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Need advice on song list for HS Students

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by johndough247, Aug 25, 2012.

  1. :bag: Warning, long post ahead:

    So for those who don't know, I teach electric bass and classical guitar (mostly bass) at a High School in the Caribbean. Historically, the program has focused strictly on wind and percussion instruments with a strong emphasis on theory and ensemble playing (I've been told we focus on theory way more than american schools, for what that's worth). Its Senior and Jazz bands have toured all over the Caribbean over the last 25 - 30 years, and it's also my high school alma mater.

    Our system works really well for us because we usually employ teachers who specifically teach their principal instrument (or others within that family of instruments). I was brought in to introduce bass into the program about 3 years ago and it's been going pretty well, but I've been thinking about making improvements by introducing more "interesting" material to the curriculum.

    We currently teach all students from the same learning course (transcribed to each instrument of course) and although it is very comprehensive, the problem with bassists is that they never learn in the books how to be a 'traditional' bassist. It's all about playing melodies in the book, but nothing about the typical roles that most bassists find themselves in: a support role. I've been working on that with ear training, exposing them to various styles of music and chord theory in the hopes of inspiring them to learn how to effectively play/create basslines.


    Today I decided I want to create a simple workbook of famous classic and modern basslines from several songs that students may know or can relate to, transcribed by me. I would supply students with a CD/mp3 of each song and go through some of these examples in class, first by ear and then by charts, with the CD to go home with as a reference. I also have a program that slows down songs so I'd include 2 slower versions of the songs on the CD and also examples of me playing the bassline for those who have trouble hearing it on the original track. I would like suggestions from you guys and gals on famous songs that would work for my students (I teach form 1 to 5, the USA equivalent of 7th to 11th grade). Typical Age range: 10 - 18 (We don't have a junior high school, they're all in one school)

    95% of my Form 1 students start out with having no prior experience with the bass guitar and little to no knowledge of music theory. Due to the already established system for the other wind instruments, we start teaching all students first in the key of B flat major. Here's some guidelines for what the various levels of students should know by the end of each form:

    Form 1:
    • 4/4 and 2/4 time signature
    • Whole, Half and Quarter notes and rests
    • Playing songs exclusively in the keys of Bb and Eb major (and by extension, G and C minor)

    Form 2:
    • (in addition to everything from Form 1)
    • 3/4 time signature
    • 8th notes and rests
    • Tied notes
    • Dotted half and dotted quarter notes and rests
    • Playing songs in F and C major
    • Learning 6 major scales required to join junior band (Bb, C, Ab, F, Eb and G)

    Form 3:
    (in addition to everything from previous forms)
    • Cut time and 3/8 time signatures
    • 16th notes and rests
    • Difference between straight and swing
    • Playing songs in junior band scale keys (Bb, C, Ab, F, Eb, G) and also E and A major
    • Learning all 12 major scales, A minor scale and Bb chromatic scale for Senior band

    Form 4 and 5:
    • Compound time signatures (e.g. 6/8), irregular time signatures (e.g. 5/4)
    • Dotted Eighth notes and rests
    • All major, natural minor and harmonic minor scales and arpeggios
    • Playing in all keys

    The Junior and Senior Bands play a wide range of styles, mostly classical pieces and pop music medleys. We also have a Jazz ensemble (our most advanced ensemble) so jazz suggestions are also encouraged for the older set.

    I plan to 'lobotomise' certain songs to make it more accessible to the beginners (simpler rhythms), but I'd like to keep most songs verbatim in their original keys. I'm mainly looking for songs I can use for the younger ones (form 1 and 2). If a song is in E, A or D I'll consider using them for the younger set as well depending on its difficulty.

    I welcome suggestions from all genres...however, given the culture of this location and trying to reach the students on a common ground, I don't suggest Metal or any of its sub-genres. Most popular styles of music among kids in this region (listed in order of popularity IME): Modern R&B and Hip-Hop, Pop, Reggae, Rock (modern artists usually and/or styles typical of what you'd find in most anime). I'd definitely rather not stick to these genres as I find most of my students very limited in their musical knowledge (as is expected) and would like to expand their musical tastes. Also, as these are young kids/teens and I have to answer to their parents, keep songs with obsene language to a minimum :meh:

    Also, I feel we lose too many kids in the school system due to them not finding their 'place' in school to belong...some like science, some like language/literature, some like technical fields of study etc etc, but many who I see have a spark for music get turned off from it because they find our current presentation of it (at least, before they get to band) to be boring. Once they get in band they're usually good to go! My colleagues and I recognise that the current generation is a little different than we were (and i'm only 27! LOL) and need to be reached in different ways (as opposed to falling into the wrong crowds and getting involved with crime, which is at an all-time high these days around here). I've been using my iPhone and iPad to engage them more with various music apps over the last 3 years with decent amounts of success; just trying to take it all a step further. Any suggestions/ideas that anyone is willing to contribute would be most appreciated.

