Starting this thread since the topic was a derail from one thread that got derailed in a different direction. The subject is learning lots of songs quickly for an upcoming gig. As a working musician, this is an important skill. This is a place to share your tips and methods for learning tunes. I'll start: I start out just listening to the song. Atively listening to a song without an instrument will let you hear the intervals. Lots of times, the pop covers will follow "the money chords". Once you can hear those, you will be able to pick out songs quickly, and once you learn one, you can learn dozens more instantly because now you have a structure you can hang onto. Look at these like a shelf. You put things like notes, grooves, feels, variations, and embellishments on these shelves. Without the shelves, you'll have to carry every single item, which is beyond lots of people's ability. It's much easier to remember a few chords, than a few hundred notes. Here are the money chords: Roman numerals indicate the chord. Capitals are for major chords, lowercase for minor. 1. 12 bar blues. There are literally 1000s of songs in different genres that follow this progression. Too many to name. 2. I - V - vi - IV. A common pop chord progression. Songs like Don't Stop Believing, With or Without You, Land Down Under, Good, Under the Bridge, When I Come Around, and dozens more follow this one. Lots of Pop-Punk tunes seem to use this to some variation. Check out this link: Axis of Awesome - 4 Chords *LIVE* Great Quality - YouTube 3. I - vi - IV - V. A common one in oldies music, especially 50s . Stand by Me, Earth Angel, Duke of Earl, Dyer Maker, Every Breath You Take are some songs that use this. Some folks call these "Ice Cream Changes" 4. I - IV - V. A common progression in Rock and Pop. You can vary it rhythmically to get lots of songs out of it like La Bamba, Good Lovin, Twist and Shout, Wild Thing, Stir It Up, and hundreds more. 5. I - V - IV. Another common progression used in many different genres. Vary it rhythically, and get lots of songs out of it like Stone In Love, Chicken Fried, Helpless, and countless others. You can also substitute the IV with the relative minor and get songs like Knockin on Heaven's door. 6. V - IV - I. A common Rock Progression. Sweet Home Alabama, I Know You Rider, Can't You See, Werewolves of London, All summer long are some examples. 7. I - IV. Sort of a jam oriented progression, but catchy. ABC, Lovelight, Just My Imagination, Blister In The Sun are some examples. If you use the vi instead of the IV, you get a more fifties feel. Use a V instead of the IV, and you can use it for lots of Country and Gospel Tunes, as well as many New Orleans style grooves like Aiko Aiko. Use a flattened VII instead of the IV, and you can do long funky or groove oriented jams on it. 8. ii - V - I. A common Jazz progression, so it's useful for the Jazz, Swing, Ragtime, and show tunes. There's many variations on this. Each genre has it's money chords, standard arrangements, and grooves. For example, in Reggae the ii-I is popular while I-bVII can be found in Funk. In Blues, you have the 8 bar, 12 bar, and 16 bar forms as well as a single chord boogie. And in those forms you can have an uptown shuffle, downtown shuffle, swing, or boogaloo with each having a generic pattern that's moveable and interchangeable. Learn the money chords and standard grooves for the stuff you're doing, and you're on your way to learning songs quick. It may even help with writing originals as well. I usually learn the chord progression for the parts of the songs like the verse, chorus, bridge, interlude, intro, end, etc. I'll learn the basic arrangement, and if there are any signature lines or tight arrangements, I'll learn those. And I'll usually quit from there depending on the band I'm playing with. If they are truly a "play it like the CD" band, I'll learn the song like the recording. But, I find that lots of "play it like the CD" folks will still do something different, intentional or not. The reasons why I do this is to save time, to be prepared for any curveballs the band might throw, and to put on a good show overall. By not marrying myself to a specific bassline, if the drummer isn't playing what is exactly on the recording, I can still come up with something that will fit. Also, if the singer does the song in a different key that totally screws up those great open note lines, you can still play something that fits as long as you know the chord structure for that section. Sometimes a band will do a song in a different style, tempo, or arrangement. For example, I work with a band that does a swing version of "Stand By Me". Learning the song note for note would not be as useful as knowing the changes so that you can walk over them. So, it's also important to be able to come up with and play something interesting over changes. Regardless of whether you're doing covers or originals, it's what they hired you for. Also, if you use a cheatsheet, by knowing the chords, you can just glance at your notes to get the progression as opposed to being glued to a chart to get the individual notes. Based on gig experience, I found that it's good to learn the sections of the song. A band might extend a song if the crowd is getting into it. For example, "Twist and Shout" is originally a 2 minute song, and I've never done it for less than 4. So, I learn the sections of the song so that I can extend it at the chorus/verse or bridge. Sometimes a band may omit a section of a song, or repeat it, so it's good to know where and how to make the transitions. Also, they may require me to sing lead or background on one or more of the songs. Depending on the bassline, I may need to adjust it so that I can sing it and still keep the groove of the song going. I did a gig where the singer's voice wore out towards the end of the night. We were scheduled for a second night, and decided during set break to give her voice a rest in order to get through tomorrow's gig. I had to sing a handful of songs I had never sung before while playing bass. As long as I maintained the chord progression, locked in with the drummer, and sang in tune and in time, I was good. And sometimes, someone in the band will mess up. The drummer might play the wrong beat, the singer may skip the bridge, the guitarist starts in the wrong key, etc. It's good to know the basics of the song, so you can adjust and avoid a trainwreck. Sometimes, you may also find a diamond in the rough. IMO, IME, if you learn the chord progressions of the sections of the song you're almost there. If you have a good ear and ability to communicate on stage, you're good to go for most situations. It's more important to fit with your band and how they are doing the song, moreso than to learn a song note for note like the recording. Because if they aren't, you're off, no matter how "right" you are.