I’ve considered writing about subject for quite a while. My own background has something to do with it. I started guitar right after Christmas at age 5 ½. My first teacher always appeared to be an ordinary sort of “backwoods country guitar picker” to use his own words. He was that and much more. He was well-versed in every style including classical, jazz, rock, etc. From his viewpoint, reading music was necessary to play any instrument. Practice was something you did every day, without fail.
A few years down the road, his practice ethic finally began to sink in. This was also about the same time that I began to develop a true passion for music. I attribute much of the passion and drive I have today to having the privilege of studying with such a teacher.
That factor alone is reason enough to study with a teacher. But when it comes to bass guitar, the situation is even more vital. It’s no secret that bass guitar is a physical endeavor. The strings are much larger thus requiring more effort to get a good acceptable sound. There are also fewer strings (most of the time), so you may very well use a lot more left hand shifting. Tone production on bass guitar comes much more from the hands than electronic effects and even the pickups or amp.
This leads me to the other side of my own story. I started on guitar and also played cello for a couple of years. I had no private teacher for cello – only the classroom orchestra in the 5th and 6th grade. When I decided to take up bass guitar at age 14, I had no teacher. I majored in double bass in college with an excellent teacher who understood the physiology of playing double bass. But even though I played the primary bass chair in the top university jazz band, I still had no private study on the instrument. I had improvisation instruction and played live gigs outside of school where I began to notice that my ‘decent’ technique was letting me down. Right after college, I joined a rock band and toured for the next 10 years averaging nearly 150 gigs per year.
And that’s when it hit me. Here I was in my early 30s and the limitations of my technique came home to roost. The first one was just simple endurance. I believed that could only be arrived at with constantly live playing, true, but not always practical. I was still aware that my technique was lacking as I started to branch out into more complex music with a jazz trio.
After the trio, I took a long hard look and decided that I didn’t even know how to improve my technique. Time to research.
And in my late 40s, it began to gel. But I was 46 or so!
The point here is if I had studied with a private teacher, the advance in technique would have come years earlier. I learned how to improve by technique by reading everything, watching interviews, teaching students and practicing 4 hours a day while working a full time day job. And I have discovered a lot, especially about tone. I changed my left hand fingering, conquered my right hand unevenness, and learned considerably more about music theory. I could have saved myself 10 or more years with a good teacher.
Choosing a good teacher is often a challenge in itself. These days, most good teachers will discuss your goals with you and let you know if they can help, many willing to do a free lesson. Admittedly, like in my area, sometimes there may be few choices available.
Time spent searching out a good bass guitar teacher is worth your time. What the heck, you can start here.