How long to learn new songs

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

  1. filmtex

    filmtex Commercial User

    May 29, 2011
    Annsman Pro Audio Dealer
    That's exactly how I do it. If I have to learn an entire evenings worth of blues/country/r&b/classic rock tunes, I'll check off the ones I already know, then go through the list with youtube and sort out the ones I could do right away. Then I grab lead sheets (chords/lyrics) for the rest and take a QUICK look at tabs for complicated/signature licks as needed. Rinse, repeat. I've done this many times between a Monday call and a Friday show. Must be working ok. I keep getting calls.
    obimark likes this.
  2. rocket45

    rocket45 Supporting Member

    Depends how exacting of a job that you want. Take "Happy" by Pharell, I watched apparently one of the top bassists around play this song at a high end gig. It was a loose approximation of the bass line. Not sure if anyone cared or noticed. I thought it was terrible but applause all around.
    gazzatriumph likes this.
  3. Session1969

    Session1969 Supporting Member

    Dec 2, 2010
    There's no canned answer because it depends on the songs and the level of learning you're talking about.
    gazzatriumph likes this.
  4. Mammoth_Bass

    Mammoth_Bass Check out my band Mammothor!! Supporting Member

    May 2, 2016
    Sandown, NH
    I joined an originals reggae band where they had about 12-15 songs with basslines from prior players. The songs were easy to learn but I tweaked them to be my own. I find them much easier to remember and enjoy playing them more. As we write new songs I find those songs much easier to recall as the bass parts are something I came up with and therefore better "understand" or "feel". Guess it all depends if you are playing covers or originals as previously stated.

    I also find it easier when you have an ability to read music/an understanding of theory. Helps dissect a song etc as music is a combination of patterns etc.
    gazzatriumph likes this.
  5. stringthrough

    stringthrough Supporting Member

    Transcribe the tunes first. Don't need to use standard notation; just the chord changes and any required signature lines/ riffs. Also helps to lay out the tunes' structure, i.e. Intro, Verse, Verse, Bridge, Chorus, Solo-over-Verse, etc.

    Once done, play over the tunes while keeping an eye the transcriptions.

    I was recently given a month to learn 35 Springsteen tunes after joining a BS tribute band. And I dislike most of his music. The above method made it possible for me to get through the first few gigs with only a handful of mistakes. (I also loaded an iPad with the transcriptions and brought it to the gigs, hanging it on an iPad stand.)
    gazzatriumph likes this.
  6. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    How long to learn new songs
    Totally depends on the material.
    gazzatriumph likes this.
  7. blubass


    Aug 3, 2007
    Modesto Ca
    Current: Blackstar, DR strings, Nady. Previous endorsements with: GK, Rotosound, Ernie Ball, Cleartone, EMG, Dean, Dava Picks, Rebel Straps, Dickies
    Well, I've joined 2 bands that already had material down. The first, I had 1 weekend ( 2 5hr practices with the band) to learn 8 complex metal songs before a short 10 day tour. I subbed some of the fast arpeggio parts for root notes until I had more time to work them over and the band was fine with it.

    The other band was 10 tracks, 3 per practice.
    I usually record the practices, ask for a CD, or video it. Learn the root notes and rough progressions. Then the drummer and I link up and hash out what exactly we're doing together and where we're going to embellish and accent things.

    I don't care how complex a song is, 2.5 hrs is about the max time I'll dedicate to getting the basics down. There comes a point in your bass career where you know enough techniques and have the skill to learn and play it, or you don't. If it's taking a long time you need to decide, does the song make sense, is it too hard to play, and/or are your skills on par with the track?
  8. Love_Bass


    Sep 5, 2012
    Learning the songs should take a week or two..playing them and sounding tight together in a band a couple of years..
    gazzatriumph likes this.
  9. singlemalt

    singlemalt Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2007
    White Salmon, WA
    If these guys couldn't give you some kind of charts with the recording, I'll bet they no longer play the songs as recorded. I'd count it as the first red flag.

    I'd make charts from the recordings, with bar lines and chords, and the song structure. Plus little notes of key lyrics. Just making a chart will give you a much better chance of memorizing the song. You'll have a visual memory of the tune as well as auditory cues, plus the muscle memory.

    It'll take a few drafts to get a readable chart, writ large in dark sharpie marker, so I can read it from a distance. It seems slow, but it'll actually speed up the process.

    Once I figure out the irealb thing I might print it or get it on my iPad.

    And twelve songs is too much for an audition. Have them pick three and set up a half hour tryout. Both parties will know if it's happening after a song or two. No need to waste a whole awkward evening.

