On Teaching Pt 2. Information, Knowledge, Wisdom, unqualified teachers, and free throws.

Information by itself is not knowledge. It is by the teachers method that the information becomes knowledge. But having knowledge by itself isn’t always enough. Being in possession of knowledge gets a lot of people in trouble. Its only if you can exemplify the knowledge you can put the knowledge to use, that it produces wisdom. As a teacher we are trying to take information and find a method so it becomes knowledge then use experience for it to become wisdom. That is how we get through all three Information, Knowledge and Wisdom. 

In my opinion, most people who teach aren’t qualified to teach. If you have a teacher and all they do is show you their favorite lick, that teacher isn’t even at the point where he is bad at teaching the information. They are just another misinformed person passing along their misunderstanding of music. Now when you have someone who has been trained informally or formally who now have the information, they get to the point where their method becomes important. Very few teachers are even at that point,. Most teachers are just people who can play, who are showing somebody their licks. Most teachers aren’t qualified to teach because most musicians on the planet are not professional musicians including gigging musicians and teaching musicians. That’s why to this very day, people don’t know how many keys there are, people who teach at the University level don’t know how many keys there are, or don’t know how many diatonic chords there are. That’s because they are passing on the misinformation that they received from other people.

I believe all musicians need the same information regardless of goals (gigging musician, recreation, teacher, professional musician)..its all the same. If I’m your flight instructor, it doesn’t matter to me if you want to fly Cessnas on the weekend or drive and airbus for an airline,… I’m NOT gonna “dumb down” the information because you just want to fly Cessnas on the weekend. I will teach you with the same urgency as someone who is going to fly for the airlines. So when I see a student, I believe I know the information a student needs to know to play music. It doesn’t make a difference to me if they are coming in off the street or if they have been gigging for 30 years, it’s the same information.

Bassology to me is knowing music in four ways equally. If your fingers move well or if you have a good ear and you aren’t interested in knowing music Intellectually, Physically, Sonically, and Visually, Bassology may not be for you. All four must be equal. It doesn’t matter who you are,.. If you want to learn pentatonics, or modes, or arpeggios’ for example, you need to understand those concepts in those four ways, to truly understand them.

The way I teach has to be different for evey student and the RATE I teach has to be different for each student. Everybody deserves to be treated equally, that is true, but not everyone is created equally. Our rate of retention, our IQ level, our athletic ability are all variables like skin color and eye color, so I have to be selective and mindful of the rate in which I teach a student. After I find where I think that rate should be, I push it a little bit. I always want to make the student a little uncomfortable, because I want to add the pressure of being a working musician to the practice environment. To use a basketball analogy, you can shoot free throws all day in the gym, you can shoot 500-1000 free throws a day, and you can make ALL of them, but there’s nothing in that gym that’s gonna simulate when you’re in a game, with the game on the line and the score tied and you at the line.

For that reason if a student can kind of do something at 100 bpm, I try to set it at 105 beats per minute. People can generally do exercises faster and better than they think they can do it. They are better than the mental wall they put up usually. As a coach you need to find a way to bridge that chasm between a great gym player and a great game performer. In athletics that’s why they have scrimmages, and to a degree that’s why we have band practices. Most music teachers don’t test students like this, a matter of fact, most private music teachers don’t test students on anything. Some experienced players are shocked when I test them with a stopwatch, or with a metronome or quiz them or use the mode scramble because they have never been tested before.

Sadly, one reason of this is because most teachers couldn’t pass the test themselves. Most teachers couldn’t play the notes of the thirty keys in a scrambled order, if they don’t even know there are thirty keys.


About anthonywellington

Musician, Clinician, bass Player for the Victor Wooten Band.
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4 Responses to On Teaching Pt 2. Information, Knowledge, Wisdom, unqualified teachers, and free throws.

  1. Hey man this is a great read , I completely agree with everything you said .

  2. Nancy Hoddinott says:

    Anthony, this is SO true. Anyone who has you as a teacher is surely blessed to be the student.

  3. Tod Ellsworth says:

    30 keys? Help me with this one. 12 major, 12 minor. If you add modes to the mix, it seems there are more than thirty. Thanks 🙂

    BTW, you are right on the money. I was heard in a church sermon that knowledge itself isn’t power. Knowledge in action is power.


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