Bass Lesson 17: Taking Bass Lessons Should Make You Happy!
Find the right teacher
Taking Bass Lessons
Taking bass lessons: it is often said that is does not matter how good a teacher plays bass. What matters is how good he can teach. I do not believe this is true. When saying this, people seem to assume that there is a certain body of knowledge comprised of principles and exercises everybody agrees on. The only thing a teacher has to do is teach these principles and exercises in such a way that the student learns them well. According to this philosophy, it would be perfectly clear how you should play jazz, so the only thing a student would have to do is find a teacher who inspires him.
Well, it does not work this way. How you should play bass technically is still unclear, many players develop their own technique, as I have. Don’t forget that the way to play bass is still relatively new and needs to be developed much further. Plucking the strings is a relatively new way of playing the bass, contrary to bowing, and a lot still needs to be discovered.
We bass players are pioneers. I think it’s sound advice not to study any method proposed by a teacher if he cannot play perfectly what he wants you to learn. It’s easy to find out if he can: just ask him to show you what he means. Don’t waste your time on learning to play fast on the acoustic bass the way your teacher thinks it works, if he cannot play fast using his method easily and without signs of tension. He should be able to play fast in a relaxed way. Believe me, this is possible.
Don’t listen to his advice about playing in the thumb positions (all notes higher than the octave G on the G string), if he cannot play well there himself. Otherwise there is a huge possibility that you’ll learn a technique that will set you back for years. First, it takes time to discover that you are doing something wrong, especially when someone with the authority of a teacher has told you something absolutely should be done a certain way. Next, you’ll have to discover a better technique. You’ll probably be on your own then. So why not find a better teacher right away?
Another very important thing: you should enjoy playing the practicing material your teacher gives you. It’s not at all necessary to play dreadful melodies just for your chops. Instead, practice on things you like to play, so you won’t kill your enthusiasm and want to play bass all the time!
Jazz as teacher
If you want to learn to play jazz, play standards. A good teacher should be able to help you learning to play standards like Blue Monk (Thelonious Monk) or Watermelon Man (Herbie Hancock) so you can play them right away. This is fun to do and you’ll be practicing material that can help you become a great bass player.
I had played bass guitar for many years when I took up the double bass. I practiced by playing 6 standards a day. I played the tunes, walking bass, a solo and finished by playing the theme again. I did this accompanied by piano and drums played by my computer, I used an app called Band-in-a-box. It is easy to work with and I found it was more fun to practice this way. Also, this makes it easy to check whether you’re playing in tune. I still use it a lot. For me, practising this way was a great training in playing in tune and reading, and I got to know the acoustic bass really well. On top of that, I got to know a lot of standards. So for me this regime was the same as taking bass lessons.
I believe that practicing by playing jazz is the best way to become a great bass player; taking bass lessons by playing jazz. Jazz as a teacher. Playing walking bass was an excellent way for me to get to know my bass through and through. Most jazz-harmonies make you play in a number of keys, which is why you’ll play practically every note at least once in most standards. Also, it begins to sound boring very quickly to play in one position only, so you’ll be playing all over the fingerboard in no time at all – although you may prefer not to play in the thumb positions in the beginning.
By the way; a lot of bassplayers seem to think that playing in the thumb positions is too difficult and have not mastered this art. But I must say the bass sounds very beautiful in these regions, and although you hardly play in these positions when you are not soloing, it can be very nice to play these notes when you are. Every now and then I climb to the highest notes on my bass when I’m playing a solo.
Jazz is a great teacher. Taking bass lessons from dr jazz will help you a lot! Playing jazz helps you to develop great chops and you develop a deep understanding of harmonies and melody as well. It’s not better than other music styles like pop, rock, house, R&B, fusion, etc., but the technical, harmonic and melodic demands of jazz are so huge that you will become a good musician if you study this style. There is a danger though. Once you’ve really tasted jazz you’re hooked for life.
You may also find this page about finding a good teacher interesting. Of course, taking bass lessons from a great teacher is always a good idea.
This is another page about finding the right bass teacher.