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How do you learn complete songs?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Wademeister63, Dec 13, 2004.

  1. Wademeister63


    Aug 30, 2004
    Denton Tx
    I'm playing along with my band pretty well and am getting the songs down but still having some trouble with keeping on the right section of the songs. Sometimes I'm right on the change or sometimes I may start a new section one verse early or miss the change at the end of a verse. If I'm on a simple song with someting like 2 singing verses, 2 instrumental, one singing and exit, I can stay on that, but if it gets too broken up I get lost. Also, fairly often with a 12 bar blues I'll lose track of what bar I'm on and change at the wrong time. Not so much when I'm on the root note a lot, but I lose it every time on Texas Flood while walking the changes around. Cheap Sunglasses can't shake me though and I can even sing that one while playing. Is there something I should do to help remember where I am in the song and where the changes go, or is that just going to come with experience in general?
  2. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    Learn the words.
  3. RicPlaya


    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI
    Some players count measures. Some follow the vocals and key off that. I just listen to the tune so many times it becomes ingrained in my very being so it rarley is trouble for me. Just keep plugging away at it. Make sure you know the songs you are doing intimatley. There are all sorts of things you can key off of, vocals, guitar parts, drum parts. Maybe make little cheat cards for each song, write on there what would you need in order to keep in the correct place in a song, measures, tab, whatever it takes.
  4. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    If the song is a cover, I listen to it many times analytically, listening for verses, choruses, solos, bridges, turnarounds, outros, or anything unusual such as a part in which the entire band stops playing for a beat or two before starting again or for a key change or noticeable tempo change.

    One of my favorite ways to nail a song fast is draw a "roadmap" of it, so that I can see a diagram of the parts mentioned above. If you have a clear picture of how the song is structured you are less likely to drop a bridge or interfere in a solo.

    Another thing that helps is to try to sing or hum the song through without your bass or the band. See if you are dead certain what comes after what. If you can't sing or hum it through unaccompanied, you may be confused about the exact song structure.

    On stage, it helps to listen to the guitar or vocalist for hints, but you can get in trouble if that person forgets the structure, too. You have to listen actively. But don't get in the habit of always relying on another band member because you might unconsciously develop the habit of always playing behind the beat (which is OK in some songs).

    There are some songs that demand that you drive the song. if you are relying on another band member to guide you, your bassline can't drive the song because the others will be a fraction ahead of you causing the song to lose power or appear to drag.
  5. bluemonk


    Dec 17, 2002
    One of my favorite ways to nail a song fast is draw a "roadmap" of it, so that I can see a diagram of the parts mentioned above. If you have a clear picture of how the song is structured you are less likely to drop a bridge or interfere in a solo.

    There are supposed to be linear thinkers and visual thinkers. If you are a visual thinker, like I am, then this mapping idea is right on. You keep the image in your head.
  6. I write it down in a way that would remind me within a second of looking at the paper. :)

    For long measures of the same thing, I close my eyes and count... :meh: or listen to the drummer for fills at the end of the 4th bar.
  7. Experience does help here

    I mean the more songs that you learn and know the better your knowledge comes with song structures
    Learning the words will definitely help esp. before the chorus or bridge or where there is a change

    Perhaps what the others say of going thru the song as many times until you get so sick've it that you can play it in your head
  8. Dynna


    Oct 23, 2004

    Write down just the SECTIONS of the song. Notate extra bars between sections, and also if the sections themselves are slightly different.

    Practice by doing simple songs that you may never use, but you'll get good practice out of learning. Then do some harder tunes that have a few different sections.

    And, via Billy Sheehan, play through the songs with JUST you and the drummer. YOU need to be able to carry the tune with just the two of you. It's also a great way to develop your 'time' relationship with the drummer.
  9. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    on a related note:

    EYE CONTACT during the performance... with your drummer, with your guitarist, with your singer etc... it won't be a perfect substitute for knowing the song inside out but you can overcome virtually all unsure moments just by the right nods and glances

    I think we all have a tendency to 'bliss out' for a second or two and momentarily lose track of how many bars you have left of a certain section, but usually you can feel your way through.. if you trust your instincts, 9 out of 10 times, what feels right, IS right...
  10. Hawkeye

    Hawkeye Canuck Amateur

    Some folks have already hit on this, but as a singer, I listen to the vocals a lot. Inflection, breaths, pauses, dynamics, all tell you where you're headed.

    When using word and chord fake sheets I will often write down the "roadmap"

    V is for verse
    C is for chorus
    B is for bridge
    K for keychange

    A typical small line written at the top of the page may go something like this:


    Translation: 2 verses then a chorus, verse # 3 then the chorus again, bridge, keychange, verse # 4, chorus, repeat chorus.

