How long does it take you to learn a difficult piece.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by DuckSoup, Sep 5, 2018.

  1. DuckSoup


    Dec 20, 2017
    Everyones definition of difficult is different. But I'm curious how long it takes you to learn a song that you would consider yourself to be pretty difficult.

    I've been kind of beating myself up over a couple of songs that I've been trying to learn. I'm still somewhat of a beginner because I haven't been playing for quite a year so these songs are pretty difficult to me. I feel like I will spend many many hours trying to learn these and I want to play them perfectly. I feel like to a normal player the songs aren't really that difficult, but then again I don't know what difficult really means.

    Currently learning "Here we are juggernaut" Coheed and Cambria.
  2. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    depends on the song, but usually from a few minutes to about an hour.
    then a few more times thru it to lock it in.
  3. I have only been playing bass for just under two years.
    But play about two hours a day and am really happy with how much
    I have progressed.
    I have been working on Jamerson’s bass lines from What’s Goin On for six months.
    I am just now getting to a point I can play along with it.
    I am trying to learn For Once In My Life as well.
    I find these difficult challenges and months of playing them is paying off.
  4. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny

    Nov 20, 2000
    DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP OVER THIS. Seriously, that can be habit forming and really **** up your confidence. **** man I've been playing bass forty-two years and I'm still working on the Bach Solo Cello Suites that I started to learn when I was thirteen.
  5. The longer it takes, the greater a sense of achievement you're gonna get. However, I'd say don't get too caught up in spending too long on something that's outside your level. It's important to push yourself and always have a 'study piece' as a longer term goal but it's also worthwhile learning LOTS of easier tunes. Some songs are made up of one or two riffs. They're great to work on in the short term.
  6. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    There's one or two pieces in my big band repertoire that took me weeks to be able to play the written walking bass line at performance levels. (And of course, my alt always pushes those two on me come gig day...)

    Usually it's a combination of speed, uncommon chord changes and big intervals that does me in. Sometimes it looks like a pianist wrote the lines, and not someone that knows the architecture of bass fingerboards.

    There's only one way to do it... And that's to keep at it.

    And as Mark said, the sense of achievement you get is unbelievable. I think those two pieces taught me more than all others combined.
  7. When I come across something difficult, I'll do two things: 1) I'll throw the mp3 into a DAW (such as Reaper) which will allow me to slow it down without affecting pitch and 2) I'll check out Youtube to see someone else play it. Maybe I'm having trouble because I'm not in the right neck position, etc. I prefer learning by ear, but every now and again I'll check out notation (if its available) and as a LAST resort, I'll check out if there are any GOOD tabs. Most tabs are terrible. The first two points I made are usually enough to get me through successfully. Good luck! Don't get discouraged!
    BassYerFaceoff, smogg and eriky4003 like this.
  8. rtav

    rtav Millionaire Stuntman, Half-Jackalope

    Dec 12, 2008
    Chicago, IL
    My band took about a year to learn Dream Theater’s “The Dance of Eternity” and about that long to learn Steve Vai’s “firegarden Suite.”

    So it can take awhile but it is so worth it!
    exidor and Quantized Harmonic like this.
  9. hondo4life


    Feb 29, 2016
    I know a professional (retired) cello player that is still working on that, so don't feel bad.
    Alik, bkbirge and Spidey2112 like this.
  10. saabfender

    saabfender Inactive

    Jan 10, 2018
    An hour? It's funny but the songs that will chew up the most time are not ones that are technically challenging but ones I don't know and have a lot of formal twists and turns. With all the internet resources, filling in the missing pieces is now so easy, although I start out trying to learn all songs by ear. There was a time where I'd have a couple hours into learning a new tune. Picking up the needle or hitting rewind repeatedly for a chord or note or two is very time-consuming.

    Knowing how the song goes is way harder than developing a part for it.
  11. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Don't worry, you'll get there if you just keep at it. Takes me anywhere from minute to houts, depending, but I've been playing since '63 and majored in music in college on upright classical and theory. Also played plenty of jazz. Not bragging, just saying.
    IamGroot likes this.
  12. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    how long is a piece of string?
  13. Zackabinoff


    Mar 23, 2018
    From time to time i convince myself i am going to learn Havona front to back. Currently going through one of those phases. Pure torture.. what an incredible talent he was. Feels like it'll take the rest of the year to work out all the parts. Getting it up to speed...whole other story.
    Lee Moses likes this.
  14. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Hey, to give you some hope.

