Music Player Network
Previous Thread
Next Thread
Print Thread
Page 1 of 2 1 2
The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
#2738679 12/03/15 02:40 PM
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
J
Senior Member
OP Offline
Senior Member
J
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
Hi from Jeff Berlin. I thought to discuss with people if they are interested, that my view that bass education, practically in its entirely, isn't helping students to play better now that music is not the center of all lessons.

There are bass lessons everywhere offering instruction about how to play with a band, or how to play with a drummer, or how to record in a studio, In my opinion, these things do not require anyone paying money to learn these things. To prove this, go to the history of all bass players to verify for yourselves that every single bass player in history without exception figured out how to play in a band and how to play with a drummer without paying to learn these things.

Bass education is dumbing down further and further because so few educators are teaching musical content only. And students are OK with this sad to say! I do see the kind hearted intentions of teachers wishing to offer short cuts to musical improvement to their students. I simply say that there ARE no shortcuts worthy of paying to learn.

Teachers are giving students, clinic participants, internet viewers, etc. the wrong messages in such a prolific number that people hopeful to learn how to play almost don't stand a chance in acquiring what they are seeking.

Telling the truth to a student about the their true ability to play isn't a cruel act. When I studied with Charlie Banacos, I knew that he would find my flaws in my playing and tell me what they were, and then he would assign me music to fix them. Narrow, straight to the point bass education, the direct opposite of what is being taught and what students are seeking. In my day, we paid for this direct commentary and we wanted to hear the truth of ourselves. I should add that when Charlie was telling me about the weaknesses in my playing that he heard, I was already a poll winning bass player with a world wide fan base. It didn't matter at all to me. I wanted to play better and I was grateful for the direct commentary that helped me to move upward as a player. But these days, players are so fearful of hearing the truth that they will stay in denial, appeased by the love bomb commentaries of teachers saying that whatever they played was OK.

It isn't OK to play badly and it isn't cruel to hear from your teacher that you aren't playing well. It is the truth and the truth can be said with kindness and love.

Here is a question: Do you REALLY wish to be a player? Or as there is room for anyone in the world with their own agenda, do you just want to have a little fun playing your instrument. Check this out: in both cases, you still have to know what the right notes are and where to put your fingers on your neck to play even at a moderate amateur level. Notes are first before groove, feel or any artful expression. Before anything that could be played with feeling were the facts of music that opened the doors to emotional playing. And I see it that it always was this way until bass teachers told students the opposite thing.

Think about my comments and see if they affect you somewhere emotionally, because they were said clearly, but with love. Write me your thoughts as my intention is to get bass players to not buy into what they are told by bass educators, but to at least think about it a little bit because I believe that you aren't getting the right information about how to play better.

Last edited by Jeff Berlin; 12/03/15 02:44 PM.
BP Island
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
Jeff Berlin #2738692 12/03/15 03:38 PM
Joined: Feb 2001
Posts: 16,437
10k Club
Offline
10k Club
Joined: Feb 2001
Posts: 16,437
I believe that I am teaching in a manner consistent with your ideas and that my own studies have also followed that path.

I am not a famous player and will never be, but I have worked hard to get the knowledge that I have and am not afraid to hear criticism.

Keep up your teaching and of course your great playing!

Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
jeremy c #2738833 12/04/15 10:55 AM
Joined: Aug 2009
Posts: 1,474
Platinum Member
Offline
Platinum Member
Joined: Aug 2009
Posts: 1,474
And yet the history of bass playing is filled with genius players who never had five minutes of music lessons. Paul McCartney can't read music. Paul Simonon painted the notes on the neck of his bass. There have always been lazy players looking for shortcuts, there have always been sloppy teachers. So what? The cream always rises to the top.


"Everyone wants to change the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves." Leo Tolstoy
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
Richard W #2738841 12/04/15 11:38 AM
Joined: Nov 2003
Posts: 3,547
Likes: 1
MP Hall of Fame Member
Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Nov 2003
Posts: 3,547
Likes: 1
I don't disagree with you but I think the saddest thing for me is that there is so little interest in young people picking up an instrument, any instrument. Most of them, that I encounter, all want to be the next American Idol, DJ or rapper with very little interest in the actual music, working towards something or practicing.

How about a rule, for every hour of working on music (or other skill), you can post something to social media? The world would be a better place and perhaps more people will have a legitimate reason to say "watch me".

Last edited by butcherNburn; 12/04/15 11:42 AM. Reason: I'll edit what I want. Mind your business.

If you think my playing is bad, you should hear me sing!
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
Richard W #2738858 12/04/15 12:53 PM
Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 9,533
_
El Superfly Grande
MP Hall of Fame Member
Offline
El Superfly Grande
MP Hall of Fame Member
_
Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 9,533
Originally Posted By: Richard W
And yet the history of bass playing is filled with genius players who never had five minutes of music lessons. Paul McCartney can't read music. Paul Simonon painted the notes on the neck of his bass.


Sure. And tons of genius players who had good training and instruction didn't become famous. And the route to fame is littered with genius players who didn't get the right breaks at the right times, and couldn't continue with a career in music because they couldn't, say, read notes on the staff or navigate a II-V-I. Exceptionalism doesn't strike me as a useful argument to not have sound educational practice. I will use an over the top analogy here -- Sojourner Truth was an unbelievable civil rights advocate and also illiterate, but I would never use her as an example for why learning to read isn't necessary to being successful, even if I were her contemporary.

