First Bass Lesson / Music lessons
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First Bass Lesson

It’s been a while since I last had a driving lesson, but the memory of my first lesson is something like this:

(i) Said Hi to the Instructor
(ii) Sat in the car, fastened my seat belt
(iii) The Instructor explained about the parts of the car that I need to know about – the steering wheel, the pedals, the gearstick, the handbrake, the mirrors and then explained the theory behind starting off (check mirrors, release handbrake, depress clutch with left foot, engage first gear, apply gas whilst gently letting the clutch up etc etc etc)
(iv) Drive the car!

The rest of the lesson was spent working on driving the car. If I made a mistake (eg stalling!) the Instructor explained what I had done wrong and how to correct it.
And the series of lessons always focused on driving the car, each new lesson brought fresh challenges (eg three point turns and reversing round corners) – but always in the context of driving.

What happens on your first flying lesson?

I’ve never had a flying lesson, but a friend of mine has and this is a summary of his experience:

(i) He said Hi to the Instructor
(i) The Instructor took him to a class room where they talked about the theory of flying and looked at a cockpit simulation and talked about the instruments and theory of flying (the speed indicator, the vertical speed indicator, the altimer, the stick, the throttle control and the artificial horizon
(ii) Then they went to the plane, sat in it and fastened seat belts.
(iii) Then – under the Instructor’s supervision of course – he piloted the plane into the air!
The rest of his lessons followed a similar structure, the theory of flying followed by the practical application of that theory – flying!

What happens on your first bass lesson?

Hmmm…now things get more interesting. Most beginning bass students I’ve spoken to relate to this as akin to their first bass lesson:

(i) The student meets the teacher
(iv) The teacher explains the parts of the bass (eg the nut, the strings and their names, the pick ups, the neck, the fingerboard, the headstock, the tuning pegs, etc etc)
(v) The teacher explains the techniques needed to play the bass – how to hold it, how to fret notes (left hand techniques), how to pluck or pick the strings (right hand technique)
(vi) Then the Instructor proceeds to talk about scales.

And the next series of lessons follows on that theme…more scales, followed by their partners in crime, arpeggios. Followed by extending scales over two octaves, and then two octave arpeggios…and on and on and on.

Am I the only one who thinks there’s something wrong with this approach to learning the bass?Why do we want to play bass in the first place?Most people who start playing the bass guitar do so for one or both of the following reasons:

(i) To emulate a famous bass player
(ii) To play in a band with their friends

In my cases it was to emulate Geddy Lee (from Canadian power trio Rush) and to play in a band with my friends who were also learning (David Coombs on guitar and Kenny Brewster on the drums – even though he didn’t have a drum kit. Go figure that one).

So I got a bass and an amp, got a teacher and started having lessons. And I was away, right? Learning all the tunes I wanted to play – Rush, Maiden, the kind of stuff a 16 year old kid listens to? Right?

Wrong!

What most bass teachers teach

My first teacher showed me the mechanics of playing and then started me on our old friends…
Scales and Arpeggios.

And so did the second.

And the third.

And the fourth – though to his credit he taught me to read music too(this being back in the day before the widespread availability of Tab).

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