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Self-Taught Success Story

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by tpmiller08, Mar 31, 2009.

  1. Commreman

    Commreman Faith, Family, Fitness, and Frets Supporting Member

    Feb 12, 2005
    New Jersey
    I've read this entire thread. I'll speak form MY experience.

    I agree that you can have some success as a self taught musician. The one thing that no one can teach is desire. That has to come from within. If you have the desire and are willing to put in the time, you can learn anything.

    I picked up bass at 14, after drums and guitar earlier in my life. It was a very natural and intuitive fit for me, and I took right off learning by ear and pestering everyone that I thought was better than me (there were plenty). I played my first paying gig at 15, and by 16 I was in the clubs here in NJ 3 to 4 nights a week. Back then, the drinking age was 18, and the club scene was thriving. I then went to community college at age 18, and wanted to play in the stage and jazz band. I was pretty cocky, and I was in for a rude awakening. Everyone that I was competing against could read, and had studied formally. Chops were fine, but ensemble playing was way more important. What did I do? I took an elementary theory class. I took a lot of time and taught myself how to read. I took voice and learned "sight singing". By busting my ass, in my third semester I finally got the first bass chair. This experience helped me in that I was finally able to get studio work in NJ and NYC.

    Flash forward into the second half of my 20"s. I was still playing out regularly to the point where it could pay my rent. I was still largely self taught, and soaking up information from wherever I could get it (the internet didn't exist then, so as JimmyM can testify, we had to dig harder). I was hanging in a club in New Brunswick one night, and was blown away by the band that was playing there. The name of the band was Stretch, and the bassist was Dave LaRue, pre Steve Morse. I did my pestering thing that I mentioned earlier, and didn't get a specific tip that night. What I got was a phone number and the invitation to take lessons. I jumped immediately.

    Those lessons lasted about 18 months, and ended when Dave got the Steve Morse gig and was on the road constantly, and got widely known. It was boot camp, and my knowledge absolutely exploded on an exponential basis. Other doors opened for me as well.

    The moral of the story is this - you can do fine on your own, but by not taking advantage of those who can give you a world of knowledge, you are limiting yourself and your future. There are plenty of folks that are completely content with being "self taught" and there is nothing wrong with that. It all depends what YOU want. I'm now 48, and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't learn something new, and understand how it all ties back to those 18 months of boot camp lessons!
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I can attest to every single thing in that post, especially the part about taking lessons with Dave being "boot camp." He's a stern taskmaster, and I thank him every day for it, even though I only talk to him about once a year now. Thinking about signing up again, but boy has his price gone up!
  3. Good post/thread Commreman.
  4. I played for five years and three with a band before my first real lesson. I've been educating myself now and seeking as much instruction as possible. I have a good groove, but sometimes had problems communicating with band members and fellow bassists. I've since taken some advice to learn every note on the fretboard , and really, really have a stone cold lock on it. From there I will be able to work on reading and even site reading. The reason guitarists and other musicians disrespect bassists is because on the average there are many bassists who are skilled enough to gig that do not know the notes on the fretboard, scales, modes, chord structure, common progressions, etc. That is why they tell the bassist the song "goes from B to E" and then they turn to the keyboard player and tell them it starts in B maj7 and goes to E minor. So as a whole i think we as musicians need to step up, bassists I mean. I'm learning and it has helped me tremendously.
  5. Commreman

    Commreman Faith, Family, Fitness, and Frets Supporting Member

    Feb 12, 2005
    New Jersey
    LOL :D

    When I studied with him in the '80's, it was at his apartment in New Brunswick and cost if I remember correctly, $30.00 or $40.00 per lesson. Best musical money I ever spent! Dave did not suffer fools gladly. God help you if you weren't prepared for your lesson. He would remind you in a not so gentle fashion not to waste his time, as there were many others that could take your spot in his rotation. His attitude was that if you were studying with him, you had career aspirations. I remember when he was auditioning for the Steve Morse gig he had me transcribe "Odyssey" and "Assembly Line" by the Dregs and we would compare notes. We would also play the Bach two part piano invention on bass, with him taking one part and me the other. We did all of the scales, modes, chord structures, intervals, odd time signatures, Jaco and Paul Chambers stuff, etc. He turned me on to a lot of music! He also used to bitch about NJ winters, so it was no shock to me when he relocated to Florida. I haven't spoken with him in a very long time, but the discipline that he instilled into my practice regimen was priceless, and I would love to thank him for it someday!
  6. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Well he's not hard to find ;) I'm sure he'd dig hearing from you.
  7. Commreman

