Jan. 19, 2021

Jeff Berlin Part 1: The Dichotomy of the Self Taught vs. Academic Musician

Jeff Berlin Part 1: The Dichotomy of the Self Taught vs. Academic Musician
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“The path to individuality is always based in screw-ups. Look at an early van Gogh, and then look what followed afterward”. Those are the words of world-renowned bassist and educator, Jeff Berlin when discussing learning musical content from a teacher versus something that should be explored and self-taught.

 He discusses the clearpath to becoming a successful musician and having a professional career. He talks about how personal growth and transformation has improved his own playing in recent years. Through this extremely open conversation with nothing left off the table, both of our hopes is that this will be the most definitive interview of his viewpoints ever done.


The path to individuality is always based in screw ups. Look at an early van Gogh, and then look what followed afterwards. Those are the words of world renowned bassist and educator, Jeff Berlin, when discussing learning musical content from a teacher versus something that should be explored and self-taught. If you're a bass player, a musician, an educator, or you're someone inspired to deviate from the norm to make a real difference in your field, this is for you. When you deviate from the norm, you stand up to dispel myths and to make a difference to those who want to learn. In this two-part series, I chatted for over two hours with Jeff Berlin regarding his viewpoints on music education, which he describes as very narrow. He discusses the clear path to becoming a successful musician and having a professional career. He talks about how personal growth and transformation has improved his own playing in recent years. Through this extremely open conversation with nothing left off the table, both of our hopes is that this will be the most definitive interview of his viewpoints ever done. I'm your host, Mike Zabrin, welcome to Funktastic Chats, a podcast where we chat with the most successful leaders within the creative field to help you navigate being a boss and dominate with the originality and vision. Enjoy this interview. So today we're talking to Jeff Berlin. Hey Jeff, welcome to the podcast. Hey, Mike, how are you buddy? I'm excited to chat with you and I think we can all agree that there are plenty of interviews out there with you chatting with others about your amazing musical accomplishments through decades of dedication and hard work. And, normally I start with a long intro, but I think it's best to leave it to our listeners to just dig in to your work with Bill Bruford, the Brecker brothers, Alan Holdsworth, Al Diemiola, Zappa, and so many more musical treasures throughout your career. I think it's appropriate to say that the music just speaks for itself for who you are as a player, and I think that listeners would greatly benefit from questioning your views and opinions on music, education, and content online. Oh, yes, I'm available to it. I go online to meet with people, and put myself in a situation where people that may not agree with what I say are invited to share where they may feel that my views about learning and practicing, etc are not to their liking or not to the agreement. So I might be the only name guy that does that, and I do it on purpose because I think there's a dearth of good information out there. I want people to know what I know and I'll be happy this particular hang with you. Maybe I'll share how I came to know this, because even that has never really been addressed with too many people Well, you are very open to your questions and views about music that's for sure. And in fact, you say that people can have a cult attitude because they find someone they admire and they never ask a question about anything they teach them. You want people to come to you with an open mind and learn as you call the academic method of bass. Have any of your musical views changed over the years in a result of people questioning you, hoping to open your mind just as you want to open theirs? The honest answer is no, because my musical views are based in musical training, musical information. What has changed in me is the rather bitter and mean-spirited way that I used to interact with people before I went to therapy. I had grown up and lived a long life trying very hard to fix the ills of me due to a very rough upbringing, and finally had to go to therapy for three very arduous years, which to be honest, I'm grateful for. It helped to clear out a lot of the stuff out of my attic and put me on a path of a more loving way, a human way, an interactive and an embracing way. So in that respect, yes, I've changed completely, and I'm grateful for the passage because it made me a new man, better man. What hasn't changed are my views about learning because my views are very narrow. It's a very narrow area. It's specific and only confined to being taught usually for pay. You pay a school, you pay a teacher. Here's money, educate me .The systems that people go to in order to be playing better, I find are flawed and I will explain it later if people are interested in it. And I go out and say, this. That alone is very disconcerting to people because I know we're in an era now, a very politically correct era, I guess you might consider where you cannot share thoughts that disrupt the balance of emotional feeling in the universe. You cannot share an idea that may upset somebody in a direct manner if you say this works, this doesn't work. People don't like it. But I sort of equate it with cigarette smoking, cigarettes cause cancer. I don't think it's too much of an insult or disruption to people's feelings. If you say a cigarette causes cancer, because. It's proven that it can. In this day and age, someone might say, well, some may get cancer, some might not get cancer, whatever works for you. So I don't abide by that. Not in this specific area where I know facts rule over attitude, feeling and all of the things that are the emotional end of music because I separate music. It's learning is different than playing and that's where I