Lesson tips for a new instructor?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by pocketgroove, May 23, 2012.

  1. pocketgroove


    Jun 28, 2010
    Hi all,
    I've just started giving bass lessons, and as I've never taught before, I don't really know where to start. I will mainly be working with beginners, so I was thinking that I'd have them give me a few songs they'd like to learn, then we would break them down into their rhythmic and melodic elements and introduce basic music theory that way. At the same time, this would provide practice and we would be working on rebuilding the bass line from the bottom up. I know that theory can be complex, and it's intimidating to a lot of beginning players, so integrating it into the song and building it right into their concept of music as they learn seems like a fairly good idea.

    Does anyone have any tips, ideas, or stories they could share about teaching? I'd really appreciate any help. Thanks!
  2. First off, make sure their instrument is playable. Make sure it's set up reasonably well, in tune and that the action is not too high. Young, brand new fingers fatigue really quickly and having a bass that's out of whack can make that much worse.

    Teach them:
    - How to stretch out and warm up before they dig into their exercises.
    - How to properly fret/finger notes making sure they are not death-gripping the neck - proper wrist angles, light touch and 1 finger per fret (optional). The most important thing is to avoid a fretting/fingering technique that could cause RSI's
    - How to properly pluck the strings - two finger, alternating focusing on good quality, consistent tone
    - I teach my student to always wear his bass on a strap all the time when he's playing and to strap it in a way that holds it in playing position both sitting and standing.
    - How to play major and minor scales. Start by introducing them to the fingering patterns;
    -- Maj) 2, 4, 1, 2, 4, 1, 3, 4
    -- Min) 1, 3, 4, 1, 3, 4, 1, 3
    and show them how they can play any major or minor scale anywhere on the neck.
    - Have them say the scale position (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8/1 - 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1) as they practice playing up and down their scales. This helps when you start explaining what the 7 in an E7 chord means as well as what is meant by roots and fifths, etc...
    - Along with the scales, show them the basic arpeggios (include the 7s - maj, dom/min/flat)

    Start right away (if you can) teaching them how to read notation. This will pay off big when you start breaking down chords and reading chord symbol for them as well as explaining rhythms.

    Start right away with counting and encourage them to count out loud using 1&2&3&... and along with that, teach them to physically keep time by tapping a foot a toe, bobbing their head - whatever feels best.

    I usually have my student stand for part of the lesson and encourage him to move with the music. Either swaying or 'walking in place' - something physically rhythmic. The more they embrace feeling the music, the easier it is to connect with time and rhythm.

    Introduce them to what I, IV, V (etc) means in relation to those scales.

    Explain to them the function of the bass in music and encourage them to embrace the supporting/connecting role of the bass player - how it provides continuity between the rhythm and the melody.

    I teach 1 finger per fret - but that's not dogma - and depending on how big your student's hands are, it may not be an option right off the bat.

    On that note, if you have very young students, encourage them to consider using shorter scale basses (Squier Bronco, for example).

    Definitely find out what kind of music turns them on and try to incorporate as much of it as you can in their lessons so that have something to shoot for that they enjoy.

    On that note, as soon as they start developing some basic abilities encourage them to find some friends who play and start a band or to join a school band. Nothing motivates a student to practice and progress better than having a group to be a part of that expects them to know their parts.

    Good luck!
  3. Suggest you have a written lesson plan to guide you. One of the elementary how to books already has this outlined for you. For basic stuff I like the Dummies series. That will help you get through the how to hold it, how to tune it, how to mute it, fingers, thumb or pick; all the gotta know stuff.
    I never taught music, however, I did teach. IMO good idea to get them playing songs right away. Keeps them interested and lets Mom and Dad see what they are spending their money on. Asking them for some songs they would like to work on is a two edged sword. They are going to ask for stuff they are not ready for. I bow on this to the music teachers on the forum.

    My best instructor gave me three things to work on each week, 1) a new song. 2) A theory paper based upon the new song - nothing deep at first, and 3) suggestions to improve (work on) last weeks song. I worked on the old song till John told me to put that one in my gig book and now concentrate on the "new song", i.e. I had two songs to work on each week. One new one and then the old one I was perfecting. The lesson started with me playing the old song and John made suggestions and comments on what I did well, and what I needed to work on.

    Knowing kids unless you write this all down and put it in their instrument case they will never get home with it and have no idea what they are to work on during the week. Good idea to let Mom and Dad know that the homework is in the instrument case.

    Good luck, kids wake up in a new World every day. Repetition and look forward to small successes.

    Good luck.
  4. beginners as in never played before?
  5. pocketgroove


    Jun 28, 2010
    Thanks so much for the responses so far; they've been very, very helpful. Some of the students have never played before, and some of them already know the basics and want to improve. Also, a lot of the people contacting me are older and have played before, which is intimidating. I can play, I have experience, and I'm well-versed in theory, but I'm also only 18. Once again, thanks for your help, and I hope to hear some more suggestions too!
  6. if theyve never played before, i start em with hal leonard book 1. youll learn how to read, play through some blues forms, super basic. you gotta show me progress before i start working on songs with people. going straight into that is a good way to show them they dont need to know what theyre doing. playing scales and trying to explain intervals to someone with no experience is a great way have blank stares imo.

    if they can play, ill introduce them to keys,scales, etc. work on some songs for quality of performance etc.

    you say youve started teaching. im curious, did you put any thought into these things before you started?
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