the harmony on the head. He and his family eat at the end of the day. The other guy walks up to the harmony and tickles it once behind the ear, the harmony follows him home. He and his eat just as well at the end of the day."

    Can you guess which is which? lol

    HEADLINE: Berlin vs. Wooten case, startling testimony!
    (cat was let out of the bag by 5thsand4ths anyway, sry)

    1) I'm a great fan of Vic's playing and many of his musical views.
    2) He's influenced my playing greatly.
    3) Regardless, I'm just as willing as he is to accept that he's capable of being wrong about anything. I don't subscribe to any cult of personality. (except for that Living Colour song!)

    I know that I do not know. About a great many things.
    And from what I've heard him say, I think Vic would happily say the same of himself. As would Anthony. They are both very cool dudes.

    I agree when he says, for instance, that what students of his method have affectionately called '2 through 10' doesn't receive enough attention and that phrasing/proper coordination of 2-10 essentially constitutes groove as an entity. Additionally, his adaptation of Mahayana Buddhism and zen to bass guitar is invigorating!

    Ok, so where do you disagree with him? I hear you cry?

    Vic's zen treatment of '#1 - the notes' however, is the point-source of the disagreement between Vic and Jeff to me and is the issue I personally diverge from Vic on.

    So I'm just gonna type my stream of consciousness forthwith in an attempt to puzzle it out:

    VICTOR ON MY LEFT SAYS - 'It easy! Just groove your way to the right notes, when the right notes are unknown to you. Use 2-10 to carry the tune until you figure 'em out'.

    Sweet! Think I. In this way, not knowing the right notes immediately in an improvisational setting can be smoothed over by correct phrasing of 2-10. In essence, this is so that enough musical information can be passed on to the listener for them to fill in the blanks that you've left. When you do find the right notes, you already have the stable construct of 2-10 to feed them into.

    My personal thoughts on Victors 'zen notes'.
    On the face of it very liberating. For me though, his method of "random notes + groove until right notes are isolated" skirts dangerously close to an 'I-Ching chance operation' approach (See John Cage's Music of Changes, great stuff! :) ). Basically to throw my bass up in the air and whichever fret I catch the bass on is karmically the right note. Everything in your life up to now has resulted in this. It's pretty deep listen to the universe type stuff.

    Though I can channel the method well enough to see how/if it works (and it does to a degree) and I have the evidence of his exceptional technique on the bass, relinquishing my note choice to random or subconscious chance feels wrong. It is great fun and if I'd started playing as a child, I would've liked to be taught this way in concert with theoretical studies. But I do feel now that the method is lacking a "certain mystery 10th" that makes the other 9/10th's functional.

    In Groove Workshop, he says that 'the audience won't wait for me or you to find the right notes' or something similar. True, I am equally impatient. To use his language analogy, in the same way I don't want to wait on a public speaker to find the right words. However, neither do I want them to push through the absence of the right words in an effort to hold my attention, as what they say will probably come out as nonsensical.

    In the end Victor will have to concede that he is still finding the right notes to play, just like Jeff. Only he's tries to intuitively carry everything with 2-10 until he's got them whereas Jeff would rather know them first, then play.

    Victor's approach applies nicely to the world of free solo/ensemble improv, where in a way the right notes seem subordinate to the general direction of the music to me in a broad free jazz kinda way. But it doesn't necessarily apply as seamlessly to other settings with pre-written material. This to me is where Victor stops and Jeff begins.

    SO THEN...

    JEFF ON MY RIGHT SAYS - 'Learn to the point (ideally) where your knowledge enables you to play the right notes at all times.'

    or alternately

    'Groove comes last, not first!'

    With Jeff's approach I need to say less (which maybe says something in itself? Idk.). The point of departure here is that you'd never have to worry about finding the right notes, if you had comprehensive knowledge of your current musical terrain, (Harmonically, where have I come from? Where am I? Where am I going?), in ideal conditions you could go directly to applying groove (Vic's 2-10) to the music.

    The difference appears to be: V - 'Speak before you think. Rely on intuition to guide your hands.', which isn't of itself wrong vs. J - 'Think before you speak. Rely on the data.', which again, isn't of itself wrong.

    Intuition i.e. following your ears does work. But knowing where you are harmonically at all times will allow you to focus that intuition to achieve an even higher standard, no? I say this because where I am at has led me to fusing these two mindsets together and I have found Victor's approach useful for acquiring fluid technique just as Jeff's approach has increased my knowledge of theory greatly.

    The divergence of views here seems to because their points of departure are different owing to their unique experiences of music. This is not unusual, it probably happens ten-thousand times per second.

