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Searching For a Good Bass Instructor

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Bruce Sproston, Jun 30, 2005.

  1. I have just started taking weekly electric bass lessons (3 so far) but am wondering if I'm wasting my time with my instructor. The lessons are only 1/2 hr long ($ 17.50 Cdn each) and he spends half the time writing tabs to be practiced for the next lesson. At the next lesson, he doesn't go over the previous one and there seems to be no lesson plans that he follows. I'm not giving up on him but have scheduled a lesson next week with another instructor at another place so I can determine which one is the best fit. The dilemma is that each place insists I sign up for 4 lessons in advance and I'd be taking lessons from 2 instructors each week! Wow, that might be very confusing and expensive. If I do that for a month, do I tell the instructors about it? What should I be looking for in an instructor? Any suggestions?
  2. You need to tell your instructor what you want to accomplish. You're paying him, so if you want a lesson plan to follow, tell him. If you want to review last week's assignments, tell him. If he's unwilling to do these things, then yes, look elsewhere. It seems very counter-productive to not review previous lessons - how does he measure your progress?

    You may want to check out the thread on teaching advice I started a couple days ago. Most people wrote good comments about their lessons.
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Tabs should have sent you running screaming from the room. You want a teacher to help you build a knowledge base of musical fundamentals and musicians don't use tab. He shoudl be working on physical approach (technique, but not "slapping" technique or "raking" technique or any of that other crap. Technique means approaching the instrument with a relaxed and tension free approach, with an eye towards removing ANY impediment the instrument presents in getting music out and into the air), understanding (theory, functional harmony, improvisational concept etc.) and ear training.

    It sonds like you've tagged somebody who doesn't have a real clear undertanding of these concepts themselves...
  4. Guess I should mention my age, 61! This might have a bearing on an instructor's lesson plan (or lack of one) for me. It will be interesting to meet my new instructor next week as he sounded about 20 on the phone and when I asked him how he felt about teaching an old guy, he replied "cool!". I thank all of you for your helpful comments and if there is anyone out there in a similar situation as me, I'd like to hear from them. Oh, my favourite bass music so far is Eric Burton & the Animals, Beatles, The Knack (My Sharona), Them (Gloria),Crowded House (Something So Strong), and Level 42 (Running in the Family).
  5. You tell him to cater to your needs and to quit lollygagging and taking your money. Period.
  6. seanlava


    Apr 14, 2005
    Your "teacher" wouldn't happen to be a guitarist, would he?.... :p


    Jan 25, 2005
    Des Moines, IA
    + 1 biliion...very well said

    and like others have said, your instructor should have you on a plan that suits your objectives...might be time to start asking around again
  8. nasaldischarges


    Jun 11, 2005
    move to NJ...theres this guy who is amazing at teaching
  9. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    A good teacher should show you something, that proves they know what they are talking about. This could be a qualification, a published whitepaper/book, course outline/lessons plans, or recorded material. Ask for a free demo. Lastly, if it looks like a con from the get go, it probably is. So you have a to decide with in the first 5 minutes, what's going on with this person.

    If you don't like it, don't look at the person, pack you gear up, and leave without say anything.

    Don't give any personal imformation!! Keep the ball in your court.
  10. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    As soon as a teacher starts writing tab for you that should be your first clue to leave.
  11. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings
    Not necessilary. Now a days, the majority of starters, learn by tabs. What he's doing is starting out by using a way the majority of people are used to. Tabs are easy to follow, and IMO a GREAT way to start. Every bass player should know standard notation, thats a given, but I think it's better to know both aspects of learning to be a versitile musician.
  12. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Untrue. There are a huge number of drummers, violinists, trombonists (you see where I'm headed, right?) etc. that DO NOT EVER learn "tab".
    In your opinion - OK, who are you? Who do you play with, what gigs are you doing, who do you study with, in short- what informs your "opinion"? In MY opinion, tabs do NOTHING to help form a good foundation in musical knowledge, because they don't represent music. They are just a graphic representation of a geographic spot on the fingerboard. What informs MY opinion? I've started playing electric bass in about 1974, was gigging with a regionally touring fusion quartet from about 76 through 79, did an 8 month boat gig, came back South and gigged with two different jazz/ funk bands and one jazz quartet, played with Bill Barron, and Junior Mance when they came through my town, moved to Boston and spent a year at Berklee studying with John Neves and doing sessions and gigs, toured the Southeast with my own jazz quartet that included the drummer that went on to play with Diane Krall and Bobby Short, did a master class with Charlie Haden, was the first call upright bassist (not that that's saying much) in my town (and several towns in a 90 mile radius) and moved to NYC the year you were born. You don't want me to get started on who I been playing with since I been up here.

