*SPECIAL BMM CONTEST*
Danny is giving away 3 full memberships to The Bass Cyber Academy! All entries receive a FREE 30-day trial, and 3 lucky winners will win a full membership!
*HOW TO ENTER*
Follow the link below and include the letters BMM (in capitals) in your username
Contest runs from January 1 – 25, 2015. Three winners will be chosen from random amongst all valid entries. Winners will be notified by email. Must claim prize within 30 days. No cash value.
Bass Musician Magazine (BMM): Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me and our Bass Musician Magazine readers Danny! Aside from being a fantastic bassist that I admire, you are a well renowned music educator. Can you tell us about your teaching background?
Danny Fox (DF): Hi Vuyani! It’s a real privilege to talk to you and your readers, so firstly thank you for having me here. Teaching is one of the things I love most about music. Helping others, watching them develop as players, finding their own voice…it’s so rewarding.
I started teaching privately in 2001. The world, and the internet, was a much smaller place then and I was quite happy teaching from home as well as from a private studio as student numbers grew. I’ve always taught a blend of key musical information and things ‘people wanna know’, you know, the songs, the funk lines, etc.
BMM: That is impressive! Clearly, being invited to teach a degree program at The University of Sheffield means that you are very good at what you do as an educator. You recently established a new internet based music education portal specifically for bassists. Can you please tell us how the Bass Cyber Academy came together?
DF: I’d been asked by so many people online how I composed my solo bass tunes, how I wrote my lines, what my exercises were etc. that I started using the notation software I did my private lessons with to create help sheets for them. A lot of the people that asked were from parts of the world where life and finances are really tough…I mean really, really tough. It made me re-evaluate just how lucky I was to have the jobs in music that I do, and also just how much some help with learning the bass is appreciated by people with little or no money. I’d toyed with the ideas of e-books, etc, videos, but I love what the guys are doing who are established in that side of the business and thought I’d rather do something different.
I started creating interactive PDFs, with sound clips for the examples, with notation, and TAB for those who don’t read music. All the text is brief, but accurate, so people can get playing and learning straight away. I sent a few PDFs out to be tested and people loved them, so I decided to set up a subscription based site. I made a ton of resources that went on there for launch… PDF lessons, sight reading sheets and mp3 backing tracks, and I add new stuff every month. It’s exciting and is really growing fast!
In this format I could also really cut down the subscription costs to bare minimum. Full membership works out at less than $1 (U.S. Dollar) a week and there is a 30-day free trial with some of the resources to try.
BMM: Wow! That’s amazingly affordable! At that price, a year’s membership works out to being less than the cost of one face-to-face lesson in some places! I’ve had the privilege of having early access to the Bass Cyber Academy’s content. You focus on many of the things that develop musicianship, such as reading notes, etc. You have created content that will help bass players whether they are beginners or professionals. Can you talk more specifically about the material you are offering through the Danny Fox Bass Cyber Academy?
DF: Your input, and of my fellow professional bassists and teachers was vital for the site content. As I wrote every lesson, I tried to always have the outlook of the beginner/intermediate bassist, to be certain that all information was clear and presented in a logical but engaging way! Creating the lessons was so much fun! Each subject can generate so many other lessons too that the potential is limitless, there’s just going to be more and more added.
There are lots of lessons on bassline building, chord tones and scales that everyone should know; major scale modes, chord harmony, and also the minor scale modes too. There are lessons on slap patterns and ideas for walking bass and tapping…I’ve tried to include a bit of everything for the start of the site!
In the PDF lessons, there are sound clips embedded in the examples, so people can use them on their tablets, laptops etc. on the go or at home. The backing tracks I used for the examples, I put in to a backing track library which is free to subscribers. In there are all the chord functions as static chords, and some stock progressions, each in all 12 keys!
When you’re working on chord tone ideas, having static chords and some progressions to play over is great for internalizing those sounds. For notation readers and more advanced players are some notation only PDFs, in all 15 key signatures. You can build your reading skills really from the ground up there. I will offer Bass Musician Magazine readers a free short e-book on some help for beginning sight reading called ‘Joining the Dots’…every student who’s used that has found it very useful!
BMM: That’s quite a lot of material! You offer lessons that improve fundamental musicianship as well as chops or technique. Your continuing to add content to your Cyber Bass Academy makes it grow in value to the student as time goes on. How long has the Cyber Bass Academy been active?
DF: I want people to learn at their own pace and feel comfortable doing that. By using the subscription system, even as the number of lessons grows and grows, it’s all still there, to get to as and when you feel ready. It also means that you will get more and more for your money. The site has been active for 2 months now, and already I’ve been thrilled at how much it’s helped people. I’ve had messages from subscribers in India, Iran, Philippines, Mexico, my own UK and the US…I was quite overwhelmed by the positive response.
BMM: I’m sure it must be satisfying to get such positive feedback from bassists all over the world. As you mentioned, I was one of the bass players that had the opportunity to review some of your content. I found it to be amazingly informative and beneficial, especially to a self-taught bassist like me. In my experience, I’ve found that sight reading is one of the more challenging aspects that most bass players deal with. I think that is because many of us are not required to read music on a regular basis.
You approach music notation reading in a very gradual, unintimidating way. Your reading lessons incorporate other fundamentals, such as a wide variety of scales, chord tones, walking basslines, reading heads of jazz standards, improvisation over chord charts, etc. Have these lessons been inspired by how you developed as a bassist or have they been influenced by what you’ve taught your students over the years?