We can also play the "what if" game. What if Paul Simonon had a teacher like Jeremy? Might we have heard an earlier version of Matt Freeman? Paul played what was right for that band at that time, but that doesn't mean he might have done something better (or, worse, for that matter) had he had a stronger educational base to draw upon.

Originally Posted By: Richard W
There have always been lazy players looking for shortcuts, there have always been sloppy teachers. So what? The cream always rises to the top.


This is false: the cream does not always rise to the top. There are plenty of barriers in the path of success (especially if defined in terms of gaining fame and fortune). The pathways available to a musician are more plentiful if he or she has a good music education foundation, don't you think? Even as a casual player, I still benefit from and draw upon the pieces of music education I've had along my journey, and it has meant that I've gotten some gigs (nonprofessional; hobbiest fun) because of that training.

Isn't it still worth thinking about and having dialogue about what kinds of music education might prove most useful to budding and experienced musicians?

Peace.
--W




Last edited by _Sweet Willie_; 12/04/15 12:55 PM. Reason: I like butcher's explanation.

spreadluv

Fanboy? Why, yes! Nordstrand Pickups and Guitars.
Messiaen knew how to parlay the funk.
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
_Sweet Willie_ #2738924 12/04/15 05:27 PM
Joined: Aug 2009
Posts: 1,474
Platinum Member
Offline
Platinum Member
Joined: Aug 2009
Posts: 1,474
Originally Posted By: _Sweet Willie_
The pathways available to a musician are more plentiful if he or she has a good music education foundation, don't you think?


I don't know. This would make an interesting research project: define a sample of "successful" bass players and analyze how they got there--formal education vs. self-taught, etc. to see if one could draw any conclusions.

The criticism of "exceptionalism" is a fair one--Mark Zuckerberg's success is hardly an argument in favor of dropping out of college.

I'm not criticizing the importance of teaching music. I took lessons for years (as an adult) and if it were up to me every kid in the country would be required to learn both an instrument and theory. But to your point--there are so many X factors in any individual's "success" that I just think it's hard to place credit or blame on any single factor--such as if bass education has been dumbed down or not.


"Everyone wants to change the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves." Leo Tolstoy
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
Richard W #2739030 12/05/15 01:25 AM
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
J
Senior Member
OP Offline
Senior Member
J
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
Originally Posted By: Richard W
And yet the history of bass playing is filled with genius players who never had five minutes of music lessons. Paul McCartney can't read music. Paul Simonon painted the notes on the neck of his bass. There have always been lazy players looking for shortcuts, there have always been sloppy teachers. So what? The cream always rises to the top.


Thanks for sharing! I would add that there are schools, camps, internet instruction, music books and private lessons that people are paying a lot of money to improve their playing with. I was speaking to these people, the paying student no matter their age or experience, not addressing the self taught players as those that you mentioned. Self taught players as the ones you mentioned found their way in music and did it on their own terms and without paying anyone for musical guidance. Therefore, I don't have anything negative to say about this approach as it is entirely one's decisions and actions that one is taking on their own behalf.

I opened this thread to discuss with these people that paid to learn that in my opinion, bass education as a whole is a disaster. It might be an unpopular thing to say, but I stand by my feelings and would like to explain my thoughts better to anyone that might be interested. Also I will answer questions or comments from players that might take umbrage to my comments. Your voice needs to be heard so that I can maybe make things clearer to you. So, offer your thoughts, both plus and minus and permit me to answer you.

Last edited by Jeff Berlin; 12/05/15 02:07 AM.
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
butcherNburn #2739031 12/05/15 01:39 AM
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
J
Senior Member
OP Offline
Senior Member
J
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
Originally Posted By: butcherNburn
I don't disagree with you but I think the saddest thing for me is that there is so little interest in young people picking up an instrument, any instrument. Most of them, that I encounter, all want to be the next American Idol, DJ or rapper with very little interest in the actual music, working towards something or practicing.

How about a rule, for every hour of working on music (or other skill), you can post something to social media? The world would be a better place and perhaps more people will have a legitimate reason to say "watch me".


I agree! But the fault doesn't lie with the students. These are people, often young and certainly mostly without a musical background in academic study, The fault lies with the teachers, the schools, the bass magazines, in fact every offering that suggests ways to learn. The fault is with them because as an educational collective, bass teachers aren't stating that the best way, the only way to improve as students is by learning a weekly assignment of perfectly created musical exercises and etudes/tunes to practice. They don't do this because they don't believe in music-only as a means to teach. Instead the educational system of our instrument is built on poor information being taught, that is, unless students are only being given music to practice, and the right kind of music at that. Teachers aren't evil. They are loving and kind and only want the best for their students.

But students are trusting the wrong people in my opinion. Self taught players should not teach. How can someone teach music if they don't know what it is themselves having never been trained in it? And teachers that have been trained in musical content have turned their backs on teaching it as an exclusive approach. Why? The truth is that they don't believe that learning music-only is sufficient to teach their students.

I object not to the spirit of kind hearted teachers, not to the playing skills that they have nor the style of music that gives them pleasure. I object to the dumbing down of music education that teachers literally have done and contributed to the bass population with permission from music magazines and now the internet. The week lessons are now considered mandatory and they are embraced, literally, worldwide at this time. I felt compelled to start a dialog to see if something can be done about this. I actually have an answer to fix this situation, but I will tell you that very few people will like what I have to say. But, it doesn't mean that my thoughts are wrong. One day I might share them.

