No matter how novice or advanced of a musician you may be at this point right now, and for that matter, regardless of what instrument you play there is nothing quite like having a great teacher to help, challenge, and inspire you to be the best player you can be. These days you can have that in more ways than ever. You can take private instructions face to face, study a method book or DVD, and even take online Skype lessons with a teacher from anywhere in the world. It’s important to find a learning method you enjoy and is easily accessible but if you really would like to explore the entire palate of what an instrument has to offer it’s wise to try and seek a teacher with vast knowledge and a lot of experience. Over time that might mean switching between a couple of great teachers that are well suited for your taste and personal goals but overall getting the most you can out of you and your instructors time together is the ultimate goal whether it is face to face or not.
A great teacher can teach enriching lessons to students of any level and have a highly knowledgeable approach to teaching an essential element of learning how to play so that the student can use it to express themselves. That essential element is the technique and the expression is a form of personal style. In my experience teaching students myself, I find that the stylistic expression part is almost 100% of where the student wants to be and the technique element is the hard fought avenue that CAN get them there depending on the will of the student and the way that the teacher can inspire them.
I’d like to feature an educator in which whom had a great influence on my fundamentals of playing when I was starting out and still inspires me and many others well into their advanced years. Mr. Rufus Reid is an award winning bass player and educator who not only has the skills and creativity to be a wonderful teacher, but also has the good nature and kindness to be a great person. Positive attitude paired with a passionate tenacity make for a great teacher that can both be encouraging and challenging. Reid definitely has both of those traits and translates them very well to many of his students.
Rufus Reid was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1944 and raised in Sacramento, California. As a child he started as a trumpet player and continued playing throughout high school until he joined the US Airforce as a trumpet player. During that time is when he became seriously interested in the bass.
After serving his time in the military, he pursued a career as a professional bassist and moved to Seattle Washington to study with James Harnett of the Seattle Symphony. He continued studying bass at Northwestern University and graduated with his Bachelor of Music degree in 1971.
His major professional career began in Chicago and continues since 1976 in New York City. Playing with hundreds of the world’s greatest musicians, he is famously the bassist that saxophonist Dexter Gordon chose when he returned to the United States.
Though his teachings are greatly appreciated through many Universities and Music Conservatories face to face with private instruction and master classes, one of his most well known methods is his method book titled The Evolving Bassist. Point blank, this is a great method book for players of every skill level. Though the original text was intended for Double Bass or “Upright Bass” it translates wonderfully for electric bass players in it’s explanation of simple techniques. There are great exercises and pieces that guide you through various rhythms, chord changes, and notation reading from a basic through an advanced level with natural ease. This book does a great job of teaching you multiple techniques and skills within the same exercises without feeling too difficult. Of course there are plenty of extra things for advanced players like solo pieces, play along tracks, and duets. I highly suggest this book for anyone who is looking to challenge themselves in their practice routine or looking to brush up on some techniques they may not have done for a while.
One of the best things to realize earl on, is that you can learn new things from almost anyone from anywhere. One thing that keeps most people segregated musically as listeners and sometimes as players is personal preference. Learning to play only music you like to listen to will only get you so far. You may have heard someone say that music is a language, which is true, and the more vocabulary you have at your disposal, the more people you will be able to converse with. You may not necessarily enjoy the style of a certain artist or player, but learning to mimic that style can be both a learning experience and a way of better understanding something you didn’t before. Keep your ears open and eventually you will hear similarities in things you would have never thought would go together. Check out Rufus Reid and his discography and you will see a history of great playing and teaching, Who knows? You also just might be inspired in a way you never thought possible.