come from when I share thoughts. I definitely want to touch a little bit later on your own personal growth and transformation outside of music as you mentioned earlier. Let me ask you about one of your views and hopefully you'll open my mind to it. Let's start with rock music. Over a few forums, you mentioned rock education has completely failed and that tabs and technique motivated educational programs are ruining the educational system here in the United States. Why do you say that? Basically due to the history of rock itself. If you look at rock and consider the stellar names involved in it, practically a hundred percent of them are self-taught in rock. It's a rare situation where you'll find anyone that actually went to a music school to learn rock and become gifted in it, capable in it. Just about everybody that everyone can think of in rock is self-taught in rock. That proves at least historically that the self-taught method works and not only does it work, it works for free. So, what I've said is that the bass education has endeavored to provide a system to people to make them happy. It's a great business move. If you want to learn rock, Oh great, I'll teach you rock. If you wanna learn the blues, I'll teach you the blues. If you wanna learn slap, I'll teach you it, but all rock or just about, there's always exceptions. Just about all rock players, maybe since the beginning of rock, all slap players, all blues players are self-taught in the style. Hence, what I've seen is that by deviating from the teaching of music and giving people concepts that are easily learned, if one decides to learn it on their own, what has happened is they're paying for something that they could have figured out on their own if they'd have been patient and determined enough to learn it. This is proven by history. It's not my words. Find how many rock players that went to Berkeley or MI or someplace and learned rock and had careers. People always Steve Vai. Steve Vai did not go to Berkeley for rock. The dream theater guys did not go to Berkeley for rock. You don't go in my opinion to school for rock, because there's no academic support for the concept. That's why I've said, if you want to pay for a lesson, why not pay for what you can't learn on your own and guaranteed to make you a better player at the same time? You could learn rock on your own as everybody did. You buy records, you buy CDs. Now you go on the internet, you'll listen to solos, you get into the tone, you get into the phrasing, you get into the interactive element of bands. This is how you learn rock, and this is the legitimate way that everybody's rock hero did it. Practically a hundred percent. So in that regard, that's why I say, although the systems of education have been designed to teach you rock, in my opinion here, it's just my opinion, it's a business. People are happy to shovel over money.... something like that. Yeah. To pay money, to acquire a skill that they can get for nothing and frankly won't really lend themselves and getting a career or improve their musical skills. So all I'm saying is be aware of that. You could put your money in better places if you want to learn how to play. That's the reason why I say this. So jazz was a self-taught art form in the beginning. I mean, just like everything. Some people say jazz grew out of drumming and voodoo rituals that took place before the civil war, others say somewhere like, the 1900s. My question for you is why should we dictate what elements of bass, and I understand what you're saying about more of the sucessful players are coming out of Jazz, the jazz realm who studied jazz academically, but why should we dictate what elements of bass and music can and can't be taught because everything at some point started as a self-taught art form, didn't it? Yes, it did. You're absolutely right. The difference in jazz and rock is that jazz is based in music. It's based in harmony. Rock is not entirely based in music, the rock vocabulary isn't entirely a note oriented vocabulary. Rock is based more in, actually comes out of the blues except for remarkable unique groups like Meshuggah. Certain groups like that, that they elevated rock to something else. But jazz is based in harmony Cmin7 is C E flat G B b .To play jazz, you have to know notes. To play rock, essentially now being broad term here, you have to know positions, where am I on the neck? What are the lines, the notes in the line, which are relatively predictable and easy to play. So and especially in that jazz can't be played without knowing what the notes are and where they are on the neck. Now, rock equals that, but it is a far different style and a far different background. Jazz players today are mostly not self-taught, rock players are. Jazz players today come out of the schools or the academies having learned that music harmonically. And incidentally, jazz academics isn't meant in a sense for art it's meant for instrumental improvement and for knowledge of music. I'm not sure if I answered you, right. Rock tends to have a, just about a hundred percent self-taught community , jazz often doesn't because you can't play jazz, unless you'll know what the notes are. Like you said, if you only study rock, you're not going to be qualified for a lot of other types of gigs, whereas a jazz player you will be and you can play... SInce you raised that point, interestingly, there's a popular concept that you should learn a lot of different styles in order to work and I absolutely disagree with that because if you look at the history of most bass players, they only play one, possibly two styles, they're dedicated to them. So a jazz player, unless he's dedicated to a sideman position, you know what I mean? A guy who just is waiting for the phone to ring, he may want to know how to play jazz or rock or Latin or blues, but most bass players are dedicated to a style of music that they love with all their hearts. So why not dedicate yourself to that and learn it? You don't have to learn many styles to work. You just really ought to Excel in one or two styles, if you wish, in order to be called or be in demand for those styles. There's a lot of work in rock. There's