Teacher can't read music??

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Mario Lewis, Aug 22, 2005.

  1. Mario Lewis

    Mario Lewis

    Jul 6, 2001
    Clinton, MD
    I recently inquired with a local and well known bass player that has a number of recording credits to his name. This guy goes way back and is a REALLY talented player.

    So, I'm thinking that I need to get over the hump of learning to read music. I ask the guy, who has started to market himself as an "instructor" if I could schedule some lessons with him to learn to read music.

    I was a little surprised to hear him say that he, himself, can't read music. Maybe he can follow a chart every now and then, but that's about it.

    Says he can still take me on as a student for $60 an hour.

    If I'm not gonna get from him what I'm after (learning to read music) I'm not really inclined to say yes. I'm a little shocked at the $60 an hour. The going rate is between $20 and $40. For someone that is trying to establish himself, I think that's a little much.

    But, I'm not really sure, so I'm asking you folks. He can show me scales, modes and very little theory, but for $60, he'll sit down with me for an hour. He's an accomplished session player and a really great guy. But I'm not gonna learn to read music under his instruction. Worth it?
  2. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    If he doesn't teach you what you want to learn, look for a new teacher. It's very good that you know what you want. I would go to the nearest college and I'm sure the bass instructor there will be able to give you what you need.
  3. quatre03


    Aug 20, 2004
    take what you can from him, technique wise, and move on
  4. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    For $60 an hour, he better well teach you how to read music! Credits or no credits, that's a ridiculous amount of money to pay a teacher unless he can teach reading, and if you can't get what you want from him, then he's not worth it.
  5. $60 an hour = bad
    can't read music = bad
    can't teach you what you want to learn = bad

    Does this guy atleast have a nice bass to stare at during lessons?
  6. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    If your sole goal is to read music, then this isn't probably the person you want to study with. :D If you want to improve your reading I recommend going over to Carol Kayes site, she's has some good materials.

    What this guy may be able to teach you is the stuff that you need to actually play out in the real world, don't overlook that by having a narrow field of view.
  7. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Absolutely. Jimmy is spot on.

    I'm not saying there's NOTHING you can learn from this guy, but if reading is a priority for you (as I believe it should be) then for that sort of money I'm sure you can do better going elsewhere to get what you actually want.
  8. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    well a couple of things
    1. of ALL the things that a player has to learn in order to get to a point they can freely express themselves, learning to read music is one of the few things you can work on WITHOUT a teacher. There are any number of books out there they give you the basics and then it's just a matter of continuing to grab ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING to read.
    2. BUT - I'm extremely wary of somebody who doesn't have a handle on a fundamental skill like reading music. It makes me ask, what else don't they have going on?

    A teacher is supposed to give you a good grounding in the fundamentals of music. Which means THEY need to have a pretty deep understanding of those fundamentals. I can't really make an assessment based on the little you've posted about them, if he isn't going to teach you reading what is his pedagogical approach to teaching? What's he going to work on?
  9. Suckbird

    Suckbird Banned

    May 4, 2004
    Well, i thought reading was one thing that's easy to learn yourself...
  10. Mario Lewis

    Mario Lewis

    Jul 6, 2001
    Clinton, MD
    It's one of those things where if you learn it wrong, it's harder to unlearn the wrong stuff and learn it the right way. Names of notes on the staff.... got it - where those notes are on the fret board... got it. It's timing and note values that kick me in the @$$. Somewhere between dotted quarter notes and 8th & 16th's I lose it. Or like the lefty that plays a right handed bass upside down. There is no way Jimmy Haslip should play the bass that way!!!....they do make left handed basses... imagine what he'd go through to lean to play a lefty the RIGHT way. He's still a great player, but ain't it odd?!?!

    Further, there is the issue of key signatures and what that means for improv & playover stuff, and.... there is the ability write down what I want or need to repeat & be able to remember how to do.

    In a band I just joined, we've got like a 25 song set list. I can play all the songs.... but only after I've heard like the first 8 beats of it. THe KB player will play a little bit of it and it comes to me... Oh... that one. I'd like to be able to write down at least the intros (and not use tablature because good TAB usually follows beneath accurately notated standard notation for time... and I can't do that)

    I'm just tired of crutches and tricks. So, before I strike out on learning it myself ( I haven't done it before now) I'd like some instruction on how to do it right before I go screwin' it up.

    In addition, I've got a copy of Stevie Wonder's Do I Do?, and I would LOVE to learn that run. Months of onesey twosey note picking is causing me to lose my hair. I want to be able to look at a score of music and have a clue what's going on.

