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How to learn songs quicker by ear?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by gfdhicool, Sep 30, 2013.

  1. gfdhicool


    Jun 8, 2012
    Well,This is my problem

    I learned Rime of the Ancient Mariner on bass by ear and memory (I use it as a warm up song now)...BUT! It took 5 hours total to learn it .-.,and it felt VERY tedious,since I couldn't hear certain parts at the time and had to keep on replaying the part I couldn't understand.

    It takes me a while to learn songs (2 hours average,depends on song length),and I've been playing for a year and 5 months (Started ear training 5 months ago) and I'm 15 so I don't think my hearings the issue.

    Is there anyway to speed up the process a bit?
  2. Well it looks like you are making good progress.

    I take it from your post that you are doing all this by ear. Is there a way to speed up the process a bit? Depends on what you mean by process.

    1) To learn a song I'd speed up the process with the use of sheet music. And 2) ear training was not successful with me, main reason, I did not give it time and rust kept developing during my off times. So with ear training - keep at it. How much time is required and any hints, I'm not going to be of much help.

    However, for what it is worth, my main concern was being able to play a song and I found sheet music on all the songs I needed. As a result ear training suffered. Only hint I could give you is IMO reading and developing a good ear are both skills, and with any skill we have to use that skill or rust develops. Rust is bad for any skill.

    Keep plugging and remember that rust. This is something you will have to use every day, or that ole rust thing will take over.
  3. frankenp


    Jul 17, 2008
    Halifax, NS
    5 hours spent practicing is better than 5 hours on talkbass so you are on the right track. ;-)

    If you learned new techniques like galloping etc. than you be able to hash out steve harris riffs quicker in the future. 10 years into the future you might forget how to play this song, but you'll have the tools to learn it and others faster.
  4. frankenp


    Jul 17, 2008
    Halifax, NS
    Also I load mp3s into audacity to help. You can repeat, slow, and even change the pitch of difficult lines.
  5. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Experience will speed up any process. Steve has a playing style and also a writing style, listen to other Maiden songs and you will hear how he thinks, so you will learn where he likes to take songs and and nuances he likes in arrangements.
    Steve plays chord tones, he is very musical in his writing and playing, so learn about arpeggio construction and you will find learning most music speeds up when you know the composer.......usually an album will have a writing style in it so listen to other songs from Powerslave and you will learn more about the song you are learning.
  6. Session1969


    Dec 2, 2010
    5 hours to learn an epic song is not too long at all. Pretty darn good for someone who's only been playing for a year and a half, I'd say.
  7. I think it depends on your goals for playing the music. I find the process tedious at times too.

    For cover songs I look up the tab online to determine root notes and create my own fills. It speeds up the process greatly. However, I'm not trying to replicate the bass line perfectly note for note. Our band plays covers. We add new songs and drop old ones all the time so I generally don't have time to learn every song perfectly. Good luck.
  8. cica


    Sep 18, 2012
    Start by grabbing the chord chart and play the root note of the chord. After you know those, listen to the recording and try to hear the runs used to get to the root of the next chord, if any.
  9. Ronbassman


    Jun 1, 2011
    There's this technique that'll help you speed up the process, it's called PRACTICE!

    Sounds a bit cynical, but if you keep doing what you're doing, as tedious as it may seem, eventually you'll get better at it. What you do now in 5 hours, will later be 3, then 1, then you'll do it in a couple of playbacks. You just have to hang in there.
  10. +1
  11. eloann


    May 14, 2012
    I'll agree that practice is the only way. Theory can help to some extent - there are scales and chord progressions that are used all the time. You could also train interval recognition with a friend or teacher. However these are ultimately useless if you can't use them within context.

    I like complicated prog music that I don't often find accurate tabs for, so I started making my own. I'd say I got pretty good but there always will be this one note I can't pick up because of some effect or a deafening loud cymbal or an unusual technique. Keep challenging yourself, and accept it when you have to settle for "a believable note" instead of "the right note" - no one will notice anyway.
  12. What part of the process is frustrating you? Is it that you need to slow it down, you need to "loop" a section so you could go through it over and over, you need to make the baseline standout so you can hear it, or is it all of the above? Try using Amazing Slow Downer (you can download a trial app). I haven't tried out all the features of this program other than slowing down a section and looping it (I think you could make the baseline standout to a certain extent by fiddling with the EQ) but I think this could help you a lot.

