There are plenty of options available today for someone seeking bass guitar lessons. Read on to learn about bass lessons and which may be right for you.
It wasn’t all that long ago when you had to either take lessons from a teacher or play by ear along to records to become better on the electric bass. If you wanted to learn more about music theory for bass guitar, you’d also have to study it on piano because there were few specialized textbooks or courses geared solely for the bassist. Over the last decade or so bassists have benefited from an increasing array of books, dvds, software and online programs that are geared exclusively to the bass guitar. You can now find lessons for almost any technique and transcriptions in many styles of music just for the electric bass.
Reasons for taking Bass Guitar Lessons
There are many different reasons why someone decides take lessons for bass. Beginner bass guitar lessons are aimed at those that have chosen to play bass that have no prior experience with bass or possibly any other instrument. Moderate skill level bassists may also choose to take lessons in order to learn a new technique, learn scales and modes or learn how to read music notation and expand on their opportunities to earn money as a bass player.
Some students that are planning to enroll in a college bass program may also seek teachers for jazz bass guitar lessons in order to be fully prepared to pass the entrance audition. I remember when I first looked at the audition requirements to get into a bass guitar music program – I thought, “Man, if I knew how to do everything on the audition list I wouldn’t need to take this program in the first place!”.
Lastly, even professional bassists may take lessons in order to expand their opportunities for playing live or recording. Some may opt to learn how to play acoustic bass or learn how to play fretless bass. There are many reasons why signing up for a bass guitar lesson or two makes a lot of sense, whether you’re a newbie or veteran on the bass guitar.
Types of Bass Guitar Lessons
As mentioned earlier, there are plenty of ways to educate yourself on the bass guitar. Choosing the right method for you will depend on what you want to learn, the amount of time and money that you have to spend, your desire to learn and the way that you learn best.
Here are some of the methods to learn more about bass that are available:
- Private lessons: One on one, face to face lessons with an instructor experienced in what you wish to learn about the bass.
- Bass Dvds: Video clinics on tips, tricks and techniques for bass guitar.
- Bass Guitar Books: Workbooks or song books containing bass tablature or sheet music that show you songs to play or exercises to develop dexterity and coordination of both the right and left hands.
- Interactive Programs: Software and manuals that allow you to plug into your computer and teach concepts as well as evaluate your performance according to pitch and rhythm.
While each method will work better for different people, taking bass lessons is often the best way to improve your knowledge and abilities on the bass guitar in the least amount of time; how far you can go will also depend on the following factors:
- Your desire to learn
- Your discipine (a teacher can’t make you practice)
- Your talent
- Your personal learning style
Your Desire to learn to play bass
If you have a true desire for the instrument, you’ll be able to endure long practices and the frustrations that come with learning much easier. If not, you’ll be tempted to quit or will put in a half-hearted attempts at practice while making no real ground. Your desire will also allow you to stay motivated even if you’re learning on substandard gear until you get to the point where you can get the type of bass and amp that you really want.
Practicing by its nature isn’t fun, but it’s necessary to develop as a musician. Many people often confuse practicing with playing or rehearsing what you already know, it should focus on skills that you’re learning. If you don’t get frustrated during practice, something is wrong! Even Victor Wooten (by his own admission) hates to practice but he wouldn’t be where he is today without busting his tail. Nobody becomes a master without any effort – focus on the end goal of being able to master whatever particular technique that you’re working on and stay persistent. Before you know it you’ll be slapping and popping, playing fingerstyle or soloing with confidence.
Your talent isn’t the game breaker here – playing “meat and potatoes’ bass guitar is within reach for just about anyone with even a small amount of talent but who has sufficient desire and discipline to keep at it until it looks like childs play. Even those with plenty of talent will eventually encounter a technique or a song that they have trouble playing, some may quit while others perservere. Your persistence will determine your destiny as a bassist, but being talented helps to make it a little easier.
Your Personal Learning Style
Some people are naturally able to learn by ear, others are amazing at using tab or music notation and others just feel most confident when they can watch someone else demonstrate an exercise; which type are you? If you’re disciplined you may be able to learn a great deal on your own with a rudimentary exercise book. Others may need daily lessons to keep them focused and honest in their attempts to learn the instrument.
