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teachers I need you help with a student

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Funkdified, Mar 4, 2006.

  1. I recently started teaching bass at my college to a few guys. Myself having been playing for about 10 years I believe I have enough general knowledge to teach. I don't charge because I believe music is a gift that should be free. I give lessons to 3 college aged guys 18-21, but one student is really trying his hardest but just can't get it. I have taught him the basics on how to hold it, good placement of hands, proper why to fret and pluck the notes/stings. I then went into fret board knowledge and note placement that's when all hell broke loose. He couldn't figure out why there is no b/# between E+F, B+C and when I would correct him on the right naming of Eb instead of D# he threw a hissy fit. Saying there both the same note I'm going to call it what ever I want. I agreed that he can call them either but more commonly will hear it called Eb. Then I started on scales and arpeggios, about half why through this exercise he turned off the metronome and walked outside. When I went outside I saw he was crying, after I gave him a smoke(he's 21) he told me that he gets this way when he can't learn something right away. We both cooled off. I really couldn't realize that someone could get this worked up over something like this. I told him that this will only come with practice and time, and that I don't expect him to understand all this in a week of each lesson but keep in mind the pervious lesson when coming to the next and see how they fit together. I only write this to vent and get your opinions on what to do with this student I don't want to drop him, but instead find a way to better teach him. Have any of you had a student like this? If so how did you deal with it? If you haven't had a student like this, how would you deal with it? I mean the six graders I teach history to behave better than this. My sister who teaches music in an elementary school never came across anything like this in her career. I'm kinda at a loss on what to do anything would be helpful.
  2. Next week I plan on review of major scales/ arpeggios and either going into the circle of 5ths or minor and deminished scales.
  3. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    It may be that your student has a list of 'issues' that you will not be able to get past to help him learn bass... or anything else. You might try doing some reading on Ausbergers, Turretts, or autism to help you see what you might be dealing with.

    Another point you might consider, and I know this is not the main issue in your post. There are things that are 'gifts'... some levels of perception that one person has in greater levels than others. Sometimes that comes out as a musical expression, sometimes in other ways. Yes, you can say that "music is a gift" and you would be speaking the truth...but the time you have spent developing that gift is hard work and devotion. Those are your gifts to your talent... and it is OK to expect that some compensation be given to you for your time and experience. Furthermore, if you don't think your time and talent are worth the money, your students may think so too. And.. if you are giving it away like a mother's love, you may be expected to act like a mother when it comes to the way your students behave.

    You aren't the mother, you're the bass teacher. You aren't the minister, priest, consellor, guardian angel or best friend... you're the bass teacher.

    If your students have a gift that they would want to express with music, then you can help them by saving them some time. But you won't make them a better player than they would on their own... you'll just save them some time in that journey. If they have problems that need help that you cannot give them, the best you can do is point them to a source that will be of help.

    It may not be about you helping them, it might be about you getting help for them.
  4. Thanks I needed that I had believed it was something I did. I'm very passionate about my bass and all I have learned and am will ing to pass it on, but sometimes I can be very critical. My other students really appreciate me not charging and take my pionters and criticism and don't act this way. Also another reason I don't charge is to get my feet wet to see if I could do this in the summer when not teaching history.

    Anybody else?
  5. radi8


    Feb 10, 2004
    I have/had similar frustrations as a student(why,why and why)having picked up bass guitar so late in life (mid 40s)..but my teacher (whom i've had for just four months)put me as ease right away--it takes time, he says....some pick it up faster than others.
    I had two things working against me,too...i had to learn proper finger technique and build muscle memory before we could even discuss scales..And, the finger stretch down the bass is a bit more challenging for me than playing mid and upstream. (practice,practice,practice).
    And, don't get me started on open strings in the circle of fourths.
    Only now am i ready to ear train and start learning how to read sheet music..
    Additional homework now:identifying the notes to him on recall instead of just relying on patterns.
    I have a loooong way to go but now, my tone sounds like a bass and not a guitar...:)
    It's apparent that you want him to succeed ( at his pace in his own time) but i am not sure he's hearing you.
  6. dharma

    dharma Srubby wubbly

    Oct 14, 2005
    Monroe, Louisiana
    I can empathize with your student. I have similar issues with being incredibly self-critical. To a point I can really push myself too far, a practice of which your student is probably guilty.

