Well, now it makes sense…the problem is poor teaching skills…

So, I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m working on the bass line to ‘Stand By Me’ by Ben E. King. I’ve also mentioned I can’t play along with it yet. Naturally, I assumed the problem was entirely with me.

I’m sorry to tell you guys, it’s not me. At least, it’s not JUST me. Yesterday, I was watching a series on youtube for upwards of two hours, so that whole time I was running through the riff over and over again. Becauuusseee, you know, the lesson said ‘it’s just the same riff over and over again.’ And, why should I think my internet instructor would lie (or…perhaps stretch the truth is more accurate in this case.)?

So tonight, as I sat down with my bass, ready to play through. I fumbled again. But I couldn’t see where I fumbled. I thought I was keeping up!  I rewound the video to the beginning of the play through and tried again. It is NOT “the same riff over and over again”, not really. Very early on, it’s the same HALF OF A RIFF repeated several times before moving back into the FULL riff.

This is a beginner lesson, designed for beginners, in theory, so…someone please explain to me how a beginner is supposed to realize when you say ‘it’s just the same riff over and over again’, what you really mean is ‘it’s the same riff over and over again…but, only sort of.’  Are we supposed to be psychic?

Now, mind, if you sit down and carefully watch the first 20 seconds of the play along a few times, you will see this. However, when your instructor doesn’t bother to actually tell you this, and just says ‘okay, let’s see how you do’…of course you’re not going to do well, because he hasn’t actually given you the information required to.

So, at the moment, I’m feeling equally exasperated and relieved. Exasperated because I, once again, find myself watching a lesson that leave out some small but pertinent bit of information required to actually complete the song. Relieved, because I now know that I’m far less bad at playing along than I thought I was.

So, that’s where I stand on learning my first song for now. My fingertips are very slightly tender from playing the same riff over and over for half a day yesterday, and I now have to watch the playthrough like a detective to figure out exactly what information the instructor decided just to not mention so I can actually learn this song from beginning to end. The only way to do that is watch his hands and count, which really wouldn’t be necessary if he’d actually mentioned that you’re not doing the full riff every time, just ever x# of times. But, I guess I can’t complain. This is just the sort of absent-minded instruction you get when you’re learning from freebies.  It’s still kind of annoying, because I wasted a week thinking I was just doing very poorly because of thinking too hard, when really I was doing very poorly because the video I’m working from left out this important bit of information.  Now I’ve worked my muscles into memory of repeating the full riff, and have to train them out of that, since it’s not actually what I’m supposed to be doing.  I’m going to admit that’s really annoying because it’s something that wouldn’t have happened if I’d just been given accurate information from the start. It would have taken all of 5 seconds to clarify, and I spent a week thinking the problem was all me. Jerk.

Until Next Time, I want to be gentle, really, but when I realized what the problem was, I nearly threw a shoe at youtube. 

13 thoughts on “Well, now it makes sense…the problem is poor teaching skills…

  1. I use youtube when I can’t hear a certain part of a bassline. I’ve found that most of the youtubes vids that I’ve seen take little time to show the differences in the length of phrasing, but only to show how to play the song. I wish they’d take the time to point out the changes in time, but they rarely do.

    Are you playing roundwound or flatwound strings? The flats would be a little more comfortable, but would take a bit of bite away from your sound. But, Stand by me was probably recorded with an upright, and flats would sound great for it.


    1. Yeah, it’s more that he shows you the riff, says ‘play that all the way through’, then in the play along totally doesn’t do that. I had no reason to question him, but kept ending up off target until I stopped to watch what he was actually doing rather than what he said to do, which is repeating part of the riff 4x before doing the full riff he taught in the lesson. He never once mentioned that before the play through. Total ‘doh!’ moment which really would have been totally avoidable if he’d just mentioned it in the lesson part of the video.

      I think I’ve got some standard roundowound Ernie balls in something around a medium gauge on there atm. My fingers are really fine. Just very minor, but observable, sensitivity from being at it non stop most the day Sunday. Nothing that’s really going to slow me down or that I’m at all concerned about, but apparently half a day of non-stop stand by me makes my fingers notice they’ve been working. I’m really just learning that particular for the sake of starting to learn songs, it’s an easy one to start on, mostly. So, I’m not overly worried about how stand by me + Ernie Ball + Ibanez really match for the time being. I’m still running on a cheapo starter bass, so I’ll focus on that more once I’m a bit more competent.

      Thanks for the input, though!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have two basses, one with flats, and one with rounds. I love the rounds, because of the bite and attack that they have, and the flats for a more mellow sound. I had an Ibanez for a starter bass and it was more than sufficient. I would say that the thing that helped me most was technique early on. Keeping my thumb behind the neck and using 4 fingers on the fretboard. Best of luck playing and I hope that you post some music here.


        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah, I love my starter Ibanez, really. It’s actually really nice for a budget instrument. Eventually I’ll get another ‘grown up’ bass, but that’s something to save toward; I don’t strictly need it just for learning. The Ibanez is a featherweight, too, which means I can, and often do, work with it for hours on end.