Finding out the way that you learn best will help you to speed up the learning curve. However, even if you’ve got an awesome ear for learning music, you should also mix in other ways of learning as well. Learning via multiple senses (sight, sound, touch) increases retention while speeding up learning at the same time.
Finding the right Bass Guitar Teacher
When a student is just starting to learn how to play – it’s important for them to have fun, otherwise they may become frustrated and give up. Finding the right bass teacher doesn’t necessarily mean finding an instructor with a music degree and decades of experience. Bass guitar lessons for beginners require a teacher who can teach the basics as well as help the novice learn some songs that they’ll enjoy playing along with. They may also want a teacher to help them select an adequate bass or bass amplifier for their needs and how to maintain their equipment. A teacher may also open doors for their students in their local community through their contacts.
A good teacher can give their students real time feedback and correction on posture and technique as well as tailor specific exercises or lessons to teach the exact skills necessary for the student to reach their goals.
Bass Guitar Lesson Prices
The cost for bass lessons will vary by region, reputation and demand on the instructor’s time. Going rates are often from $20 to $25 for a 30 minute session but can increase dramatically depending on the popularity of the teacher. Many teachers offer the first lesson free of charge to assess the talent of the pupil and to ensure that both the student and teacher feel that working together will be mutually beneficial.
Benefits and Drawbacks to Private Bass Guitar Lessons
If you’re the type that learns best with personal interaction and guidance then private lessons are hard to beat. However, compared to many of the other methods to learn, private lessons are one of the more expensive ways to learn if you attend one or more sessions a week. Dvds, workbooks and even online courses or memberships can be a more cost effective manner to get a bass guitar education.
The greatest advantage of personal lessons is the instructors ability to detect and correct problems that the student may not even realize exists. Other disadvantages of private lessons is coordinating a mutually beneficial schedule to meet and ensuring that you both can form a sufficient teacher and student bond.
Online Bass Guitar Lessons
In the last few years, online bass guitar lessons have become increasingly available. They offer a potentially great opportunity to learn on your own from anywhere in the world with an internet connection at your own pace. Unlike private lessons, you don’t necessarily need to sync up your schedule with your instructor because they can deliver training via videos, audio or even pdf transcriptions. You even have the opportunity to study from a famous bassist that may live in a different city or country for a reasonable monthly fee.
There are some drawbacks to online learning though; you need to ensure that you can get a hold of someone if you have any learning or support issues. You also need to establish that your instructor has the credentials to actually teach what you want to learn. It’s much easier to put together a slick looking website and pretend to be a legit teacher and borrow content from other sources if you’re online. Look for testimonials, guarantees and make sure that there is some way that you can interact with the instructor.
Free Bass Guitar Lessons
The internet is a great source of information for anyone looking to improve their skills on their instrument, and the bass guitar is no exception. The benefits are obvious – free knowledge that can help you become a better bassist while learning from the best in the world. However, it doesn’t always work out like that.
While it’s hard to argue with “free” you need to properly weigh the source of the information at the same time. If you’re getting free lessons from an established music institution – you’re probably safe. But when you’re first starting out you may not be able to evaluate the source of the information.
Free lessons are a lot less appealing if you’re learning the wrong way to do something. Beware of teachers who claim to be masters of the instrument – they should be able to state their specialties and recommend other sources for you to check out for the areas that they don’t excel.
Paying money can get you a higher degree of training (higher quality video with less choppy playback for example) while saving you a lot of time in the process. The other drawback with free bass lessons is that they are often unstructured and are strewn about all over the internet. You can watch a Billy Sheehan video at one site and a Victor Wooten or Flea bass guitar video on another site and try to piece what you learned all together yourself. They may also come from anonymous instructor (as I already mentioned) and may be partial or incomplete.
If you are focused and disciplined enough to find good and free quality content that you an piece together for a self-directed music education, it’s possible to learn a lot. Just remember that this ‘free’ education will cost you plenty of time.
If you decide to pay for online bass lessons you’re going to need a credit card and you should do you best to ensure that your membership includes as much of the following benefits:
- Quality Instruction: Clean & clear videos that load quickly and don’t stutter.
- Different formats: Video, audio, tab or transcriptions and downloads.
- Access to the Instructor: Either by email, chat, teleseminar or webinar – the more ways to connect with the instructor, the better.
