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What to work on with a teacher...

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by BMGecko, Dec 7, 2012.

  1. BMGecko


    Sep 5, 2002
    Albuquerque, NM
    Dear people,

    I've been playing for quite some time, and have finally decided to get off my duff and find a teacher. Although I have a fair idea of what I'd need to study to really pursue my goals, I'd like to hear from folks who've benefited from private instruction and benefit from their insights.

    I should say that I've been playing since '85, though it probably doesn't sound like it! I've gotten enough skill that hours of playing have helped me "sound like me", which I am really happy with. However, I know that I need to delve into theory and reading, and by extension transcription (yup, onto paper!). My reasoning for the belief in forcing myself to acquire what would seem to make up a basic musical education is that learning theory will enable me to understand the nature of music better (i.e. knowing why the touchstones of music are so) and to better analyze the music I hear and create (i.e. Why you might use certain notes with certain chords, why certain compositions sound a certain way) as well as the dreaded learning to read... I say dreaded because I want to learn to read well enough to write down what I play and hear (I immensely enjoy playing funky, funky stuttering basslines with a lot of ghost notes and in odd time signatures!) I also want to utilize written material across my lifespan for further study as well as being able to participate more fully in music by taking part in projects for which reading may be required such as playing wedding, show and jazz gigs and jamming with more technically "able" players. Needless to say, I should be getting together quite soon with a teacher who plays jazz bass, has a masters degree in composition and seems like a heckuva guy!

    If I haven't bored you by this point, I must ask my fellow Talk Bassers, "Have I overanalyzed it?". I think that my overarching goal of really developing my musicianship to the fullest is a worthy goal. I honestly think I'm "good" (subjective analysis of course) but since music brings me such pleasure, I want to pursue the higher calling of satisfying my own curiosity of how much more fluent in music I can become.

    What are the experiences of those who have tread the path on which I will soon be on, and are my goals, and the beliefs of the few (but oh, so important) things on which I should focus going to set me on the lifelong path?
  2. Einherjar


    Dec 1, 2012
    Lakewood, CO
    Well, I took lessons before I knew anything. Did them for about two years, wanted to write my own music and stopped going (was 16 when I stopped). Ten years later I feel like the most important thing I could have done was kept going and moving into improvisation and transcription. I just started playing again two months ago after not touching a stringed instrument for three years. And now I'm scrambling to learn theory in depth and improve my composition skills. But that could be a fault emerging from playing punk rock for forever :p so I say go for it. Get a teacher, play what you can for them, and if they're worth their salt they will know where you need to improve. I'm thinking about finding a new teacher too. Or tracking down my old one. Lol.
  3. Sni77


    Aug 23, 2012
    Vienna, Austria
    Bored me? Maybe a little... :bag:
    Sounds to me like you got very concrete goals and already found a good teacher. If he is as good as his credentials make him out to be, you should be well on your way of reaching your goals pretty soon. Can only be a matter of a few years of hard work :D
  4. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    IMO there is little time in a 30 minute music lesson for a deep study of music theory. So that is best done from papers, books, etc. , i.e. home work with direction from the instructor. Community College classes move at a very slow pace so I do not recommend you go that way. Here is a very good theory paper that we all seem to like. http://www.billygreen.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/Music Theory - Basic, Intermediate, Advanced.pdf

    You know what you want - finding the right instructor will be the chore.

    Good luck.
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I had been playing for about 14 years, had been to Berklee when I moved to NYC in 1987 and realized that I had run into a brick wall - the players who really spoke to me had something going on that I just didn't know how to get to. They weren't just playing a bunch of notes that "worked" with the chords, their playing had direction and intent, it had meaning. So I took some lessons with a couple of well known jazz players and it was still "Here's some vocabulary to play when you see these chords", nobody talked about how to imbue your playing with any kind of direction or meaning. Then in about 95, someone handed me this article, and I started studying with the author and, as Frost said, that has made all the difference. I was able to stop playing gibberish and start making sense.
    A good teacher will have a well thought out pedagogical approach to teaching you the skill sets you need in a flexible enough fashion to accommodate how YOU learn. There are 3 areas, to my way of thinking, that must be addressed:
    1. TECHNIQUE - which is not "raking" or slap or spider or any of that other crap. All technique means is your physical approach to the instrument. You need to have a physical approach that is always relaxed and tension free, that assures you control over all picking/plucking, fingering, shifting, phrasing, emphasis etc. You never want the instrument to be an impediment to getting to the music.
    2. UNDERSTANDING - or music theory, but primarily functional music theory. How chords are bulit, how they function, how they relate to each other
    3. HEARING WITH CLARITY - ear training. Hearing, identifying and singing intervals in the first octave, the second octave, triads in open and closed and all inversions, 4 part chords in open/closed/all inversions. 4 parts with 1 tension, 4 parts with 2 tensions. Trascribing, sure, but not for datamining. All to get to the point that when you hear something inside, in your musical imagination, that you can use #3 to clearly identify what you are hearing, use #2 to understand WHAT IT IS that you are hearing and #1 to get it out into the air so everyone else can hear it too.
    Sight reading is probably one of the few things you can work on without someone guiding you, just grab everything you can - Bach 2 parts, trombone etudes, etc - and have at it. Instead of reading a book or the newspaper, grab some music. If all a teacher wants to work on is supervising you sight reading, I'd look elsewhere....
  6. Since your teacher is experienced and educated, I'd say to just let him dictate the curriculum for now. You don't go to a calculus class and tell the instructor what to teach you right? As you get more into it (months or years later), you can have him direct your studies in a way that you think is more suited to you. In the meantime, there is probably a lot of fundamental stuff that you will need to learn first.

    By far, the best favor you can do yourself is to be sure in your own mind that you are willing to put in the work. He can't make you a good musician. Only you can do that. All your teacher can do is present you with information.
  7. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    While true that it is up to the student to apply themselves to the information given, I would have to take exception that the contribution of the teacher is merely as a passive "presenter of information". A good teacher will actively structure the information so that the student can make consistent and steady progress towards building the necessary skill sets, will be flexible enough to create as many different approaches to the subject at hand as are necessary to communicate these skill sets to the student (WHAT you need to know doesn't change, but HOW you learn it may).
    And while it may not be AS true for bass guitar as it is for double bass, the number of times my teacher either made physical adjustments to my posture and approach or taking the instrument out of my hands to visually and viscerally illustrate a point transcends merely "presenting information" to me.