Last edited by Jeff Berlin; 12/05/15 04:15 PM.
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
_Sweet Willie_ #2739033 12/05/15 01:52 AM
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
J
Senior Member
OP Offline
Senior Member
J
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
[quote=_Sweet Willie_][quote=Richard W] Sojourner Truth was an unbelievable civil rights advocate and also illiterate, but I would never use her as an example for why learning to read isn't necessary to being successful, even if I were her contemporary.

Jeff answered: I found this to be a brilliant comment! Bravo!

Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
Richard W #2739034 12/05/15 02:02 AM
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
J
Senior Member
OP Offline
Senior Member
J
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
Originally Posted By: Richard W
Originally Posted By: _Sweet Willie_
The pathways available to a musician are more plentiful if he or she has a good music education foundation, don't you think?


I don't know. This would make an interesting research project: define a sample of "successful" bass players and analyze how they got there--formal education vs. self-taught, etc. to see if one could draw any conclusions.

The criticism of "exceptionalism" is a fair one--Mark Zuckerberg's success is hardly an argument in favor of dropping out of college.

I'm not criticizing the importance of teaching music. I took lessons for years (as an adult) and if it were up to me every kid in the country would be required to learn both an instrument and theory. But to your point--there are so many X factors in any individual's "success" that I just think it's hard to place credit or blame on any single factor--such as if bass education has been dumbed down or not.


Fantastic comments! My thoughts are these!

Success as a player has never been an issue with me because in music, it isn't guaranteed. What is guaranteed is that if people pay money to any source of learning to become improved as players, only music itself can guarantee that this can happen.This statistic is based on the 100% of people reading my comments at this time, all of whom learned English the exact same way and through the same educational system from 1st grade to the end of high school. Academic English was the only method that guaranteed that everyone would have a shot at mastering the written English language. It works exactly the same way in music.

Last edited by Jeff Berlin; 12/05/15 02:04 AM.
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
Jeff Berlin #2739256 12/06/15 12:07 PM
Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 4,331
MP Hall of Fame Member
Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 4,331
Jeff, here's a fairly broad question regarding musical education. Over the past couple of decades, arts programs in public schools, music included, has wound up on the budgetary chopping block. As a result, lots of young people may have had little or no exposure to an academic music program prior to expressing interest in playing any instrument. As a music educator, have you seen a corresponding trend between the erosion of music education in schools and the issues you're referring to among bassist, if not other musicians as well?


Obligatory Social Media Link
"My concern is, and I have to, uh, check with my accountant, that this might bump me into a higher, uh, tax..."
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
Nicklab #2739430 12/07/15 03:57 PM
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
J
Senior Member
OP Offline
Senior Member
J
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
Originally Posted By: Nicklab
Jeff, here's a fairly broad question regarding musical education. Over the past couple of decades, arts programs in public schools, music included, has wound up on the budgetary chopping block. As a result, lots of young people may have had little or no exposure to an academic music program prior to expressing interest in playing any instrument. As a music educator, have you seen a corresponding trend between the erosion of music education in schools and the issues you're referring to among bassist, if not other musicians as well?


Good question! I imagine that not exposing music to kids must have some negative effect. But most people that play are young adults on upward. To me, the greatest negative effect is how bass is being taught, but I notice that this message is often a real mystery to many people.

Bass teachers mean well, but they have done something really strange. They took a perfectly functioning academic approach to learning that didn't have a single weak aspect to it, and they altered it. Where once music was what was taught to students of all ages, now methods are more alchemy than chemistry, more New Age than musical content.

I am both admired and dislike for saying publicly what I say. I don't say my thoughts to win admirers or to tick off people. I want to inspire thought. to do this, I point out the flaws of what is being taught and then I suggest what to do correctly to learn well. Everyone in history that stood for something that the majority didn't stand for were crucified, literally and otherwise by the system that they criticized. It is hard to stand against a popular belief because there are a lot of people not willing to hear you.

My intention is to help people, but for people to be willing to be helped (whiche of course, is entirely their choice) a little clear thinking has to take place followed by a few changes in belief and action. If players pay money to learn how to play, my suggestion is for them to look into the history of music to see how teaching and practicing was done and to notice that almost everyone that learned in principally the exact same ways all improved as players.

Last edited by Jeff Berlin; 12/07/15 04:03 PM.
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
Jeff Berlin #2739613 12/08/15 12:07 PM
Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 4,331
MP Hall of Fame Member
Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 4,331
Originally Posted By: Jeff Berlin
Originally Posted By: Nicklab
Jeff, here's a fairly broad question regarding musical education. Over the past couple of decades, arts programs in public schools, music included, has wound up on the budgetary chopping block. As a result, lots of young people may have had little or no exposure to an academic music program prior to expressing interest in playing any instrument. As a music educator, have you seen a corresponding trend between the erosion of music education in schools and the issues you're referring to among bassist, if not other musicians as well?


Good question! I imagine that not exposing music to kids must have some negative effect. But most people that play are young adults on upward. To me, the greatest negative effect is how bass is being taught, but I notice that this message is often a real mystery to many people.


I think the aspect of music education for children is something that might have some longer range implications than we may realize. What comes to mind for me is that studies about language skills indicate that younger children have a greater capacity to learn a new language than an adult. Music is both an aural and written language. And it seems that if children get educated in musical language at an earlier age that they're going to be more capable of being fluent in the written aspect of the language.