    As far as education/method/pedagogy (whatever the hell you call it!) goes, the two questions that arise are:
    1) Which method yields the highest and most consistent standard of output across the whole board? (global education issue)
    2) Are there times when a methodology other than that of the current tradition may be used in order to accomplish a specific musical goal? (personal musical development issue)

    Thus far I haven't seen anything that I could comfortably label selfish or self-aggrandising, from Jeff at least.
    In his recent posts, I have only ever seen Jeff state:

    1) His current standing in the world of bass. (Admittedly those who are aware, cannot get any more aware.) If it is narcissism to simply state ones credentials/experience/beliefs, then we must get 1,000,000 narcissistic posts a day on TB! It is not a crime to talk about oneself if doing so is relevant to the discourse. In this instance, a personal experience of another teaching was the catalyst for the post, so I have no complaint.

    2) His honest belief that something is going awry in the education sector. If he honestly thinks so then that it his belief, fair enough and 'nuff said. (We are not in the habit of aggressively trash-talking people based on their beliefs, are we?)

    3) His desire to engage with us directly in rational debate about these topics. Something he's encountered resistance to, from us of all people!

    Jeff has simply said that he disagrees. That is not enough to qualify as narcissism in my book, even if he repeatedly disagrees. We all do this daily. I do not believe for one second that Jeff is disagreeing for it's own sake. That would be a waste of time. If I say to my bandmates that I disagree with a certain facet of our approach, I am neither labelled a narcissist nor attacked for voicing my concerns and we do not end up in a lightsaber duel over it. Maybe we should start, who knows, we could learn to play all the instruments with The Force?!
  12. Mr. Berlin can't make one single topic relevant to learning, without disparaging either a specific person or an entire industry. Then he innocently pretends not to. "What? who me?"

    Personally, I can't see any need for him to cherrypick that one tiny musical topic concerning 30 keys, other than to try to try to build himself up by running someone else down. Berlin is in absolutely no position to dethrone Wooten, in any way, shape, form or fashion so he needs to forgot that. Just don't do that again.

    My thing is, if he believes he has the answer to bass education, why doesn't he get off here and go teach. Why talk about it all the time? Because as big a name as he believes he is, none of the really active/in demand bassist spend any time on TB. They are too busy.

    And lets be real... For all the digital ink that's been spilled on the Berlin forum, can anyone actually say that they have learned anything that could help their playing? From my point of view, it's mostly a bunch of circular arguments from various points of view that never go anywhere.

    I'm very willing to receive education from any credible source. But at some point, the "teacher' needs to actually teach, not simply tell everyone constantly how his way of thinking is beyond everyone else's. That's not gonna get you any converts. Yet, for all the blah, blah I can't see one single step he has taken to teach anything.

    And it's so funny how he will spam a topic in another (disallowed) forum, knowing it will be moved here. Chum in the water...

    The Berlin forum is so beautifully bizarre in that it's like the proverbial train wreck that is so horrific, but you can't look away. It is sublime in its dysfunction. Great entertainment.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2018
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  13. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    You understand me well. Being a fan isn't a wise thing to be these days because people forgo their cognitive thinking entirely. Why reason if the lessons that they are being taught are musically supportable or not if the people that are worshipped or admired say that they are.

    What I know very well is that methods of learning very well has already exist. I do disagree when the two or three most influential bass instructors in the world recommend to their students not to learn as almost everyone else on other instruments have done. This isn't wise for them to do.
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  14. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    If people choose to find insult or offense in my comments, I don't care. I know what I share and I know what I say. And, I agree! Dysfunction seems to be a part of how some operate in TB.

    Realize that I'm not here to teach music for free, although I am happy to make suggestions. I'm here to guide people in what to avoid in learning and what to pursue in it. Finally, if, after all my posts about time, pursuing harmony, practicing slowly and seeking music-only instruction, if you truly cannot see a single step from me that puts people into a solid academic setting, then you haven't been paying attention.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2018
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  15. I don't find anything you say offensive. Why should I? You've never openly attacked anyone on this forum. You seem very polite here. I have seen you publicly...

    Concerning your delivery, I have to admit, that it took a change in my perception of you and your ideas. Lately, I've come to understanding that your posts will (most likely) never help me musically.

    I suppose, that initially I was a bit frustrated that you never seemed to teach anything but talked a great deal, whereas other great players share playing information all the time. It hasn't seemed to hurt them financially.

    However, I've come to very much appreciate the entertainment value of your forum.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2018
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  16. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    Have you considered contributing to existing threads on technique and general education? You seem to have passionate views on what you consider the right and wrong way to do things. There are hundreds of threads on how to play. I'd imagine you'd have a lot to say on the questions asked and answered.
  17. Ya know? The whole "catch more flies with honey than vinegar thing..." Share some experience. Tell some good stories.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2018
  18. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    I changed my post to you as I lost my cool for a moment. I removed my sarcastic comments. Apologizes!
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  19. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    This seems like a good idea. Thank you for sharing.
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  20. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY

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