    Bear in mind that us old farts remember the days of yore when we had to keep moving the needle back on a vinyl LP in order to learn a song. It was arduos work, and it took dedication, endurance and patience. And not a small amount of courage and fortitude. And if we had any aspirations to get good enough to become a performing musician it tested all of this within us. While it did so, it was simultaneously teaching us and training our ears. The arduousness of the journey naturally helped imbue things in our minds.

    Aw man, I sound like a hippie.

    Anyway, each generation has it's means, and today folks go through the same process with modern gear, same Trail, though. .Each of us goes down their own path. I was obsessed, no, possessed, by music. It was never about how good I was, but how good it felt. I made the simplest thing sound the best it could so I could feel it the deepest. It was all about Articulation, my first love.

    Play well what you can. Enjoy it. Over time you will improve. Progress is proportional to the time commited playing and studying. That, in turn, is driven by where yer Obsession/Possession knob is turned to on the dial.

    But, it means that we all can do it.

    Go far, pal. Enjoy the journey.
  15. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    For me it depends a great deal on how exclusive that effort is. "Difficult" to me is a song that doesn't flow naturally if that makes any sense. Most songs have a flow that you can feel, other have flows that you really have to focus on. For example, probably the most difficult song I've ever had to learn was the first movement of Rush's 2112. If you're not familiar, it opens with all instruments playing in unison on a staccato line that in an irregular rhythm. The notes were not a problem, but remembering the rhythmic patterns was hard for me. I got comfortable with this in about a week and that's about all I worked on (call it 10 hours of grinding). If I had been working on other songs at the same time, it would have taken longer.

    I try to make things easy on myself and generally don't learn covers note for note. I find the iconic bits and the groove and do my best to serve the song in my own way. This will dramatically speed up the time it takes me to get a song ready for play (hours, not days) - I often spend more time preparing charts then I do working out lines for simpler cover stuff. Note for note on all songs, could take me weeks per song to dial in.

    Yes, as you get more experienced, things become easier, mostly because you've just figured a few more tricks out and more and more "new" things sound familiar and you don't have to work out every little detail. Intervals become identifiable; chord patterns start to emerge; fill lines begin to sound familiar, etc. For example, after you learned to play a major scale (outside of first position), it's quite easy to move it up a fret and play it in a different key. The same concepts hold true in most musical constructs. The more you know, the less there is to figure out, the easier it is to pick up new songs.
    Russell L, 928cat and DrThumpenstein like this.
  16. BassUrges


    Mar 14, 2016
    Are we talking note-for-note? I spent several weeks on “I want you back” WITH the chart in front of me. I didn’t try to learn “What’s Goin On) note-for-note, I just took the main riffs and improvised around them.

    I learned most of Zep IV over two months, again with charts, but simplified some of the crazy stuff in “Stairway.”
  17. Magthegrate

    Magthegrate Way less skilled than my gear suggests.

    Sep 18, 2017
    Austin, TX
    I've been playing for only about three years. I spent a lot of time trying to learn songs note for note, playing along with tabs. While this is fun, and I did learn a lot, my learning really took off when I started just turning on a song on youtube and trying to keep up. I still slow them down sometimes to learn, but I really think that the ear training you get by just trying to play along and then eventually adding your own fills is invaluable. The ear training went VERY slowly at first, but has really picked up lately. It's kind of an exponential curve.

    I firmly believe that just trying to play my bass to random songs and genres is the single most important thing that I've done for my learning.

    There are programs out there like Riffstation that let you slow down songs and gives you an idea of the chords being used to learn them. Also, Songsterr's website shows tabs, and lets you isolate tracks (they're cheesy midi...) and if you pay their monthly fee (I do) you can slow them down as well.
    928cat and mrcbass like this.
  18. Break it down into parts, a phrase, a line or a few measures at a time. Get just that under your hands then join it with the part you know well. The hardest for me are those that use chord changes that are just a smidgen off from something I know well. This where muscle memory and autopilot pull me in the wrong direction. Solution? Take the few measures that are troublesome and make an etude of them, rinse, repeat ... repeat ... repeat ... repeat. I have alternated between the one I know and the new one to teach brain and hands that both changes are right.
    IamGroot likes this.
  19. bumperbass


    Jun 19, 2012
    The key is to listen to the song at least 100 times before you sit down to learn it.
    ObsessiveArcher likes this.
  20. Spidey2112


    Aug 3, 2016
    I haven't given up on it, yet...

    ... but 'YYZ' is no longer allowed to be referred to, as such...

    ... in my house, it's now referred to as 'Spidey's Attempt At YYZ'...

    ... I sleep alot better, too.
    comatosedragon likes this.
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