How long to learn new songs

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by gazzatriumph, Oct 15, 2016.

  1. gazzatriumph


    Sep 27, 2012
    Hi, what do people think is roughly a reasonable amount of time to learn 12 original songs. There are recordings of them, thanks in advance.
  2. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Depends what they are, doesn't it? For most songs, if you give 'em to me on Monday, and I'll be ready for Friday's gig. But ... if they're crappy originals with little musical sense ... that's another story.
  3. gazzatriumph


    Sep 27, 2012
    Forgot to add I play by ear and don't read music.
  4. I've been given a list of about 30+ songs to learn for this band I'm trying out for.. if it's a large list break them up into sets of about 5 to 6 songs. Too much too soon can cause confusion and burnout. Grab a note pad and write them down in sets.. play set 1 till your 100 percent or close. Tick them when you've got them nailed.. move to set two.. that's how I do it
    MTN.bass72 and gazzatriumph like this.
  5. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    Like Rustyaxe says, Depends on your ability and depends on how
    simple or complex the tunes may be.
    Go at it and you'll be able to set a standard for learning tunes.
    Nothing is easy.
    gazzatriumph likes this.
  6. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    One thing I found important is to isolate any part that you didn't nail until you have it so that you don't "practice in" mistakes and you don't waste time. I remember my guitarist trying to remember a solo he knew years ago and he'd fun one part. Then go back to the beginning until he got to that part and flubbed it again. I was internally rolling my eyes the whole time.
    gazzatriumph likes this.
  7. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    It shouldn't take very long if the players are good and you have SOME way of communicating the song to them. A recording is good. But at a basic level, the song structure, written down in a way that is unambiguous, can be a good starting point.

    Really, the speed at which the band learns the tunes (or you personally) depends on

    a) personal shedding between practices
    b) simplicity of the song
    c) the clarity of your means of communicating structure of the song
    d) whether the musicians read music and the availability of charts
    e) the skills of the musicians

    In terms of communicating the song, I have it at certain levels -- the further down the list, the faster the musicians learn.

    1. Everyone listens (worst)
    2. Structure chart (write out Intro, Verse, Verse, Chorus, Solo, Chorus, Verse Verse, for example)
    3. Rhythmn chart (you give the structure and the chords)
    4, Lead sheet with lyrics (best)

    The further you go into the list, the better the song will come together.
    gazzatriumph and obimark like this.
  8. Jloch86


    Aug 1, 2016
    Depends how much I like the songs. If I really like a song I can learn it quicker for some reason.

    Normally I'll get MP3s of the songs and just loop them on my iPhone until they're tattooed into my brain, that way, when I sit down to learn them, I already know how they go.

    12 originals? 1-3 days.
  9. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member

    Yeah, depends. 12 bar blues and just say what key it's in. Prog rock epic with key changes and odd time signatures and it could take weeks. I just had a sub gig that entailed learning about 17 new songs in a week, of varying complexity. I got all but a couple right.
    gazzatriumph and jamro217 like this.
  10. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    All depends 3 chord rock comes quick but prog metal...ummmm. For me it's a mission to lean songs quickly for a gig to keep a band going. I have amazed people with how fast I can learn songs or their setlists. I don't read music and my ear is decent. Remember most music has similar chord progressions or are somewhat similar . First thing is find out how the band tunes. Then find out the key the song is in and then chart out the root notes and bridge. From there it's just getting in a few long evenings in the woodshed.
    hrodbert696 and gazzatriumph like this.
  11. gazzatriumph


    Sep 27, 2012
    Thanks for all the replies, I think the best thing to do is ask the band when they expect me to learn them by and if I think its too quick then let them know I would struggle, at least then I have been honest with them and it would be up to them if they wanted to work with me. I'm 53 and the songs aren't that simple, as you get older it seems it takes longer for things to sink in. I find it fairly easy to learn covers just seems a bit daunting learning a dozen songs I've never heard before. There are some tips from the replies I can use, will let you know how it goes, cheers guys
    hrodbert696 likes this.
  12. Aberdumbie


    Jan 22, 2016
    South Carolina
    I been playing by ear since 1977. Wish somewhere along the way I would have taken the time to learn music the right way... but, oh well...... anyway to your question... these days I play hymns in my church. I am a basic twelve bar groove sort of guy and hymns tend to be more structured. Each Wednesday I meet with the church keyboard guy and record one verse of usually six songs. I'll sit down Friday nights and have them hacked out in an hours time. I revisit them Saturday night after sleeping on them and thinking about the chops I could add here or there. I'll spend another hour Saturday night getting them smooth and grooving...... I have found when we have more difficult or structured songs on the list I can allow my mind to get me a bit stressed worrying about the particular song. That always creates a mental block that works against me. I guess what I am saying is be confident and comfortable in your approach. Helps the mind absorb what you already know you can do.
    gazzatriumph likes this.
  13. Originals can mean lots of weird chord changes and bizarre riffs or it could mean 12 songs that go G C D and the Bridge is E-A.

    Personally- originals are very tough for me to learn because I have to really like the song to listen to it enough to internalize it. (Not happening with most of what I have heard)

    I guess that is why I stick to cover bands with the occasional original.
    gazzatriumph and rocket45 like this.
  14. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Really depends on the song - Johnny B. Goode v. Teentown.

    It doesn't matter if you can't read music (not many rock musicians using, it, although it's a great tool no matter what). Develop your own shorthand, and break them down into sections.
    gazzatriumph and obimark like this.
  15. john m

    john m Supporting Member

    Jan 15, 2006
    Learn or memorize?
  16. are you talking about a punk songs with three chords, or something like Yes' "Roundabout"?
    obimark and fretter like this.
  17. Learning is one thing....
    RETAINING it in a feeble mind (like mine) is something else.
    "What key is it in" is my downfall.
    gazzatriumph likes this.
  18. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    Simple 3 to 4 chord pop blues or country song about a half hour to hour per each to get down pretty solid for most folks.

    Anything with a weird chord progression or tricky bass riff will take longer.

    So in your case, if they are standard run of the mill cover band songs I'd say 12 hours of practice time should cover it.
    If you are a bit new to this stuff and you don't know how to organize or make charts to memorize it might take longer.

    It all depends.
    gazzatriumph likes this.
  19. There are too many variables regarding originals (or covers, for that matter) to give an accurate timeline. Many posters here already highlighted the possible setbacks to quickly learning tunes.
    gazzatriumph likes this.
  20. electracoyote

    electracoyote Supporting Member

    Develop a notation system that works for you with cues, abbreviations, short cuts, mnemonics, etc. Use lyric sheets (lead sheets) with chord progressions to keep you on track. Cue off other things going on in the song.

    Make listening to those songs every chance you get, even when you're away from your bass, the priority. Internalizing them will make it easier to follow your notation.

    Don't depend too much on muscle memory. Work out those box shapes and patterns, and make them tight and efficient. Avoid jumping all over the fretboard when you can get the line into a much smaller and more easily-memorized box. Sometimes it's easier to memorize a shape or pattern than focusing too much on the individual notes of a bass line.

    Ask the band for a timeline, and ask about using simple notation for audition purposes only, strongly implying that you will have them memorized by show time (if that's a goal for this band). I'd rather hear what a musician can do with the hope they will eventually ween themselves off notation than fail them right out of the gate because they couldn't memorize challenging material on short notice, but put the ball in their court prior to audition and measure their response.

    Good luck with it.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2016
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