    I'll go to the sites you all have suggested, but there is no substitute for somebody who knows it the right way to teach someone that knows nothing and is prone to learn it the WRONG way and get stuck in a rut.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    On a slight tangent, at Jazz Summerschool, I took an option on Funk/groove and Pete Churchill (who is a pianist/singer and teaches on Leeds Jazz course) went through his chart of "Do I do?" and it made a huge impression on me.

    His written charts for all the instruments were truly a wonder to behold - and he went through each part and how they inter-locked so you had a lot of parts with a lot of 16th note syncopation, but the whole thing doesn't sound "busy" !

    He played us the version on Musiquariam(?) - with solo from Dizzy Gillespie - and played/sung through the parts - I have the CD on backorder/import!! ;)

    The bass line to that is still going round my head weeks after!! :)
  12. Mario Lewis

    Mario Lewis

    Jul 6, 2001
    Clinton, MD
    But you can read it and make sense of it, can't you? See, I can't.

    I like the guy, he's a great player and really talented. I'm surprised that he can't read. I remember reading an article about Darryl Jones (I think... got the Stones gig) and when he auditioned, he faked his way reading charts. But after he got the gig, he fessed up that he can't read to save his life (or at least he couldn't at the time). SO, the inability to converse about music theory is not prohibitive to good playing. I just want to take my playing to the next level, and I think the way to do that is to learn to read and learn theory. Combine that with my ear training from the last 10 years or so, and I should develop into a better player. I can hear a major third, but I can't write it.... and I know what the 6 sounds like relative to the root, BUT WHY!?!?! Classic blues 1-4-5 stuff - can do it all day long.... would love to be able to write it down. That's all.

    I don't think this guy's for me.
  13. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Darryl came outa Berklee, I need a source for that half remembered story. It sounds dubious. As far as
    1."the issue of key signatures and what that means for improv & playover stuff" and
    2."Months of onesey twosey note picking is causing me to lose my hair" and
    3."It's timing and note values that kick me in the @$$"

    1 is NOT about sight reading, it's about functional theory.
    2. is NOT about sight reading, it's about ear training. Hearing with clarity and understanding what you hear and knowing where those notes are on your instrument.
    3. the easiest money I ever made as a teacher was sitting in a lesson overseeing a student sight reading exercises. Again, this is one thing you CAN work on yourself. It's not just about learning the names of the lines and spaces on the staff and then try to read Scriabin at tempo. You start easy and work up. There are HUNDREDS of books that deal with this, a personal favorite is Charles Colin's RHYTHMS. I've heard nice things about the RHYTHMS & PATTERNS, too.
    But these start EASY. They give you a bunch of little melodic exercises to read using the starting easy rhythm. Then they go on to a second rhythmic pattern. Then they mix the two, then a third then mixing all three etc etc. A couple of these books and a metronome, you should be set.
  14. Sippy


    Aug 1, 2005
    I don't know if this will help but just to give you an idea. I pay $80 a month for 1 30 minute lesson per week so $40 per hour. My instructor teaches me how to read music, bass technique(obviously ;) ) and how to play in real life.. gig setting and playing with a band and stuff like that. IN FACT in his lesson he has us go to one of his bands shows at the local blues/jazz club and actually play with them and he watches me to make sure I am playing with a band correctly. To tell you the truth I feel very very lucky to have this guy as my instructor. I just wanted to kinda show ya what i'm paying so you can base your decision off of that :) Good Luck.
  15. narud

    narud Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2001
    santa maria,california
    so is this guy just a bad sight reader or does he not have the harmony/theory part down either?
  16. Mario Lewis

    Mario Lewis

    Jul 6, 2001
    Clinton, MD
    I think (as far as I can understand his explanation)... Tell him the root, give him a note, and he can take it from there. He knows scales relative to spacing and how many strings over and frets up or down...

    He got a super ear. And chops. But if you were to ask him the actual notes in a B flat minor 7th scale, he could vocalize it, but he more than likely would be able to play it because he knows that it has a flatted 3rd and flatted 7th (that's probably WAAAY wrong, but I am LOOKING for a teacher!!) get what I'm saying?
  17. narud

    narud Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2001
    santa maria,california
    well, it sounds like for what you are wanting to get out of a teacher, you might be better off looking elsewhere. as was pointed out earlier, youre looking for more than just the act of reading music. the best teachers arent always the most ripping players.
  18. Bassist4Life


    Dec 17, 2004
    Buffalo, NY
    You CAN learn to read music yourself. This is a very easy to use website with lessons and trainers. It starts out very basic. I've used it with my Middle School students and they had no trouble with it.