a lot of work in blues, but if you're a top blues player, but the concept of learning five, six, seven styles, and I played this and I play that it's a bit of a Jack of all trades and frankly people except for great guys, like Will Lee, let's say, you know what I mean? The certain guys ...even Leland Sklar is mostly a sort of a soft rock pundit. People function in one or two styles, not seven or eight. You were doing an interview online I saw with John Liebman and I think it was live at a restaurant eating sushi, which I wish that we were doing that. Maybe next time you're maybe next time you're in Chicago. I don't know at martyrs or Reggie's or something, but Yeah. And you say that you should never go to music school to get the gig cause what if you don't get the gig? You should never go to music school to be famous. You should go to music school because you love music. The question as a follow-up that I want to ask is even if a doctor wants to go to school to be like a podiatrist, he'll be a great doctor, but he won't be qualified to give open heart surgery, just like a blues player won't be able to play at a jazz gig . My point is, do you think that you're discouraging anyone from studying a certain kind of music, even though it's what they love and enjoy? I don't see why since I tell them to find a great teacher and become deeply involved in self-taught paradigms. I mean, my whole basic, my whole basis of communication is to do two things only. Be self-taught, and what is self-taught involved in the music you love? Learning the records playing the music entirely based in your love of it. The other is if you choose to pay to be taught, then find a source of education where you're only taught the things you don't know, and can't find out with ease by being self-taught and that would be harmony, music notes, reading, which are not necessarily transferable over to the gig. What they do is it gives you skills in order to play better and improve your mind and music, makes you more creative studying this way, liberates you. So if people feel discouraged, I frankly can't feel responsible for that since I'm saying, do what you love entirely and completely, but add to what you love, something that will make you a better musician, not based in style. It's based in musical improvement. And that's where I believe most bass players get confused. They think that if you tell someone to learn music, it's going to mess with their style. That's like saying since everyone's learned how to read and write, english in our case, that it messes with our way to communicate written language on the internet. Anyone can go to the internet and look at every post and every single one is expressive and clear. They're happy, they're mad, they're sarcastic, they're joyful. There is no reality in that learning music will interfere with art. And if people think that I discourage people, then I would say, I think you've heard me wrong. Especially since again, to repeat, I've always said, get into self-taught. Be deeply into self-taught learning, which is entirely based in musical love. That's a great point. I mean, from my end, so I'm a bass player as well, and I was a jazz major in school and then I started playing naturally living in Chicago at blues gigs, like Kingston Mines. And to tell you the truth, I mean, I was horrible on those gigs because I felt like I had no discipline as a bass player and my timing really felt like it got better when I joined the R&B ensemble at school, which I had to push for, but I want to do it. I had a teacher there who critiqued us and if a teacher never immersed me into what makes James Jameson groove for instance, and how he incorporates different influences of jazz and R and B, I think I would have missed out on a lot of gigs. And I was just kind of wondering your thoughts on that. Well, it seems the long way around the barn, because I would probably say you could have listened to James Jamerson and copped his thing, not necessarily having to know where he got it, but noticing where he is. And noticing how he plays, learning his lines, his fills, those are influential and raises us up as musicians by using your ear. So a lot of times we teachers like to exaggerate the obvious .Jamerson was a jazz player. He played upright bass and he played jazz music. And then when he picked up the electric bass, he had a thing, it was sort of a natural thing. If you want to learn Jamerson, which is recommended, I wouldn't pay a teacher money to teach it to me, rather, I might even go to some good R and B players and say, what records do you recommend? By immersing yourself into the music, you're going to get into Jamerson and I'll guarantee anybody that that'll reflect on the gigs they do. Because you've been playing and using your ear to find the flavor of the Jamerson thing by being in it, it can't really impact on you by knowing that he was a jazz player or did this, or did that in order to become what he became. That's a little bit of a long way around the barn, I guess they say, I don't know if that makes sense, but the way that... yeah, it does. Oh, it does . It does make sense . Having somebody immerse me and show me how he used certain approach notes, how he utilized the jazz language... i, I think that a teacher offering these side options are beautiful things as long as the chorus is musical in what being taught. I mean, yeah. The teacher's showing some things and explaining it as a beautiful thing, but I'll bet anything that had you stuck with it, you would have come to the same conclusion, you would have gotten into the spacing, the actual phrasing that he had gotten into using your ears. And another thing, the difficulties that you expressed a little earlier always come when people try to play before their time. It's we're in a, kind of a jamming and gigging and playing era where people are trying to do these things, but often without being prepared to do it. The beauty of music school is that the ensembles which include reading provide us the chance to play and develop that thing. I would, I did gigs but I'm a freaky guy. I did gigs while I was in music school because I could read, I was an ex