    I do the same thing when playing drums too. A quick scan and you know where the song is supposed to be going.

    We also have a hand-signal thing going on that can override the roadmap. If the song is going well, the lead singer may turn his hand around in a slow circle behind his back. That means "repeat". If the singers turn and look at an instrumentalist, that means "solo". Just before the end of the song, he'll close his hand to a fist which means "here comes the end". We have just learned to glance over near the end of a section in the song to see if there will be any changes from the roadmap.

    Not to sophisticated, but seems to work for us.
  11. Wademeister63


    Aug 30, 2004
    Denton Tx
    Great tips, thanks.

    We've been doing the eye signals some with a quick nod or dipping a guitar neck or whatever, but mostly to get the endings clean. I had tried some mapping and got discouraged, but I probably was trying to get too detailed. The VVCVCBKVCC format looks a whole lot more manageable. No doubt learning the words will help a lot too.
  12. Dynna


    Oct 23, 2004
    If I'm having to write out the changes too, I'll use...

    and write them in the margin so I can still see a basic form without having to follow the changes all the time.

    AND, if possible/applicable, write out the chords in a per bar format (Ab / Bb / Gb / Eb) using only FOUR per line. That way, if you get lost, just go to the next line. Make sure to leave an extra line of space between sections, and ALWAYS chart out any additional bars between sections and ALL of the tags/ending.

    Write out the WHOLE BLASTED SONG. When you look back at teh chart, the form will be EASY to remember, especially when you can see how sections repeat themselves.
  13. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    A lot of good posts here :smug:. If these don't work for you, all I can say is keep playing it until you can play it without anything helping you, unless maybe a meternome, or see if you can play it with just your drummer (will also help you on your technique, as you'll be able to focus on your sound, AND it'll help grow the bond between you and the drummer better). Sometimes my band would have practices where just I, or just the guitarists would each grind out the song with just the drummer and themselves. It seemed to help...

  14. I don't know how many bars the parts have, sometimes i even don't know what part comes next, but i have somehow developed a feeling what comes next, and if i'm wrong i adapt quite fast.

    I "blame" it that i listen to a lot of music, and i don't approach songs in a "factual" way, i pick up the feel and idea behind the song more easily than other things.

    Does it make any sense to you?

    It's like... there HAS to be the bridge that's coming now.

    I don't think while playing, i feel, maybe that'd be an idea for oyu to try?
  15. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004

    Sucks when the singer forgets the words though...
  16. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Yeah, I'll 2nd/3rd/4th learning the words/melody, etc.

    Learning lyrics, melody or just key phrases from either is the best way of remembering a song's structure.

    Or even better, if you learn to sing (and play if you want to) the entire melody and root motion in your own time you'll soon know where you are at all times - even when the singer doesn't! :)
  17. Wademeister63


    Aug 30, 2004
    Denton Tx
    That makes sense and was what I expected but it wasn't working out for me. I've been through our songs enough times now that they are very familiar, but not being able to get it right consistently was making me feel like a had a learning disability or something. It's comforting to see that others work hard at learning songs and have techniques to help organize the parts. It's also comforting to see that other people like the SINGERS forgetting their parts. Seems for most people it isn't as easy as knowing the song after listening to it several times.
    The drummer and singer in my band will sometimes blow a part, but not too often and they are getting better. The guitarist is pretty good and usually knows where we are and can even cover pretty well if I miss a measure or something. He says he plays along with the CD over and over until he's got it burned in. I was trying to get there but found that when the CD wasn't on I still got lost. I listen to the bass parts pretty closely so I can play them right, so I was following the bass on the CD. Now if I had a really good bass player in the band that I could follow, it think it would work out great! Or I could write stuff down and learn the non-bass parts until I actually know the entire song.
    I really like the idea of playing with the drummer and learning to drive the song rather than going along for the ride.
  18. Suckbird

    Suckbird Banned

    May 4, 2004
    Well, i listen to the guitarist and drummer, i remember first time i played roots to a song and had no idea when i should change but i did on my feeling and it worked.
  19. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    I listen to the song until it becomes second nature to me and I can play it in my sleep. I'll also chart it out to aid the learning process, this helps me know where bridges, chorus's, etc are.

    I will also listen to vocals, guitar lines, even a drum part, for cue, but you have to be careful doing this. Often times people mess up and this causes other people in the band to botch a part. So if you don't know your part inside and out, you'll goof when they goof.
  20. z4knerd


    Jul 1, 2004
    i agree with cassanova .. make sure you can play your part all by yourself. If you're eventually going to record something, you may have to play your bass line with nothing but a metronome in the headphones _:O