Instruction

I am now teaching privately at  The Bass Emporium. If you're interested, email me and we can set something up. The next best thing would be to buy all of my books! While levels of proficiency may vary from one person to the next, I find virtually everyone needs some work in on the fundamentals. So, if you'd like to study with me but can't because you live in Sri Lanka or Nigeria, closely examine these areas of study, search out solid learning materials, and get to work! While everyone's learning process is unique, there are a few areas of music and bass playing that we all can benefit from studying:

• Time Keeping/Groove Playing
• Fingerboard Awareness
• Musical Knowledge - Scales, Arpeggios, Chord Structure, Harmony, etc.
• Mechanics of Playing
• Stylistic Integrity


 If you're interested in having me to your site for a clinic, send me an email and let's discuss the possibility.

 

My Journey As A Bass Teacher

When I started teaching in 1979, I had no clue, and at times even felt bad about charging my students (I'm over that now...). Eventually, I started to figure things out and began to see teaching as an exercise in problem solving. I started writing my own lessons early on as I felt a lot of the materials available didn't suit the way I wanted to teach. This helped me develop a vision of how the learning process unfolds, and how best to serve it. 

When I began teaching at Berklee College of Music in 1984, I was suddenly inundated with a high volume of students of all levels. There were players that didn't belong at a music school in the first place, and ones that could play better than me! Confronted with such a wide range of proficiency, it was my challenge to find something of value for each student. It was especially tough dealing with my ego trip when a student could play exceptionally well. I had to learn to get over that and find a way to be of help, or recognize that I had nothing to offer this person. Teachers often invest too much of their self image in always being right, it really helps to accept that we don't always have the answers, no one person can really know it ALL. I had to learn how to say "I don't know" when I really didn't.

A big step for me was going back to school - it had been 11 years since I was a student, and it was a real eye opener. I was surprised to find that not only did I like school, but I was actually a good student. I received a Masters Degree in education from Cambridge College in 1991, the knowledge I gained there has been invaluable to me as a teacher, and a human being. My first book "Building Walking Bass Lines" was my Master's thesis, and I owe so much to my professor, Dr. Linda Ostrander for helping me learn the process of putting together a large project. I had always wanted to write a book, but early attempts stalled out after a few pages. Now, I've written 15 books, 3 DVDs, and hundreds of articles, with more on the way.

My Educational Philosophy

While I strongly believe that a solid foundation is necessary for musical success, I also believe that each individual house may require a different foundation. There are some that claim there is only one true way to learn music, and that any teacher that veers from that path is "ripping you off". While it's true there are many teachers out there are nothing more than glorified baby sitters, the rigidity of that attitude reminds me of the fanaticism of religious fundamentalists (of ANY type). I believe the bass has a universal function that must first be understood if you want to take care of business. There are many bassists out in the world making great music that are essentially musically illiterate - but on an innate level, they understand their instrument and it's function in music. I cannot dismiss the work of these musicians simply because they can't read, or don't know the difference between Harmonic and Melodic Minor. If I had to choose between having ears and common sense, or an iron clad understanding of music theory and the ability to read.... I'd go with the ears and common sense any day. Luckily, no one will ever make me choose. Ultimately, you want BOTH.

Yes, I like to use the metronome to help people develop their time, and feel. While a point of controversy for some, after teaching 30 years—I've seen the results, there is no need for me to argue this. The metronome is a tool, it's not the magic pill, and not something to be despised either. Using it as a crutch will make you dependent, but when you break your leg—you just might need to use a crutch at first. Then, you do physical therapy to strengthen yourself so you can throw the crutch away. I see a lot of players (of all experience levels) coming in to my studio that are out there dancing on a broken leg. My goal is to get that bone set straight, healed, and get you strong enough to run the marathon that is bass playing. The metronome is a very helpful part of the process - we use it to strengthen your internal sense of time, and to help you gauge your accuracy. Let's face it, some people have no clue what keeping time is, and telling them to simply "learn the music fully" is too obscure. If you can't play half notes in time to a click - then what are you going to do with the bass that is of any value? I say, let's clear that issue up first, and then get into the other stuff.

Yes, many of my books use tablature. While scorned by many in academic circles, tablature is just another medium of exchange. Yes, it's the "easy way". Yes, it's doesn't encourage the student to look for other fingerings. Yes, you'll never go to a gig and be asked to read tab. Now that we've got that out of the way—tab does have it's use. While I encourage all my students to learn how to read music at some point—many, perhaps most of them do not need that skill to perform their duties in the professional realm. After 31 years of playing professionally, perhaps 20% of the work I have done required me to read notation. That's just my experience, your mileage may vary. However, on EVERY gig, I have been required to be masterful with these five fundamental skills:

• Time Keeping/Groove Playing 
• Fingerboard Awareness 
• Musical Knowledge - Scales, Arpeggios, Chord Structure, Harmony, etc. 
• Mechanics of Playing 
• Stylistic Integrity

How I got to that point is not a topic of discussion when I nail the gig.

Considering all this, I feel my main goal is to get the information a student needs across in any way that works. Some players respond well to standard notation, others to tab, others might need to record the lesson and listen back, and some need me to show them where to put their fingers. When I think of the many great musicians I've known that couldn't read a note (many of my musical heros included) I am less inclined to make reading music a non-negotiable point in my teaching strategy. The music comes from inside you—not from a page, not from a metronome, not from a book, not from a teacher. It is the teacher's job to help you cultivate it, and gain access to it. End of story.

Teaching Experience

  •  Berklee College Of Music, Boston, MA, 1984-86: Private bass instruction, Ear training 1-4, Small group jazz workshops, Arranging, Sight reading and Bass Line Labs.
  • Milton Academy, Milton, MA, 1988-95: Private bass instruction, substitute for jazz improvisation classes (spring 1988).
  • Boston College, Newton, MA, 1988-95: Private bass instruction.
  • University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, 1996: Bass master class series.
  • Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, 1996-98: Jazz bass studio, small group jazz workshop.
  • Private Instruction, 1980-current. 
  • Educational Director for School Of Bass, held in Scottsdale, AZ 2004 and 2006
  • Clinics

  • Musician's Institute. Los Angeles, CA.
  • Los Angeles Music Academy, Pasadena, CA.
  • Carvin Retail Stores, Various locations in Southern California.
  • Monster Music, Albuquerque, NM
  • Vancouver Bass Conference, Vancouver, BC 2001 & 2003
  • National Guitar Workshop, Bass Summit, Los Angeles, CA 2001-03, Austin Campus 2008
  • Current Hal Leonard Clinician