- Guarantee and no hassle cancellation: And a trial period so you can ‘try before you buy’! Paypal subscription is the best because it gives you full control to cancel your own subscription without jumping through any support desk hoops.
Self-Study Bass Guitar Lessons vs. Private Lessons
If you’re serious about improving your bass guitar skills but are worried that you lack discipline to stick with it or that you may get stuck at some point, consider combining self-study bass lessons with private lessons. This will enable you to work from a text book or DVD until you feel that you need some further coaching in person. You’ll also avoid a weekly financial commitment while ensuring that you have access to help when you need it. You’ll still need to find a competent teacher and to make sure that they can squeeze you into their schedule on occasion or this approach could back fire on you.
Learning and Playing Bass by Ear
Playing along to cassettes, records, CDs or Mp3 files is how many bass playing greats got their start. Players like Sting would slow down the playing speed of their record players to pick out the bass lines.
While this technique isn’t ideal (each method has its pitfalls) playing along to pre-recorded music can help you to learn how to play in time at the right tempo. It can be frustrating to repeat a section over and over again, but once you have it you’ll be able to play each song from start to finish (a problem that many beginner musicians have). Playing to recordings also builds up your stamina and allows you to play the bassists role by accompanying the music rather than just playing solo.
Playing along to recorded music may be more difficult for those who don’t already have a strong ear for music – but it does help to develop this skill rapidly. Yet another benefit is that when you learn by ear you may come up with an entirely different way to play a part compared to if you learn solely from bass guitar tablature.
Those who study bass guitar tab are more inclined to think that there is only one ‘right’ way to play the bassline. Learning by ear is an affordable way to learn how to play bass because getting your hands on music is easier than ever online and besides your bass equipment you can get by with a small radio to play along to.
You can take it further by purchasing a headphone amp system that allows you to play along to Cds or Mp3s, or invest in a Tascam CD-BT2 CD Bass Trainer phrase trainer which also allows you to slow the music down to learn especially difficult and fast bass runs.
Bass Lesson Materials
Whether you learn best by listening or seeing (video, tab or sight reading) it’ s best to combine as many of the senses as possible. This helps to increase your ability to process and retain the new information that you’re learning. If you buy a DVD, see if there’s a version with a work book as well. If you pick up a book like Bass Guitar for Dummies, make sure that it comes with an audio CD as well (it does by the way). This allows you to choose the way that you learn best, plus have access to other media such as audio tracks that you can listen to while you’re driving to work. You can also copy the audio onto your Ipod or MP3 player and take them with you wherever you go.
It’s also worth noting that some people may prefer to have a physical set of bass instruction CDs instead of online bass lessons. Perhaps they rather play along with their DVD player on their TV instead of on their computer. Or maybe it’s just too easy to avoid the computer and forget to login to take bass lessons for some people compared to having to start at the DVD case and workbooks from a physical bass lesson product.
Interactive Bass Lessons
There are computer programs designed to help you play bass guitar too. They provide a text book and exercises along with a tuner, video tutorials and can even monitor your playing to tell you whether you’re performing the exercises correctly. Learning on your own doesn’t get much better than this and usually the bass guitar learning software costs about as much as only a few weeks worth of private bass guitar lessons.
Bass Guitar Learning Aids
There are some other devices that can be purchased for those who want to improve their plucking hand dexterity or their finger strength. There is the Gripmaster hand exerciser that helps to strengthen each finger on the fretting hand. There are also devices like the Twanger Prax Axe which are used to improve plucking hand stamina and accuracy. While these devices are both useful – they cannot beat the real thing. Still, they are great to use for extra practice when you can’t avoid being away from your bass guitar.
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter who you take bass guitar lessons from or what you buy to help learn to play the bass- it all boils down to your own focus and discipline. Your instructor cannot make you spend the necessary time to learn how to play bass better. Many people are content to spend money on DVDs and textbooks that they’ll only get around to studying “someday”. Only you can determine if you’re willing to pay the time, blood, sweat and tears necessary to advance your playing skills on the bass.
Don’t fall for “get good fast” or “become awesome overnight” schemes – expect to put in the time and eventually reap the rewards. If you’re not willing to spend the time and effort to improve, you probably shouldn’t bother with spending your money either!
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