The modern music student today is a privileged person. He has at his fingertips the experience, advice and empirical guidance of men who are his personal idols, who in their own developmental years had no such help to rely on.
LEONARD FEATHER (1963)1
When I started out with this research, I had a clear plan in mind. I wanted to do research and catalogue the available existing methods for Jazz bass education. But during the process I realized that matters were more complex than I had foreseen. The original concept for methodic music education was mostly developed for classical music practise. That goal is to methodically teach a musician who has a clear and uniform background and who is heading towards a clear destination; becoming a musician in an orchestra or ensemble, either as an orchestra musician or soloist. The students are to reproduce as faithfully as possible what others put in front of them. The room for self-expression is within the limits of the material at hand. This is, of course, a simplification of reality since classical music education has also been developing in many ways over the years.
When Jazz education was starting to be institutionalized, educators tried to copy the education methods of classical music to teach Jazz but the essence of the music practice of a Jazz musician is a very different one. The skillset needed to become a successful Jazz musician is of a different order than for a classical musician. It is not a process of reproduction but of creation and re-creation. The essence is improvisation and interplay.
The term "interplay" can have various meanings. We may say there is always a degree of interplay in any ensemble music, given that the end result depends on the relation established between all the instruments involved.
In the sphere of Jazz, however, it has always referred to a precise musical concept whereby the "roles" of the instruments give way to a work of reciprocal exchange, in which each player influences the other. By "role" we mean the traditional function assigned to each instrument, consolidated over time. This is most true of instruments such as the bass and drums, which have traditionally been relegated to an accompanying role.2
In addition, there were other factors that complicated matters for researching Jazz double bass methods. Paper books are from the 20th century and before. As the internet was developed near the end of the 20th century and came to full bloom in the 21st century, this radically changed the way we learn and the way we teach. Before the influence of the internet, in the early 20th century, the invention of music recording techniques had a big impact as well. Not only did this transform the way we consume music but also the way we learn to play music. This is especially the case for Jazz, an art form that arguably owes a big part of its development to the gramophone.
So, with this in mind, I widened the scope of my research and started to look at Jazz double bass teaching in the 21st century in a broader context than just researching method books.
Besides the books and methods that are already well-known, I found both old and new material that is rarely being used. Also I found online courses and interesting research papers on specific topics that are of great interest for both students and teachers. In order to give both of them insights into this available material, I set up a data base (aptly named ‘Jazz Data Bass’).
In order to set up a way to compare and value these methods I set up practice based research. Using my own experience and the experience of other teachers and students, I researched the definition of an educational method and I analyzed which elements need to be taught in order to teach a Jazz double bass student. I designed a graphical theoretical framework showing the complexity and wide variety of topics needed. With this in mind I analyzed the educational methods found and discussed the advantages and challenges of the different method styles. In order to make these methods easier accessible for both students and teachers I developed an online data base, the Jazz Data Bass.
Following my findings during the start of my research i refined my question to ‘How to teach Jazz double bass in the 21st century?’. By researching available traditional methods and newly developed methods both online and on paper and looking at new developments like apps and internet applications, I hope to give an overview to both teachers and students of the available tools to effectively learn to play jazz double bass in the 21st century.