    Like everybody else said, it depends on the tunes. And how good the recording is.
    gazzatriumph likes this.
  10. electracoyote

    electracoyote Supporting Member

    Good point, I fully agree.

    Unless that's the way the band wants it, and the same expectation applies to every candidate. Which sounds extreme, but if it's a sweet opportunity I'd learn all twelve until I could play them in my sleep and then come in and act like the slot was already mine, then ask when's the next gig? Sometimes initiative wins the day in these situations. I've passed auditions so thoroughly with that approach the band offered me the slot later that day and cancelled the remaining auditions.

    Depending on length of songs, and with an average of around 4 minutes for a typical pop song, my band usually likes to hear at least six tunes and fill a solid 30 minutes with music to the extent possible at auditions. We'll play more if the candidate desires and we're enjoying his contribution. Then around 10-15 minutes of get-to-know-you chit chat Q&A, and a little buffer to get one out the door and the next one in.
    gazzatriumph likes this.
  11. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    A good goal is to be able to listen to the first verse of a new song, and join in on the second verse. Most pros I know have this skill. So, to learn a dozen 5 minute songs would take about 60 minutes total. But most of us are not pros, so it might take 120 minutes or more. Personally I feel, if I can't at least limp my through a song's form after 2 or 3 listens, then the song is too difficult for my current ability level, and I will progress faster as a player if I practice slightly easier material.
    gazzatriumph likes this.
  12. The best way to learn a repertoire is to keep repeating the established song list in performance order, key and BPM. Do it on your own, at home alone. And decide upon a closing date where the list is finalized. Make a setlist CD with copies. Then repeat on your own with a metronome set to the same BPM. If there are fancy bits that you cannot play and must stop the CD to focus on getting them right, then you are not learning a song... you are learning how to play... and that's a different thing. Same BPM guarantees a soft landing when you play ensemble.

    As for "originals"... Why would anybody answer those ads? LOL! Delete, delete, delete... Why spend your remaining years learning obscure music that keeps changing or being replaced by "More Originals"? Originals are never good, anyway. If they were, you'd be the Beatles or the Eagles... with an army of A&R men.

    BTW, being an A&R man was a career, a job and there were many. That's a vital yet untold part of how rock stars made careers. They were groomed by guys like Chet Atkins and George Martin, who would fire your drummer, arrange your music and edit the recording. How many of these "Originals" people achieve anything?
    Originals are songs that get one band person rich and famous, but makes me poor... a slave to their career and band. And when they get famous, why, they dump you for a long lost pal... and you never get heard of again...! Remember what Jethro Tull did to their BP? After he came up with that great bass part to Bouree? Even the other Tull songs are based on the bass... There are many cases of this. That's why I stick to the hits. People love the hits. That's why they call them the hits.

    When I learn a hit, I can keep it forever. It's mine. I can't get a place in a band knowing "originals" from a previous band. They are useless. I can play hits in any band. "Hits to a BP are currency." Because bands don't last long. The more songs you know, the more independent you are. Getting a new band is so simple then. Find out the repertoire of bands in your region and learn them on your own. If a band wants you to learn a song because the Lead Guitar Player's latest hoochie "she like dat song...!" because the Lead Guitar Player in that band has hair that reminds her of her first rollabout, don't leave your family fatherless and spend your weekends learning it...!!!! Tell the band that that song is not in your repertoire and it's just too time consuming to even listen to it. Let them find some goofus that will bust his brazilians to please the "Lead Guitar Player". BTW, if anyone tells you that they are the "Lead Guitar Player", show him why the four big Fender tuners are sometimes referred to as bayonette tuners. Some people need a good clean out now and then.

    BP's should already know the songs that are expected. Learn them on your own and then join a band that plays the same songs. I once joined a rock band called Spontaneous Combustion back in '71. We were touring through eastern Canada and getting established, in a minor sense. Then the manager tells us he's going to exchange us with a band from England... He was sending us to England...! Well, a nice woman informed me that I was going to get whacked from the group. I was clued in and overheard the Lead Guitar Player and drummer calling an old friend (like a couple of rats in a phone booth...) from Toronto and telling him to come down and take my spot! This is after I worked for nothing (I was starving... most of our money went to van drivers.). I didn't even have bus fare. Next day I was about to call my Dad for busfare, when the entire band got fired. Karma...? Well, they had celebrated the night before by breaking into the hotel basement and stealing the cheese and wine. The police were now after us, so the manager sent us home.