DF: It’s most definitely a combination of both those things! Every teacher is a composite of things they have learnt, and their experiences from teaching others. I always try to teach my students, whether face to face or via the academy, those vital music vocabulary lessons…the building blocks. That’s what all the songs and solo tunes are made from, the building blocks of music.
Technique should never dictate what musical ideas you use, a major scale is a major scale whether you pick, pluck, tap or double thumb it. How you use these things is up to you in your playing…it is the understanding of that vital musical information that is the most difficult for people who don’t have any means to learn.
BMM: Okay…back to the cost structure for a yearly membership. I’m just amazed at how you manage to keep your cost very low, in this day and age where everything seems priced beyond the average bassist. In addition to that, the lesson content is growing all the time!
DF: Many of the people, who want to learn, simply cannot afford it, that’s a sad truth in the world we live in. One face-to-face lesson may cost a week’s wage in some places, and that’s just not possible for them. By choosing a format that doesn’t need a huge amount of post production, I’ve eliminated the need for a huge subscription fee. There are already 80+ lessons, 50+ sight reading sheets and 350 backing tracks in all twelve keys. That opens up limitless possibilities for practice…learn something, play it in all 12 keys, that’s vital…a yearly subscription is just $49.99, I think that’s manageable for anyone who’s dedicated to improvement. There is a limited content 30-day trial for people to try. It’s only a taster of what’s in the full membership, but it gives people a chance to try out the format.
BMM: I agree, $49.99 for all of that content is a bargain. As you know, there is a running debate in the bass world that leans towards the teaching of music notation reading over tablature. I see your use of TAB as a bridge for the non-note readers to become note readers. Is that a correct conclusion?
DF: I could play long before I could read and I’m totally aware of how daunting it is. Many of my adult students come to me in that same position, so I try to de-mystify the whole process as quickly as possible. I learnt to read by being given a copy of ‘Chord Studies for Trombone’ and ‘The Evolving Bassist’…neither of which are ideal to begin reading with, so I’ve made my reading structure very, very gradual. I think gaining confidence in reading is the key element to progressing with it. If not, it’s like giving someone the keys to a car and telling them to learn to drive.
All the lessons include TAB too, I am totally aware that some people do not want to learn to read music, and will never want to. I think they have that right to make the decision. All my private students that come to me who don’t read notation find that they build that skill gradually and ditch the TAB usually within 3-6 months, and never go back to it. The notation only section on the site is exactly that, a TAB free zone.
BMM: Earlier in our discussion, we mentioned a few things that can be learned from your lessons. Can you touch on a few more of the important topics that you cover in your lessons?
DF: I really wanted the first things uploaded to be the things I felt everyone should cover at some point in their playing: all the basic scales, their construction and how to play them in 12 keys; chord tones in all inversions and using them over charts; understanding different rhythms and feels; building accuracy; introductions to slapping and tapping ideas; building a line over a two chord jam; using pentatonic scales; related major and minor keys…all the essentials. Every lesson could be expanded to many more lessons. I want the subscribers to decide where it goes next. Wherever it goes, I’m excited about it!
BMM: Although the focus of our discussion is the Danny Fox Bass Cyber Academy, you still teach through Skype, as well as one-on-one lessons, correct? This question is for those who may want to have a more directed learning approach from you.
DF: Yes, the bulk of my teaching is one-on-one, either privately or for the University. I started Skype lessons for people who couldn’t get to my studio back early in the year. I’ve got a real nice efficient tech setup for doing them, and students still get all their worksheets made for them and mailed straight to them. It’s fantastic and also a little surreal to teach someone face-to-face in the studio one lesson, and then be teaching someone in the Philippines via Skype the next! I also offer tailored PDF correspondence lessons, for people who like the academy idea, but want specific subjects written for them alone. Anyone interested in Skype lessons or correspondence lessons can email [email protected] and I’ll tell them anything they wish to know.
BMM: The material I’ve seen on your site so far will keep me occupied for much more than a year. I say that to emphasize how much of a treasure trove your growing collection of lessons is already! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to the Bass Musician Magazine readers! Do you have any parting words you’d like to leave us with?
DF: If everyone feels like me, and wants to drive their bass and music skill forward all the time, I figured I’d better get plenty on there to start with haha! But you’re right, I wanted there to be more than enough for people to dive straight in to, and there will only be more added every month. The lessons are so much fun to produce, it’s hard not to be thinking of new ideas all the time! I want to thank you, Vuyani, and the BMM readers for taking an interest in my teaching. I’m thrilled that you’ve seen how beneficial the Bass Cyber Academy can be first hand, and I hope your readers will sign up and find out for themselves. I have some great stuff lined up for 2015, so I hope everyone who’s eager to study and improve their skills will check it out.
Brief Biography: Danny Fox has been playing bass for nearly 20 years. Mainly self taught, he was mentored briefly by L.A bassist Bill Evans in the late 1990’s. Concentrating on session, solo playing and education, he is a respected member of the solo bass community and has been praised by many of top names in the genre for his creation of melodic, free flowing compositions.
He is the head of bass guitar studies of The University of Sheffield, one of the most prestigious music departments in the country, and also teaches from his private studio in his native Sheffield, UK.
The Bass Cyber Academy can be found at: www.bassmandannyfox.com/cyberacademy.
‘Write Your Own Love Story’ youtu.be/FhQBS2jWMu8