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How to work out songs!!!

Discussion in 'Tablature and Notation [BG]' started by Paulb7664, Mar 8, 2006.

  1. Paulb7664


    Sep 30, 2004
    Kent UK
    Hi All
    I play in a covers band and some tabs are hard to find, or totally wrong!!!
    How do you guys work out songs???
    For me I find the cords then work out the first, third and fifth of each chord. (watch out for Major and Minor) Find the scale with all these notes. Then work out the bass line from that scale. So far I've had good success using this method.
    Is there a better way???


  2. theshadow2001


    Jun 17, 2004
    I listen to a line and then try to repeat part of it on my bass. I move it around and adjust it till I get it right. This line tends to give me an idea what key or scale is being used which makes it a bit clearer as to whats going and then a bit easier to work out the rest of the song
  3. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    I play the CD... playing my bass along with it, listening and guessing...

    if I play a wrong note, I make a mental note not to play that one again... and keep going until I find the right notes

    and keep repeating the song until what i'm playing sounds like the bass on the CD
  4. Kronos


    Dec 28, 2005
    Philadelphia, PA
    +1 on what's been said.

    I always play along with the CD, and it does take a good ear to be able to play the right thing. I've gotten to the point where I can figure out the guitar chords note by note (I have no musical training), which comes in handy for me should I decide to stray from the original bassline.
  5. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    I agree with most of what's been said. Another thing I'll do (a trick I picked up reading talkbass) …is: I'll take a piece of staff paper, and break it into bars - 4 per line works well and then start mapping out the song beginning to end with no repeats. At this point, I'm just labeling the parts of the song - things like intro, verse, chorus, bridge, etc and just marking where I hear changes. It's kind of like a skeleton and a good jumping off point. It's something that you can do, whether you're writing proper notation, or just chord notes, or if you're like me and are just writing your notes in tab. Even before you figure out what notes are being played, you can figure out the time signature and start doing this. It helps me a lot.

    Once I find a few right notes by plunking around, I'll try to sort out the key signature and let that help guide me in finding the rest of the right notes. I tend to rely on the old standard cheats for finding the key - What is the lowest note played, what is the first note played, what is the last note played, what note feels like home…
  6. hodgy


    May 5, 2004
    Bothell, WA
    Tech Support- Ampeg/ Mackie
    I pretty much do what Matthew does, especially when learning a large batch of tunes (I've got 18 tunes on my plate that I'm working on right now for an audition). Once I've got the notes and arrangements all mapped out I'll start in on playing one song at a time repeatedly until I can get all the nuances and silly little bits. If there's a part that's too fast for me to hear what's going on, I make a .wav of that section and toss it into Cakewalk, so's I can half-speed it.
  7. Scottgun


    Jan 24, 2004
    I transcribe the CD with a program called Amazing Slow Downer. Bass lines are often hard to hear and this allows me to raise it an octive, slow it down and loop it till I get it right.
  8. DaftCat


    Jul 26, 2004
    Medicine Hat
  9. I put the songs I need to learn together on one CD. Then I put that CD in the car and listen to it every time I go somewhere - to work, on errands, whatever. At work I can put the CD in my computer and listen to it thru headphones while I work. I think it is more important to 'get the bass player' then it is to 'get the part note for note'. If you 'get the way the bass player plays, your interpretation of the song will probably be really close even if some of your riffs are a little different. Just make sure you pick up on the 'stand out' parts. You have to figure that the song you are learning is an isolated moment in the studio that got etched into stone. When that band plays out, they don't duplicate what they did in the studio, they play a version of it - so get into the bass player's head and the licks will follow.

    When you are listening to the songs without your bass on, you can more easily hear the unique licks, twists and turns they use to make the lines interesting. You can also usually tell by the way the part sounds where on the neck they are playing - the 'go to' riffs they are using, how they move from part to part.

    Then I get my bass, sit down with the CD at home and start the song - usually I am able to fumble my way all the way thru on the first whack with lots of missed notes and riffs, but the general structure is there and ready to be built upon. Then I go back over it fleshing out the details - the little licks I heard and the interesting twists and turns. I especially focus on those little parts that I noticed as a bass player and try really hard to get them solid. You don't have to learn every single blessed note, but do not miss those really cool key moments where the bass player did something really nice.

    Then I put the CD back in the car and do the listening thing again - you can never listen to your songs too much - you will almost always hear something new. You can tend to get the equivalent of 'tunnel vision' when you focus too much on trying to learn the song's parts rather then getting to know the song as a whole by living with it for a while.

    Listen - listen - listen - try to understand the bass player's approach - then start chewing on the parts. You will save a lot of wasted time if you have the song firmly implanted in your brain before you try to figure out the parts.

    I have had guitar players and drummers tell me, "The last bass player we had never did those things that you do - those things that are actually in the song! That is so cool!" What they don't know is that I just made sure I did not leave out the interesting stuff. The rest of the song I pretty much played as if it were my own - cuz I wuz BEING the bass player from "Bad Co." or "Faces" or "Thin Lizzy" - not just trying to play their part.

  10. tappingtrance

    tappingtrance Cooke Harvey Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2005
    Learn to sing/hum the bass line - figure out if the lline contour is going up or down 0 find the start note and the end note of a phrase, work to fill in the rest - focus on parts of the tune as mentioned above verse, chorus etc. map it out as above - that really helps because you can fill in notes as you figure them out.