Hello there, and welcome to my new advice column. I’m here to answer your questions and to help you become a better bass player. My contact details are at the bottom of the page, but first, here’s a little introduction to my philosophy. It is a great honour to be allowed to write a column for Bass Guitar Magazine. Along with my tours and recordings, I have been involved as a teacher for decades, and I am proud to say that some of the finest music teachers in the world have taught me how to play. What I learned from these masters was that the bass was built to represent notes. This means that if the instrument that I play is best used by playing the right notes, then it might be a good idea if I learn what they are.
This is the core of what I believe when I teach; you will benefit from practising pure musical content if you decide to pay for lessons. Your art and how you approach it is your own choice, but what you learn from a teacher shouldn’t be. They should offer you what you need to study, not what you want to study, in order to become a better player. Do this, and you will triple your playing in no time at all.
A basic truth emerges here – if you cannot play, then you cannot express yourself in your art. If you can play but still seek out lessons, then logic tells me that you are seeking new musical information that you do not presently know. This is why I suggest that music content only is the best direction to take if you decide to invest in lessons or a music education.
Let’s use rock as an example.
If you are playing a rock tune, you first have to learn where the notes of the song are on your bass in order to play it. If you can’t figure out what the notes are or where they are on the neck, then you will need an academic education to solve this discrepancy in your music skills. If you can teach yourself rock music, which means that you know how to work out what the correct notes in rock songs are, but are still taking lessons, then what are you paying to learn that you can’t teach yourself for free?
Some people regard music as a language. I do as well. Let’s look at language for a moment and focus on the people of the American Appalachian Mountains in the 1920s. These people couldn’t read English and could barely speak it correctly. Eventually, all those people that learned English from birth and by ear went to school to learn it academically. Therefore, if you believe that music is a language then you should be learning it like one. This means that you would benefit by learning the ‘words’ – the content of the music. If you do this, I can make you a promise. You will triple your playing and save yourself years of wondering how you can improve.
You can email Jeff Berlin directly at email@example.com, or if you prefer you can post your question at www.facebook.com/bassguitarmagazine. What are you waiting for?
Jeff has long been regarded as one of the world’s most accomplished bass players, having taught at august institutions such as California’s Bass Institute Of Technology. He also owns the Players School of Music in Clearwater, Florida. Contact the school via firstname.lastname@example.org.