"A Good Teacher......"

Some tips on what to look for in a teacher

by Carol Kaye


A good teacher should make you feel comfortable immediately as they know and should anticipate your nervousness on the first lesson. You're putting yourself on the line, as we say, exposing what you don't know so you can learn some things from the teacher.

Having a good sense of friendliness, even some humor (but never phony humor) and listening to what you are saying, answering your questions, plus giving you music, whether it be blues lines, walking lines, arpeggio exercises, solo material, basic learning lines, that will be something you can practice on and get something out of immediately is what you want from a good teacher.

Sometimes learning the basic theory, especially the much-needed chordal note theory will take a little time. Have the teacher record a tape of the lesson for you to refer to later. I've always done this and it certainly helps the student to review the lesson and keep them on course. The tape shouldn't be rolling when there's a snag in the lesson -- you don't want to hear how "badly" you sometimes do. The accent on the positive is of utmost importance for the music teacher.

Try to stay away from teachers who just want to teach you tune by tune, or who try to give you the note-scales and fast unuseable runs only. They should hone in on giving you correct hand and fingering techniques (using the thumb as a pivot) as well as giving you theory and interval exercises to help your ear grow and other good practical musical growth value exercises, not "show-off" things just to dazzle. It takes time to get your musicianship going.

You should be given tonal patterns very early-on, especially the differences between the major and the minor chords (and be able to hear them), as well as how to read chord charts and "what to play" in at least 2-3 different styles of music.

The teacher should be encouraging without being patronizing, and should also have patience and gently steer the student towards correctness. Sometimes, just a simple "uh..." will let the student know to get back on track. Helping them to help themselves is the right attitude for the teacher as well as exposing the student to all the necessary theory, reading, chart playing, different lines and fills to learn in many styles so they can then learn to how to create their own lines.

Another area that is vital for the bass teacher is teaching good time sense to the student. This should be taught fairly early on, along with the sense of counting the bars of music. Working with the metronome for part of the lesson should be encouraged, as well as playing with a chordal instrument of some kind to give the student the feeling of "playing with someone". And feeling a sort of groove right away, learning to feel the up-beats, the different rhythmic ideas for a few different styles, talking about what to expect also from the different rhythm section instruments. All vital stuff, and the blues should be taught immediately, as chordal progression patterns.

Sometimes, just going over the AB and AABA plans of the standard tunes will help with learning to count the bars of the normal 32-bar pieces. And after many times of chordal note study, then some etudes and some note-scales a little later, maybe 1-2 scales, are appropo, the rest comes with the chordal pattern exercises.

How to find a teacher? For those interested in jazz, call up your local college/university's jazz program and ask for the name of private professional/teacher [or check out BassLessons.com]. Maybe even a string bass teacher who "knows" about the electric bass well enough to know its different hand positions and fingerings too.

For the blues/rockers/pop/funk players, you can hang out at the local "hip" music store and learn who is "the" good teacher, or maybe you have a friend who is gaining a lot from a good teacher.

Sometimes they are at good music stores, but mostly, the fine pro-musician/teachers prefer to teach in their home. Make sure you both know up front what is expected as for cancellation notice time, plus that the teacher is reliable too, and won't be cancelling for "gigs" at the last minute, or if he has to, that there is sufficient notice between you both if this is OK with you, etc.

Sometimes you may get a hot teacher who is currently doing a lot of professional work too. This may or may not work out. The pro has to LOVE to teach to be good at it. Sometimes, the pro may feel a sense of "creating competition" for themselves no matter how conscientiously they try to be fair and removed from this (it's usually on a very subconscious level, rare, but does happen) -- plus patience may not be what it should be.

Better to take from a student-friendly somewhat "lesser-playing" teacher than someone who could impart bad vibes accidentally -- music is feeling, and as you learn and grow, this should be encouraged, and the right steps taught to speed up your growth.

Happiness is a good teacher, so if you find yourself unhappy along the way, don't hesitate to change teachers (after discerning that you have been "practicing" and giving it your "all" but that it might be something personal or lack in the "program" given to you). Sometimes there's simply a mis-match, and usually you will gravitate to the right teacher to help you eventually.

Be sure to set up a place and daily time to practice, this is essential. Students sometimes fail to get ahead because of lack of practice time than anything else imo. If you feel that your lesson lacks incentive, then ask the teacher to give you something fun to work on -- this will keep your practice high on your priority list. As you grow, you will want to practice more and more as the fun comes more into your music abilities. Bottoms Up!

Carol Kaye http://www.carolkaye.com/

PO Box 2122, Canyon Country CA 91386-2122 (805) 288-6551


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