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How long does it take you to get a song down cold?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Chad T, Dec 20, 2017.

  1. Chad T

    Chad T

    Feb 10, 2013
    Thanks much and that hit the nail on the head. I tend to focus on a song from getting from point A (beginning) to point B (end) and can get bogged down in the details and candy along the way. I.e. missing the forest for all the trees. I need to work on just the chord changes and basic structure first, then and only then work on the icing of the cake (fills and so forth).
    lz4005 and Ant Illington like this.
  2. I only learn a song/bass line note for note if I intentially want to do a cover and stay true to the original line. The length it takes to get it down depends on the complexity of the bass line and the timing/feel of the line. If it's a bass line in my favorite genre (funk/grooves) then even more complex lines are relatively fast to get in my fingers. If it is a genre I am not so comfortable with then it can take a lot of time and cursing before I finally have it down. Generally I am best at doing my own thing and create my own variant of the original bass line, thats more fun aswell :)
  3. Chad T

    Chad T

    Feb 10, 2013
    That’s exactly how I approach it. It’s a fall back plan if I’m not “in the zone” when playing live and it really helps me get a feel for the song and inside the composer’s head. Truth be told, even after learning note for note, some songs I end up doing them a bit differently live. Others, I stick to note for note. Also, I am still very much a learning bass player and I respect that the person who wrote the part is likely a pro at the top of their game. Can I really improve on what they did? Well, at some point, maybe. But I don’t feel confident enough to do that yet on every song.
    Bunk McNulty likes this.
  4. baileyboy


    Aug 12, 2010
    Depends. Anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours. Every once in a while a song comes my way that I just can't get comfortable enough to gig- "Sir Duke" comes to mind.
  5. Element Zero

    Element Zero Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    Depends on the tune but, 10 or 12 times through to get it note for note. Again, depending on the tune.
  6. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    nice job! :thumbsup:

    i'm usually given the bass part (or sometimes i transcribe it, myself, using a piano = midi to sheet music), so it doesn't take too long. but i play a lot of jazz, so: note for note isn't usually necessary, expected, or even desired.
  7. I think you did a great job with this. And don't worry about comparing yourself to someone with 30 years playing experience. Most of them prolly couldn't play this song this well after 3 years.

    Also, you have a great pick tone. I'd just keep that for the most part.
  8. Tim Craig

    Tim Craig Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    If I am outside, this time of year, not very long.
    Member8675309 and El-Bob like this.
  9. Gotta listen to the music man. Get in your car and just drive and put the tune on repeat. When you can "sing" the bassline, it makes it alot easier to pick up the groove of the tune.
    lz4005 likes this.
  10. It really depends. Also, I rarely have to learn just one new song. For a new project or a sub gig or a one-off I am learning whole sets, so it takes a bit longer for any given song. And I am not learning them note-for-note.

    There are songs I’ve been working on for years trying to get them note-for-note.
  11. MbyHJDCheetah


    Apr 13, 2016
    I find the basslines easier to learn. Well mine anyway!
    And for lyrics, write them down on another piece of paper, even if you have them all neatly printed out, doesn't matter, a page from a small ringbound pad.
    But write the lyrics in capitals if you have to, sideways across the page or down, but write the lyrics down. (One song at a time) And you carry that piece of paper around reading it when you can without being disturbed, and just repeat each line twice. Read it first, speak aloud second.
    Eventually the lyrics string together and within days you can recite them without looking (But still get unsure about how the eighth line finishes) at the paper.
    Now I've not done the below myself, but if you have to have a sheet of paper there with you when Live, make sure you have another one of the band jumping up and down in front of you as a human shield for "Could get onstage and steal folder" people.
    But that's seeing too many Movies. Those "Could get onstage and steal folder" people never really do poopie like that.
    Plus most will be too surprised you do this and would make the effort to listen why it's being done that way instead.
    It takes me a couple of days to learn stuff. Although of course the lyrics are out of Tablet shot in my videos!
    If you have a gig coming up and are singing, well the backup of "WARG! RARG! HARG! WARG!" screaming always helps.

    So an answer to OP's question, the defeatment of anxiety that has people frozen over "could" delusion that usually turns out "See? Nothing to worry about!" and a Christmas mention to the hackiest of all the hacks!
    Apologies if your handwriting is a problem for you. Sorry I didn't realise. This was just to say how long it takes me.
    And a suggestion if possible to keep handwritten lyrics (NOT the original sheets) on your person to look at on and off until memorable to be done without holding paper.
    I can breathe out now. Thanks and hope the end goal of the OP happens!
  12. I've never learned a song note for note really. I get the basic swing of the line, and just do my own thing.
    MbyHJDCheetah likes this.
  13. I’ve been learning that Megadeth album Rust in Peace for about 10 years.
  14. madjazzbass

    madjazzbass Supporting Member

    Jan 5, 2014
    Ditto, I do the same thing
  15. madjazzbass

    madjazzbass Supporting Member

    Jan 5, 2014
    It really depends on the song, some songs in less than an hour, some songs a few hours, some a few days and some takes weeks and even more sometimes if I'm going for note for note, it varies.
    Spidey2112 likes this.
  16. jcsk8


    Feb 15, 2013
    Depends. The problem is remeber the songs changes, note the notes itself. I would never cover a song like this one note by note. It´s pointless. Nobody would know, and even the band plays differents many times.
    Just got the chords and structure and notice if the songs have some passage that needs to be done note per note. A signature passage let´s say.
    I would say that for a song like this about 1 to 2 hours. Didn´t picked the bass yet but I almost can say that there´s a low B string going there wich I didn´t curently have.



    Done in 30 min. To me good enough to play in gigs.
    BUT, must keep listening to it because I can forget it fast cause is a new song to me.
    Write down the main chords on a paper helps a lot.
    And practice more.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2017
    Chad T likes this.
  17. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008
    Short answer: It depends.

    Long answer: Anywhere between I've heard it so many times on the radio that I already know it within having ever played it and up to several hours or even several days.
  18. Felken


    Jun 28, 2016
    Ottawa, CAN
    I just watched an interesting video with victor wooten about that.

    I can learn almost any song in 4 hours of intense study, nonstop. That is, spending 4 hours of convincing myself I can do it. Usually, if I can't learn a song normally, I sit down, bring up some tabs, listen to the song, learn by ear. I've learned my most impressive songs in that way, like YYZ, Dream Theater's panic attack, a few others...

    EDIT: I just read you were talking about getting it perfectly. I was talking about learning the song and being able to play a rough version of the song with ease. After Learning it I just need to practice, and keep practicing to develop finesse.
    Really, you could keep learning a song forever. It's just a matter of perfecting it.
  19. ...or to a different octave of the same key.

    Bass sheet music is transposed up 1 octave up from where it is actually played.
    Lbsterner likes this.
  20. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    When it comes to documenting a song I agree, the first thing is to figure out the key. but when it comes to learning a song, most often I listen to the song to burn it into memory if time permits, which doesn't require figuring out which key it's in and also frees me up to ultimately be able to play the song in every possible key.
    RolandMHall likes this.

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