DVD instructional series review
By Jon Liebman
May 25, 2010
Roy Vogt’s Teach Me Bass Guitar is, without a doubt, the most thorough instructional course I’ve ever seen! Regardless of one’s level of accomplishment on the bass, this series of ten DVDs offers something for everyone – even those who have never picked up a bass before.
Roy sets a really cool vibe by speaking directly to the viewer from inside a colorfully decorated coffee house set. The high definition production quality is first rate, the color is beautiful, the audio is clear and the mix is just right. The authenticity of the coffee house/club environment is further enhanced by people occasionally walking around in the background, preparing drinks, etc.
Roy’s narrative is aided by a “moonface” named Ralph in the lower right corner of the screen, who frequently chimes in with his own commentary via on-screen text, sometimes genuine but often just funny. More on-screen assistance pops up on the left side of the screen from time to time by way of Post-it note-style messages, offering metronome markings and other advice. More importantly (and I guess more seriously), a graphic of a fretboard appears on the bottom of the screen, doing away with any uncertainty regarding proper notes, fingerings and frets, all in a real-time “follow the bouncing ball” approach. The entire production is emceed by Ashley Lollis, who introduces and wraps up each lesson.
TMBG starts at the very, very beginning with the most basic of the basics. Roy conducts the early examples very slowly – sometimes painfully slowly! – making the course accessible for even first-time bass player wannabes. The material gets increasingly complex, gradually, throughout the ten-DVDs. Each lesson begins with a warm-up and ends with a cool-down, usually involving Roy demonstrating a variety of stretching exercises.
Beginning with basic chromatic movement on the fingerboard, then progressing to sharps and flats, elementary music theory, key signatures, time signatures, half-steps, whole-steps and major and minor scales, Roy’s presentation couldn’t be more clear, particularly with the use of multiple camera angles, helpful editing and Roy’s straightforward, easy to understand.
One of the most valuable – and useful – aspects of Teach Me Bass Guitar is taking nearly every lesson into “Chateau Groove,” where Roy performs each musical example along with a first-rate group of Nashville studio musicians: Shane Roberts (guitar), Byron Larrance (drums) and Tim McDonald (keyboards). Roy demonstrates each selection two times with the band, once slow and once fast.
But wait – it gets even better! After each full-band performance, Roy sits out and lets you, the student, play the bass part along with this great band. This opportunity is provided at both tempos for all selections, resulting in over one hundred play-along opportunities!
Roy also wants to make sure you fully master each lesson before playing along with the band. Each lesson, therefore, has a “Loop Library,” enabling you to woodshed everything Roy presents, over and over again, until it’s securely under your fingers.
TMBG also comes with a comprehensive 161-page reference book – well, it does and it doesn’t. The material is included in one of the discs, in PDF format. The reasons given are to keep costs down and to be environmentally conscious by saving thousands of trees. What’s more, you’re free to print out whatever you like. Roy has even pledged to update the book from time to time, with the newest information available from his website, www.ThunderRow.com.
Throughout the course, the lessons become increasingly interesting, musically. For some lessons, Roy will have you playing with a pick. He’ll also work on increasing your knowledge of note durations, as well as ties and dotted rhythms. Occasionally, he’ll bring in his own students and demonstrate an actual lesson, too. Major, minor, augmented and diminished triads are covered, as are pedal note patterns and all the modes. Other lessons cover major and dominant 7th chords, diminished and augmented chords, syncopations and mixed rhythms. Throughout the course, Roy’s presentation couldn’t be simpler and it couldn’t be clearer.
Another cool thing about TMBG is the way Roy adapts various techniques to different styles of music, from James Brown soul grooves, to swing, shuffle, jazz, funk, R&B, World music, Afro-Cuban and reggae. Entire lessons are also devoted to intricate 16th-note funk patterns, slapping and popping and two-handed tapping. Some grooves are intended to emulate the styles of some of history’s greatest bass players. In fact, some exercises and grooves specifically mention Jaco Pastorius, Rocco Prestia, Stanley Clarke, Chuck Rainey and Roscoe Beck. Again, everything you learn can be practiced with the band, slowly and up-tempo, with and without Roy.
Other topics include sight-reading, developing bass lines for standards, decoding the Nashville numbering system, understanding effects, showcasing various fretted and fretless basses (from 4 to 7 strings), pickups, strings and “care and feeding” of your bass.
In yet another example of going above and beyond, Roy actually invites you to submit a video of your performance of select exercises from the TMBG course, which he will personally critique and respond to you. Wow!
As hard as I tried, I couldn’t come up with anything that’s missing from this incredibly comprehensive course. Everyone will undoubtedly learn something new by going through this series. I know I did.
Order Teach Me Bass Guitar here.