  2. mcglyph


    Aug 17, 2011
    I just finished Berklee College of Music Bass Perf 101 and R&B Bass. The curriculum they used was simple yet challenging.
  3. I actually went to Berklee as well, graduated in '08. Unfortunately, I couldn't walk with all the papers, books, etc I accumulated over the years with me so lots of stuff got left behind/sold (I mostly kept my texts/notebooks from MP&E), plus using their material to teach hundreds of other kids at another school probably isn't ethical without consent (i.e. financial compensation).

    I'd rather create something more tailored to the needs of this school. Also, for the record, I don't plan to profit in any way whatsoever from this, any funds generated would go into the school's music department funds.
  4. Anybody?
  5. t77mackie


    Jun 13, 2012
    Wormtown, MA
    Why don't you ask the kids what they'd like to do?

    Top 40 would probably be the best bet to keep them interested. Then take the top 40 hits and dig up some stuff that was obvious influences to it to show where it all comes from.

    I wish my HS band was cool like that...
  6. Believe me, I have and will continue to (I value their opinion and in the end it is their class, not mine), but most times hardly anyone brings a suggestion or if they do suggest a song it's usually dirt simple (I mean like a 2 note droning keyboard synth bass part)...not that I have something against simple basslines (a simple line that says a lot is a thing of beauty), but it's usually the older ones who bring it that are capable of playing more complicated stuff (i.e. they've covered songs of that level long before).

    Also, some bring songs that I can't present in front of the rest of the class if you catch my drift.

    I do plan to go through billboard's top 100 for the last year or 2 and pick out some keepers and mix that will the classic stuff...just wondering if anyone here knows of some modern, really popular songs that they like the basslines to.
  7. t77mackie


    Jun 13, 2012
    Wormtown, MA
    I'm not really the guy to ask about today's top 40 but off the top of my head:

    I'll try and come up with some more.
  8. oleskool


    Sep 27, 2011
    Detroit, Mi.
    Michael Jackson. Every kids heard the songs. Most everyone likes something he has made. He has some simple, some middle of the road, and everyone can listen to his music.
  9. mcglyph


    Aug 17, 2011
    Performance 101 We start out talking about half steps. The song is Money by Pink Floyd. And a james brown tune, called, "Make it Funky". Just a D played over and over kind of, and then a simple progression. There was also some stuff they gave us.

    2nd week Pentatonic scale theory
    Sunshine of your love And a great tune called, "Them Changes" very related to a John Coltrane tune. Also a tune culled from King Curtis', "Memphis Soul Stew".

    3rd Major Scales Multiple scale forms.
    Let it be
    A tune called Rhythm changes. Happy Birthday
  10. "Money" by Pink Floyd is in C Minor, if I remember, but in a 7 time signature.

    You have some oddly specific needs. I understand it, coming from your point of view, but a simple bassline in the key of Bb is not something you come across in popular music very often - at least I haven't. Could you transpose it maybe?
  11. Thanks, always heard about these guys but never got around to checking them out. Good stuff, love it...Thanks a lot!

    Yea I've used MJ a few times so he's definitely on the list. Thanks!

    All good suggestions, will check out the ones I'm not familiar with, Thanks!
  12. sobie18


    May 5, 2002
    Shaw AFB, SC
    "Money" is B and in 7/4.
  13. D'oh! I always think of it in 3rd position (C) rather than 2nd for some reason.
  14. OK, went through the current billboard hot 100 and R&B/Hip Hop 100 charts (and backtracked to may 2012 as well)...wow. If ever I needed a reminder why the radio doesn't see me often...

    However, so far I've found a few decent easy ones that they'll recognise:

    Adele - Rolling in the deep
    Gotye - Somebody that I used to know
    Gnarls Barkley - Crazy
    Owl City - Good Time (might throw in Fireflies as well as a good rhythmic exercise for the beginners)
  15. I've subbed on a few Top40 gigs recently, here are some of the tunes I had to learn (I'm not really familiar with the singer/bands).
    - call me maybe
    - rolling in the deep
    - raise your glass
    - waka waka
    - Mr Saxobeat
    - heavy cross
    - perfect world
    - moves like Jagger

    For my bass students I sometimes use:
    - under the bridge / give it away (Red Hot Chilli Peppers)
    - billie jean / beat it (Michael J.)
    - follow me (Uncle Cracker)
    - like the way I do (Mellissa Etheridge)
    - once you get a taste (Tower Of Power)
    - some simpler Beatles tunes
    - some simpler Chic tunes
    - on the radio (Donna Summer)
    - I will survive (G. Gaynor)
    - sex bomb (Tom Jones)
    - regulate (Warren G., it's actually "keep forgettin" by Michael
    - deja vu (Beyonce)
  16. t77mackie


    Jun 13, 2012
    Wormtown, MA
    Sounds like your average night on American Idol / The Voice - so, yeah, you're on the right track methinks...
  17. Good list of classics, thanks! I'm pretty sure I can't use sex bomb with a bunch of 11 year olds though...yea, I'm quite certain that might be a no-no. yep.

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