    Five hours is nothing to sneeze at! I'd be lucky to get everything down pat in that span of time. For those who tried learning a baseline off vinyl or tapes back in the day, apps like ASD are a Godsend.
  13. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    A few tips:

    -the better your ears know it before your fingers try, the easier
    - when you learn a song, make a complIcated one into a long project by learning it in different keys and positions. Next time a song has a similar run,.itll take half the time
  14. LeeNunn

    LeeNunn Supporting Member

    Oct 9, 2012
    Charlottesville, VA
    As others have said, I would get sheet music or write it out in a way that makes sense to you. "Learning" a song means everything from memorizing the chord pattern and a few distinctive licks to playing the entire song note for note. If you're going to learn it note for note, you'll need software such as Audacity, Amazing Slow Downer, or Transcribe. I prefer Transcribe, but it's personal preference. Basically, you need to be able to loop and slow down. I write out each note using standard notation, but you could write out tab. It's amazing how quickly you can do this after some practice. Many bass parts repeat themselves and there's easy notation for that. Also, add comments such as cues from other instruments or vocal text. Reading your notes is much more efficient than listening to the original recording until you're brain dead. Finally, record your rehearsals and listen to the playback to hear what works and what doesn't. I use a Zoom H4N recorder. It's perfect for the job.
  15. gfdhicool


    Jun 8, 2012
    Thanks guys for the advice! and really? I honestly think I suck but hopefully i'll get even better soon >:).I'll try using one of those programs that slows down the song.
  16. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    I use Song Surgeon Pro
    Many more features than slow down, especially useful are the 31 band EQ and the ability to record whatever you hear coming out of your speakers. Free fully featured 4 hour demo.

    Also, the more songs you learn, the more you'll be able to "hear" parts in your head and pretty much already know how to play them because you've played something very similar to it before. Learning the blues and all it's changes is a fun way to progress.

    +1 to learning as much music theory as possible (it's an ongoing process). Picking up a cheap keyboard ( I picked up a very decent new Yamaha for $100 recently) and learn to play simple song chords and sing/play melodies is a huge benefit for your ear training and music memory. The goal is to become an excellent musician not just a bass player who plays well by ear.

    +1 to finding a teacher.

    +1 to checking out my TB Wiki page.

    Good luck.
  17. MCS4


    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    Obviously "practice" is one answer, but here are two things to focus on in your practice if your goal is to learn songs faster:

    (1) Practice learning what the intervals between notes sound like (i.e. thirds, fifths, etc.). When you have a stronger grasp of intervals, it will be much easier to figure out a run of notes once you determine what the first note is.

    (2) Practice learning common chords and scales (but more particularly chords). This is like the "big picture" version of intervals, and once you know them better you will notice that parts on a record usually have a logic to them based on chords or scales that will be easier for you to identify.

    These things are hard but they pay off. My knowledge is admittedly weak at this point, but I definitely have a much easier time of picking out parts now that I can often recognize the sound of a major third, a fifth, and some other common intervals.
  18. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    +1 There are web sites that can help with these skills. When you do interval training, sing the intervals as well. This will also help you become a "singing" bass player.
  19. LeeNunn

    LeeNunn Supporting Member

    Oct 9, 2012
    Charlottesville, VA
    I wholeheartedly agree with Stumbo and MCS4. Learning even a little bit of theory helps make sense of a bass line. Otherwise, the notes might seem random. Thinking about a bass line in the context of chords makes a lot more sense.

    Also, learning to recognize intervals and riffs by ear is helpful. Most people can recognize Smoke on the Water. After that, it's just a matter of building vocabulary, one idea at a time. It just gets easier and easier, but starting out is admittedly difficult, especially without a good teacher.

    Also, think of building your music vocabulary both in terms of melodic patterns and rhythmic patterns. Knowing where the "1" is important, but understanding subdivisions is important too.
  20. +1 - Five hours for that song is great work in my book

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