This part is just spit-balling though. My own take on these varied approaches to musical education that you've been criticizing seem to have come from some place. Part of me thinks that these different approaches are filling some of the void that's been created by the decimation of public school music programs. They may also be dealing with students of a more advanced age who are less patient with the process of learning those real basics of music. The Simandl method is one bass education book that I've seen recommended for years. But when I think about the attention span of a 15 year old student who wants to learn to play Foo Fighters or Metallica songs with his friends, something like Simandl or learning arpeggios through the circle of fifths would probably come across as a bit dry.

I think there's also a financial interest for a good number of music educators that is a very powerful influence on how this plays out at the retail level. And I think we can't restrict the conversation purely to bass education. Just look at your local music shop teacher. They may be trying to work as a professional musician and they're having a tough time getting good paying gigs. So they start giving lessons to make ends meet and realize that with giving 8 or 10 lessons a week at $40 per lesson, they're making a lot more than the $200 or $300 per weekend with their gigging cover band. All of a sudden they have a vested financial interest in keeping their students coming back for more lessons. Hence, they teach them to play the songs they want to learn to play, etc.

I think a lot of this winds up being market driven because a good number of teachers are responding to the demands of their students. No doubt some of these teachers are struggling to pay their own bills, and that financial motivation may undermine the integrity of their curriculum. And I have no doubt that there are some principled teachers who can communicate fundamental musical theory because they're good teachers. Likewise, there are some motivated students who want to excel and push forward. I can certainly understand your criticism of teachers who kowtow to students for monetary gain without offering a solid musical foundation. But I think that it's a symbiotic situation. The teachers who would offer so-called "shortcuts" wouldn't exist without the students who are seeking them, and vice versa.


Obligatory Social Media Link
"My concern is, and I have to, uh, check with my accountant, that this might bump me into a higher, uh, tax..."
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
Nicklab #2739626 12/08/15 01:15 PM
Joined: Feb 2001
Posts: 16,437
10k Club
Offline
10k Club
Joined: Feb 2001
Posts: 16,437
I do not teach songs to my students. I give them the tools they need to learn songs by themselves.

Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
jeremy c #2739632 12/08/15 01:42 PM
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
J
Senior Member
OP Offline
Senior Member
J
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
s

Last edited by Jeff Berlin; 12/08/15 01:43 PM.
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
Nicklab #2739634 12/08/15 01:49 PM
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
J
Senior Member
OP Offline
Senior Member
J
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
Nicklab said, "My own take on these varied approaches to musical education that you've been criticizing seem to have come from some place. The Simandl method is one bass education book that I've seen recommended for years. But when I think about the attention span of a 15 year old student who wants to learn to play Foo Fighters or Metallica songs with his friends, something like Simandl or learning arpeggios through the circle of fifths would probably come across as a bit dry."

Jeff answered: My observation seems to indicate that the methods of teaching in bass education comes from teachers that weren't either trained in music themselves, or who had training but rejected a purely music-only education. The methods that are being taught aren't anomalies. They are the way of teaching. Music has become the anomaly and this amazes me. A 15 year old kid doesn't have the right to expect that he will determine what he will study. Kids into the Foo Fighters don't have teachers that tell them that learning music is different than playing it because I feel that the teachers don't know the difference themselves

Nicklab said, "I think there's also a financial interest for a good number of music educators that is a very powerful influence on how this plays out at the retail level. And I think we can't restrict the conversation purely to bass education. Just look at your local music shop teacher. They may be trying to work as a professional musician and they're having a tough time getting good paying gigs. So they start giving lessons to make ends meet and realize that with giving 8 or 10 lessons a week at $40 per lesson, they're making a lot more than the $200 or $300 per weekend with their gigging cover band. All of a sudden they have a vested financial interest in keeping their students coming back for more lessons. Hence, they teach them to play the songs they want to learn to play, etc."

Jeff answered: I think that this is an extremely good point. And I think in a large way, this is where bass education has gone down as well. Players not qualified to teach, teach for money.

Nicklab said, " Likewise, there are some motivated students who want to excel and push forward. I can certainly understand your criticism of teachers who kowtow to students for monetary gain without offering a solid musical foundation. But I think that it's a symbiotic situation. The teachers who would offer so-called "shortcuts" wouldn't exist without the students who are seeking them, and vice versa. [/quote

Jeff answered: The sneaky student is a cliche. We all were sneaky as kids and we all tried for the shortcut. Teachers agreeing to having a symbiotic relationship with their students doesn't seem to exist anywhere else in the arts and in the vocational studies that I can find. Ultimately, it doesn't matter if students seek shortcuts and try like hell to get them. Who's in charge here?

Thanks for your thoughts. They are great.

Last edited by Jeff Berlin; 12/08/15 02:31 PM.
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
Jeff Berlin #2740050 12/10/15 12:01 AM
Joined: May 2006
Posts: 3,711
MP Hall of Fame Member
Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: May 2006
Posts: 3,711
OMG. I thought I liked to type. But you guys put my excessive button pushing to shame.

That said, here's my take on education in general and bass and music education in specific.

