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How much practice before you perform?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by WestyBassBob, Apr 10, 2020.

  1. Less than an hour. I’m a total pro

    41 vote(s)
  2. 2-5 hours. I can learn it in a day if I get the time

    50 vote(s)
  3. More than 5 hours. It takes me a while to get it right.

    13 vote(s)
  4. I’ve lost count. I’m slow or I’m a perfectionist.

    18 vote(s)
  5. Something about carrots

    27 vote(s)
  1. WestyBassBob


    Mar 2, 2020
    As a relative newbie and total amateur musician I am curious to know how many hours you practice a song before you typically feel like you are ready perform it? This would include both solo practice and practicing with your band.
  2. David McIntire

    David McIntire

    Apr 5, 2020
    In a perfect world? I rehearse each tune I'm asked to perform until I can play it, without accompaniment, without the recording, by myself within a few seconds of the original recording's track length.

    Thing is? There is no such thing as a perfect world. So, I do as much as I can, between the time I accept the assignment and the date of the show. And trust my experience to fill in the blanks.
    easyj, JCooper, Oddly and 1 other person like this.
  3. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    For most of us amateurs, I think the criterion is usually something like "knowing it well enough that you can usually play the song through without mistakes." For the real pros, the criterion is "knowing it well enough that you can't possibly make a mistake.
  4. WestyBassBob


    Mar 2, 2020
    Yes I was asking about how many hours that typically takes you. I know there will be a huge variance in responses. I’m just curious.
    David McIntire likes this.
  5. David McIntire

    David McIntire

    Apr 5, 2020
    Short answer? As long as it takes.
    Long answer? Times will change with a few aspects;
    1) Type of material. I can learn a blues song in 30 seconds of listening. A Dream Theater tune could take days or weeks to master.
    2) Experience level. I've been doin this a long time. Played a lot of tunes. So today, it would take me far less time to add a song to my repertoire than it did 30 years ago.

    Recently, a local peer fell ill. I was called to sub. 40 or so tunes of the metal variety. From Maiden to Godsmack. That type of stuff. I learned all the tunes in 3 days. Performed on the 4th. And won the job. Way back? I couldn't have done it in a month or two. The more you learn, the more your vocabulary expands. So, what you learned on the last tune, will apply to make the next easier. I try to learn tunes every day. Just to keep in practice.
  6. theduke1

    theduke1 Supporting Member

    Dec 22, 2010
    Manitowoc WI
    I practice or try to at least an hour a day gig or no gig, but never on a gig day
    As a co- frontman with lead and backup vocals in our trio I don’t practice on a gig as to not strain my voice
    My gig day are for checking over my gear making sure I have all the extra/ spare stuff I think I may need just in case
    Which means I end up carrying more than what is needed lol
    But better to have it and not need it then the other way around
    How many bassist do you know carry a set of drum mics and color coded cables just in case?
    Hope this helps
    Me lol

    jamro217 and mikewalker like this.
  7. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Exactly. Another factor worth mentioning is how familiar you are with a particular song before you sit down to learn how to play it. When I'm learning a song that I've never heard before, much of my "practice" time goes into just listening to it over and over until I can hear it in my head on cue. If it's a song that I'm already very familiar with, total learning/practice time will be much less.
    vindibona1, lokikallas, Kro and 6 others like this.
  8. Jefenator


    Aug 22, 2008
    Depends a lot on the song of course.
    After the first 1000 titles or so, the learning process does tend to speed up.
  9. It really depends on the song. A simple blues tune, I’ve got it down on the first pass. Sir Duke took months to get down, up to tempo. Then there are tunes like Josie or Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight; not terribly technical, but I review them every month or so (if we haven’t played them out) to refresh the changes, licks and the form. Tunes for my bluegrass band, are very simple to play so just listening to them before gigs to review the form is enough
    Polish Thunder, Bassstud1 and JRA like this.
  10. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    As others have said... as long as it takes.

    My band doesn't really rehearse (maybe 4 rehearsals a year), but we add new songs regularly. For me (and everyone in the band) that means we practice them on our own until we don't get them wrong. Some songs, that could be in a single listen in less than the actual time of the song (something like Stand by Me). Other songs, that could mean a couple of days listening and going over them (something like The Killers - Somebody Told Me).

    Being that ya said you're a newbie, I'll offer this suggestion. Its best not to compare your progress with anyone other than yourself. A few years ago it took me twice as long to learn a song as it does now. The more we do it, the better we get.

