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Private lessons for intermediate players

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by DuluthDank, Mar 22, 2018.

  1. Are there any intermediate jazz players here who take private lessons? What are the benefits? I tend to find that whenever I have a question about how to do something, I just transcribe a bunch of better players doing it, and then my question is answered. I've had lessons where I show up and the teacher asks me what I want to learn, and I don't have an answer because I always answer my own questions if I can think of them. I would prefer to show up and have somebody criticize me and poke holes in my playing, but I've struggled to find a teacher willing to do that. If I know I have a problem, I can usually figure it out on my own and don't need to pay somebody to tell me. What I want is to be told about problems I don't know I have.
  2. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    I do alot of what you describe, listen and mimic. There's always something to work on. Actually many, many things to work on. My teachers assess my playing and help me address my shortcomings and recommend a path to achieve my goals. I'm having trouble thinking of a seasoned player who didn't have a suggestion for me; probably just me - I need a lot of work! I also find it really helpful to have a more developed ear listen to my playing because they catch things that I don't even when I listen back to my recordings.
    John Chambliss likes this.

  3. It sounds like I just need to find the right teacher. When I was in school (for classical) there was no shortage of teachers willing to tell me my shortcomings and really get critical, but now that I am out of school it seems like the teacher-student relationship is much more transactional, and perhaps they tend to be afraid to hurt a student's feelings and lose a "customer". I'll have to ask around about who to talk to in the area. The last guy I took lessons from said that it "sounds really good", and as a student, that is the absolute last thing I want to hear.
    Mister Boh, Tom Lane and Adam Booker like this.
  4. Adam Booker

    Adam Booker Supporting Member

    May 3, 2007
    Boone, NC
    Endorsing Artist: D'Addario Strings, Remic Microphones
    Try taking from one of the many fine classical bassists in your area. They may not be able to help much with jazz vocabulary, it I’m certain they can assess your technique and help you become more fluent on the instrument, which can only help you get your improvisational ideas out that much more effectively.
    salcott, oliebrice, wathaet and 4 others like this.
  5. I am a longtime sax player, I was playing in a couple of bands and filling in here and there. I felt stagnant, hated my solos. Not so much my technique but my ideas/ choices. I found the best jazz piano player in town, I would never get a call to play with him as I'm nowhere near his level. I called him and asked for lessons. Not on the piano but just on everything else . I'd show up with my sax and play tunes that I've played 1,000 times. He killed me, I'd leave his house looking for the nearest dumpster to throw my sax in. It was the biggest eye opener I could have had. I didn't even know how much I didn't know. I stayed with him for a little over 3 years. Perhaps something like this would work for you. Every town has the top call guy for gigs, find him, you should be intimidated, your looking to improve, not get wind blown up your skirt.
  6. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    So, I do alot of this too... asking accomplished performers on different instruments to provide me some feedback... what would they like to hear from me that I didn't do? Pianists, guitarists and drummers are particularly helpful... they're not always right but it helps to hear their assessment because it helps me decide when I want to cater to them and when I want to push them. Takeaway... they're not always right but it's always wise to listen.
    CaseyVancouver and Jeshua like this.
  7. This sounds like a great idea.
  8. I like this. When criticisms from other musicians come, I try receive them on the spot and say 'yeah, thanks for that' whether I agree with their advice or not. Because even if I don't agree with what they say, it's interesting to hear a different perspective.

    After one gig I was pretty embarrassed at my having careened through the changes to a bunch of new tunes. The killer tenor player complimented me by saying, "Yeah, but your time was good." Guitar players (or gigging bass guitarists who like to offer tips on playing DB! hah) tend to be more critical than horn players in my experience. One guitarist told me I'm too behind the beat. The same guy told me my action is "too high."

    But from teachers it's different. One said, "Accent two and four." Another said, "NEVER accent two and four." While a trumpet player told me, "Do both!"
    Tom Lane likes this.
  9. isolated

    isolated Zenji Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2004
    Bronx, NY
    I have been in similar situations. It can be hard to know what you need to work on unless you're confronted with it. I've found that the best way to get the result you desire is to go in to the lesson with something specific prepared. A couple of tunes you've been playing for a long time, for example....You're in Minneapolis? Isn't Anthony Cox still out there? I'd track him down. Taking lessons from people on other instruments may help you with some aspects of music, but it's not going to help you be a better bass player. Which is what I take for granted you're after....

    This is the truth. Get the instrument out of the way, and suddenly you're playing all kinds of things you weren't before....
    oliebrice likes this.
  10. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Sometimes I just get lessons just for someone to find holes and expose them so that I'm aware of my habits that go unnoticed. They'll offer a solution but offer times, I just got have to go find my own way to an answer. I'll tell the teacher that's what I need, less about what they want to push. I've come to dislike teachers who want you to emulate them. It's more like I need coaching, not a teacher.

    I don't really get lessons much anymore. Recording myself and listening back on my own playing is an amazing teacher and the learning never ends. There's always something to find wrong. Along with avoiding bs'ing and trying to be musical 100% of the time and I'll have my hands full. I just go to a music camp every year for new concepts and inspiration.

