Why Do Bass Players Not Question the Validity of What They Are Taught

Discussion in 'Ask Jeff Berlin [Closed]' started by JeffBerlin, Mar 9, 2018.

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  1. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    It seems fair to ask this question as so many bass players trust sources of learning without ever wondering if what they are being taught actually improves one's playing. I have a few questions that I am curious about.

    1. Schools sometime cost over $20,000 a semester, a very high figure to pay to learn how to play the bass or to learn musical content. Can you share how your playing improved to where spending 20 grand on music lessons was a wise investment on your part.

    2. There are lots of sources where the bass is taught. If you have attended any bass clinics, on-line lessons, bass camps, private teachers or studying with tab or fingerboard harmony to improve your playing with, how has your playing improved.

    In general, do you know how to play better? If so, can you describe what is improved in your bass playing that was once a playing difficulty that you had before attending the various sources that teach you how to play better?

    Many thanks for your help.
  2. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    Wellington, NZ
    For me, learning bass isn't linear process, where I started here and finished there. I tend not to think in terms of improvement, but a continual learning curve. The exciting thing about bass, is that there's a vast encyclopaedia of stuff to learn. I've been playing for 30 years, and feel as though I've just scratched the surface. Have I improved or playing better over the 30 years? Don't know, still learning.
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2018
    seang15, Morrighan and pasco jacorius like this.
  3. Too many players learning to play "look at me!!!!" vs being an indispensable part of the whole.
  4. My belief, and this goes for any College or University, is that you are paying as much for the network as the knowledge you get. It does seem excessive to me to pay 20K to learn how to read music and play, but if i were going to Berklee, for example, the connections I'd make there would be invaluable to my career later on.

    Any money you spend on your learning is only valuable when you put it to use.
    TalHaz, seang15, the_home and 3 others like this.
  5. SLO Surfer

    SLO Surfer

    Jun 3, 2009
    Los Osos, CA
    I got a jazz performance degree on upright bass on full scholarship, so for me every bit of my musical improvement was totally worth the cost of admission. But I don't think many people get college degrees just to become better players, myself included. Some get their degrees to know and understand more about the world of music in general, to become teachers or scholars, and/or often to make connections that can help spur a career (think Berklee students for example, who attend, hook up with other students, form a band, hit the road and never finish their degree program).

    A few specific bass playing improvements I got at college; better time from many hours spent doing exercises with a metronome, better range of dynamics through learning/performing classical and chamber music, better understanding of harmony which has lead to better improvisational skills, a better ear from hours of transcribing, better intonation from hours of practicing with a bow, better comfort and execution playing in odd time meters by learning how to use Indian Bols. There's much more I gained as well but it's getting late.

    There are things each teacher has taught me that I have disagreed with, disregarded, or found just didn't work for me. As a somewhat skeptical person I do question the validity of what I am taught, and even what I read here on TB.

    I'm not a fan of blanket statements, so the question, "Why do bass players not question the validity of what they are taught" seems based on a ridiculous supposition to me, deserving of carrots. For example, there's tons of threads here with students questioning the validity of what they are being taught, asking things like why they can't detune their bass to play more comfortably in a certain key, or why should they learn modes, or this guy says it's a Gadd9 chord but I think it's a G minor something rather. Heck, you're trying to teach us that metronomes are useless but many bass players are questioning the validity of what you teach. So I'm not sure what you bass :laugh: your question on.

    All I know is that the more I learn the less I know.
  6. JeezyMcNuggles

    JeezyMcNuggles Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
    The true bottom line about your question is that bass players as a whole just simply have a deeper appreciation for music than most musicians. In my experience and opinion at least. We think differently, hear things differently, and genuinely care about what we are doing. Therefore, bassists seem to be more open to learning from any source. If I could afford to go through a music college, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Without a second thought. Wouldn't you?
    Artman and joebar like this.
  7. JeezyMcNuggles

    JeezyMcNuggles Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
    Oh, but, once again as far as I know, there is nothing that you can learn that will make you play better. Except maybe that you need to mute your strings. If, you couldn't hear that yourself. The only way to get better is study and practice. Same with anything.
    Artman likes this.
  8. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    Thank you for commenting. I can offer my thoughts about me and state with certainty that I am improving noticeably, even now at age 65. Pablo Casals was practicing his cello when he was in his 90's. When asked why he kept practicing, Casals answered, "Because I'm still improving. "

    It isn't a difficult thing to pick up on one's improvement. It is easy to notice when one is playing something that they weren't playing a short time before. Bass players incorrectly state that they use a metronome to measure their speed. Measuring one's improvement as a player seems more logical to pay attention to. This is why some of the world's best players keep practicing. I suggest that it is a good idea to learn from them. Good luck!
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2018
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  9. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    Thank you for sharing. But, I am interested to know if you can answer the questions above.
  10. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    Interesting points! This raises a question in me as I have heard your answer from other people. I would like a deeper understanding of this. My question is, did you pay the money that you paid in order to network?
  11. JeffBerlin

    JeffBerlin Guest

    Jan 10, 2009
    Interesting comments. Thank you for sharing.

