Many bass players consider passing on their knowledge to the next generation of 4-stringers at some point. Teaching has many rewards but there are other factors to consider as well. Today we’ll explore some of the rewards.
‘Those who can, teach’
There are many great players out there. In the area where I live, there are probably more bass and guitar players per capita than other regions because of good music schools like Berklee. It takes a special type of player to teach. Ever watched a bass instructional video from one of the ‘bass heroes’? While the playing was no doubt impressive, was anything really learned?
At least on the beginner to intermediate level, a good teacher needs to be able to find that magic formula of giving students what they need to know in addition to what they want to know. Some teachers take the all or nothing approach of simply teaching the latest hot lick or tune, or the opposite–sticking the students in a method book for 30 minutes a week. Neither approach will keep students coming back for long. A good teacher really has to be part psychologist. Every student has a different level of tolerance for the ‘not-so-fun’ stuff. Keeping students coming back is the challenge, and it’s rewarding knowing that someone is committing a block of his or her optional time every week to learn with you–and pay you for it! Not everyone can do this, and often the most talented players have the hardest time.
‘The money factor’
I will never forget speaking with a teaching colleague once about a new gig that actually paid really well (so I thought). His response was ‘Really? Let’s look at travel time, rehearsal time, time learning the songs, time setting up and breaking down at the gig….get the point? Doesn’t it make more sense to sit in one place and teach?’. He was right, at least about the money part of it. Bassists who have already committed to making their living solely through music should really take a close look at this. Of course, this doesn’t mean a bassist should never play gigs again (see my article ‘Should I take the gig’ for more about this), but the unfortunate reality is that ‘teaching hours’ and ‘gigging hours’ tend to be frustratingly similar (I’m still waiting to get called for that high-paying gig at 10am on a Tuesday!). Choose carefully, and know that while students don’t last forever, gigs that seem to be perfect usually have an even shorter shelf life.
Next time we’ll take a look at reasons why a bassist may not choose to teach.