    Back off on him, and let him come back to you by telling him simply and genuinely that you would like to pass down what you understand to him, but that it will take allowing himself to stumble.
  7. Bryan_G


    Apr 28, 2000
    Austin, Texas

    Not to be nitpicky but this is incorrect. The name of the note comes from the key or scale and can't be called what ever you want.

    I always had problems with teachers during grade school giving me answers like that. It really bothered me that they would use words like usually to replace actually reasons. There is usually a reason why something usually happens. There are very few things that "just are". I am not trying to be rude. I am just trying to give you some insight on why this might have been frustrating to him.

  8. Bryan I'm not clear on what you are saying. I didn't say call it what ever you want, my student did. I then told him most of the times it will be called Eb.
  9. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    Try going right back to fundamental harmony eg dissonant and consonant intervals.

    You have to make music theory flow logically, and show how it all interconnects and relates back to fundamental harmony.

    Also, I explain everything in the key of C, and make references to how the key of C is layed out on the piano.
  10. Hey there. I'm a student myself, but my reccomendation would be to reduce things to their simplest form for your student. He may be getting exasperated because he is trying to do too much without fully comprehending the material (I myself have been guilty of nodding my head 'yes, i understand' when I'm really not totally sure). Encourage him to ask questions WHEN EVER he is not TOTALLY sure of whats going on, or what something is, or why something is. Return to some fundamentals, break them down, anazlye why and how they work, then build on that slowly.

    Note: I don't mean to criticize your teaching style or anything like that. You may be doing the exact thing I just said, and there is some other issure.

    Also, I really respect you for giving lessons for free. I'm sure that many talented 'would be' musicians have been underpriviledged because of the often high price of lessons.
  11. Tritone

    Tritone Supporting Member

    Jan 24, 2002
    Santee, America
    This is correct.
  12. Kroy


    Jan 19, 2006
    Funkdified - I'm fairly new to teaching as well and a I have a lot of students who are pretty young kids (10-12). On occasion some of them will get frustrated because they can't play a technique or song perfectly the first time through. I usually just tell them to cool it, slow it down (they're usually trying to play it at full speed right off) , and -most importantly- think! If they stay ticked off I'll do something away from the guitar like clapping rhythms or something a little simpler that's easier to progress faster. But I always tell them the old cliche, "Rome wasn't built in a day." I don't do that to discourage them, just to remind them that it's not going to happen overnight. If they want something they can master really fast they should take up macaroni art or something other than music.

    In the same vein as what Chuck said, to me it sounds like your student has a pretty serious maturity problem. It may be that he excels at lots of things without having to work too hard (lots of natural gifts) and the fact that some things don't come as easy for him ticks him off. If that's the case, fine, but he needs to grow up one way or another. He also should realize that pitching a fit and acting like a two year old isn't going to make him understand the difference between D# and Eb, Nor will it get him playing scales and arpeggios any faster or more accurately.

    My feeling is that more often than not people misconstrue 'serious issues' with minor character flaws. My initial reaction to your account of the lesson was less "oh that poor boy," and more "what a little s**t." I find with some of those students tough love is sometimes a good answer. Don't take his crap, and if he gets in your face anymore about something you tell him (like the D#/Eb thing) remind him that you're the one who's the teacher, not him (paid or not). That when he's been playing bass ten years more than you then he can come back with some sage advice about the delicate intricacies of the Western musical language.
  13. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    Glen Cove, NY
    That's too broad a generalization. Sure, there are more keys with an Eb in them than a D#, but I think a better way of putting it would be to place it in context.

  14. Christ Kiwi, after all this time on TB I think you actually made sense.
  15. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    There's a method to my madness :bag:
  16. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    Hey Kroy,

    I like most of what you write, and most of it is supportive of your students, but I'd just suggest that you are careful in your application of "tough love". IF the student has low frustration tolerance, he will not respond well to a rigid authoritarian teacher. People with autism or ADHD, or other diagnosis really can't tolerate a hard-line approach. It just makes it harder for them to hear you, or to try harder.

    Slowing it down, little by little, can really work wonders, and I like your idea about that a lot. I find that I really have to be able to suss out a student, and see what approach will work. Some students just won't respond to a strict attitude (and I have a rep for being a strict teacher).

    I often imagine a young Michelangelo walking up to the Sistine Chapel, and going, "Sure, I can paint that!-yeah, right!" But if you showed him some blue, some red, a brush or two. .. I believe you need to model patience for your student, so that they can learn to be patient with themselves. Playing really really well is very hard, and it don't come easy, or fast. That's probably the hardest part about teaching, remembering how hard it was for you all those years back.

