How To Learn Songs

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by alexlocurto, Dec 16, 2012.

  1. Hello again, Talkbass! I'm curious, is what I'm doing wrong, as far as how I learn my music? I usually get the basic essence of a song down and then develop from there. For instance, when I play YYZ, I used to play a different solo every time I practiced it. Now I've found what I think sounds good, but it still sounds nothing like Geddy (unfortunately). I never really look up how to play stuff. I pick up my bass, grab my iPod and listen. The only time I really read music is for my school Jazz band. Should I spend more time looking for how songs are played on the record?

    Thanks in advance for assisting a low-frequency padawan! :)
  2. Do what you like, mate. It's your bass, your life, and your time... If you like to play the songs differently than they were written, go for it, man. If you want to learn them exactly as they were written and you can't deduce it by ear, find some music to read. Maybe I don't understand the question...
  3. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    Maybe the question has to do with ear training, i.e., copping the notes or style of a tune without having the music in front of you. Don't give up on the reading. That's great. But spend some time trying to "copy" what you hear on recordings. It doesn't have to be the bass part at first. The most basic exercise is to hear a passage, and then sing it to yourself. Indeed it might be easier to start with melodic passages rather than bass lines.
  4. hsech

    hsech I'm not old, I'm just seasoned. Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 27, 2012
    Central Iowa
    I try to get the most recognized bass part in a song and then fake it. Just give me the key and let me hear the song once.
  5. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Some want to play exactly as the original artists did it and then to others this is not important. I'm of the give me the key and leave me alone school.

    Like has been said, it's your bass and your time, and as long as you are not being asked, to do it a certain way, do what sounds good and makes you happy.

    You mentioned being in a "School Jazz Band", I'm sure there you are asked to play a certain way - so yes, we need to be able to do it both ways. Play by rote what has been written or be creative and play it our way ...... the age ole question. What's important is what the band director wants, our job is to show up on time, know the material, play it like the director wants it played and then on top of all that get along and don't step on toes.....

    Of course IMHO.
  6. I figured out years ago that I am never going to sound like JPJ/The Ox/Macca/...../Geddy Lee/etc. etc. At best I will sound like a second rate version (and when I was a lot more inexperienced third rate).

    Now I concentrate on being the best "me" I can by playing on my strengths while trying to improve on my weaknesses, not highlight them by desperately trying to impersonate someone else.

    I always try and learn the original bass part note for note so I know what was played, then I adapt it to suit my style and the fact that I sing quite a lot. As long as I get the right feel and flavour I am happy.

    If the drummer (and to a lesser extent guitarist) learn their parts as per the record then what I play is going to be nearer the original, but that rarely happens so what I play has to fit with him/them.
  7. hgiles


    Nov 8, 2012
    I dont think you have to play the record note for note, but you should have a sense of root movement before you go rogue on the song.
  8. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    RUSH has a great bass book on that.
    Standard notation & tabs.
    The bass parts seem very accurate.
  9. Jools4001

    Jools4001 Supporting Member

    I'm old. I've played bass a looooong time and for the most part I don't have any trouble learning a new song just by listening to it a few times.

    If it's a more complicated piece that defies simply playing along to it, I drop it into an app called Transpose, which lets you slow stuff down while retaining the same pitch plus a whole lot of other tricks like looping given sections.

    Depending, again on the complexity I'll just slow it down so that a passage with a flurry of notes becomes distinct to my ear and either play along with it or notate it and work out how I'm going to finger it.

    Then either using a metronome or simply increasing the tempo in Transpose slowly from, say, 70% to 100% it's surprising how quickly you can get up to the right tempo.

    Of course playing it cleanly on a gig is another matter because you'll probably find the band plays the song faster than the original - it shouldn't happen, and I know it's sad, but it is invariably true.
  10. +1 on all points.

    Except I use a Linux app called "Play It Slowly"
  11. bassdude51

    bassdude51 Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio

    When we listen to live recordings, up on stage the bass player never plays exactly like he/she does on the studio cut.

    So...........why should we try to play bass note for note?

    Trying to play note for note is like like trying to copy someone's hand writting style. It can be done but it's just never quite the same.

    If a song has a bass riff that's really important, like the bass line on the song, MONEY by Pink Floyd, a bass line that actually identifies a song..................then yeah!, nail it note for note. Fortunately, most songs don't require a note for note learning of the bass.

    Learn the chords (usually 1 to 5 chords for rock and pop) and make up your own bass lines with notes out of the major, minor and blues scales.

    It's just too stressful and unnatural to play bass note for note like the studio cut.

    So, let us be ourselves and play according to our own style and abilities and we'll be playing good bass!

    For the most part, the audience is there to hear the band. They will be focused on the music as a whole and not just the bass player (or anyone else) and his note selections.

    Play bass the same way that we do hand writting. Our own way.