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Should I be at this point?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by sigkill, Jul 4, 2004.

  1. OK, I've been taking lessons for a month exactly now. The first lesson was just a feel out/intro day, but I was still taught a little something. Fingerstyle and a simple little blues line (all in first position). Week two, lesson two, we got a little more down to business with two variations of the 12 Bar Blues. It took me a while, because of tempo issues, but I got it. Week three, lesson three, I brought in all my books to show him because he asked to see them. He picks out Bass for Dummies and tells me it's an excellent book. In fact, he decides the lesson is coming out of it. We go to Chapters 12 and 13, which have some interesting little bass lines that are significantly tougher than anything we've done yet. I still don't have these all down two weeks later. Lesson four, last week, he was glad I brought the book back with me, cuz this lesson was coming out of it to. He wants to show me how to break down ANY bass line and be able to play it.

    To emphasize the ANY, we go to Chapter 19, for those without the book, that's a Chapter of Tens. Ten bass lines in the style of ten great bassists, including; Bootsy Collins, Donald Duck Dunn, James Jamerson, John Paul Jones, Joe Osborn, Jaco Pastorius, George Porter Jr., Francis Rocco Prestia, Chuck Rainey, and Robbie Shakespeare. I took one look at the first line, which is in the style of Bootsy, and then I looked at him with my best "you got to be kidding me, right?" look. He wasn't kidding, we spent the 45 minute lesson trying to get me to play one beat of the Bootsy line right. His plan was to work through them all, but when I left, I still coudn't play one beat of that first Bootsy line, dead on.

    On my way out he asked me how much I was practicing. I told him about two hours a day, which I believe to be honest. He looked skeptical and acted like if I really was, I'm not coming along as well as he expected, and maybe I should do more. He told me before, that he works over forty hours a week and plays guitar five hours a day. Is it not a bit of a stretch though, to go from learning fingerstyle to playing Jaco riffs in four weeks time? Would that be realistic even if I practiced for five+ hours a day?

    I guess I could have been reading too much into it though. The main point was to teach me more about reading music, rhythms and what not, and how to break down any line/riff/song beat by beat and play it. I'm curious though, can anyone else with the book nail these lines? If so, how long did it take you? It took him about four tries to nail the Bootsy line, but then again, he majors in classic guitar and has played bass for a number of years as well.

    It's frustrating the heck out of me, because I can't get it down to save my life, and I have to face him again in two days. I feel like he thinks I spend two minutes practicing a day. Everytime he shows me something new, I can't get it there, I have to get it at home. He can't even begin to imagine the disappointment he is in store for if he thinks I'll have those lines down, and I can't even begin to imagine what's next. A Wooten solo maybe? :meh: I'm hoping we take a BIG step back and go back to some simple stuff. I had to tab out the Bootsy line as it is, my sight reading skills aren't near that strong.
  2. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Hey friend, please format your posts into paragraphs, I almost didn't read this at all because of it, but now that I have I think I might be able to offer at least some insight.

    Firstly, you practice 2 hours daily, give or take, well...are you really PRACTICING, or are you just PLAYING for 2 hours?

    I think, one of the biggest revelations I ever had when I was just starting out, was that, you can play for hours and hours and hours and not get anything done, or you can get tons done in an hour or less. The moral being, it's not necessarily about how much time you are putting in, it's about how well you are using that time.

    Now, I'm not saying you're wasting your time, playing for hours and hours and hours, there is lots you can learn from doing that, mostly stamina and endurance related. But, when you are "practicing" really be mindful of what you are doing, Jazzbo has a thread in this forum called practice practice practice, it outlines some of the best practice methods you can utilize. Give it a read, it might help you out.

    now, if you have been really trying hard, and practicing well, I think that you need to sit down with your teacher and say "look man, you're giving me all this stuff, and I'm trying to get it, but , it's just so much information, can we take a step back this week, and maybe give this stuff another go some other time?"

    I've had teachers throw stuff at me too fast, and I've had teachers throw stuff at me too slow, They aren't going to know anything unless you tell them(or unless they are a good teacher), Otherwise they'll just think you're slacking off or not applying yourself or whatever.

    There's nothing wrong with back pedaling, nothing at all, damn, if I had to count the amount of times I've read through chapters in my harmony book over and over again to figure stuff out...well, you get the idea.

    It's your money for the lessons, get the most of it, if you're not actually learning anything from his advanced expectations or lesson plans, tell him to take a step back, and help you get there.
  3. I had read that practice practice practice thread when I first joined, but of course, I forgot it's contents in their entirety. :scowl: Of course, they didn't make much sense at that point. Anyway, after going back through it, I'll have to apply those techniques to my practice. My current method though, was to start with finger permutations, do a few scales, go to the 12 bar blues, then to my books, to practice my sight reading and tempo. When I get frustrated, I stop and do a little improvisation or play the bits and pieces of songs I know. This is usually when I play along with something to. Then I go back to my books and what he showed me, until my left hand just won't go anymore.

