help with listening skills

Discussion in 'Ask Michael Dimin' started by metallica125, Aug 31, 2002.

  1. metallica125


    Aug 31, 2002
    hi, im a new one at this board, ive been playing bass for about a year now. my question is....

    what are some tips to listening to music to learn a song?

    im trying to learn iron maiden but don't what should i be thinking while listening so i would like some tips on listening to music.

    thanx bye
  2. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    The ability to transcribe music is a important tool to have. Learning it takes time. here is a brief overview.

    1. Listen to the song - many times over. Don't try to figure anything out, just listen.

    2. When you are very familiar with the song, learn to sing the parts that you want to transcribe

    3. NOW pick up the bass. Find the tonic (root of the key) or the "home" note. It is often the very first note that you will hear (and often the last as well)

    4. Try to figure out the direction of the line. Does it go higher, lower or stay the same?

    5. Further refine the line to get the exact pitches. Remember you should be able to sing the line and therefore have a pretty accurate sense of "right or wrong"

    6. Start with easy songs that you can have relative success with fairly quickly.

    7. Once you get the bass line and figure out the root of each chord, play the major or minor third with each one to find out if each chord is major, minor or perhaps just a power chord.

    8. Finally, memorize the sound of the patterns you figure out. No doubt, you will find them in many different songs that you hear

    Hope this helps
  3. metallica125


    Aug 31, 2002
    that does help, thanx a lot
  4. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    It is awkward and presumptuous of me to add anything to what Mike Dimin says, but I will anyway (with trepidation.)

    It helps me tremendously to get a grasp of the "map" of a song. By this I mean, sketch out if there is an intro, where are the verses, the chorus, bridges, solos, repeats, outro, and anything unusual such as an extended silence or a sudden change in tempo or rhythm or evident key.

    Once I have a grasp of the structure of that song, it seems much easier to break down smaller portions such as one-bar or two-bar patterns or determine if the bassline repeats over certain passages or if it changes somewhat for every verse.

    Being as I did always find it hard to scope out songs such as Iron Maidens' music, I had to do the repeated listening Mike Dimin suggests numerous times. But that is good, because the more one hears a song, the more one picks up even on a subconscious level.
  5. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    I think Boplicity's idea of mapping out the general structure of a song is a really useful, and it fits right alongside Mike's advice. Further ideas, supplementing those already mentioned, are:

    1. In addition to listening to the song many times, I also find it useful to play the song a lot as 'background music' - just have it on without even concentrating too hard on hearing it (my place for doing this is as background music at work). Get the song into your subconcious 'inner soundtrack' as well as on the 'dissection block' at the front of your mind.

    2. Unless you're really pushed for time, it's a good idea to listen to how the bass fits in with the other parts. You may nail it just like the record but it won't necessarily sound right if everyone else is playing different things - try to grasp how the bass line integrates into the overall song so that you can keep the vibe you want while adapting to the other musicians you're playing with.

    3. Along with that, be aware that the bassline may sound awkward when played away from the other instruments - just like looking at the foundations doesn't tell you everything about the rest of the house.

    4. Before trying to play along with a section of a song, I find it helpful to be able to sing along with the bass line first. It doesn't matter if you haven't got a great singing voice - it's just to make sure that you're hearing the line clearly before you try to work out the details.

    Anyway, that's more than enough from me. May you have big ears... :D

  6. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    Great Advice - one and all.