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JeffBerlin asks - What Did You Learn From Rockers and Slappers at NAMM

Discussion in 'Ask Jeff Berlin [Closed]' started by JeffBerlin, Jan 30, 2018.

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  1. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    NAMM was a very successful and fun show for me. I met a great number of terrific people and had a chance to play each day which always makes me happy. I gave a couple of quick lessons with some players that came to the Cort booth and chatted about how to learn better which included my usual inclusion that only being taught musical content was how all qualified bass teachers should be teaching their students. People seemed receptive to this message.

    Continuing in this line of thinking, before the show, I posted a thread suggesting that bass players attending NAMM and watching slap or rock bass players play or teach at the various booths and shows should ask them where they learned how to slap or rock. In that people at the show are always chatting about a variety of subjects together, it didn't seem to be too much of a stretch to simply also asking if they were officially taught how to rock or slap or not.

    It is no secret that I view many of today's bass educators as unqualified to teach. But, as long as their clients are unaware that they aren't being taught properly, nothing is going to change. Bass students will continue to pay for lessons that look great on paper but won't be worth the money that they pay to learn them. Another inquiry that might validate this statement is to ask graduates of any top music school within the last five years if they are working more and earning more money after paying the five figure tuitions to learn how to play the bass. Some will say yes, but I suspect that most won't. This is important to know about.

    My wish is to change the attitude about being taught so that bass students will get what they need to improve their playing. Right now, I feel that they are getting what they want. In my opinion, top schools and top teachers aren't what they used to be when it comes to teaching. The internet these days is generally a place of entertainment, not a reliable place to find quality music to learn from. If change comes in what is being presented to bass players, it will only come when bass players insist on it.

    Thus, let's start here by your sharing what you discovered at NAMM when you asked rockers or slappers that you happened upon and started chatting with what they may have told you about how they learned to rock or slap bass.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2018
    seang15 and Shanannigan like this.
  2. brydo


    Sep 9, 2010
    I wish I would have heard about this quest before today. I did attend NAMM and did see your Saturday appearances. Thanks for doing that!

    I was very aware at the show of the large percentage of bass players slapping out numerous variations on the good ol' Em7 and wondered why they were the norm and more melodic (for lack of a better term) players were few and far between. I would have hoped for better at NAMM, but it seemed to me more like an average Saturday at your local Guitar Center. "Let's pick up a bass and play my super-fast-4-note slapping patterns for all within earshot to admire."

    Admittedly, I did first pick up the bass 25 years ago because I thought slapping was cool. At the time, there was the Tony Oppenheim book and Alexis Sklarevski video to learn from. But I also had a good 15 years of classical piano (and some jazz) under my belt and bass was - at the time - a quick diversion. When I realized the instrument's potential and had the desire to progress further, I had your solo work and your work with Bill Bruford as well as the works of John Patitucci, Gary Willis and Alain Caron as something to aim for beyond that one small niche that I was in.

    I'm not sure where I stand on the subject of mediocrity in the bass world (or larger musical world in general). I know people who play an instrument with no aspirations to play beyond a very intermediate level. They are also OK with paying someone to teach them how to do a very limited number of things. I would certainly wish that these players would aim higher, but I'm not sure if I can fault either the student who wishes for little or the teacher who supplies it to him.

    That said, I agree that a student who has high aspirations deserves the best education for their money. Not having much knowledge of what is being taught out in the wild these days, I would love to hear some specific examples (without calling out actual bad teachers or schools) of what kind of non-musical or substandard bass is being taught.
  3. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    My first point is that no one should apologize for slapping. it is a style of playing that enjoys much popularity. I have no thought about what anyone decides to play that gives people pleasure. My views are entirely based on academic choices.

    The reason that I invited people to ask rockers or slappers where they acquired their skills was to show that they probably won't find anyone that claims to have learned how to rock or slap in a music school. Not finding support for methods of teaching can be as important as finding precedence for them. Since bass educators have (in my opinion) erroneously made most aspects of style available to be taught, I saw bass education as focused on teaching principles that don't deserve to be taught in schools, not if one is serious about improving their playing. It seems rather condescending to me that teachers assume that you and other players can't figure out the very styles that your teachers learned by being self taught as well. Why do people pay money for these kinds of educational principles. Who (for example) ever paid money to learn Gospel or Blues bass playing? If you research it, you will find that all Gospel bassists are self taught in this style.

    NAMM was a great place to check out where slappers and rockers acquired their skills in these styles. People chat together at NAMM. It didn't seem to be a stretch to have people that have a problem with my educational views to find even a couple of rockers or slappers that regard their academic training in rock or slap as the thing that got them good enough to demonstrate their playing at the instrument booths. I just don't think that anyone can do this and this was the point of my asking people to find out where slappers got their skills. If one could barely find anyone that learned slap or rock in a school, then this adds weight to my view that the teaching of these styles doesn't work to produce capable rock or slap musicians. Teaching styles (in general) is in my opinion, a failed experience that many people are still financially funding. I think that it might be a good thing for bass players to find this out for themselves. Then maybe they might be interested in seeking far better musical training if this was their interest to do.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2018
    seang15 likes this.
  4. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    I think this premise qualifies as a Straw Man...or a Red Herring, I forget which, it's one of those Logical Fallacies though.

    Until you start naming names and calling people out -- both the alleged "Rockers and Slappers" [sic] and the institutions of higher learning who are allegedly teaching students what they want versus what they need -- it all just comes across as a lot of nebulous hand-waving and complaining.
    5thsand4ths likes this.
  5. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    I invited people to investigate for themselves how musicians improve by choosing ten players from any style of music playing any instrument whatsoever and seeing how they learned to play. Not one person as far as I know researched how musicians improved. Then I invited people to ask slappers or rockers at the NAMM show if they were self taught or learned in a school. As far as I can tell, not one person did this either.

    My straw man can't be knocked down. What people trust or believe regarding education is in my opinion a fantasy, an illusion of how to learn. Like it or not, you aren't going to acquire a career as a slapper or a rocker if you pay to be taught these styles. Nor will you musically improve to the degree that justifies the high tuition payments to learn these styles.

    It was a simple task; ask a couple of guys at the most musician-concentrated show on Earth how they got their rock or slap skills. Now this is a missed opportunity!

    Regarding naming people, I won't do this. People that teach mean well. These are nice people. They just don't know how music works off the bass and in my opinion, they should get out of teaching and go back to full time bass playing because they are good at that. My views are general and if anyone has an interest in improving as bass players, they really should be taking this topic more seriously.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2018
    Michael Schreiber likes this.

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