violinist is so, but yeah, if the teacher showed it to you wonderful, but that shouldn't be the core of it. The guy ought to show you how to play a Jamerson line and they ask you to write it out in 12 keys as it were. I definitely met a lot of musicians over the years where I'm just like, I wish I would've met you five years later. I would have been way more prepared for this gig if I would've met you five years later. There's a learning curve too. So yeah, it's almost a tenuous kind of path. You want to play and playing is what develops us and we start out early. You know that famous Charlie Parker's story where it might've been Kenny Clark when Parker was playing and he was messing up the music. So Kenny Clark took a ride cymbal off and threw it down on the ground in front of Charlie Parker at his feet and kind of interrupted the whole tune because Charlie was messing up the tune. Charlie was humiliated, but he went home and practiced. He didn't give it up. So there's a, and, but I have to be a little clear. That's a self-taught thing. In other words, he ran into a very hard lesson and didn't fold under the lesson, Kenny, this was another era. People were a little more blunt and more defensive of their musical art. So yeah, playing live requires the messing up, the screwing up, the missed notes, the bad time, the bad tone.. It must be a right of passage, and in a sense, when you do it in music school, through ensembles reading, reading, it requires sectional functionality. When you read you're precise in where you're supposed to be, there's a lesson in that. But when you ask guys to just improvise or play parts all the way through music, they're using skills they haven't developed and hence, they're not going to sound that good and feel they'll feel a little uncomfortable about it. So even here, sorry, if I'm going a little long about it. It's the five-year thing you were talking about is I think everybody's story, Charlie Parker might've thought the same thing to Kenny Clark, I wish I'd met you at five years later. Let me get your thoughts on one more point regarding rock music in particular, you might cringe, but the school of rock and there's one in Nashville where you live. There's 35,000 students in over 260 locations worldwide. It's funny actually, out of jazz school, I was working there as a manager for a year. That's just kinda what I fell into, but I learned that no matter if students go off to be a professional musician or not, they acquire confidence sense of personal ownership, and eventually some do go down the road and get into jazz because they do realize exactly what you said. The music they've been listening to for years all started as jazz musicians. Because they're playing rock music. Does this invalidate to you the difference that schools can make like this and kids' lives that maybe wouldn't do so if it was jazz? No, I think it's I'll answer your question, but prefer to not name names, because it's not my intention to do so. The intention of a lot of schools that teach rock is to entertain children, or entertain teens. It's an entertainment factor. It breaks open the door, does break open the ice, and under guidance, they're jamming with the same kind of consistency in the same kind of fellow musicianships that they could do in their basement. It's kind of a, it's almost a drive-in theater mentality music environment, which is let's go there, they'll take care of everything, and we'll play. So all I'm kind of sharing in the narrow area of my thinking is paying to be taught in ways that you can't discover on your own. And that seems to be the narrow confines of my philosophy. So schools that have thousands of students have thousands of students generally, because the challenge to the students is minimal. The work ethic and requirements in that area is minimal to almost none. I think if they said, okay, you kids, you got to go home and read this chart or go learn these exercises, those thousands would quickly diminish to hundreds. It's really the factor of making things pleasant and entertaining. I'm not sure that this has produced the results considering the amount of musicians that are actually professional. Although I will say something, not everyone wants to be a pro. I think everyone should be taught as a pro whether they want to or not. Because look at golf. I mean, the more golfers that know they're not going to join the PGA are getting lessons from golf pros in order to learn how to play the game in order to enjoy it well . They want to enjoy the game and it's better to hit the ball straight than hit it into the trees all the time, but bass players and guitarists possibly don't subscribe to that. So the schools that You're mentioning will attract people because the titles are fun. The idea of jamming is fun, but the minute you put a little bit of music down that actually will improve their ability to play for life, I might add, I'm pretty convinced that the numbers will dwindle . People aren't into music as I would like to encourage them to be, especially when learning music correctly. Isn't that awful? This is the kind of change I'm trying to install in the very narrow area of being taught. Everything else is open for interpretation. I have no comment of art, I have no comment or criticism of anything. I support all musicians in their direction, but encourage them to go where work will improve their playing. And I'm not so sure that bass players are real into that. Maybe that's why they go I think there may be some confusion, hopefully you can clear this up as well about what is self-taught and what is meant to be learned. Over the last 35 years, you've taught it Bass Institute of Technology, started the Players School of Music, now the Jeff Berlin Group coming out with a book. I think maybe it fuels people to attack your viewpoints on what elements are meant to be self-taught vs learned and that it invalidates that you've been an educator for 35 years teaching people a lot of elements of music. Does it invalidate that you've been an educator for over 35 years, teaching people all elements of music? My definition of self-taught versus being taught is pretty much my own. I'm not