    When I started lessons, I let my girlfriend set things up for me. Perhaps she told him I had been playing for a little while, and maybe that's why he assumes I'm ready for the things he is showing me. On the other hand, he had to show me what fingerstyle was the first day, and I couldn't nail a very simple little line he showed me. That should have clued him in to where I was. He did actually tell me I should pick up faster than most of his students though, because they're kids, because I had books, and because I've had music experience with the bass clef, playing tuba in high school. I was quick to tell him though, that I remember NOTHING from my high school tuba days.

    As for him being a good teacher, I don't know how to judge that. I picked him because of the price, $50 a month, and because, he is a college student studying music. The only other option I know of, around here, costs $25 per half hour lesson. At that price, I could only swing a lesson per month. I think his biggest problem with me, is that he assumes too much, because he has never told me whether or not I am holding my bass right, nor has he ever discussed tuning with me. I think he believes I should know these things because of my age and because I had studied a few books before seeking him out.

    I guess I just need to be more forthcoming with him and tell him we are moving entirely too fast for me. Also, he said he was gonna teach me sight reading because learning music was important, but every line he showed me, up until last week, was tabbed. I'm going to have to speak up, because I'm getting more and more confused and frustrated, and I'm headed for a burnout if I keep up the current agenda. I definitely do not want to call it quits. I think when I'm done with this reply, I'm going to make out a list of things to ask him. I'll post the list here and maybe you can share your opinons and suggest other things I could/should ask, etc.

    Thanks for your help so far.
  4. 1. Am I holding this right?

    2. Is my left hand in the right position, especially my thumb?

    3. If it is correct, is it normal to experience these intense hand cramps in my pinky, thumb, and wrist, at first, or am I adjusting wrong when I do x?

    4. I think I know what I'm doing, but can you show me how to relatively tune my instrument to that (piano, guitar, etc.), just to be sure?

    5. I have been through the material in my Bass 1 book a hundred times, could you get me some sheet music to some fresh, simple, full songs?

    6. What's a good book for learning how to read music, would buying such a book help?

    7. (Pick a song) Why is this song composed of these particular notes? / How did they know to use the notes in this position, as opposed to that position?

    8. Can I bring my video camera, and if I do, would you mind going slow and let me tape your hands on these examples you show me?

    9. What can I do to improve my ear? What exactly does that mean?

    10. Is their a method I can use when playing along with music to help me figure out the notes, or is it all guesswork for now?

    Well, that was all I could think of at the moment. Any further suggestions?
  5. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    I had been playing for almost two years before I realized how benificial lessons would be and found myself a teacher.

    He told me that even though I had some knowledge and experience - that he'd like to start the first lesson at the very begining as if I'd never played before to make sure that I really did have the basics down solid and didn't have any bad habits to break.

    I agreed that his would be a good thing and we started at the begining.

    For the first few lessons, we went over the basics. I showed him that I know the parts of the bass, proper left and right hand form, how to hold it, what a time signauture is, what a 1/4 note, 1/2 note whole note is, and all of that. I did know this stuff so it only took a matter of minutes to go over it and show him that I did have it down right. We didn't "waste" any time on, but we gave it a quick once over to make sure I had the building blocks I needed. In the first three lessons we covered material that he would spend months on with a brand new player. It didn't take very long to go over the basics and find where I was at.

    We both felt that this was worth while for a number of reasons. One was that we became comfortable with eachother during this time which had me quite comfortable with him by the 3rd or 4th lesson when we got on to tougher stuff. It was also worth while becasue he showed me a lot of good exercises that are appropriate for a beginer where I only knew of a few. I still use this stuf to warm up everytime I pickup a bass.

    So even though I didn't really learn anything new the first few lessons - I still got something out of them and my teacher had me learning new stuff soon enough.

    I think that most good teachers will take a similar approach. I think a good teacher will also chalange you and kick your butt a little bit - ride you about practicing, but certainly not suggest that you are lieing to him about how much you practice. I think that "skipping ahead" to stuff that is beyond your level is not a sign of a good teacher.

    Make a point of finding a teacher that will start at the begining as I've described. A good teacher will insist on covering the things on your list on the first lesson. I sugget that you find a teaher who is a gigging bassist in the style you hope to play.

    Good luck.
  6. zillo


    Jun 5, 2003
    It doesn't seem to me like this fellow should try to make you feel bad or guilty about your practice. It's your deal, not his, and you are paying the $$. On the other hand, it's been my recent experience that having a teacher push me pretty hard is a good thing.