    So that's my background and I say tabs are not the way to go. You say they're a "GREAT way to start". I say that IN MY EXPERIENCE, that's just not true. The way you build a house that will stand is by taking the time to build a good foundation. NOT by trying to find shortcuts.

    You will NEVER walk into a boat gig, rock gig, Branson gig, pit band gig, jazz gig, ANY gig and be handed TAB to read. A versatile musician is one who has the necessary skill sets to walk into ANY of the above gigs and do the job. TAB doesn't get you there.
  13. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    I have to agree with Ed Fuqua here. Before I took up bass I hadn't even heard of TAB. I played violin from 4th , through 6th grade, I think if TAB was so easy they probably would've had some young kid like me starting on TAB. After all, it's a stringed instrument too. I played in multiple orchestras as well as playing solo for school plays and such. Always read sheet music on these gigs. :)

    I played alto sax in school band and baritone sax in jazz band in 7th and 8th grade. Every single instrument in both of these bands (flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, drums/percussion, french horn, tuba, etc.) used sheet music.

    Sheet music is what allows today's musicians to play music written 400 years ago. TAB tells you where to put your fingers, but it doesn't tell you how long your finger needs to be there, what the tempo of the song is, or how the tempo is changing. TAB doesn't tell you what volume you should be playing at, or what direction the volume is moving. In short, TAB only relays one tiny piece about a musical piece. You need to have heard the music in order to play it realistically using TAB.

    Sheet music may (and I say may because you have to spend time learning to read TAB) take longer to read well, but the rewards are far greater as it is a skill that you can transfer to any instrument, while reading bass TAB only shows you how to play a song on the bass.
  14. I started playing trumpet, classically trained, so I read music. Never bothered with tab. So while I'm inclined to dismiss tab as a waste of time.... bear with me for one posible exception to that rule....

    When first learning to read notation, there's really nothing to correct you if you screw up. You could be looking at G and playing A's for a week before you get your next lesson and find out you were wrong.

    Not familiar with tab at all, but its a graphic representation of the fretboard, right? I would allow use of tab to allow the student to verify they're playing the right notes while learning notation. Sort of like having the answers in the back of a math book. As a crutch for a few months as you're first learning to read notes, I can see tab being useful.

    Beyond that, its a total waste of time. You say you can't learn a song without resorting to tab? BAD move. You should spend the time learning to read your EARS intead. If it takes longer, so what? It will take less time next song. That time spent results in a critically needed, crucially useful skill. The more time you spend at it, the better you get, until its quicker than using tab anyway.

    Any other time spent getting proficient at tab is time wasted that could be spent on much more productive skills. Like ear training.

    Once you can read your ears, you'll find that while tab usually contains errors and ommissions, radios and cd players always have the right chords. I learned the bass line to a song we were planning on playing waiting in line for a bagel the other day, it was on the radio.

    Added bonus: if you can remember hearing a song, you can also read your memory as well as radio and cds. Another bonus: Any song you are forced to play that you don't know... you can follow if you can hear the one guy that DOES know how the song goes...

    I agree reading music notation is a useful skill, but relatively rarely needed except at the upper echelons fo the business.