sure it completely is an acceptable definition, but here it is. Self-taught to me is engaging in anything and everything that we want to do as musicians that we don't have to pay to be guided to. In that whatever, we listen to, whatever we jam with, whatever Amp or strings we use , whatever books we buy, whatever YouTube videos we attend to, are all part of the self-taught paradigm because we're the ones that chose to learn these things. We're in charge of it. We're completely in the driver's seat regarding what we intend to learn and where we intend to learn it. But when we go to a teacher or a school and money passes hands, it's the same thing as going to a restaurant and paying money for a meal or going to a car mechanic and paying money for an auto fix or go into a doctor or going to don't know, whatever you go to the hardware store and you're paying for a, some tools you're paying for the expertise of other people. And that's where I draw the line in my life, whereby what is academic and what is a self-taught. Self-taught is everything you don't pay for and academic to me ought to be what you pay for since being academically self-taught is a bear. It is a bitch, and I'll give you a little background into me. I'm no better than anybody else. I'm not a better bass player than anybody else. I'm not a better person. I have no superiority over anybody else, but the one thing I have possibly over any other bass player is that I am peculiarly trained. I began at five on violin for 10 years. I went to Berkeley at the time when Berkeley only taught musical content. I followed this up with studying with teachers that only taught musical content. And I've been decades in and I'm still studying and still researching. That puts my particular background in actual academic training, as different than almost anybody that plays the bass. It gave me a peculiar insight into being taught and learning. And only by coincidence because of this background, only by coincidence, do I have an overview that I don't think anybody else has. I have to review. I'm not better than anybody else. I'm not in any way superior, but I have an awareness and some people who hear my comments, get it. Other people take it a little more personally, and I'm not going to defend or explain it, but the academic, the difference between self-taught and academic is as different as learning Spanish by living in Spanish Harlem, or by going to city college and taking a Spanish course out of a book. The difference is that all the secondary language courses are taught academically out of books, just about. Maybe things have changed a little bit due to today's and tapes and online stuff. But colleges teach out of books just about I believe and they teach academically. I go to the beach you go to the beach. I learned Spanish academically. All people that learn a language is academic. And the funny thing is people see music as a language, but they don't want to learn it as one. So ironically people might be making not the wisest choices when paying to be taught because the people that they love and the people that they admire are telling them that they can learn this way. A lot of these people are looking for a career. Now here's some hard news. The music industry doesn't want people in it. It doesn't look for bass players. They could care less about bass players. So my plan is to tell people that knock on the door and be so great that they can't deny you and the best way to do that is to learn how to play really well. If you love music, if you're a hobbyist and do whatever you want, of course, but music college, music students, generally have careers in mind. While certain name people are always going to be touted as the success stories coming out of schools, there are hundreds, if not more students that will not join that list. And the reason is, in my opinion, they're not being taught correctly in my opinion. And they need to be taught better and they need to be really into it because when they start knocking on the door to the music industry, they ought to be so qualified that nobody can deny them this and this is what I want for bass players. I want them to be accepted and be invited in, and this is why I emphasize so strongly that music education in my view, again. I always have to say my opinion has deviated from how even a simple oboe is taught. There aren't different styles in the oboe or the clarinet or the violin or the trumpet teaching things. There are a few common books and basically the approaches are all the same, but bass players say, well, this teacher has this style and now everybody teaches differently. And the reason is because there isn't a core academic curriculum for bass players. And because there isn't, bass players are suffering. Some guy might did good with a good teacher, and the other guy with a different style might not give a good service to their students. The whole thing is a gosh darn mess. And that's why I trumpet this sort of call the people that they're not really being serviced well in my view, in my opinion. And that, that it needs a core, it needs a consistency as all other instruments have, but bass doesn't have it. So. I don't know if it's a long explanation here, but I don't know if it makes sense. you mentioned that practicing harder than your fellow bass students is a trustworthy concept to follow when acquiring a career. Can you practice harder by having someone show you any concept, whether then figuring it out on your own? Yes, because a teacher with superior musical knowledge, like the teachers that I had, all of them were more capable in music harmony and ideas of practice then I was. I'll go to Charlie who really has to be regarded as amongst the top three of the greatest jazz educators, music educators of the 20th and 21st century. No doubt. He died 10 years ago. Poor man. I loved him dearly and Charlie would take two lines of music. Two lines, four bars, and four bars that would lend itself to days, if not weeks of practice because of the current CEP was musical by doing it, I had to expand my mind and I had to expand my physical ability to play it on a bass. So yes, it is a teacher that gives you these