    I've been playing (learning) for a little less than two years, teaching myself, up until about 3 mos ago. I practiced scales, arpeggios, blues, and reggae from books and records. I also jam with buddies here and there. I know where the notes are on the fretboard, and generally plug along. I was feeling a bit stale though.

    I felt like the going was slow and went looking for a teacher. The guy I found is an excellent player, and also a nice guy. He busts my butt, working on time with the funk lines...I might be slow, but it better be in time. He forces me to learn scales outside the nice little patterns and to work on lines outside my nice blues patterns. Play the same riffs with different patterns. It can be pretty frustrating.

    Man, stuff that I just didn't try three months ago is now understandable, and even attainable. Maybe I'm a little lazy in my practice routines. I still practice 1-2 hrs a day at night, but my learning has just taken off.

    I don't know what the point of this is, except that maybe I'm lucky and stumbled on a good teacher. I laugh at some of the stuff he throws at because it seems so ridiculous...hey two weeks later and it's not that ridiculous, a week later and it works.

    FWIW, I don't get most of what I'm shown each week either. I need to go home an work on it. This guy should be pushing you, but not crushing you. You can learn this stuff...maybe a new teacher is in order.
  7. leanne


    May 29, 2002
    Rochester, NY
    Tell him that.

    Also, if your teacher doesn't have a way to record the lesson (audio), bring a tape recorder or something, it can be a big help. A video camera may be a little long on the setup time...
  8. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Frankly, it sounds to me as if this teacher is, indeed, pushing you pretty hard and fast. Then, on top of that, he is making somewhat demeaning comments about the quality of your practice sessions AS IF had you REALLY been practcing you could have easily and quickly grasped the Bootsy line he was working with.

    I don't like that tone coming from a teacher, but I always responded better to praise than to condescension anyway.

    There is a very fine line between pushing hard and pushing too hard. It is your money and your future as a bass player at stake here. If you want to go slower, tell your teacher. But whatever happens, do not allow him to make you feel inferior about your pace. Some things will come easier and faster than others.

    One more thing. Bootsy Collins has a definite style--that being funk. If you have not been a big fan of funk before and have not listened to it a lot, you may not have the right feel just now. That is one reason you may be having difficulty with the Bootsy bassline. Maybe if the bassline had been a Tommy Shannon line or a Jason Newsted line, for examples, you might have aced the class easily. I'm just saying, the musical styles you prefer and listen to most will probably be the easiest ones for you to learn.
  9. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Anybody around here that knows me, knows that I'm always telling people to get a teacher. I'm glad you started this thread KILLBILL, because this is a good perspective to see.

    I'm glad that you're starting to take ownership of the lessons. It's your time, it's your money, it's your passion. The teacher is there to help you along. And like many have said, the teacher needs to know the balance between pushing you to succeed and pushing you too hard.

    I used to be a physical fitness trainer. Weight lifting, nutrition, cardio, that kind of junk. Anyway, one time I'm training this person who was also a friend of mine. She's starting to slack and I'm not letting her. She's whining that it's too much, she can't do it, but I'm telling her that I don't care. Some other woman that was training sees what's going on and comes over to me. She tells me that she is also a trainer and I'm pushing her too hard. I need to stop, I could injure her. Well, what she didn't know was that I knew this girl. I knew she wasn't really in any danger, that she just wasn't pushing herself. Later, my friend thanked me, saying how she liked training with me because I know her. I also trained my sister. I never pushed her like that because I knew that she would only give up if she really couldn't do it.

    It sounds like your teacher needs to do more listening, and less "teaching." I'm a teacher myself, and I know that sometimes it's frustrating when a student doesn't practice, doesn't apply themself. But, you know what, that's their decision, their dime. I can't make them practice, I can only help them along how I see fit, I can only give them the information I have, and then it's up to them. But your teacher isn't doing that. You're actually practicing, and trying.

    Further, your teacher sounds off base on trying to teach you what he's teaching you. Yes, licks and famous lines are very important to guitarists, but not so much to bassists. Sure, there's a lot of knowledge to gain from them, but not at this juncture in your training. How about focusing on technique? (Oh, wait, he's not a bassist, is he?). How about focusing on fundamentals? In sight reading right now it should be etudes, not Bootsy. (I've been playing for many years, and have the confidence that there's nothing on bass that I can't do, but "Sex Machine" still gives me troubles, to this day.)

    Screw Jaco. Screw Bootsy. Screw Jamerson. Screw Duck Dunn. You're going to learn those things eventually. They're going to help you. They're going to be informative and will change your perspective on bass. But not right now. Right now they're going to frustrate you, diminish your confidence, and eventually who knows what.