    To begin, in a lesson, if a teacher states that you can't detune a bass, it is best if you follow your instructions. Students aren't in music school to question their teachers. They are there to follow what is being taught to you exactly as the teacher tells you to do it or else why spend the money to study. It isn't art, but academic learning we are discussing. You don't have the right to do anything but do what you are told even as you discuss your feelings about your lessons. If you have a great bass teacher (something that I question most of the time) and if you paid money to learn, then "don't detune your bass" (so to speak) or else why are you in music school in the first place.

    Next, it is a fact that many if not most bass students trust reputations. This is why bass players don't play as well as they might have been; they don't question if the name teacher or the name school is actually capable of creating greatly improved and aware bass students. I've found that many bass players act as if they are in a cult' the "Leader" is beyond questioning if he/she actually knows how to teach. Thus, the title of my thread, provocative as it seems to you, is based upon people's trust of bass teachers and school to where they never question nor research if what they are being taught is musically supportable.

    I'll quote you here as this comment made me realize something. You stated that it is possible that students "get their degrees to know and understand more about the world of music in general, to become teachers or scholars, and/or often to make connections that can help spur a career."

    I won't refute your comments. I will simply mention that barely anyone to whom I have asked this question has ever stated that they went to music school to improve their bass playing.
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2018
  12. Yes, the network is part of the whole deal which is part of the whole uni/college experience. Do you need to pay 20K to get music and life experience? Not necessarily, but it's one way to do it.
  13. KaseOfBass

    KaseOfBass Put some stank on it... Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2007
    Austin, Texas
    Endorsing Artist: GHS Strings
    Have you just elevated to the level of arguing with yourself?
  14. I could spout off a list a mile long of the things I’ve learned from others to be a better player. That includes private lessons, VHS, DVD’s, books, YouTube, and currently paid online lessons.

    I am currently struggling with jazz so taking lessons online works for me and when I put the time in, yes I feel like I’m a better player. Right now I’m starting to learn more about jazz phrasing, I’ve gotten a lot better at reading music, jazz chords and common progressions. I’m not gonna lie though, jazz is kicking my butt.

    In response to your comment about teachers. I think if you go to an institution, you should not expect anything but the curriculum. You should learn the curriculum and be able to pass whatever tests or provide measurable results. Private lessons, like tutoring, should be used to fill gaps and expand on ideas. I think that SHOULD be enough to propel someone forward with their playing.

    Here’s the rub. Music, at least to me, is incredibly interesting and fascinating. I also want to be the best I can possibly be at playing electric bass. Am I there? No. Will I ever be as good as I want to be? Probably not. There is always something new to uncover. 98% of the musicians I’ve met are not that way. A lot of musicians I have interacted with are lazy when it comes to seeking out those learning experiences and pushing themselves. This is especially sad because of how easy it is to access information and lessons now vs. 23 years ago when I started playing.

    So yes, there is merit to saying some teachers suck. You pick any career and there are going to be people that you work with that are terrible at what they do. But I would also assert that you can’t teach interest and motivation to a student.

    As for the “you can’t tune down” comment I believe that is in reference to a thread from last week. Common sense would tell you that you can tune your bass to nothing but open E strings as long as you can hit the notes that you need to. Much like interest and motivation, common sense can’t be taught. If it could then forums like this wouldn’t exist ;-)
  15. basseux


    Jan 10, 2010
    If some people prefer to be taught than to learn mostly by themselves, why whould they question the validity of what they were taught ?
  16. tpaul

    tpaul Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2011

    And also, better carrots.
    SLO Surfer and saabfender like this.
  17. skygzr


    Feb 23, 2015
    Southeast US
    Questioning the validity of everything you’re taught is OK but it means you have to reinvent it all yourself.

    Many groundbreaking geniuses master a topic and THEN throw out the rule book.
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2018
    pomegranesis likes this.
  18. 4001

    4001 Inactive

    Sep 29, 2004
    Lake County, IL
    Another good question is "what are you learning, (besides social networking) playing the same lame bar set every weekend, including such greats as "Mustang Sally" and "Livin' on a Prayer"??
  19. Plectrum72

    Plectrum72 Supporting Member

    I think you're making a big assumption in thinking students don't question their teachers or that those seeking knowledge don't question the validity of various sources of information.
    SLO Surfer, saabfender and TwentyHz like this.
  20. pasco jacorius

    pasco jacorius

    Jan 4, 2010
    I never took a class. I played, jammed, met various people and learned various thing with them. My playing improved from trying technical to being musical and actually useful to the whole band like instead of playing so many notes , choosing the best ones and maintaining a constant foundation without having to rely all the time on heavy compression devices to keep the pulse up.Someone said "wait as long as you can before playing a note". That's weird but it changed my whole thinking musically speaking.
    Helix likes this.

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