Music education is an incredible tool for learning how to learn. In Optometry school we took a whole bunch of child development courses that we didn't use one iota in the field. But most every day of the classes on "learning how we learn", I'd relate that's what I did while learning clarinet/sax/bass/guitar...and years later, voice. No, sirs and madam. I wasn't mute for those early years. Learning to sing, is what i mean. You're so funny. Anyway, the number of doctors and lawyers and PhD's that I know who are musicians is silly high. The most brilliant people I've known are piano players....except for one guy, but that's because he's a jerk who smokes too much pot. OK, so maybe the brilliant people gravitated to music because they're brilliant, but I think that part of their brilliance is from training their brain by learning music.

Music Teachers: Dumb it down to sell some lessons, or keep it first class all the way? C'mon. Not an issue. It, of course, depends on the student. If the kid has fire in his/her belly, then the Charlie Banacos approach is clearly the winner. That's kind of easy. The harder part for a teacher is to create that fire where it may not be there. How do you sneak cool stuff into the Metallica tune until the student says, "More! Gimme more!" And the teacher needn't be all that and a bag of chips, as long as he/she has the integrity to hand the student over to someone more qualified than he/her when the time comes. Indeed, a tough call when $$$ is involved, but...be a mensch, dammit.

And let's not take ourselves too seriously. It's just the bass guitar fer chrissakes. Some kids just want to play "Smoke on the Water" with their buddies. And let's not take our instrument too seriously either-- the fastest way to becoming a better bass player is to become a better musician in general. Play some guitar, learn some drum rudiments, push some sliders around on that mixing board.

And put a cool sticker on your vintage instrument; that's where the magic is.



Things are just the way they are, and they're only going to get worse.
https://soundcloud.com/paul-kempkes
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
Paul K #2740557 12/12/15 05:41 AM
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
J
Senior Member
OP Offline
Senior Member
J
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
Originally Posted By: Paul K
OMG. I thought I liked to type. But you guys put my excessive button pushing to shame.

That said, here's my take on education in general and bass and music education in specific.

Music education is an incredible tool for learning how to learn. In Optometry school we took a whole bunch of child development courses that we didn't use one iota in the field. But most every day of the classes on "learning how we learn", I'd relate that's what I did while learning clarinet/sax/bass/guitar...and years later, voice. No, sirs and madam. I wasn't mute for those early years. Learning to sing, is what i mean. You're so funny. Anyway, the number of doctors and lawyers and PhD's that I know who are musicians is silly high. The most brilliant people I've known are piano players....except for one guy, but that's because he's a jerk who smokes too much pot. OK, so maybe the brilliant people gravitated to music because they're brilliant, but I think that part of their brilliance is from training their brain by learning music.

Music Teachers: Dumb it down to sell some lessons, or keep it first class all the way? C'mon. Not an issue. It, of course, depends on the student. If the kid has fire in his/her belly, then the Charlie Banacos approach is clearly the winner. That's kind of easy. The harder part for a teacher is to create that fire where it may not be there. How do you sneak cool stuff into the Metallica tune until the student says, "More! Gimme more!" And the teacher needn't be all that and a bag of chips, as long as he/she has the integrity to hand the student over to someone more qualified than he/her when the time comes. Indeed, a tough call when $$$ is involved, but...be a mensch, dammit.

And let's not take ourselves too seriously. It's just the bass guitar fer chrissakes. Some kids just want to play "Smoke on the Water" with their buddies. And let's not take our instrument too seriously either-- the fastest way to becoming a better bass player is to become a better musician in general. Play some guitar, learn some drum rudiments, push some sliders around on that mixing board.

And put a cool sticker on your vintage instrument; that's where the magic is.



Thank you for your thoughts. There's a lot to share so I will take your advise and not provide too much verbiage for you to read.

1. Music education isn't a tool. It is a methodology.

2. The number of people seeking instruction through the internet, music schools, camps, private teachers and all form of learning suggest that there are way more seriously interested-in-learning-how-to-play bass players than you acknowledge.

3. Teachers are not required to create any fire in their students. They are required to teach them. Bass players in particular don't need a teacher to inspire them. They went out and bought an instrument and then sought a teacher to teach it to them. They already are in possession of their own personal inspiration, their own fire.

4. Your comment not to take ourselves too seriously because it is just a bass guitar states your personal lack of a high vision of music for yourself. This is OK by the way. I play miniature golf and have a great lack of a high aspiration to play golf well. Low standards exist for people that allow those standards into their lives while others take very seriously their life affirming undertakings.

5. To many musicians throughout history, the notion that "it's just a bass guitar fer crissakes" would be an insult to the people that keep great music alive for its own sake. To a player moved by the need to create and to learn music well, little counts as the time put into becoming a meaningful musician.

Last edited by Jeff Berlin; 12/13/15 12:42 AM.
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
jeremy c #2740587 12/12/15 11:48 AM
Joined: Dec 2005
Posts: 4,783
MP Hall of Fame Member
Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Dec 2005
Posts: 4,783
Originally Posted By: jeremy c
I do not teach songs to my students. I give them the tools they need to learn songs by themselves.


thu

I like this. One exception I have enjoyed to this with the teacher I have had is when I need help through a part of a bass line I can't figure out. But come to think of it he showed me how he figured it out... not just showed me how to play it.

Jeff Berlin and the rest... I really enjoy this thread.

Last edited by Ross Brown; 12/12/15 11:49 AM.