things that makes you play better. Did I answer your question by the way? Yes. Yes, you did. I'm just wondering why some elements of bass in particular, I know we've touched on it on a broader musical sense, but some aspects of bass in particular such a slap bass wouldn't fall into that category for you. Because slap bass again, by going to just about a hundred percent of all slap bassists are self-taught. I admire slap bass playing as a style, and I've never criticized it that's sort of an internet sort of myth. I have no negative thought whatsoever about slap. I have a great negative thought about teaching slap for pay. I think that this is a rip off, I'm being blunt and hones. Slap the essential use of the thumb and the finger, the index, or middle fingers and the left hand. It is such an easy concept that the way that people and there's so many videos I might add all over YouTube to pay for this is just a waste of money. And again, I'm offering it as my opinion. Why not go the way that 100% of all slappers had gone. It's all one has to do is look up the history of anyone that slaps and discovered that. I mean, I guess there have to, there has to be exceptions, but I don't know who it is that the practical, the entire community of slappers wasn't taught in a school. And if this is true, then the method is proven to work. If the method is proven to work, why upgrade or change a method for money to assist them that frankly, hasn't been proven to work? It's all a kind of a financing of an experiment. And I don't dig that it's, that I'm defending student . The people that may have the most angst with me. I understand that, but it's the students that I'm defending here and trying to guide them to places if they're interested that it's going to make a better result for them. Teachers already decided that I'm the antichrist because I'm in interfering, I think with their with their business. And I have no problem with admitting that if all these businesses changed and folded up, it would leave bass players, no worse for wear, because they would simply have to go possibly into the source of learning that is already proven to work. It doesn't hurt them in the slightest by not spending money to be taught things that they could learn on their own, probably equally as well and give themselves time. A lot of guys say, well, I do this because it'll make me learn it faster. And as with all art and with all things I say, what's the rush? You love music. What's the rush. Stay with it, practice it. What's the rush? There are accomplishments. Oh, I have to share one other thought. When a teacher teaches you slap, it denies you the chance to flub and flambe and make mistakes and go through the experience of sounding really bad, to eventually come out to something really unique. See the path to individuality is always based in screw ups. It's always based in screw ups. It's like permitting yourself to sound gosh, darn awful. Poor, pitiful, sloppy, awful, and tolerated, and pick up the next day and go on from there and go on from there and go on from there. The dedicated musician. I don't know anyone in sports that doesn't go through this path. I don't know anyone in the arts that didn't look at an early Picasso. Well look at an early Van Gogh, and then look what followed afterwards. It was the path of doing it that is now denied to you by bass education, in my opinion, because they've paved the way they'd smoothed the way for everything. They'll teach you a technique. They'll teach you what happened. They will teach you what happens if this thing pops up. And you got to solve it, let me teach it to you. And they made things so that you can't experience it on your own, therefore denying you the absolute core of what's going to make you a better musician. The music bass industry is messed up for that reason. They're screwing with the benefits of students, in my opinion, God, this is going to be a caveat I'm going to throw in all the time. They're messing with students, sounding like shit, which is exactly what we're supposed to sound like exactly what I sounded like exactly what we all sounded like to become, what will become, and they smooth the path and they make it pristine and that's, everything is good. Whatever works for you is fine, and they are denying people are real truth to musical excellence. Now art is their own thing. I don't talk about that, but my view is as narrow as the hole in a straw, it's specific. And I hope that people would understand this. I think people are getting ripped off, not by, Fagan, ESC teachers, but I think that businesses are giving the client just what they need and the client doesn't know what he needs. The only reason that I feel I do is because I'm 68 years old and I've been in music for 63 years on, on as a student as well, so that's the peculiar background I have. I could take any bass student on planet earth, no matter their style, no matter what they do and make them a better bass player. And anyone that has my background can do the same thing. You did it to me and a half an hour. I was just talking before we started... yeah, well, yeah. Before we started the interview, we were talking about how and Jeff didn't know this because this is just the kind of guy that I know that he is over the years. But I was at the Namm show, I was a 16 year old kid and I was hanging out at the Mark Bass booth cause I knew Jeff Berlin would be there. I know that I was just like transcribing one of his solos and and I said, Jeff, I finally saw him and he came over and everyone was like, what is this kid like yelling at Jeff to come over here for what is this kid about the show Jeff and I started playing the melody to someday my Prince will come the same way you play it. You came over and you sat with me for a half an hour. And and it's funny, you actually told me, dude, you need to stop transcribing me, like go transcribe Keith Jarrett, man. But what I thought it was so cool that you sat with me though for an, for a half an hour with no cameras. No nothing. Just because you wanted to make me a better bass player and you laid into me in the lesson though. Don't get me wrong. But at the end of the day, I