    One of the last lessons I took, the teacher spoke about that we also need to be helped to find ways to teach ourselves. That was a few years ago. Mission accomplished?
  11. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I haven't had lessons in a while, but I know that I would benefit from it. There have been times that I've been hanging out with players who I hold in the highest of regard; touring pros with discographies, who people are seeking out for lessons and have heard them say "what I'm working on with my teacher is..."

    I think there is always benefit in it.

    My last great teacher would ask "what do you want to work on this lesson?" and sometimes when I said "I need help with this" he'd take me right down that hole. Sometimes he'd listen and hear me try to play what I was stuck on and say "okay, we can do that, but first, let's work with the metronome a bit" or "I think we should look at your hand position before we..."
    ...and he was always right. I wouldn't gotten there without the professional feedback.

    I studied with a classical teacher for a while and that was great for bunch of reasons. I'd like to find a piano player or really great soloist of some sort to work with me on musicianship in general.

    The fact that you can go to records or materials that you have and get yourself out of a rut and move forward is awesome. Don't stop doing that. Lessons aren't a replacement for that and lessons without that ability wouldn't help as much. You could probably get by as a jazz player with only transcription if you're good at it. But, that doesn't mean that you wouldn't benefit in a different way with the right kind of help.
    Lee Moses and Jmilitsc like this.
  12. Maple

    Maple Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2016
    San Francisco Bay Area
    I consider myself intermediate and I have a great teacher close by. I try to take a lesson once every month or two. The trouble is that I go in prepared with stuff I think I should work on but come out with well over a month of things the teacher tells me I should work on first. It's humbling and amazing all at once.

    He's told me stories of him as a working pro driving across country to seek out specific teachers to get lessons that turn out to be profound to him. I don't think we ever get too good for lessons.
  13. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Maybe the difference isn't so much about being with the teacher, but just like everything else, when the student asks for the lesson, it should be with purpose and intent. Not so much about being able to say you're hanging with a teacher. Most teachers don't like having to sit and watch a student practice because they didn't do their homework.

    Come to think of it, I just requested a lesson with a known artist a moment ago - but I was very specific in what I wanted to cover. I'm sure he'll bring up other things that might be holding me back.
  14. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Sometimes great players are not good teachers and sometimes great teachers are journeyman players. Without mentioning names, a horn player I know studied with someone who you've heard of and is probably considered top 10 for that instrument. Hey said they became really good friends and the stories and history and life lessons were amazing, but instrument lessons were more or less worthless. There is probably a high school band teacher somewhere who would have helped him more on his horn.

    And, yes, you have to be a good student or it doesn't count.
    jallenbass likes this.
  15. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    EDIT: This thread inspired me to reach out to the person who I've wanted to study with for about 6 or 8 years, but put off asking. I have now asked and we'll see.
  16. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    I've had very similar experiences. I think I've decided that many times critics have noticed that I can do something better but they can't really identify what that is. For instance that accenting 2 & 4. I heard that again a few months ago and really dug into what they were hearing and it had nothing to do with accenting 2 and 4, it was the melody that I was playing as a bassline accented one in their mind and that made the time feel "march-like" to them. And they weren't wrong, they were right, they just couldn't identify the issue correctly.
    Chris Fitzgerald and Jeshua like this.
  17. ^^^This!
  18. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    You could try being as self-directed with a teacher as you describe yourself as being when you are learning on your own. Rather than showing up to a lesson expecting a teacher to direct you, try giving them some direction and focus regarding what you want to learn. Sometimes it's as simple as shifting the question from "poke holes in my playing" to asking "can you show me how to do what I'm doing better?"

    The teacher/student relationship can be complicated, especially when it's a new or sporadic situation. Teachers who teach many students have to assess not only how to help them as players, but also how to best help them according to who they are as individual people. Everyone has different learning styles. One student may do best being directly challenged, another may withdraw into themselves when challenged and flourish with gentle encouragement, and another may respond best to stoic assessment. Add to this that students progress at different speeds, and the process becomes complicated.

    All that said, whenever a student asks me to show them ways to do (plays whatever they are working on______) better, it's always much easier to know how to help them than when they show up and basically imply "teach me something".
  19. robinunit


    Aug 9, 2010
    Find the top jazz players in your area and ask to play together or get lessons. If you do lessons through them and if you're already pretty good and you play duos with them etc... in lessons it could lead to gigs and recommendations down the road too.
    Tom Lane likes this.
  20. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    You gotta identify what you suck at to drive the conversation. Transcribing is great for solving more musical questions, and i could argue that you don't necessarily need a teacher for those types of problems. What transcribing can't help with is making it easier to wrestle with the instrument from a technique perspective. With the bass, there is likely a long list of things that any one player cannot do, or do well, that another player can probably help with.

    If you honestly can't think of something you suck at on the double bass, you really need to think harder because you are probably fooling yourself!
    Selim, Chris Fitzgerald and hdiddy like this.

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