    You need to have a frank conversation with your teacher. Your teacher needs to understand the things that are concerning you. I would talk to your teacher, let him know the things you aren't comfortable with right now, the things that are challenging to a point of frustration, the things in the lessons you're not comfortable with, and let your teacher know that you're in charge of the direction of your lessons.

    Truth be told, I'm often wearing of guitarists who teach bass. Further, I'm weary of college students teaching. I don't know, I bet there are a lot of college student guitarists that are fine teachers, but it's key to remember that a good player does not make a good teacher. A good teacher makes a good teacher. Go to jazz gigs, and ask the upright bassist if s/he teaches, or if s/he knows somebody. In my opinion, upright players make the best teachers. Sure, the electric guitar looks sorta similar to the bass guitar, but the upright bass's function is the same as the electric bass's function, and that's most important. Further, most upright players started on electric, so they know.

    And, something really troubled me about your lessons when I read this paragraph:

    I think it's time for something to change.
  10. Shoka42


    Jul 19, 2003
    Bass should NEVER, be frustrating. If it is, then perhaps you expect to much of yourself?

    But first things first, tell him you feel your moving a little fast, however, do keep in mind this - You don't have to play every day. In fact it is better not to do that, so you have some time for you brain and hands to consolidate what youve done.

    As an example: I was learning "bullet in the head" by RATM, it starts off very easy, but the outro is quite fast. To begin with i couldnt even last a quarter of the outro, but, after a week of really practising it (checking my techniue, relaxing etc.) i could play it, and now, i find it easy to play! that was a month ago.

    I guarantee, that with enough practice, you can play that song, but you musn't ever get frustrated!:)
  11. James S

    James S

    Apr 17, 2002
    New Hampshire

    Get a new teacher. A bass player. A professional player. Yes, a good teacher will cost you more money than you are currently paying.
  12. Wow! Thanks for all the replies guys, some excellent stuff in them! It all really helps to put things in perspective for me to.

    I'm seriously considering a new teacher now. I was really thinking about it some more , and while I don't know exactly what makes a good teacher, there are several little things besides being critical of my abilities, that just bother me about his abilities as a teacher.

    For one, he is primarily a guitarist, and my buddy is taking guitar lessons from him now, and his lessons sound more like what I was expecting. For another, I remember him telling me he taught himself bass as a secondary instrument, out of the same books I'm using. I really don't like that. Three, on the subjects of books, ever since I brought mine along, he is pulling all the lesson materials from the books.

    That probably bothers me more than anything though, because I get the feeling he is doing so, simply because he doesn't feel like taking the time to make up an actual lesson plan for me. Because I'm a bassist and not a guitarist, and because I'm his last lesson of the day. He has been really rush, rush, through the last couple of lessons.

    Plus, he never discussed how to hold the bass, how to tune it, nor anything else basic or technique related, except playing fingerstyle and getting better timing. Last but not least, he has stressed since the first lesson, that I needed to learn to read music. However, he wrote all the lines he made up in musical notation and tab, and never explained to me what a single note was. I'm guessing the main problem I'm having with him, is that I have the same books he learned out of. I don't have all the musical training he does, though, and if I want to just use the books, what exactly am I paying him $50 a month for?

    As for the Bootsy line and others he showed me last go around, those aren't tabbed, so he told me to go through the book and figure it out for myself. That could be a plus, but at least he could have made me do it there, and then checked it. I might have been playing it wrong this whole time!

    Bah! I can tell by this post, that I'm too frustrated to let things go on for sure. I haven't paid for this month's lessons yet, because we didn't actually have one this past Monday, because of the fourth. I think then, that I will look for another teacher all week, and if I can find one that I think I can do better with, I'll switch.

    Any further suggestions as to anything I can ask or anything to maybe avoid another teacher I'm not compatible with?

    Thanks again guys! :bassist:
  13. cschenk78


    Mar 12, 2000
    Watertown, NY
    It seems like you got it figured out...Time to Activate yourself!
  14. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    He's clearly not a bass player.
    My teacher insisted that I tune without the aid of an electronic tuner. He insisted that I not rely on a tuner because he said; someday you'll find yourself on a dark stage and you won't be able to see it, or the battery will die when you least expect - and more importantly, the relative tuning of your instrument is where ear training begins. Sometimes, when I'd have my bass tuned before our time ever started he would ask me to go check out the new carpeting in the practice room next door or something like that and when I came back and grabbed my bass off of the guitar stand - it would mysteriously need tuning again. Actually, I'm really glad he did that. It turned out that I didn't know how to properly tune my bass. (I would strum strings with my normal finger style while tuning, but the right way is to strum with your thumb when tuning so that both strings can actually ring and you can hear if it's in tune or not) Just another wordy post to emphasize my belief that every teacher should start at the beginning with every student.