"When I take a stroll down Jackass Lane it is usually to see someone that is already there"
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
Ross Brown #2740672 12/12/15 06:02 PM
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
J
Senior Member
OP Offline
Senior Member
J
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
Originally Posted By: Ross Brown
Originally Posted By: jeremy c
I do not teach songs to my students. I give them the tools they need to learn songs by themselves.


thu

I like this. One exception I have enjoyed to this with the teacher I have had is when I need help through a part of a bass line I can't figure out. But come to think of it he showed me how he figured it out... not just showed me how to play it.

Jeff Berlin and the rest... I really enjoy this thread.


Thanks for your kind thought. I will suggest something to try: take the bassline that you are having trouble with and play it in 12 keys. If you can't do it, this means that your limitations are musical, not technical. What THIS means is that if you practice on musical principles in different harmonic ways, soon you won't need a teacher to demystify a bass line.

Bass players have things backwards and they have for a long time. Bass players often ask what the best way to learn is. When I tell them what that is, for the most part they reject it. The way that you will improve as a bass player is to be taught in the academic facts of music and accompany this with the self taught experience. I will bet that no one can come up with a third option. If anyone feels that they have, please write here and we can chat about it.

Last edited by Jeff Berlin; 12/12/15 06:05 PM.
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
_Sweet Willie_ #2740730 12/13/15 12:46 AM
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
J
Senior Member
OP Offline
Senior Member
J
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
Originally Posted By: _Sweet Willie_
[quote=Richard W]

Isn't it still worth thinking about and having dialogue about what kinds of music education might prove most useful to budding and experienced musicians?

Peace.
--W

I thought to just extract this question as my answer might surprise you. I don't think that dialog is going to help anyone because, for the most part, players don't understand how music works. Therefore, the only thing that they could contribute was an opinion. For the most part, bass players don't understand the merits of learning bass correctly, the function, the methods, the manner and what to expect from their work. But, if they wished, this could change for them!

In art, that is, whatever one likes to play, there is no comment that is necessary as this is one's artistic choice. Learning is different than playing and this separation doesn't exist in the minds of bass players. If young bass players trusted learning only musical content (and jazz content at that,) they would triple their playing a couple of months because there is no better academic music to practice than jazz. Artistically, you never have to play it. But art and learning are two completely different points.

Oh, just for something to ponder; The reason for a low interest in this thead is because there is nothing entertaining here. Learning how to play is not interesting to bass players and I would like to know why this is. Can anyone inform me why most players aren't interested in seeking a purely musical course of instruction? Thanks for your insights.




Last edited by Jeff Berlin; 12/13/15 02:06 AM.
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
Jeff Berlin #2740848 12/13/15 08:46 PM
Joined: Dec 2009
Posts: 1
S
Member
Offline
Member
S
Joined: Dec 2009
Posts: 1
Jeff wrote: “Learning how to play is not interesting to bass players and I would like to know why this is. Can anyone inform me why most players aren't interested in seeking a purely musical course of instruction?”

I’m not sure I know, but I’ve found a path of musical study that I believe has been working well for me. I will share my experience for comment.

I spun my wheels trying to improve for years until I found a jazz teacher about 4 years ago. The majority of my lessons have consisted of transcribing a bassline, a solo, a melody or many times all of these components for a given tune. Later working all or many of these components tune after tune. I absolutely love this approach and consider it very music centered. Even though the majority of lesson content has been transcribing, I feel there has been great value in paying someone who can advise on content, provide a method of progression and provide accountability and feedback for improvement. I have also worked very hard.

I recognize there are teachers who approach studying music differently, perhaps a chord/scale approach over a transcription based approach. I don't know if I could call either right or wrong as I imagine there is evidence to the success of both approaches, however my personal experience has been the jazz language approach to learning jazz one is the one I have really clicked with. This is where studying music really became fun...even addictive for me.

Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
sedgwick1489 #2740852 12/13/15 09:05 PM
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
J
Senior Member
OP Offline
Senior Member
J
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
Originally Posted By: sedgwick1489
Jeff wrote: “Learning how to play is not interesting to bass players and I would like to know why this is. Can anyone inform me why most players aren't interested in seeking a purely musical course of instruction?”

I’m not sure I know, but I’ve found a path of musical study that I believe has been working well for me. I will share my experience for comment.

I spun my wheels trying to improve for years until I found a jazz teacher about 4 years ago. The majority of my lessons have consisted of transcribing a bassline, a solo, a melody or many times all of these components for a given tune. Later working all or many of these components tune after tune. I absolutely love this approach and consider it very music centered. Even though the majority of lesson content has been transcribing, I feel there has been great value in paying someone who can advise on content, provide a method of progression and provide accountability and feedback for improvement. I have also worked very hard.

I recognize there are teachers who approach studying music differently, perhaps a chord/scale approach over a transcription based approach. I don't know if I could call either right or wrong as I imagine there is evidence to the success of both approaches, however my personal experience has been the jazz language approach to learning jazz one is the one I have really clicked with. This is where studying music really became fun...even addictive for me.


I would agree with your views about learning jazz. I guess my using the word "wrong" seems to be an unpopular way for me to communicate. So I will try and change this to something else while trying to communicate thoughts about learning. Here goes!

Jazz includes two important points in learning it: 1. You have to know music to practice it, and 2. you have to know your bass to play the right notes.