        For the moment, I can’t do the four finger span, just not enough flexibility, but I get as close as I can until my fingers forget they have bones long enough to make it. Since I can’t make the stretch, I spend a lot of time practicing with my eyes closed to increase accuracy. If you don’t have the flexibility, it seems like training accuracy and speed are the only way to work around it. It’s definitely time to work on things with the goal of remembering them though (as much as I stand behind rocksmith as a really cost efficient way to work in real time, it only takes you so far), so in theory, if I can ward off the ADD, I’ll be competent enough to post music eventually.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. My hands aren’t too large, so I had to adjust how I used my pinky. Using my thumb to pivot my hand allowed me to use my pinky more, and cover more frets without moving my neck fret thumb. The good thing is that it helped me play guitar, especially using barre chords. While both of my basses are large scale, there are some shorter scale necks, like the Sterling SUB series (34″ necks) that may be an alternative at some point. Yes, please post some! I have some originals posted on my blog, and while none of them are challenging on bass, there are some interesting effects that I’ve used, i.e. double track a rickenbacker over a jaguar with chorus on my song Pleaides found here:


      4. I’m learning that I’m a tinier person than I ever thought, and while a shorter scale might technically make life easier, I’m stubborn. :).

        Accctually, it’s not so bad that I can’t work with it. I can make the stretch on the G string, but on the lower strings it’s more complex and I end up with a span of maybe half a fret that I have to shift. I used to barely be able to span 3 frets, so it is possible I might eventually be able to make the stretch if I keep working with the long scale. As a lefty, my options are limited enough without also being picky about scale length, so I want to stick to long scale for now and see if flexibility further improves with time. If it doesn’t, short scale might very well be easier, but I’ll never improve flexibility if I take that route now.

        I’ve experimented a little with thumb pivoting, but more on guitar to ease the strain caused by power chords and get a more neutral wrist position. It’s something I’m working on, but don’t have coherent thoughts on yet. Tension might be at the root of a lot of my issues on both ends, really. I don’t want to say too much on that, though, since my thoughts on it just aren’t full formed yet.

        Guitar is my nemesis. I’m pretty sure one day we will duel to the death. I find switching from bass and ukulele to six strings closer together often leads to me fumbling for accuracy, though. Barre chords and I are definitely frenemies for now. I can do them in theory, but only very little before my hand feels dead.


      5. String tension is definitely a nemesis with me, too. I’ve switched over to Thomastik strings, both flats and rounds. They’re so easily bendable and stretchable, but they’re super expensive, at least to me. The flats are about $75.00 us, and the rounds about $65.00. I play uke and guitar as well, and even though I’ve been playing for a long time, there is still issues with jumping from instrument to instrument. It’s especially hard going from bass to uke.


      6. It’s not so much string tension as tension in my hand. I tend to fret way harder than I need to, a habit I am trying to break. I actually loathe very light strings for some reason. I have a friend who swears by extra-light fender strings(he’s a fender fanboy. Lol. Nothing wrong with fender, but I’m not married to them.), but something about super easy to bend strings bugs me. I want them to be easy, but I still want to feel them, so to speak. I can’t explain why. Early on it was because I went through high E strings like they were water from strumming too hard. I’m better about that now, but still have a fairly heavy hand, I guess. I aim at anything in the medium or medium light range, with the Ernie balls being my favorite of those I’ve tried so far, and d’addario being my least favorite (not that I hate them, or anything), but it varies by the instrument. What is awesome on one instrument is underwhelming on another. I’m still trying something new each time to just get a feel for different brands, but it seems like bass strings last forever, so haven’t tried much there yet. I think I’ve only changed them once, and they murdered my wire clippers, which I have not yet replaced.

        I find bass to guitar the hardest transition for some reason. I think it’s the different string spacing. Though, I can see why someone would struggle with bass to uke, because of the fret length. For me it’s more those two extra strings. Give me extra strings and I start to really flail. I have ukes in everything from soprano to tenor, so I think I’m able to reacclimate to different scales fairly easy, at least in comparison to extra strings. I’m still very clumsy about that.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. The Thomastiks aren’t light gauge, only light tension. You can get them in any thickness that you want, but what it does is make it easier on your fret hand to fret, and bend. Also, the lighter tension lets the neck out a bit, and it lowers the string height. I get about 6-8 months out of a set, as opposed to changing out my daddarios monthly.


      8. Gotcha. I don’t think I can make myself spend that on strings when I really am not having trouble fretting or bending, and the height is basically perfect for me as is. I haven’t changed my Ernie balls yet in…well, it’s been…uhm…definitely more than 6 months and they don’t seem to show any signs of needing to be changed yet, but I’m sure someone who isn’t a rookie probably goes through strings faster. The d’addarios it came with wore out really fast, though. I think d’addarios might just be like that based on my very limited experience. I fly through daddarios on guitar, too. (Still using them only until I’ve gone through the ones I still have. Then no more of that brand for me.) For now, my issues have far more to do with me being a newbie than anything to do with the strings, so I think I’ll stick to my $30 strings for the time being. I’m actually quite happy with the current setup, so there’s no reason to make any expensive changes. Those strings are half what my bass cost me, which is too rich for my blood, especially if I’m content as is. On a different bass, I might have a very different opinion, but my heavy handedness has nothing to do with the instrument or trouble fretting, really. I do it with my ukes, too.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. They are really overpriced, but I do like the feel and sound of them. Not so much the price. On a different note, are you a fan of Tal Wilkenfeld? She’s an amazing bass player:


      10. Which is really all that matters. So far I’m happy with the Ernie Ball strings on this bass. I’ve tried them on 2 different guitars, too, and only liked them on one of them, so it’s all relative. I’m sure what I like will evolve as I try more stuff, but I hate new strings(too bright!), so admit I delay changing them as long as possible.

        And, I am utter crap with names, so….maybe? Lol. I’ll check that out when I get home, too.


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