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How start learning a song? Focus on bassline, drums, ...what?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by joegrant413, Oct 23, 2010.


  1. joegrant413

    joegrant413

    Dec 6, 2009
    Hello,

    I've been playing bass for about a year now. Most of the time now, I just take the mp3s of the songs I'm supposed to play and the chord chart, and start playing along until it feels right. I'm paying attention primarily to the existing bassline I suppose, but not really trying to copy it.

    Based on a couple of instructional books, at least some bassists are primarily focusing on the drums first, and figuring out a groove that best fits that. In particular, I'm working through Ed Friedland's "Bass Grooves...." book, and it seems like a big focus on drums first.

    So for practice now I'm even laying down a track where I'm banging on all muted bass strings to feel the drums and isolate them.

    Anyway..... how do you folks learn a cover song? Do you focus on any particular instrument?

    Thanks,
    -- Joe
     
  2. I have many ways of learning a cover tune, being in a coverband that plays many genres of music, some that i rarely listen to. The quickest way for me is to get the chord changes 1st and then tackle the bassline, that way i know the key changes 1st.
    Hope this helps.
    The lesson books are great but they are written to teach you, not show you how to learn covers, so when they say to work with drums, it is ment to teach you about playing with groove. you can play a single note all day long and learn some killer grooves, timing and good disipline with your drummer.
     
  3. Understand this is what I do and I'm country. In our band we only have drums for "the big gigs" so I'm the rhythm section.

    I follow the chords. Use as many of the chord tones as I feel necessary to build the groove.

    Country loves R-5 with chromatic runs to the next chord so that's what I try first. If melodic is needed I'll probably use some R-3-5-3 generic riffs, or pentatonic following the chord changes.

    To answer your question I follow the chords and build my groove from the chord's tones.
     
  4. kraigo

    kraigo

    Jun 21, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    I'm a drummer, but I often end up playing bass without a drummer. I agree with the respondents so far. I like to internalize the changes first. The sooner I can get away from any piece of paper the better. If I'm looking at a piece of paper I stay looking at a piece of paper and a musical part of my mind turns off. I suppose good readers learn to transcend that. Internalize the chords changes, make it groove and find interesting and musical ways to tie it all together. To me that's pretty much the order.

    KO
     
  5. joegrant413

    joegrant413

    Dec 6, 2009
    Cool... thanks. Frankly it hasn't even occurred to me to memorize the chord changes. Something to try next time... especially for songs we've played a few times.

    -- Joe
     
  6. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    Structure and chords first.
    From a bassist's point of view, a song is essentially a rhythm and a bunch of chord changes. The rest can be made up on the fly if needed.
     
  7. Yes.

    I always listen to the chord changes first. As you listen to the chord progression and the changes, also try to feel what the drummer is doing with his kick drum. That'll help you get a feeling of the groove in the song. After a few times going through it, you should start feeling the groove so you won't have to think as much about that and concentrate more on the changes. Then, when all that's down, you can start developing a bass line to play with the music, trying to hear where your notes belong and where they don't.
     
  8. joegrant413

    joegrant413

    Dec 6, 2009
    Ummmm... what about the rhythm guitar? I really get that drums and bass *are* the rhythm section, but a lot of songs I play will start with a guitarist putting out a rhythm that sets a motif played throughout the song. Do you pay much attention to that? If so, do you kinda' mimic it, support it, or really try to play something different than the rhythm guitarist.

    Thanks a lot for the replies!
    - Joe
     
  9. Samsound

    Samsound

    Sep 28, 2010
    If we're still talking covers here, then it's fairly typical to honor the arrangement as much as possible. So, if the song has 2 bars of guitar only, 2 bars of guitar and bass, then the full band, then that is what I do. Often times that little intro amounts to a hook, so when an audience hears you play that song, those hooks should be intact, so the women say, "Oh my gosh, I LOVE this song! Let's dance!!"
     
  10. Samsound

    Samsound

    Sep 28, 2010
    If you're talking about writing your own material, or "Re-Do'ing" a song, then yeah, you've got some decisions to make, and the process is different.
     
  11. joegrant413

    joegrant413

    Dec 6, 2009
    I confirm the worthiness of this goal:cool:

    -- Joe
     
  12. I rarely play what I hear note for note. I usually get the gist of a tunes chord structure and do my own thing (unless the part is integral - say Grapevine . . . you don't change that line!! :D) . That's if I'm playing it in my band - chances are excellent the drummer isn't doing it exact either so I groove w/ him.

    If I'm learning something for fun or inspiration maybe I'll go note for note - just had a very pleasant night w/ an empty house, sleeping dog, P-bass and Sir Duke :bassist:
     
  13. delta7fred

    delta7fred

    Jul 3, 2007
    England
    You should have the chord changes down before the rehearsal, that is what individual practice is for. Nobody should be trying to learn them at the rehearsal, that is just time wasted, everybody's time not just their own.
     
  14. behemecoytl

    behemecoytl

    Oct 1, 2008
    when i sit down to learn a new song, I listen to it several times over first until I'm singing the bass line comfortably. If you can sing it, then you can play it.

    when playing with a drummer, as opposed to a recording, the drummer might not know the exact rhythmic emphasis that's on the actual song, so in that situation, it's more important to lock in with the drummer and just groove over the changes.
     
  15. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008
    Just listen to the song a few times, or until you can play/sing it in your head. I find that this helps you internalize the entire song and it makes finding your place in the song that much easier.
     
  16. joegrant413

    joegrant413

    Dec 6, 2009
    Well, I always know the chord changes and have them down -- but not memorized. I'm playing in a contemporary worship band, and all of us -- except the drummer -- have a chord and lyric sheets in front of us for rehearsal and performance time. How much I'm still relying on them at performance is hard to say. For some songs we've done before, it's probably minimal.

    Thx,
    -- Joe
     
  17. delta7fred

    delta7fred

    Jul 3, 2007
    England
    Joe

    Sorry, I was only looking at it from my perspective. I play in a covers band so use chord sheets for the minimum amount of time necessary. Having never played in a worship band I have no knowledge of how they operate.
     
  18. kraigo

    kraigo

    Jun 21, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    I also try to stop playing, imagine the song and think "what would a cool player play?" Usually, that means fewer notes in my case. It's sometimes hard to step back while you're playing because you're in the moment and muscle memory is doing its thing. When I go into imagining the bass part I'd like to hear it's ALWAYS better.

    KO
     
  19. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Colorado
    I learn a song in several different ways ...

    - First I simply play along and see what I pickup by ear.
    - If you are playing with a guitar player then look at his neck to see what chords he is playing. You should learn some guitar skills to do this.
    - sheet music but sometimes sheet music is wrong.
    - tabs also sometimes tabs are wrong.
    - music videos if they show someone actually playing the song
    - then rehearsing it with a band a few times can solidify it.
    - also add it to your mp3 player to get more familiar with it.
     
  20. joegrant413

    joegrant413

    Dec 6, 2009
    Cool.... your comments are really appreciated. You have me thinking though that memorization would help and would be worth a try for songs we do a lot. I've long recognized a goal of "don't think... play", and that you only get there if you've already worked out a song. Not having to refer to a sheet should take it farther. And I know in other settings some band leaders insist on memorizing the parts before rehearsals.

    Thx,
    -- Joe
     

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