Where people are uncomfortable with learning jazz seems to lie is that they feel that this means that they have to become jazz musicians. But you don't! What jazz studies does is that it instantly cuts out the fat and gets straight into the meat. It is the only academic music that can be connected in some way with just about all the musical styles of Western contemporary music. Players spend tens of thousands of dollars to go to school and often try to avoid jazz studies. I would love to hear from students that do this to ask if they would explain to me why jazz studies are so unpopular with them. I have a real curiosity to find out what they might object to, so please write me here.

In a nutshell, jazz will improve your playing almost immediately. No style seems to benefit a student better than jazz does in helping players to learn what the right notes are through reading, through improvising (as an academic practice not as a career choice), or in the use of jazz tunes via walking lines and soloing through chord changes.

Thoughts are welcome!

Last edited by Jeff Berlin; 12/13/15 09:09 PM.
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
Jeff Berlin #2740855 12/13/15 09:51 PM
Joined: May 2006
Posts: 3,711
MP Hall of Fame Member
Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: May 2006
Posts: 3,711
Hey, Jeff. My responses in bold and underlined, not because I'm shouting, but just to separate my words from yours.

Originally Posted By: Jeff Berlin




Thank you for your thoughts. There's a lot to share so I will take your advise and not provide too much verbiage for you to read.
You know I was kidding about the typing thing, right? Usually it's me doing a page long stream of consciousness post.


1. Music education isn't a tool. It is a methodology.
(OK)

2. The number of people seeking instruction through the internet, music schools, camps, private teachers and all form of learning suggest that there are way more seriously interested-in-learning-how-to-play bass players than you acknowledge.
OK. Maybe so. And indeed, I was one of the interested. I expect that it also has to do with lots of people looking to sell something?.

3. Teachers are not required to create any fire in their students. They are required to teach them. Bass players in particular don't need a teacher to inspire them. They went out and bought an instrument and then sought a teacher to teach it to them. They already are in possession of their own personal inspiration, their own fire.
I don't share your views on this one bit. I've been inspired by plenty of teachers, and am thankful for it. My goals and desires evolved over the years. Originally, I just wanted to be like Benny Goodman and make some hottie swoon on a NYC rooftop. Then, I just wanted to play Suffragette City in the band but couldn't because rock bands have a strict No Clarinets policy. People grow, needs change, ideas and goals change. Teachers are instrumental (Ha! Get it?) in that journey. I'm glad my teachers stirred that interest.

4. Your comment not to take ourselves too seriously because it is just a bass guitar states your personal lack of a high vision of music for yourself. This is OK by the way. I play miniature golf and have a great lack of a high aspiration to play golf well. Low standards exist for people that allow those standards into their lives while others take very seriously their life affirming undertakings.

5. To many musicians throughout history, the notion that "it's just a bass guitar fer crissakes" would be an insult to the people that keep great music alive for its own sake. To a player moved by the need to create and to learn music well, little counts as the time put into becoming a meaningful musician. [/quote]

#4 & #5... We're not saving the world. And in the "it's just bass.." quote, feel free to substitute clarinet, trumpet, music in general, carpentry, road maintenance, or whatever. We're not saving lives here; maybe then we'd be that important. Way more important is to not squeeze the life out of music. I may want to play like Jaco, but I sure don't want to be like Jaco. I can...and do...have great expectations of myself and have achieved some cool things musically and non-musically. I understand what commitment is. I've run a sub 3 hr marathon and I've cleared all 8 racks of Space Invaders. The first without ruining my wonderful marriage, and the second....well....that was before I was getting laid. A lighter perspective does not need to make one into a bum; but it does make for a better life. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

On the miniature golf analogy...Ping Pong / Table Tennis is a better analogy. Miniature golf has no big leagues, but some of those hot-shot table tennis cats are amazing. Bass is the same way. Clarinet, trumpet, piano, bassoon, etc. are not. Drums might be close. I think that's a pretty cool thing about bass. If you can count to four, you can jam with some buddies and it might not be totally awful.... or you can progress to making a "Bass Extremes" disc. That range doesn't exist on violin, at least not in my house;) And it almost never happens in one step. I think different levels are to be embraced. At my work, in taking a patient's case history, I've got to go to the level that the patient is at. That makes me a better doctor. The same approach is relevant to teachers of all stripes.

In a later post you spoke about transposing a melody or bass line into all 12 keys. Right on. Taking another step in that direction, do the whole tune in 12 keys via fluency in Nashville notation. Band-in-a-Box is a powerful rehearsal tool for that.



Last edited by Paul K; 12/13/15 11:11 PM. Reason: got rid of the underline. It looked dopey.

Things are just the way they are, and they're only going to get worse.
https://soundcloud.com/paul-kempkes
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
Jeff Berlin #2740858 12/13/15 09:58 PM
Joined: May 2006
Posts: 3,711
MP Hall of Fame Member
Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: May 2006
Posts: 3,711
Originally Posted By: Jeff Berlin
What jazz studies does is that it instantly cuts out the fat and gets straight into the meat. It is the only academic music that can be connected in some way with just about all the musical styles of Western contemporary music.

In a nutshell, jazz will improve your playing almost immediately. No style seems to benefit a student better than jazz does in helping players to learn what the right notes are through reading, through improvising (as an academic practice not as a career choice), or in the use of jazz tunes via walking lines and soloing through chord changes.

Thoughts are welcome!


Spot on. Maybe, um...tell the student that it's just blues, and then sneak in a little jazz? Sneak the medicine into some applesauce until they're hooked?

