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Ho do I approach learning new material?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Feezelbum, Mar 2, 2014.

  1. Feezelbum


    Feb 6, 2013
    San Diego
    I have been learning to play for a little over a year, mostly using online instructional videos and the Hal Leonard books, as well as doing a little ear training with the radio, and jamming along with a couple gui**** friends of mine. I have been wanting to get into a full band setting for awhile now, jamming, and possibly playing out at some point, so I responded to a CL add for a group of +45 guys looking for a bassist. What caught me attention was the fact they made it clear that attitude and cohesiveness was considered over ability. Right in my wheelhouse, I thought, so I responded, making it very clear I considered myself a beginner. I received a call from the BL, and had a great conversation with him. Good vibes all around.

    I now have an audition set up in less than two weeks, and just received the set list, where I was asked to learn at least five songs.

    What the heck did I just get myself into? I have gone from essentially noodling around for a year to actually having to learn new songs.

    So I grabbed some tab, sat down and started banging away on memorizing the notes, without listening to the music. Once I felt I had the structure down, I threw the tune on and started to work on time and rhythm. So far, in about 5-6 hours of time, I have one song down, but I still still seem to get lost in transitions and changes a lot.

    My question for the community is this... is my current method the best approach to learning new songs, or is there a better way? What have you found to be the best approach to learning new material?
  2. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    I know you only need five songs now, but if you are going to be playing with a band an hour's gig will run through 15 to 18 songs, and most bands will have at least 35 to 50 songs in their gig book. Good luck with what you are doing. Your memory can not be that good. Plus you are going to run out of time just on the five you need right now.

    You said you were given a set list. I hope you have something beyond the name of the song. You need the sheet music they will use. If all you have is the name of the song get in touch with the lead or rhythm guitarist I bet he/she will have sheet music. This sheet music will have the chord progressions for each song and what key they use for each song. Forget about tabs; tabs are OK to use to get a riff down or add a fill, but relying on tabs for a complete song is just not done! Play roots of the active chord - to the beat of the song - and hit the chord changes dead on. Probably going to be ok to bring the sheet music with you.

    When you can get roots and the chord changes down add a 5 and play R on one and 5 on three or R-5-R-5. Anything more for the bass line can wait for later. Follow the chord changes pounding out roots and hit the changes dead on the correct lyric syllable. That and not stepping on the lead instrument toes will get you asked back. Fitting in with the other guys IS more important than how you can play right now. They will teach you what you need to learn. If there is a drummer lock in on his kick drum for your beat. If there is no drummer they need you for the beat. Sing the song under your breath along with the vocalist - within the first two or three lines of the first verse you should be able to pick up the beat. Now maintain that beat. That's why they need you.

    Armed with your fake chord sheet music call up a video of someone playing the song and use that as a play-a-long to practice.

    If they are not giving you fake chord come back and tell us that. You can Google most any song for some fake chord -- problem then is what key do they play it in. Kinda need to know that.

    Good luck.
  3. eloann


    May 14, 2012
    I approach things very differently. I'd rather get comfortable with the structure of the song (a few listens, humming along, picking up some lyrics or any distinctive stuff) before even grabbing my instrument.
    Knowing some theory can very much rationalize the amount of information you really have to memorize too, as in patterns instead of every single damn note.

    There may be exceptions to this - if a song is particularly long and/or difficult I might break it into smaller pieces but I'm guessing you're not trying to learn The Door by Neal Morse.
  4. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    I don't know that there's a "best way". There is certainly a way that works best, but I think it's different for different people.

    I get the chord progression down. YouTube tutorial stuff can be helpful if I get stuck. I tend to trim things down to the basics, and work from there.

    If you can figure out the progression, you can get away with simpler stuff if you can keep the drummer smiling. Playing the changes IN TIME. Works.