felt at the end of the lesson, I felt motivated because I felt like I walked out a better player, and it's something that has always stuck with me That's so kind of you to share it. Now here's a question when you say I laid into you I'll accept the term and ask you, how did you emotionally deal with it? Meaning. When I say the term laid in, I think some teachers have made a great career for themselves empowering their students and saying everything they did was great. To hear you say that what I did was wrong it stuck with me, and so for you to say that wasn't the correct way, you only have so many options when making a bass line with and around certain chords and the way that you showed me I'll never forget. Just be able to hear no, and then this is the right way and it's not a matter of creativity, it's just that this is the you only have so many options, so that really stuck with me for years. But one of your, yeah, I mean, one of your views, it has caused some controversy over the years is your views on a metronome and views on a metronome was very different than what I was taught and what other bass players were taught. You say using a metronome can not help you prepare for a career in music. Why do you think that statement over the years in particular has angered some people in different forums and across different bass educators? I imagine because people feel that using a metronome will help them prepare for a career in music. And of course, anyone states that what someone believes might be wrong is that's a challenge to people. But my views again are specific to the thing. No, one's stupid and no one's bad. Time is an internal thing. It always has been, and it can be viewed in any rubatto performance in any symphony orchestra. Music is not entirely based in quarter notes. Bass playing mostly is, but if you go through the history of music and we'll go back to the famous James Brown groups that the live playing Wayne Cochran bands, the tower of power live. I mean cream the Beatles when they played Live. In all of the sloppy or pristine performances, the quarter note is solid. People breathe in time, but there's this concept, and it kind of falls into bass education, where we have to solve your difficulties before you can solve them yourself. Time is something everybody has, just about, there's always exceptions. And a metronome is not a device that helps one to prepare to play in time because everybody already can. The problem with people who can't play in time is certain musical things. I mean, music itself is easy to play in time and baselines are some amongst the easiest because the subdivision of baselines are almost entirely in 4/4. So there's sort of this mental... boy, give me a second. It's kind of an aberration. It's kind of a cult element regard that if you cannot find a bass player to imagine a life without a metronome, in my view, they're a little bit swayed into a cult belief in it. Cults tend to generally see the leader or the concept as literally without fail infallible. It's a very strong, almost a fanatical view. And bass players won't give themselves the chance, which I would invite them to do so, to put away a click, tap your foot and subdivide rhythm as that is the core of time. Everybody can play with a click track if they know how to play. It's a gimme as they were. So that go ahead. Oh, I was just going to say, do you think that you can develop as a musician, the more that you play with a drummer and that using a metronome would actually help you speed up that process in developing an internal clock? In other words, it's really hard for me to tell if I'm dragging, playing behind the Beat. I mean, where I am, where I am in the beat until I lose the gig. What are your thoughts on that? Sure. Well, if you lose the gig and I'll be blunt, you're not ready to perform. It's that simple. It's not a thing that is an unsolvable either. You just need more time and practice. Now, metronome lessons don't translate over into real time playing and I'll tell you why. A metronome is an unbreathing thing you could practice with a let's say you can practice sunshine of your love by cream. You can practice that for a year with a click. And the moment you go out after a year and play with a real drummer, the metronome lesson is completely and totally invalidated in lieu of live human rhythmic interaction. The more you play with drummers, the more you interpret what drummers do, and the interpretation is subconscious. Time isn't perfect, unless it's a click track, which is inevitably a gig oriented Paradigm. You use a click on a recording, but for 90% of the gigs if not more, people are playing live. Live musicians instantly within the the minute that the guy clicks his drum sticks one, two, three, four, those four clicks are not metronomic and anybody can subdivide click bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump. You know, It's again, a myth and a kind of a belief that you prepare for real time by playing with a click. You don't, you prepare for real time by playing real time. You prepare for interactive bass drum and group interaction by playing it. You can't now cause of COVID, but you, when it's over, you play as much as you can with everybody you can, with the greatest, with the worst, with the new, with the guys learning like you, with the guys better than you that give you a little bit of guidance. And that's where time comes from. It comes from being in it. There's no video on the planet that'll teach you how to swim. There is no device on earth, there is no substitute except to get in the pool. The trick is to get in the shallow end so you won't drown. And everybody that gets into the shallow end of water, eventually learns how to float. And that's what bass players are denying by themselves and it denying themselves on a national and international level. So people don't have to believe what I believe and don't have to go with it, but if people would give it a try, they'll finally break out of the area where possibly they'll get a sense of where real time actually emerges from. It comes from in us. And I can prove it. I've done it on clinics for 30 years. With your clinics