    Ear training is, in my opinion, the king of the hill, way overlooked in classical music training which focuses on notation primarily. Music is primarily an auditory phenomenon. Reading music is a useful tool, can certainly enhance that, but its icing on the cake.

  15. RiddimKing


    Dec 29, 2004
    While I generally agree with what's been posted here regarding the worthlessness of TAB, you shouldn't neglect its one pedagological use: because most TAB is BADTAB, it's a great ear training tool. You find a song you like, download the TAB, use it to play along with, and quickly realize that the guy who posted it has exactly no clue: wrong notes, missing notes, and ergonomically challenged fingerings force you to figure out the song for yourself.

    And to the original poster: don't let being 61 deter you at all from pursuing the (rock) bass. I mean, did you see Live Ate? I'm not even a Floyd fan, but those guys totally rocked and made bands like Linking Pork seem like feeble amateurs.
  16. Suckbird

    Suckbird Banned

    May 4, 2004
    You wanna know what?

    My teacher was like that too, he was playing guitar and i was playing bass, he wrote my lines in tab.

    He kept asking me, what did we do last time?

    Someone who doesn't even know what you did last time doesn't care about your learning, and nor should he ask what to do this lesson?

    A teacher should ask you maybe the first lesson, what goals do you wanna accomplish and then write a plan and make sure you learn, of course he cant do that if you dont wannna work together with him..

    also, if you wanna learn play slap, make sure the guy who learn you it knows how to do it proper himself lol...
  17. I'd like to thank all who replied my posting also those who sent emails.
    I do have a question for instructors but would appreciate all feedback. My new instructor thought it was quite interesting but didn't have the answer, probably his lack of experience.
    Here it is: Is it a lot easier and quicker for a younger person ie: teenager to learn theory than an older one? My new instructor is trying to teach me theory, writes down some music and asks if I can see the the link between the notes. Of course to me, it's like opening up a book on advanced physics and I want to run out of the room screaming. Wow, does it bring back memories of my Grade 8 Geometry class and my 5% grade. I managed to drop that course! Anyway, I'm 61, retired and wonder if I've lost too many brain cells to adequately learn guitar theory. Besides, I have no inclination to become a music teacher or become part of a rock or jazz band. So, I do see a reason to learn theory but wonder how far or how much of it I really need. Are there any books out there for teaching old dummies? Can an old dog learn new tricks.
    Oh, I've learned that my new instructor is going back to school and will be leaving next month so my theory training will be left to a new teacher, the lucky person! I was telling my wife that there are those who have "da funk" and then there are those like me who have "da Stunk". So, if there is anyone out there who has knowledge of an older (60+) person learning theory please let me know or whether I should switch from the bass to playing spoons (you know, slapping them against your knees) or the comb (wrapping waxed paper over a comb, putting it in your mouth and humming).
  18. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    A week or two ago, my guitar playing buddy said the same thing about how it was scientifically proven that younger people had an easier time learning an instrument blah blah blah...

    I don't buy that for an instant. I started playing bass 3 years ago when I was 33. It takes time to learn theory, no matter what your age. It's not an easy subject to understand, at least not for me. I'm happy that I've learned a bit of blues and jazz/blues progressions. I'm just getting started with minor blues, up until a month or so ago I only knew major blues.

    I think the only advantage that younger people have over us is much more free time to spend practicing and playing. I mean, teenagers for the most part still have summer vacation (remember those) and probably get involved in some kind of band situation whether it's in a school band or garage band.

    Also, look at why you want to play and what types of music you want to play. What do you want to do to get enjoyment from your playing? Then work with your teacher to focus your studies in that direction. Learn the theory that applies to the music you want to play. Try and tailor your studies so they mesh with the actual music you want to make.

    Before I said I just started with minor blues forms. That's because I just started trying to learn some Allman Brothers songs. Guess what, most of their music is either major or minor blues form-based.
  19. Older people have the advantages of maturity and persistance (or so I would hope), so it balances out.

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