    And another tip I wish I had stumbled upon decades ago. Try learning songs without your bass in hand. No matter how much you suck at it :). Listen, and try to imagine where the notes would be on the neck. After doing it for a while to the best of your ability, even if you're 100% off - pick up the bass and learn it. By doing this over and over we start to really train our ears. Do that for 100 songs and I promise you'll be well on your way to learning tunes by just listening to them. And you will make far less mistakes when performing. Your fingers kind of just learn where to go.
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2020
  11. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    How much practice before you perform?
    Specifics depend on material and experience of th eplayer.(s)
  12. mattj1stc

    mattj1stc Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2009
    Dallas, TX USA
    It depends a lot on the song. Simple songs that I'm familiar with and use familiar patterns (mostly within normal chords, scales and modes) can be learned really quickly. If I don't know the song and it's really complex, then it could take 5 hours. I picked 2.5 hours because that's about average.
  13. bfields


    Apr 9, 2015
    Ann Arbor, MI
    When there's not a pandemic on, I play bass at a local sing-along thing once or twice a month. People pass out lyric/chord sheets and we do the songs once through with no rehearsal. Occasionally there's something tricky I've never heard before, but usually I can play a better-than-basic bass line just reading through the chords the first time, without a lot of glaring mistakes.

    If I've got more time and want something more polished, then I'll usually want to listen through it a couple times, take notes, and run through it once or twice to make sure I'm anticipating every change correctly, at which point it's probably an hour or two at least.

    If I want to do a note-for-note cover or work out a trickier bassline, it could take many hours spread over weeks or months.

    When I was a kid and took piano lessons, I might work on a piece of music for an hour every day for a year before I was ready to play it in front of people.

    So, there's quite a range.
  14. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    It's when you first start performing the song that you find out if you really know it :roflmao:

    I have a songwriter friend who's recording her next CD. I played on one song that had a somewhat tricky breakdown section. I spent a while at home counting it out from a rehearsal recording, once I did that I was playing it fine in about 5 minutes. When I went to the session, I found out that the other people who had played their parts already (yes I was tracking after everything but the guitar solos and vocals) had screwed the rhythm up, playing the first one correctly and the second one incorrectly. I clapped out the time from the recording, then adjusted for it when I played. Nailed it on the third take.

    Later I asked her how the song was working out live (I had played it on a gig with her once, it trainwrecked) and she told me that the band has still never played it right after a couple of months playing it. I took a look at the computer screen and saw a huge number of edits in that section. I was the first person to play through it without having to fix my part :thumbsup:
    ceesaar00 likes this.
  15. Ggaa


    Nov 26, 2018
    Some tunes five minutes, others an hour, maybe more.
    DrThumpenstein likes this.
  16. MLC_BassPlayer

    MLC_BassPlayer Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 15, 2010
    Apex, NC
    Sometimes not enough. I love that feeling when the band goes one way and you go another...

    Like Joe Nerve, my band doesn't rehearse. We learn songs on our own during the week and then run through them at sound check. If we click, the song goes in the show that night.

    Also, this is REALLY good advice:
    I'm not the best at it, and it took me a while, but I am finally at a point where I can hear a song and think "yeah, it goes to the 5 there, and then a 6-5-4, then back to the 1" or "that's just a 1-3b-5-8 thing".

    And then the band went the other way......
    Joe Nerve likes this.
  17. if we were having a gig coming up we would practice 3 days a week 4 hour sessions,for at least a couple of weeks,if I was learning new songs I would practice everyday for a couple of hours in this format.
    - learn the chord structure
    -play it simple until im comfortable
    - play it while adding the fills or notes to give it flavor
    -keep playing it while letting your bass lines evolve experimenting all the way
    -take your bass line to the next practice and lay it on the band
    -wait to see if they hate it or love it.
    -play it from the heart at the gig..
  18. Esteban Garcia

    Esteban Garcia bassist, arranger, chaat enthusiast Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2018
    Portland, OR
    Ideally: as long as it takes.
    Realistically: as long as I've got.
  19. Spent


    May 15, 2011
    Upstate NY
    My former cover band performed pretty much every weekend and we’d rotate a few songs out and in each month. It was 90% new stuff, top 40 mostly. We all had day jobs so we didn’t have the luxury of spending hours on a new song. Fortunately, today’s music is generally simplistic; it’s often the same music behind verse, chorus, bridge, etc. We were all seasoned musicians with decades of experience, so it was just part of the job. The longer you’re at it, the easier it is.
    Thegrandwazoo likes this.
  20. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    :D it depends!

    like everyone else has posted: the material dictates the time and attention --- i read, but: while that is handy and time-saving, tricky/monster tunes may require hours/days/months/years/a lifetime ( :D ) of attention.

    for the bands i play in: we usually pass out charts for new material (covers/arrangements or originals) and each player has a chart for his part, i.e., i get the bass part. if it's an easy tune = the band goes over it a few times and we put the tune in our 'book' and move on. some tunes/sections get more attention ('play-throughs') than others (maybe those tunes/sections are trickier). depending on the tune = i may not look at it again until showtime or i could spend hours on it because it's a difficult part for me. in any event, most of the time, except for tricky/monster tunes, i don't practice them outside of rehearsal.

    as a slacker: i don't worry about my level of 'performance-ready' as long as the other 6 cats are still struggling on their parts! :laugh:
    eriky4003 and Wissen like this.

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