Last edited by Paul K; 12/13/15 10:08 PM. Reason: ...a little II V substitution here, a little +9 there.....

Things are just the way they are, and they're only going to get worse.
https://soundcloud.com/paul-kempkes
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
Paul K #2741082 12/14/15 10:02 PM
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
J
Senior Member
OP Offline
Senior Member
J
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
Originally Posted By: Paul K
Originally Posted By: Jeff Berlin
What jazz studies does is that it instantly cuts out the fat and gets straight into the meat. It is the only academic music that can be connected in some way with just about all the musical styles of Western contemporary music.

In a nutshell, jazz will improve your playing almost immediately. No style seems to benefit a student better than jazz does in helping players to learn what the right notes are through reading, through improvising (as an academic practice not as a career choice), or in the use of jazz tunes via walking lines and soloing through chord changes.

Thoughts are welcome!


Spot on. Maybe, um...tell the student that it's just blues, and then sneak in a little jazz? Sneak the medicine into some applesauce until they're hooked?


Ha! Well, sneaking in medicine is done with children who aren't old enough to understand that what they are taking is good for them, even if it tastes bad. I prefer to not treat even teen students this way, but in a kind manner, give them what they need to work on, not necessarily what they want. This kind of coddling is what seems to be lowering the quality of bass ed. In the case of learning music, the customer is not always right! The teacher is, or should be! But even here, sometimes I have my doubts, but can only hope that there are great bass teachers to take charge and teach music well to their students.


Last edited by Jeff Berlin; 12/14/15 10:04 PM.
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
Jeff Berlin #2741106 12/15/15 12:10 AM
Joined: May 2006
Posts: 3,711
MP Hall of Fame Member
Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: May 2006
Posts: 3,711
But seriously. You can be right as rain on how it's done. But without understanding and working with the human interface, it's all for not. They're not machines, they're people.

Oh, man. There I go getting all touchy-feely-Wooten-y on ya'll.....


Things are just the way they are, and they're only going to get worse.
https://soundcloud.com/paul-kempkes
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
Paul K #2741180 12/15/15 03:22 PM
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
J
Senior Member
OP Offline
Senior Member
J
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
Originally Posted By: Paul K
But seriously. You can be right as rain on how it's done. But without understanding and working with the human interface, it's all for not. They're not machines, they're people.

Oh, man. There I go getting all touchy-feely-Wooten-y on ya'll.....


I'm not sure what human interface means. Whatever it is, bass players often complicate learning by coming up with things that they deem important in the learning experience but actually aren't in my view.

Lessons in groove, fretless bass instruction, mis-use of musical content such as the chromatic scale, overstatement of the importance of modes, focus on scales rather than chords, sense depravation, rock instruction, advise about getting a gig, locking with drummers, playing with click tracks, lessons in technique without musical content, hand stretching videos, string lucking instruction, tablature, bass clinics without musical content being taught, lessons in slap, tap, string crossings with no harmonic reason, use of metronome instead of being taught where good time comes from, warm-up exercises with no tonal meaning, teaching suggestion that "this works for me but it might not work for you."

These are just a few of the strange goings-on in electric bass ed. Students believe themselves to be entitled to make decisions about what they will learn, but they're not. Things are not in balance in how the electric bass is largely taught.

But it doesn't have to be this way!

Last edited by Jeff Berlin; 12/15/15 03:26 PM.
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
Jeff Berlin #2741271 12/16/15 04:42 AM
Joined: Jul 2008
Posts: 14,008
Likes: 62
Bannination Free Since '08
10k Club
Offline
Bannination Free Since '08
10k Club
Joined: Jul 2008
Posts: 14,008
Likes: 62
I'm sure you are correct. But for us multi-instrumentalists who have education in theory, the biggest challenge is translating it to the instrument. Hit a piano key and you get a note. Velocity controls volume, but besides that, you're not going to affect the timbre coming from the string. Bass and guitar both allow for a lot more articulation and there are timing differences...pick vs fingers for instance, and both are different than striking a key on a piano. I focus on this because for me, that's the differentiator between the instruments I play and what I need to practice to translate musical knowledge from instrument to instrument and pull it off. That's not to say that I disagree that bass lessons focus too much on that, I never had one, so I wouldn't know smile. My focus is learning what my education on piano, sax, and guitar DIDNT teach me about bass.


Dan

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.
Re: The Dumbing Down of Bass Education
J. Dan #2741276 12/16/15 06:06 AM
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
J
Senior Member
OP Offline
Senior Member
J
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 53
Originally Posted By: J. Dan
I'm sure you are correct. But for us multi-instrumentalists who have education in theory, the biggest challenge is translating it to the instrument. Hit a piano key and you get a note. Velocity controls volume, but besides that, you're not going to affect the timbre coming from the string. Bass and guitar both allow for a lot more articulation and there are timing differences...pick vs fingers for instance, and both are different than striking a key on a piano. I focus on this because for me, that's the differentiator between the instruments I play and what I need to practice to translate musical knowledge from instrument to instrument and pull it off. That's not to say that I disagree that bass lessons focus too much on that, I never had one, so I wouldn't know smile. My focus is learning what my education on piano, sax, and guitar DIDNT teach me about bass.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts. My only comment is that you might be surprised to hear that whatever you practice in academic music isn't meant to be used in performance and it never was.

Page 1 of 2 1 2

Link Copied to Clipboard
Powered by UBB.threads™ PHP Forum Software 7.7.4