    Stop treating the "band bizness" as if it is a business. It's not. Play for fun. It's a hobby, that's all. I read all the time about the big bands and the forties. Music was once a career. You learned the band's book. You got paid. Now, you spend days learning songs for nothing, and have to bring your own audience with you to get a gig. You have to bring your MOM and DAD so that they will spend their money at the bar so the bar will let you play there on a "GIG". (Now, there's a word that should get the bum's rush from the dictionary.)

    LEARN THE SONGS THAT COUNT... ON YOUR OWN... then join a band with a realistic point of view - your point of view! IF THEY DON'T PLAY YOUR SONGS, THEN IT'S NOT YOUR BAND. It's not YOUR band!
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2016
    2cooltoolz, rocket45 and gazzatriumph like this.
  13. Yes. And if the difference is great, it's not your band.
    Required ability - current ability = error

    It's a great learning experience to play with your betters. But don't try to join their band. It's not the same thing.
  14. I use 3x5 index cards. As I am learning the tunes, I write out the changes and AB structure and the number of repeats and keep them forever in a plastic file-card box. Years later in other bands I go back to the cards and retrieve the tune.
    Make notes of various things that you contributed. Also, positions, fingering, chord shapes, inversions... etc. Only you will know your own shorthand. One listen to the CD while reading the card and you're in like Flynn. Saves hours of time. Made by Ronco...!
    I bring them to practice. They solve arguments. Others often ask me if they can refer to them. They have made photocopies of the more complicated tunes and then mark them up for themselves. Here's a simple example:


    INTRO: drums alone roll 1x and beat 4x

    V1: 12x ensemble
    E E E E
    A A E E
    B B E E

    V2: 12x drums wipeout stops
    V3: 12x ensemble

    CH1: 4x guitar break and glissando 8x ensemble gtr solo
    4x bass quavers/drums and 8x ensemble
    4x 007 and 8x ensemble

    V4: 8x ensemble
    and 2x V7 IV STOP and 2x drums alone
    and 2x V7 IV STOP and 2x drums alone
    and 2x V7 IV and T/A 12345

    finale! (1x low rumble, 1x gliss up octave rumble, dusty end, 2x deedoo/deedoo, BAM!)
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2016
  15. I'm 62 and I think that after years of playing, you are on a much higher skill level than when you started out. So your expectations are higher. You are packing lots of quality into each bar. Quality take time. The original BP did not create that bass line in one hour. But you are trying to play it as well in 20 minutes.

    Also, when you were 12 years old, no one forced you to file an income tax form or go to jail, raise your children differently than how they are being programmed in school, deal with a wife, join a club or be ostracized, vote for criminals, run a business into the ground or refine your working skills so that you don't become redundant. You had plenty of time to just focus on learning that E major barre chord or pentatonic run. You only had to be a BP.
    gazzatriumph likes this.

  16. The magic to reading music is counting. If you memorize your scale, you can even guess at pitch and it will come out right.

    My breakthrough in reading, (I cannot sight read/I fight read) was tapping the foot. Toe-down is downbeat; toe-up is upbeat.

    So, when you see quarter notes, they all land on the toe-down.
    Nothing is counted on the toe-up, but you still do toe-up with your foot, anyway.
    1-2-3-4 You only count the toe-downs.

    When you see eighth notes, you get two in place of every quarter note.
    The first note lands on the toe-down; the second one lands on the toe-up.
    The numbers are downbeats or toe-downs.
    The &'s are upbeats or toe-ups.

    Get used to crawling. It will take weeks to walk. Then you will laugh at how simple it really was.
    Don't worry about sight reading. It's enough just to read music on your own time, learn the piece and then you are only using the music sheet as a guide to a lengthy piece of music.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2016
    gazzatriumph and Aberdumbie like this.
  17. Hey! I like that song...! I bet it's a hit!
    gazzatriumph and obimark like this.
  18. Does anyone REALLY play Johnny B. Goode like Willie Dixon did? You might be surprised. Listen to this with speakers...

    I learned it this way as I am a fan of Willie Dixon. But I've been told by a "Leed Gutter Player" to stop showing off and play it right... It's throwing him off his Lead Guitar Leads... This feller here is one fine guitarist, though...!
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2016
    gazzatriumph, obimark and Aberdumbie like this.
  19. bassbully

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

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Yup it's pretty easy once you get the routine down. I just crammed in 10 songs for an audition and got started Thursday night. Just got back today and it went very well. To bad the band is not advanced enough for the commute and time it would take for it to play out. I had fun and they loved my playing.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2016
    gazzatriumph likes this.
  20. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    One sight reading trick I learned was to simply treat sixteenth notes as eight note rhythmns, but faster in a different notation. So, if you know how to read eighth note rythmns, you know how to read sixteenth note rhythmns. That made my 16th note reading faster
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jul 23, 2021

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.