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Learning bass from a monster player with wandering mind

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by dharma, May 6, 2006.

  1. dharma

    dharma Srubby wubbly

    Oct 14, 2005
    Monroe, Louisiana
    So, I started taking lessons about 2 and a half months ago. Weekly, $30 (plus $8 gas).

    The instructor is a monster, to say the least. Self-taught from his early teens (and I think this is where the problem lies, but we'll get into that in a minute.)

    Now, I've spent upwards of $300 getting lessons from this cat, and I've walked away with a little bit more hand dexterity on my fretting hand and some handy charts of major/minor fingering patterns.

    That's it.

    I'm having a hard time learning from him, but he is absolutely the ONLY bass teacher within driving distance. As I said, he's self-taught, and while I enjoy watching his ability, I want to gain some from this, too.

    He spends 3/4 of the hour I pay $30 for playing, "showing" me "all the things you can do" to use his own words, instead of actually drilling me, or teaching me the applications of things, teaching me songs, even. He trips over trying to teach me concepts orally, so I don't interrupt when he's playing through things in hopes of gleaning something watching his hands.

    Every lesson, he tells me he has new things to go over with me and that he doesn't want to spend the entire time talking my ear off about theory I can't touch yet. Then he does exactly what he said he doesn't want to do.

    I'm still putting together playing major/minor scales and chords, and at Thursday's lesson he spent the whole time talking about Stevie Wonder's bass lines. I can appreciate that, but I'd appreciate walking out of each lesson with more understanding of what I did that day and a goal for the next week more.

    A friend in classical guitar at the local college has said "the buckshot method can be incredible; you'll have a breakthrough with this guy shortly, just wait."

    I feel, though, in some respects, that I'm paying him to watch him play.

    Now, my instincts tell me he's not trying to cheat me. He's a great guy, and part of me also suspects he's happy to have a "bass friend." He's really got potential I can see, he's just not a straight-line thinker, and with teaching, that is just so, so important.

  2. syciprider

    syciprider Banned

    May 27, 2005
    Inland Empire
    Just because someone can play bass doesn't mean they can teach it. Find a real, credentialed, certified instructor.
  3. dharma

    dharma Srubby wubbly

    Oct 14, 2005
    Monroe, Louisiana
    I was hoping for suggestions, not the "easier said than done" answer, but if that's the only one, I guess I have to face it.
  4. Put him in the context of being a tradesman.
    With his level of expertise/ablity for the job he claims to be doing ( teaching you) if he was a plumber fixing your pipes would you continue to employ him?

    Having said that I was thinking that if you wanted to continue with this bloke ( I think i'd ditch him -in a nice way however - if it was me though) that maybe you're going to have to impose some structure on the lesson.
    He should be doing that but if he cant and you see some value in the contact then its probably going to have to be up to you.

    For example by structure I mean having a very clear idea of what you want to get out of the lesson and keeping him on track - so don't let him get sidetracked if he does that.

    Ask him direct questions such as why he's talking about Stevie Wonders bass lines and how that relates to the lesson and what he's trying to impart. He really should be able to cope with that kind of enquiry.

    if he can't then what syciprider said.


  5. dharma

    dharma Srubby wubbly

    Oct 14, 2005
    Monroe, Louisiana
    I've also had that thought, trying to control what's happening.

    This is my first teacher, so I'm trying to not step on toes, maintain professional distance, student-teacher dynamic, etc., and still get my money's worth.

    The more I think about it, the more I think I should just go back to trolling theory Web sites until I can move somewhere with actual, credentialed bass teachers.
  6. talk to him about perhaps drilling or testing you to see what you learned in your own playing. you'll know if you learned anything or not. if that works:
    Take a few months off. DON'T STOP PLAYING. One of my best teachers was a former bassplayer for Dave Bowie. Had scirrosis, was very sick, but damn could he play guitar/bass EXTREMELY proficiently. I thought he was assigning me material at the time that I could never play (bach piano pieces at 220bpm), and every lesson I thought like I wasn't learning much and I was trying to pull too much. But I soon learned he was strapping the weight to my legs that would help me run 10mph faster once I adjusted and they were taken off. During the next year or so I was pretty damn quick. that wore off as I'm not taking lessons from him anymore
  7. I'm sorry if it seemed like I was encouraging you to be rude or to dominate the lesson. That wasn't my intention.
    I think its possible to create some structure for yourself ( or for your sanity) while still keeping the student/teacher dynamic on the same level.

    As a consumer of his services you owe it to yourself to be satisfied that you're getting something out of the transaction otherwise you'll continue to get frustrated.


  8. dharma

    dharma Srubby wubbly

    Oct 14, 2005
    Monroe, Louisiana
    Not rude in the slightest, just true.

    To complicate matters, I'm a wuss at confrontation, and the thought of this "break up" is not one I relish. I mean, I already think of the guy as a good human being and friend, but teacher ... not so much.

    Then again, the cost isn't something I relish for what I'm getting out of it. At least right now.
  9. If there's a musical concept you want to learn or learn more about, ask him directly about it.

    Also, all the drilling stuff is things you can (and should) be doing at home during practice. That way when your teacher demonstrates how to put certain things to use you'll be right there.

    IMO although discussion is important, it is important when teachers are able to actually SHOW you applications on the instrument.
  10. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    My concern is that you feel you are paying to watch your instructor play when he should be watching YOU play. He should demonstrate a technique or drill or pattern or whatever and then you should play it immediately for instant feedback from him.

