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How do "you" learn a song ...

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by lopxtc, Jun 29, 2007.

  1. lopxtc


    Jan 18, 2007
    St. Louis, MO
    So Ive only been learning the bass now since January, married and working so I only get to practice a little bit when I can. Right now I am working on mostly just leaning scales/chords/modes and trying to develop a sense of timing but I want to learn to play songs also when I practice. Ive gotten pretty good at "Seven Nation Army" which I have been told is about as simple a bass line you can get, but want to learn more challenging ones.

    How do you all go about this? I have access to sheet music for songs .. do you all just listen to the song in sections and try to play the sections, or what?


  2. Yngwie 4String

    Yngwie 4String Inactive

    May 3, 2007
    Auburn Nebraska
    If you can read sheet music, just get that and play it. The second option is to get tablature, and listen to the song. Thats about it.
  3. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    I learn a song by getting an mp3 listening to it and working out the chords. I use audacity on the computer so I can loop it, slow it down, change the pitch, boost the bass, and pan left or right.

    I write out the songs using a combination of chord charts and tab. Unless the bass line is very important, I don't try to get it note for note. So I tab key parts and just do chords for the rest.

    Not only do you learn the song better, it trains your ear which is probably more important in the long run.
  4. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    If I don't have a chart I listen and eventually try to visualize the bass and where I'd need to play. But I've been playing a long time.
  5. lopxtc


    Jan 18, 2007
    St. Louis, MO
    Im learning to read, the person I am getting lessons from is big on making sure that I can understand sheet music. I just havent been in music long enough to be able to visualize in my head how long am 1/8 note really is at say 145bpm.

    Right now I find myself just listening to some music and trying to make out the bass line in the song and identifying the notes in the sheet music.

  6. The most important part of being able to listen to a song and pick out the chords is being able to match pitches. If you can sing even in the least bit, it's good to sing the root pitches of the chords and then match the tone you sing with your bass to begin with.

    If I am sitting down trying to pick out the chords for a song, I listen to one section at the time and figure out the chords/roots and right them down. Once you start getting the chords figured out, you'll find that most songs have sections that repeat the same chord progressions. Then, things become much easier.

    I will offer this caveat, however. I have a lot of formal music training, so things come a little easier to me than most. But then again, I know a lot of people who have no idea what the difference between bass and treble cleff is and they can pick out the chords twenty times faster than me.

    What it all boils down to is the technique that works best for you.;)
  7. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    I would say don't worry so much about finding a simple song, pick a song you really like and like the bass on. That way you have a song you have internalized and will make it easier to figure out, to get the time right, and most importanly play it musically not just moving your fingers in kind the right way. Better to master one song no matter how long it takes. Learn everything about that song you can.. why those notes, what is that rhythm, what is the chord progression, learn it inside out. Even if at a snail's pace. You do that to a song you love you will learn so much more. Then pick another song you like, this time the process will go faster. Then another and each time you will get faster and faster at learning songs, bass, and most important how to play music. Don't worry about how much time you can give it just find a few minutes a day everyday. Note where you stopped so you pick up from that point the next day. Especially with little time let the song the music be your technique teacher. I'd rather a student work on the fingering for some music than chew all his practice time running scales. I like them to have time for both, but if only time for one thing playing music has to win. Last don't forget to have fun that is what its all about.
  8. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    Bassed(sic) on what DocBop said, I would like to add a caveat to what I said. I don't learn the songs note for note because I have to learn a huge number of songs and I won't remember all the notes anyway.

    But if you are just learning a song for fun, which I still do, it is very helpful to learn it note by note. You not only want the pitches but where they are played on the fretboard. Moving around on the fretboard will change the way you play.
  9. iceshaft07


    Mar 4, 2007

    I usually go there and see if they have some tabs. 911tabs.com is also good.

    I will note that the tabs are not always right, and you do have to work a little to figure it out, but they do provide excellent practice.

    And you won't always get a song first try. I have been practicing "higher ground" for God knows how long, and I still will never be able to play that song.

    On that note, I am going to go try and play it.
  10. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Start with music that has a simple bass line.

    Put a CD in a boom box and start playing it - after a few notes, skip back and start over. And over. And over. Listen for the first few bass notes, then match pitch and start picking out the line to match.

    It takes time. I read music, but for rock, tabs (if you can find them) are usually as much or more help to reduce time in the learning curve.

    Most of the time you won't want to play the same exact bass line anyway, so get close and modify to suit your own ears.

    And if you can't play it the way the original artist did, remember two things:

    1) Modify to suit YOU.
    2) Remember that the first 100 times you play anything, it's hard. It gets easier with another couple hundred reps.
  11. lots of good advice already.

    I taught myself in the early days by listening to cd's and copying lines. just take it a bit at a time, listen out for the bassline, find the first note on your bass, or the root note (listen out for which note sounds the most solid or grounded in the tune) and then sing the line you want to play

    dont worry if you sing out of tune! as long as you know what you are going for, then you can try to match the notes up to the line one by one (the idea of singing it is that to do that you have to have listened to it enough to remember it!)

    it may seem hard at first, and may take a while, but it will get quicker and quicker with time, and its always satisfying.
  12. steve66


    Sep 17, 2005
    South Florida
    I forgot which site this came from but I use this method when learning new songs


    1. Play root/tonic note of each chord/scale
    2. Play first 2 notes of each scale
    3. Play first 3 notes of each scale
    4. Play the first five notes of each scale
    5. Play triad of the scale (1, 3, and 5 of the scale)
    6. Play 7th chords (1, 3, 5, and 7th tones of the scale)
    7. Play 9th chords (1, 3, 5, 7, and 9th tones of the scale)
    8. Play the entire scale up and down
    9. Play 6th chords (1, 3, 5, and 6th tones of the scale)
    10. Play up the scale to the 9th and back down the chord tones
    11. Play up the 9th chord and then come back down the scale
    12. Play the scale in broken thirds up and down (1, 3, 2, 4, 3, 5, 4, 6, 5, 7, etc., up & down)

    The above approach can be used when learning the scales and chords to ANY song, or, when learning any new
    scale. You may want to use a metronome when the tempo on the recording is too fast for you. You'll want to play
    these exercises UP and DOWN. If you feel you need further practice with any particular scale/chord there are many
    more patterns and exercises available from various practice books.

    Once you become familiar with the various scales and chords and gain adequate facility you won't have to practice
    these type exercises any more. Remember, the exercises are merely to help you MAKE MUSIC.

    1. Listen to the song over and over.
    2. Memorize the melody in your mind. Be able to sing it.
    3. Listen carefully to the bass line and the harmony in general. Get an overall sense of how the song is put together.
    4. Try playing the melody from memory, slowly at first.
    5. Then play the melody along with the recording.
    6. Learn the scales and chords in the order as they appear in the song. Make sure you've got the right changes (chord progression). Get them from a reliable source.
    7. Improvise over the harmony, keeping in mind the original melody as a frame of reference.
    8. Emphasize the thirds and sevenths of scales in your soloing.
    9. Memorize both melody and chord/scales if you haven't already. Know where the chord tones are ON YOUR INSTRUMENT.
    10. Improvise your original melodies based on what your mind HEARS. Let your mind guide your choice of notes, phrasing, rhythms, articulations, etc...
    11. Listen constantly to the original recording of the song to further stir your imagination.
    12. Learn the lyrics if the song has any. Mentally sing the lyrics while playing the melody.
    13. Play them like YOU wrote them.
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