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  1. #1
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    Apr 2012
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    Teaching my kid to play bass

    I have a 13 year old. If you have one, you know what I am talking about. He has been saturated since birth in all kinds of music, had piano lessons for a couple of years, sings in a (fairly serious) church choir. But he has an native instinct to distrust geezer music (roughly parallel to my antipathy to whatever he is listening to on soundcloud). So talking about, or showing youtube clips, of Ray Brown/Jamerson/whoever is not going to work. But I am actually making some progress, and thought I would share my experiences so far.

    I am basically a guitar player, but I think I have enough of the rudiments to teach beginner bass. The ultimate goal is to get him to comfortably play out of a fake book, so we can play together.

    1. First step was to get him at least mildly motivated. The obvious approach, as for all males, is to create a bit of gear lust. This actually took a month or two, a couple of trips to music stores, chatting up the merits of my bass (a JV P Bass). Eventually, we walked out of a store with an Ibanez Mikro (the kid is half my size, so something pint sized seemed to make sense; anyway, he liked it).

    2. Got him to hold the thing properly and start playing with his fingers. Youtube videos on the subject were helpful to make sure I got this exactly right; I did not want to start him with any bad habits.

    3. I had envisioned starting him out with the major scale, but it quickly became apparent (to me, anyway) that he needed to be oriented first to be able to find the 1, the 3, both 5s, and the octave, and then to find the note names on the bottom two strings. Mostly showing him how to play 1-3-5 (for blues) and 1-5 (for everything else). Playing all of this stuff cleanly was hard work, with little payback, so I had to make sure he practiced every day.

    4. Every once in a while, I would show him a cool bassline, just to pique his interest, but since he was still struggling with the 1-3-5 and 1-5 arps, I did not spend a lot of time with that. Every time we listened to the car radio, and a cool bass line carried the song, I would point that out to get him listening.

    5. Finally, this weekend, we started playing together. Patience paid off, I think. I drew up some big print charts of some simple surf instrumentals, and one for Take the A Train. All I really wanted him to do was to play the one on the one with decent time, and miracle of miracles, it worked. More importantly, he had a great time doing it. I followed up with an actual real book chart for Blue Monk, and he sailed through it.

    So ... from here I plan continued work with his arps, show him how to find the minor third and flat 5, and some discussion of how to use approach notes. Then a bit of discussion of time signature and repeats. Then the major scale and walking bass lines.

    Anybody with similar experiences?

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  3. #2
    Watch out....when he's ready to gig you'll have to pay him.

  4. #3
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    Man, I wish he was enthusiastic about a player or style of music, or badly wanted to play a particular tune. I think that happens a little later for most kids; at least it did for me. There is still a high, though, that comes from playing with someone, and he is picking that up.

  5. #4
    I suggest you maybe put together a songlist of great bass playing across multiple genres; Motown hits, James Jamerson, Duck Dunn, Chris Squire of Yes, the Lemmon song JPJ-zep, McCartney's Silly love songs, Mayor of Simpleton by XTC, Flea, Jaco, Scott LaFaro, Ron Carter walking on ANY tune,… Tal Wilkenfield at 18 playing with Beck, show him pics too of Tal Wilkenfield! Show him what the bass is capable of doing, how it can make a tune or band come alive. Expose him to highlights of the history of the instrument.

    You are a cool dad!
    Last edited by whiskey02; 05-27-2016 at 08:16 AM.
    Ignorance is agony.



  6. #5
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    "show him pics of Tal Wilkenfield!"
    Teaching my kid to play bass-57a11e3bb162c37852da3f04d8a11a42-jpg

    Check !
    Make a jazz noise here

  7. #6
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    Youtube has dozens of videos by hot chicks playing motown bass lines. It is a whole genre that I am sure generates marriage proposals. Trust me, those videos got his attention; his eyes glazed over on all of the other ones.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    My son was mostly interested in Bluegass fiddle. I told him that a lot of top players integrated jazz sounds into their solos, and sent him to a Jazz strings camp. He met three cute girls who played jazz fiddle. The rest is history.

  9. #8
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    I had this fantasy at one point of my kids and I in a Nat King Cole sort of deal... alas, it didn't take, but we had some fun and they have some good feelings about music.
    Attached Images Attached Images Teaching my kid to play bass-es175-trio-1992-jpg 
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

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