    I also wonder why he hasn't had you play any songs. That is why you are playing, so you can learn to play basslines in time to music. The whole idea is for him to show you how to create and play basslines.

    I've had several different instructors. Each one is very different in their approach to their classes. Much depends on their own background, how they learned, what they think is important and their response to their student. Some are quite autocratic and others are happy to have the student tell them what they want out of each class.

    The best suggestion I would have to keep your classes from being so free floating is to go with a specific objective or two each class and ask your teacher to help you meet that objective. You'd waste less time...and money.
  11. When I went to Uni, I had a teacher assigned to me (fortnightly) that was kinda like this one...in that he could play his @$$ off, had an INCREDIBLE amount of knowledge, but no structure to his lessons...

    ...but I was so HUNGRY to learn, I didn't even find it frustrating, coz I would be asking questions the whole time.. (which he would answer)

    ..He might suggest I transcribe "something" and there was plenty of music I wanted to transcribe.... and I would show these to him & question him;

    or there would be things I'd be working on ANYWAY;
    I'd always keep a notepad with me when I practised, to write down whatever questions came to me, or things I couldn't understand...

    ..and I brought this notepad to my lessons; he answered each question as best he could, and I got an ENORMOUS amount out of these lessons!

    Perhaps your teacher will also answer questions? Or does he just talk & talk?

  12. The BurgerMeister

    The BurgerMeister musician.

    Apr 13, 2006
    Big Bear, CA
    just keep practicing. like that person said... you'll get a breakthrough at some point with this teacher. it's a test of your will. i hate to sound all medieval and s**t. stick with it, though. as long as you want to, you'll learn alot.
  13. morf

    morf Banned

    Feb 17, 2006
    the way my teacher does it is he shows me once then makes me play it once to make sure ill remember the pattern, and moves on. I never really play during a lesson, I play afterwards.
  14. Calif De Funk

    Calif De Funk Guest

    Dec 15, 2004
    You´v only been taking lessons in 2½ months with him. How do you know he´s doing wrong? How can you judge he´s not good enough if you are the student? I had myself a teacher who was self-taught and couldn't read notes, but one single lesson with him was always a huge improvement for my bass playing. I also practiced at home everyday. So take lessons, practice and keep your mind open. Soon you´ll see result.

    Good luck
  15. He doesn't know if the guy is doing him wrong which is, I presume, why he's asked for input.
    He's posted that he doesn't think he's being deliberately ripped off which means he thinks the guy is pretty genuine but he's frustrated by how the lessons are going.
    I'd be frustrated too if what he's describing was happening to me, i.e. he's said that he feels like " I'm paying him to watch him play " - so asking how he can judge if he's the "student" isn't all that valid as far as I'm concerned.

    I pay $40 an hour for my lessons and I can assure you if I felt like all my teacher was doing was collecting money for letting me watch him play i'd be long gone no matter how nice or how talented he was.

    Students don't know everything - thats true, but advising someone to accept a situation just because someone has set themselves up as a teacher and they allegedly know more isn't all that helpful in my humble opinion.


  16. Calif De Funk

    Calif De Funk Guest

    Dec 15, 2004
    With all my respect, I can understand he can´t estimate this guy, but there is a little risk of worrying about it this early. Obviously he have heard about this guy giving lessons which means he must be known, at least locally. I know myself there are certain things you have to see being played by somebody else who is good at it, in order to understand and be able to play them yourself. I didn´t mean to offend this guy (the student). Not at all. What I meant is, that is not the way things go. If you are a student, you should give it a little more time before you know your teacher is good or bad for you and concentrate to practicing a lot. Even things the teacher plays at the lessons. That is how you actually become better. That is what worked for me back in mid-eighties. Trust me, I know what I´m talking about.
  17. Dragonlord

    Dragonlord Rocks Around The Glocks

    Aug 30, 2000
    Greece, Europe
    I used to have a teacher who would sit and play during the lesson, I'd ask him what he was doing or what scale was that in and he wouldn't answer, I quit the lessons.
  18. dharma

    dharma Srubby wubbly

    Oct 14, 2005
    Monroe, Louisiana
    Well, thanks for the input, all of you.

    Let me interject a few words into the equation:

    He's not only a good guy, he's a great person; after my last lesson, when he got sidetracked by showing me chord extensions above the 7th, he called me and told me he was sorry things haven't been organized in the recent past.

    To complicate matters, he's a gigging musician, and has about 5 other students. He routinely tells me I'm his best and have good technique and am a good player.

    I quote: "You could be gigging, all you have to do is put up a flier that says you're available, and some band would be banging down your door."

    Further: "Passing an audition with your technique and ear won't be hard, regardless of whether you know exactly what flat 5th your playing where."

    He's VERY encouraging, and I love that. He just seems to have no structure.

    I'm a college graduate and a person that loves to be taught.

    When I was in journalism school, I loved the abstract, because the concept was something I was already quite familiar with. Where other students struggled with the teacher that repeatedly said "show me, don't tell me" in regard to newswriting, I ate it up.

    Music, on the other hand, I have only my ear to help me. I've been tapping my foot and subliminally learning bass for about 14 years now. I used to play Foo Fighters and Silverchair bass lines on my brother's guitar by downtuning it to get lower registers, more like a bass.

    I'm a bassist at heart, but not in the head.

    If he was more structured, I'd be in hog heaven. I am learning, just not in a way to which I am accustomed. Not in a structured pattern.

    Still considering whether it's worth my money (considering the drive, my empy wallet. They don't pay journalists very well, as in I'm still in the region's 'poverty status'.)

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