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Teaching Bass. What's Important?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by BassAxe, Nov 14, 2002.

  1. BassAxe


    Jul 22, 2002
    Culpeper, VA
    I'm considering entering that prestigious line of work as a music teacher giving bass lessons. What do you guys think are some topics most beginning bass players need to learn?

    I might be doing this through a music store, but I might also do this out of my home. If through a store, am I considered an employee and get a W-2 or do I need to keep track of this as self-employed income?
  2. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    My guess is that if you teach through a music store you would be considered an independent contractor and have to meet IRS requirements that go along with that. But, too, you may be entitled to deductions for your business expenses such as some of your music equipment, music textbooks and other business expenses.

    One of those expenses might surprise you. Some music stores will charge you a type of rent for the space you occupy for your classes. Others may want a share of what you charge your students. Better check first and know all that is expected of you before you start.

    If you teach classes in your home, you may need a business license. You may also be in violation of home owners covenents or apartment rules against home businesses. Better find that out too.

    There are several members here who do teach. I hope they read your thread and are able to give you some advice.

    As for topics students may need to learn...don't be surprised if some come to you and tell YOU what they want to learn. You walk a delicate line in that case, because, for example, if you want to teach them to read music, but they want only tab, you may lose them if you insist on your way.
  3. BassAxe


    Jul 22, 2002
    Culpeper, VA
    Yeah, I had thought about that topic. I want to insist that they learn to read music and give them the Yoda treatment about Tab: Not better. Quicker, easier, more seductive. Once you start down that path, forever will it dominate your destiny.

    Besides, what is there to teach about how to read tab? It's a no-brainer. It is specific to its instrument and does not help you learn to communicate with other musicians, except maybe guitar players.
  4. Whatever you decide to teach them, keep it simple. Beginners are quick to become overwhelmed and, consequently, lose interest. I recomend you draw up a course outline, divided into individual lessons. In my case, each individual lesson is 30 minutes long. My entire beginner course is comprised of 11 lessons (30 minutes once a week). Give your students material to study and/or practice - enough to keep them busy and entertained for the remainder of the week before the next lesson. I provide each student with a computer printout of the days lesson so that he/she can refer to it while practicing. Keep your lessons standardized, ie. draw up a course and stick to it. I don't teach TAB, nor do I bombard my students with theory - they are, after all, beginners. Wean them into the world of notation and theory very gently. I'll be happy to give you more specific advise if you're interested - email me.
    (I've been teaching beginner and advanced bass for sometime now. )

    [Later edited] Oh, remember too that it's important that you know what you're doing and that you are able to impart that information to your students. How well (or badly) they do is a direct reflection of your teaching abilities, and believe me, word spreads.
  5. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    I just started playing bass last April, and taking lessons last May. My teacher uses Chuck Rainey's book "The Complete Electric Bass Method: Vol. I" with me. Basically, the first half of the book is all in C Major scale, and taught me how to read sheet music again. Every piece you learn is 4 to 16 bars long, with plenty of duets so you and your student can play together and swap parts.

    After I got to 1/8 & 1/4 note triplets (still working on nailing these), my teacher started throwing in theory, such as cycle of 4ths / 5ths, and 12 bar jazz blues progressions. Every week we expand a little on the progressions (ii-V turnarounds, playing ii-V of the ii, etc.). At this point, basically I keep working on stuff in the book, but also get a little theory each week to keep me from stagnating.

    So far I feel like it's teaching me what I'll need to know to become an intermediate player and how to understand music vs. just learning songs.

    I don't know if this helps you, but I feel like my teacher is a true instructor on how to play bass instead of just teaching me how to play songs I want to learn. I would say to throw in a song here and there because we all want to show our friends what we've learned, and just playing out a 12 bar jazz blues progression with a ii-V turnaround sometimes just isn't as sexy as jamming out "Crazy Train" or "Into the Void" or whatever songs you might like.
  6. With beginners, my first few lessons are:
    explanation of the notes
    Learning the fifth of every note
    chord progressions

    One problem I've been having is that I rely too much on the student's desire to learn, like a college professor instead of a high school teacher. Inspiration comes from within; do you want to do this or not. For most people they don't really want to become a bass player, they just want to goof around--and look to you for discipline. I'm not good at smiling and taking their pointless money. If you really want to be a teacher, this is a prime skill.

    I'm going to focus on a real syllabus, with lesson plans and handouts and assignments. Hopefully deriving a pedagogy steeped in cool & fun.

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