    Commreman Faith, Family, Fitness, and Frets Supporting Member

    Feb 12, 2005
    New Jersey
    I stopped into Bass Central a couple of years ago when I had my family at the evil house of mouse on a trip. He wasn't there, but Beaver did send him my regards. You are right - I should look him up!
  8. tpmiller08


    Mar 15, 2009
    Boston, MA
    Sounds like a solid career man =). Maybe you guys misunderstand what I mean by self-taught, or I miss understood the actualy definition of it.
    I learn from other people constantly. I've swan dived head first into music theory, and learn songs to see how others apply it. Then make it my own one way or another. ( Look at Cliff Burtons 'Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)', the whole begining riff is just the C major scale broken down into chords.

    However, I don't sit in front of a teacher and take instruction. It just doesn't help me, in anything I do in life.
    If I have a question, I ask another bassist....then ask 5 more (half the answers will be psuedo-right, alot of time people take what they learn and reverse things like names or think a major 3rd is a minor 3rd or something similar)

    With things like this forum around, I see little reason to have a teacher. This is all a PERSONAL statement. I study bass theory and practice almost 3 hours a day, then I go to band practice 3 times a week. Now we're out gigging, and we sound solid.

    This thread is kind of silly, in the point that, I'm not going to change what works for me, and those who take lessons aren't going to regret it. But I don't agree with bassists who took lessons looking down on self - taught (Not that anyone did that here, but it does happen often), and people saying theres alot for me to learn and this and that, when I learn something new every single day.

    If everyone should take lessons, someone should of really told Jimi Hendrix that. Even though what he did wasn't considered 'music'.....damn it sounded good lol.

    Agree to disagree?

  9. dave64o

    dave64o Talkbass Top 10 all time lowest talent/gear ratio! Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 15, 2000
    Southern NJ
    You can certainly go far without studying with an instructor. I don't think anyone has said it's impossible. And yes, there are obvious examples of people doing that, such as Jimi Hendrix. However, would you guess that those players are a large majority or a large minority? ;) I know where I'd put my money.

    Some examples? One is Christopher Parkening studying under Andres Segovia. Here's another - Neil Peart studying under PETER ERSKINE. Hell, even Steve Vai studied under Joe Satriani.

    Bottom line, no one HAS to take lessons to advance. But finding an instructor who really knows what he's doing AND can effectively teach it AND does it with the student's goals in mind will significantly increase the odd's of a given person reaching their goals as a musician, and most likely reaching them even faster.

    I started lessons about 5 months ago and I honestly don't think my instructor is that good. But, even though I'm sticking with him for now mostly because he can work around my schedule, having someone who can see where I want to go, what I need to work on to get there, and help give me the direction to get there has been amazing. I've progressed farther in these five months than I have in the last several years.

    Certainly lessons aren't a requirement. If someone is doing what they enjoy, doing it well, and progressing at a pace that makes them happy, then there's certainly nothing wrong with that. But I'd also bet that someone like you, someone who does seem to have the drive to excel, devotes a year to studying with an experienced teacher who knows how to convey that experience then that someone will be amazed at where they are at the end of that year.
  10. Commreman

    Commreman Faith, Family, Fitness, and Frets Supporting Member

    Feb 12, 2005
    New Jersey
    I never disagreed with you to start with.

    The point of my post was that I took your path, but for me personally in conjunction with my goals, that path was at best limiting. I could be a "rawk star" in the clubs, but when I was with individuals that I considered to be real deal musicians, I was like a kid with my nose pressed against the glass of the candy store who couldn't go in. Lessons with a great, uncompromising no BS teacher gave me knowledge, structure, and discipline. It also shaved YEARS off of the learning process for me, exposed me to music that I might not have heard before, and opened up new worlds of musicians to play with that I was recommended into because of my association and success with that teacher.

    There is room for everybody at every level. How you get to your own individual goal is completely up to you. I just wanted to give you the benefit of my experience. Take it for what its' worth.
  11. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    If you're really diligent and work your butt off you can accomplish alot on your own. Too many examples to name.

    There's an old metaphor about the stairs and the elevator. Both accomplish the same thing, but one gets you there much faster.

    Agree with above postings about a quality instructor. Someone who doesn't know what they're doing can slow you down, injure you, and waste your precious bucks.

    There's something to be said for the sort of material Comm talks about getting from Dave- a teacher will hip you to stuff you never dreamed of practicing, or being able to practice! My kids never believe they can play Jaco until I make them. :p

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