  17. Poop-Loops

    Poop-Loops Banned

    Mar 3, 2006
    Auburn, Washington
    I'm not a teacher, but I have a sister who is exactly like this and I tutor her with school all the time. She doesn't learn easily, even though she tries hard, and then she forgets things easily. You just have to be really patient. Sometimes something really basic will just be so hard to teach. It will make you wonder if he's really wants to learn, but if he keeps coming, he does. And no, my sister isn't mentally disabled or anything. She might have a learning disability, though. I've been trying to get my parents to get her checked out somehow (anybody know where I could take her for that?), but obviously they are against it, like KNOWING something was wrong would make things worse than THINKING it might be.

    She started to take guitar lessons and I have a whopping 2 months more experience than her. So I show her how to hold a guitar properly. She can't get it (how to fret strings) for some reason. So I show her again, "mold" her hand into the proper position. Everything I can. I lose my temper and she cries. Needless to say, she didn't learn anything.
  18. whitedk57


    May 5, 2005
    Franklin, NC
    I too am a student. I am also a father as well. So, I can see your frustration in trying to teach something to somebody who just doesn't get it. I work with my kids on their homework, and I get frustrated.

    Maybe you should dumb it down for this student. Start with more basics. Work in the theory gradually. Here is my fretboard chart if you don't already have one. Have them put it on a wall where they practice. fretboard

    Your advantage over me teaching my kids schoolwork is that your student doesn't have a set curriculum to go by. He can be taught individually at your pace.
  19. Kroy


    Jan 19, 2006

    Thanks for the responce, I agree with everything you had to say as well. :) I'm also a firm believer in catering my approach to each student individually. I actually had a student for a while who was mentally challenged and obviously I took a completely different approach with him than I did with others. What gets me riled up is when I see kids who aren't burdened with those kinds of obstacles but who just don't practice. Another instance where I do play hardball with kids is when they're obviously brats. I have one student who's obviously not gotten much discipline (mouths off to his parents/grandparents, generally a little smarta**) and I definitely don't cut him any slack because I might be the only adult he sees on a week to week basis who doesn't take his crap.

    In my experience slowing things down and working more methodically works as long as the student doesn't have any difficulties working with it at the slower tempo (some do). I'm a big fan of getting my students to think through everything. I want them to be cognitive creatures not just musical automotons that regurgitate whatever is on the radio. I make sure to tell them that too. I want them to know why I do the things I do and I have them work the way I do.

    I'm guilty of getting roped into a 15 minute explainations of things that are a little beyond my students. I've always hated it when teachers say, "that's just the way it is," or, "because I said so." So I try to give them a little more information about whatever they're asking about. I also make sure they understand what I'm explaining them, even if it's not crystal clear at the time. Anyway, it's always good to chat with other teachers to get a sense of how they approach things. Like I said, I'm still pretty new to this and always looking for better ways to do this.



  20. rjny36


    Jan 29, 2006
    Syracuse, NY
    ...And this is why being a teacher is an extraordinarily tough, and immensely underappreciated job. My hat goes off to anyone who teaches in any form. I surely couldn't do it. There are a lot of variables: natural ability, and devotion being two of the majors, IMO. When I was in school, I played the viola for one year, the trumpet for eight years, and was in the chorus for a few, as well. I mostly hated every minute of playing the trumpet, and I was one of those students that teachers more than likely hate... I "got" a lot of the things that I was being taught, but didn't work on it at all. Practice was unknown to me. ... All the same, those folks managed to pound into my head a lot of solid musical concepts. It often felt like my teachers "demanded" that I learn something, but they never explained why or how or any of that stuff.

    When I picked up the bass guitar at the age of twelve, I fell in love with it, and not only would I practice, but I WANTED to practice! I posted this on TB once before, but I strongly believe that the reason I enjoy playing bass is because my bass teacher provided me with "options," and let me work things out for myself in a controlled environment, when that's what I needed to do. Sometimes I was hard-headed, and had to make mistakes before I came to the same conclusion that he had been telling me for a while. After a while, I got the idea that he knew what he was talking about, and began to listen to him without giving so much grief.

    So I got two very different kinds of musical education, and a lot of it simultaneously. It worked wonders. The teachers at school "demanded" I learn things that really aren't negotiable (and I didn't appreciate until much later!), and my bass teacher gave me the "options" and opportunity to figure out how it all worked together.

    My advice, for what little it's worth, is to try and balance the "options" and the "demands."

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