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What's the youngest age you would consider teaching bass to a child?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by D_Quackington, Mar 23, 2013.

  1. D_Quackington


    Nov 7, 2011
    This came up in my teaching studies classroom. We were discussing the physical and mental limitations of our instruments.

    Bass guitar being so large it would be very difficult for small hands to hold. Motor and co ordination skills are very basic at this stage. Also concentration is a lot harder to hold the younger the child.

    Victor Wooten started at 2 and Stephen "Thundercat" Bruner started at 4. In both these cases there has been a strong musical family supporting them.

    Pino and Flea both started in late high school so starting young does not necessarily equate to playing better.

    My view is that in the family teaching at 2-4 is fine. A small scale bass/guitar will be needed until the hands are big enough. Much of my own teaching would be centered around short bursts of information, listening, dancing and singing.

    In a music tutor setting I would increase the age to 5 and do much the same. Listening, dancing, singing, small scale bass/guitar. Focusing on lots of little/quick activities and short lessons.

    What age did you start?
    What age would you be comfortable teaching?
  2. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Well, I am a dad, and I have also taught bass lessons to as many as 32 students at a time. It's rare that I came across anyone younger than 9 or 10 who had the attention span to learn bass. Bass is not a "flashy" instrument. You can't just play your favorite song for your buddies on it (like with a guitar or piano). So many got bored quickly (even though I went WAY otu of my way to learn and teach them songs they really liked). Also, having a 3 year old, I can't imagine why I would EVER try to start something so regimented with her. I just want her to be a kid. Music at this point should only involve jumping around to it. She's doing some little tap class at her pre-school. But it's only once a week for 40 minutes. Anything more than that just seems too serious for a kid that age.

    I started my junior year of high school. I played low brass in the band and got tapped by the director to learn bass for the school jazz band.

    I honestly wouldn't start a kid on bass any younger than 8 or 9, and even then it will be a rare kid who will enjoy it enough to stick with it at that age.
  3. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    I think it's more about parenting than teaching at a young age. If the child has an interest, let him/her go as wild as they want on a shortscale. Support their curiousity with as much information as they come asking about. Some might be ready for formal instruction at 5. Others at 12. They'll let you know.
  4. bander68


    Jan 29, 2013
    The Suzuki Method comes to mind. Although the instrument is too big, the simple way to begin instruction early would be with a cardboard box version similar to what is done with Suzuki violins. There are endless stories of children starting around 3 or 4 and becoming amazing musicians. As for the instrument itself, I think the determining factor would have to be when they can physically hold it. Add in mental awareness of being able to control what they are doing. I have a 4 year old son who loves to hang around when I practice, so tomorrow I'll see what he can handle and report back. Very interesting question!
  5. bass12

    bass12 And Grace, too

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    I guess for me the answer would be "as soon as the child expresses an interest in playing bass".
  6. Plantbrain

    Plantbrain Supporting Member

    Oct 9, 2006
    In the womb. Kids can hear it.

    I got a hold of a cello when I was 10, then someone gave me a damn viola. Double C cleft, what?
    French horn is a PITA so Jazz band needed a bassist in high school. I sucked eggs, I was good as far as music, but I had little groove.
    Mechanical as heck, little soul. Should have played upright when I was in middle school.

    Yes, 3-5 seems fine to me with the smaller short scales, maybe one of those Kala U bass things.
    My daughter loves to whack on the strings. She's 1 1/2. I'll see if she has interest. She'll need to be able to talk 1st though:)
  7. Floyd Eye

    Floyd Eye Banned

    Feb 21, 2010
    St. Louis
    My dad started teaching me when I was about 8 and was loopy for Kiss and Gene Simmons. He bought me a Kay electric bass for Christmas when I was 9 ( I think to keep my greasy little hands off his P bass) and I started my first band when I was 11 or 12.
  8. jason weatherby

    jason weatherby

    Aug 30, 2012
    As soon as possible given the student's physical size and motivation to learn. KEEP IT FUN! Get them into a band ASAP or at least playing with some friends. KEEP IT FUN!
  9. Absolutely this
  10. powmetalbassist

    powmetalbassist Supporting Member

    I started at 16. Loved that low end. I think the younger you start, the more likely the child is to give up, lose interest, etc. Let the child decide when and if they want to learn, don't force it or they will rebel....regardless if they are 5 or 15.
  11. anonymous111813

    anonymous111813 Guest

    Mar 1, 2011
    I agree with what you said.

    I guess that the children starting at a very early age typically are either piano or violin players. The key to become a good musician is to develop a good sense of timing and to develop a very good sense of hearing. Piano and violin are very good instruments to start on. You will develop your hearing better than on a bass. Many bass players lack that quality and still manage to play sufficiently in a band. But I would start with an instrument that is easier to play and where you can develop a sense for intervals and chords, so the piano would be the first choice if the kid shows any interest for it. Guitar would be ok, too, but it requires more fine motor skills to produce a good sounding note on a guitar than on a piano where you just have to hit the keyboard.

    I have guitar students from age 6, and there were some really musically talented ones, too. I choose to teach them music- rhythm, singing scales, chords, and playing that on a guitar. The voice has no limits in regard to fine motor skills and most kids really enjoy singing in general.

    So I guess there is no problem to teach an instrument from a very early age as long as the child enjoys it. It surely can benefit from it.

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