too, when you point out things too, you have a bass player come up, typically beginning of your clinic and the things that you point out, it's cool because. Nine times out of 10 other bass players are having the same issues with their bass playing. So it was pretty universal, but anyway let's talk about your views on music education and how it relates to having a musical career. One of the things that I've always said, Jeff, is that I regret that I never received any preparation on a business end for the real world of music. I mean, it took me years to learn about songwriting agreements, contracts, everything that you do in your daily life that has to do with music that doesn't have to do with playing is not taught. I was just wondering if there were mistakes that you made throughout your career that could have been avoided if you had taken a business class offered the students and should this be part of music education? Look I'll tell you quite frankly. I have,I've had for 40 years a great music attorney. I've had two great music attorneys. I don't need to know contracts. It's not, I'm not qualified. I go to a lawyer and for a stipend, if I'm doing publishing or doing things of this nature, they review the contract, they make their recommendations, and then I sign the deal. So that's sort of goes again for the idea that people need to know everything. I don't think knowledge is a bad thing, but I like to farm out my needs to people far more qualified than me. So I go to a music attorney and they cover it. I don't know. That's about the answer I have. You mentioned that getting gigs is education. The more you play with people is an education outside of music school. Do you learn from the people around you and the better you get, the better people you play with, the more you learn and the more successful you become. Is this all it takes or should you care about marketing yourself and networking, especially in an industry that has changed so much over the years and so over saturated through the internet filled with up and coming musicians? I can't say one would deny the systems that are available today, and just to refresh my views basically confined to being taught music. So, and just as an outsider, looking in, I use the internet, I have a YouTube educational channel. I have some books, I'm trying to promote myself. So the internet is a valuable tool. The problem is that base education implies or teaches these things to bass players that many unfortunately can't tune a base without a tuner. These people aren't going to get careers until they learn how to play better, and yet they're being taught how to manipulate the internet for a career that unfortunately many aren't going to get. Not yet, anyway. There are certain guys that use the internet that are monster bass players, better than me, better than anybody. The new generation, absolute mother bumpers, you know what I mean? But at the same time, there's a lot of other guys that are using the internet that aren't really skilled trying to get careers, perhaps. So there's a bit of a misnomer there. So here's how I would voice it as a teacher. Do it if it makes you happy. Use the tools of promotion, do the things that count in regards to promotion, but I wouldn't wait for a career to develop from it. Rather I would get deeper and deeper into music, practicing, playing as much as I can, learning and getting out there. And I think it's kind of a soup; it's you do three, four things at the same time. One of the must be your bass playing improving, and a career can be forthcoming. I mean, I want people to have careers if that's what they want and I believe I know how they can get it. But that the internet is a bit of of a, what is that like a carrot in front of the, what is a carrot in front of the donkey is it? When they get the donkey to walk, because all the internet, I can put out videos and I'm going to get seen, I'm going to get heard. People aren't making a dime. So how do you make money in music is what it comes down to what I said earlier. If you play, if you read, if you are so excellent in whatever style you've chosen, it's very hard to deny the music industry, to deny, letting a guy with talent and gumption into it's ranks, but they're trying, there's more people trying to get into the internet. More people trying to get into the industry, and they need to learn how to play better and that's what will open that door. That's what I hope for. I want colleagues, I want bass playing colleagues. I have some, and I love them. I love these guys. They're great musicians and they're better bass players than me. I love these guys. I want these other guys that think that I'm kinda messing with their future to understand that I'm giving them the, I believe the straight poop and how to get a career, or improve as players. It's up to them. I hope that people will give me some heed because I do know what I'm talking about. And that concludes the first part of the series with Jeff Berlin. Make sure you tune in in a couple of weeks, and here's why. Funny story is that a half an hour into that next segment, we stopped the interview and we're just chatting, him and I, about different things. Another half an hour goes by, and then we realized, Oh my God, we're still recording. I never stopped the record button. So we thought, well, why not just throw that in there too? And so you're going to find part two is an extremely organic, thoughtful and raw conversation between Jeff and I. You're not going to want to miss it. And we're going to end this episode with Jeff Berlin's Joe Frazier, round three, a newly remastered song from his critically acclaimed 1987 album pump it. It's composed and performed by Jeff Berlin, steve Vai ,David Sanchez keith Carlock and Tom Hamby. Jeff Berlin regards this as one of the best tunes that he ever wrote. When talking about the tune, Jeff says, Joe Frazier is a song that has remained with me throughout my career. No matter where I am in the world, people ask to hear this song. In fact, Jeff says, this is not a song, this is an Epic and it's as rocking as he's gotten it in 30 years. Thanks for joining us, and remember you are extraordinary.