Getting the Most of a Bass Lesson

Bass lessons

When we make a commitment to embark on a series of bass lessons we are, of course, looking to grow, expand and progress. This is why, if we are serious about our study, we make efforts to find a teacher who we believe can help us on our bass journey. Locating a good teacher and showing up each week is a great start, but it is not enough to truly maximize the learning potential of our lessons. Below are two simple suggestions that, when applied, will help you get the most out of your study. They may seem simple or obvious, but not all students universally apply them.

Remember the instructions given by the teacher.

This may seem elementary, but plenty of students around the world arrive at a lesson having forgotten to practice something that was assigned the week before. The best way to avoid this is to avoid relying on memory alone. Try writing key concepts and assignments down as they are discussed in the lesson. Some teachers do this for the student. Even if your teacher does this, I still suggest taking notes on important concepts. By doing so you are less likely to forget what was discussed in the time between lessons, and more likely to practice appropriately.

By writing things down, you also create a record of how to focus your practice sessions in the week ahead. Incorporate this simple habit into your lesson time and you will increase the likelihood that you arrive to the next lesson prepared. You will also avoid wasting time by having to repeat the same lesson for weeks on end.

Apply lesson concepts at each practice session.

In instrumental study, intellectual understanding of a concept is often not enough to incorporate it into our playing. Much of the material presented in a lesson requires repetition by the student to assimilate properly. When a teacher introduces a concept to us, it is our job, as students, to apply that concept in our daily practice sessions. By doing so we increase the likelihood that we will arrive at the next lesson having made progress, and that is rewarding. More significantly, however, daily application by the student allows the teacher, at the next meeting, to either further clarify a concept (if we seem to be heading in an erroneous direction) or introduce new material. Either way, our progress will be enhanced, and our lessons will be more productive.

Obviously, a good teacher is a necessary element to a rewarding course of bass lessons. However, it is not the only component. Equally important is our efforts, as students, between lessons. As students, the simple application of the two suggestions above can change both our rate of progress and our overall satisfaction with our lessons. In short, they can ensure that we are getting the most out of our lessons.

The suggestions above may seem simple and obvious to some, and perhaps they are. However, regular application of these suggestions is too often overlooked. So, if you are looking to advance: Find a good teacher, write things down, and apply the concepts at each practice session between lessons. Your lessons will be more enjoyable, profitable, and your musical growth will be enhanced.

Dr. Donovan Stokes is on the faculty of Shenandoah University-Conservatory. Visit him online at and check out the Bass Coalition at

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