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Finding a Teacher

A good teacher will absolutely make a world of difference in your musical development.

When I began playing, I struggled a lot because of bad teachers. I didn't know it at the time. I just didn't know any better. I thought to myself, "This teacher has a music degree" or, "This person can play really fast, they must know what they are doing." It took me a couple of years to find out otherwise.

For one, playing music and teaching music are two separate skills. A lot of brilliant players don't have a clue about how to teach. For a long time I felt inept as a musician/student not making much progress. It wasn't until I luckily started taking lessons from someone who could actually teach and knew what to teach me! I started making progress by leaps and bounds. It was simply amazing. To think I nearly gave up as a musician because I happened to pick the wrong teachers. I wonder how many potentially great musicians the world has lost because of this common scenario?

The sad fact is most musicians are poor and only teach because they need a little extra money. As a result, every town is covered with impassionate music teachers who lack a solid plan for their students. I won't deny I need the money, too! However, I truly love teaching and I am obsessed with getting each of my students to his or her goal (and creating bigger ones for them most times).

I don't for a minute think I am the best teacher for everyone. Find a teacher with whom you are compatible. Here are some essential things about finding a good bass teacher:

Rules for Finding a Bass Teacher

Rule #1

Avoid guitar teachers. The number one rule in searching for a bass teacher is do not study bass with a guitar teacher. Most guitar players can fool you that they can teach you bass. Guitar and bass do share some similarities, but they are vastly different instruments. Bass technique is different. The role of bass is different from guitar. I could go on and on. It's apples to oranges. You'd be better off studying with a tuba teacher before a guitar teacher. I'm sure there are a number of exceptions, but be very careful not to succumb to this trap. You can really get your head on backwards not learning to think like a bass player.

Rule #2

Avoid riff/song teachers. A lot of teachers will just show you how to play riffs and songs. Learning riffs and songs is only a fraction of what you are supposed to be learning. If all you want to do is play songs you've heard of, you should buy songbooks instead. It is cheaper and you will learn more songs. If you want to be a complete musician, there is a lot of stuff to learn about — chords, arpeggios, scales, rhythm, technique, composition, improvisation, and so on.

Rule #3

Proximity. Don't study with someone just because they are convienently located nearby. Naturally this is a consideration, but if you're not learning what you're supposed to be learning, it's a waste of time and money. I have driven an hour each way in order to study with great teachers. It was well worth it.

Rule #4

Shop around. Try a few teachers out. Or switch around every year or two. You inherit your teacher's weaknesses. A teacher can only teach you what he or she knows. You will learn different things from different teachers.

Beyond those rules, don't put up with teachers who cancel lessons frequently or don't show up for your lesson. Or, they talk your entire lesson away with personal stories. Or, they waste your lesson by showing off how well they play. Or, worst of all, they ask you, "What do you want to learn today?" when you walk in. That means they have no plan for you and your musical development.

Music is already a lot of work to learn. Don't make it harder on yourself by not taking the time to find a good teacher.

Good luck in your quest for musicianship and good teachers!