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How you learns songs for band

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by ThomasG, Jan 19, 2014.

  1. ThomasG


    Jul 20, 2007
    San Diego, CA
    I would like feedback from all you great cats. How do you learn songs quickly for a band situation. For example, a 70s funk band, what approach would you take when time is an issue (by ear, sheet music, get bassline close enough). I want to go from practicing to playing in a band situation. :bassist:
  2. pfox14


    Dec 22, 2013
    Always by ear taking it off the record.
  3. ThomasG


    Jul 20, 2007
    San Diego, CA
    Do you use software and slowing it down, or regular speed just dwelling on it ? Thanks for info.
  4. Captain Growly

    Captain Growly

    Jan 14, 2014
    I don't read music so primarily by ear, but I refer to youtube and tabs for the parts I'm unsure about (be careful because youtube and tabs aren't always correct). When in a pinch, I try to get the basic structure of all the different parts of a song (verse, chorus, bridge, etc) so I can at least hold my own in practice. Then as the weeks progress, I dig in a little deeper and fine tune the trickier parts. Hope that helps.
  5. I'm not that great with learning by ear, takes me a fair bit of time to get things right. Depends on the music of course, a ZZ Top song wouldn't take long by ear ;)

    Here is what I do:

    1. Have a listen to the studio version of the original to get an idea what the guy is playing.
    2. Find a tab and try to learn from it. Sometimes I pick the tabs with high rating or sometimes I just look at try to figure out whether they roughly show what I was thinking.
    3. Go back to the studio version and fix the bits that I think were wrong in the tab.
    4. I often write the corrected tab down, so I don't have to do the whole thing again if I forget the song after a while :)

    Works very well for me. Turned out to be more time-efficient than just doing everything by ear. Especially if you need to learn a few large sets in limited time.

  6. ThomasG


    Jul 20, 2007
    San Diego, CA
    Thanks Captain ! I guess it depends on various variables; you do what works for you.
  7. Captain Growly

    Captain Growly

    Jan 14, 2014
    Yep. Everyone's different. What works for me might be torture to somebody else. I recently purchased a Tascam handheld recorder which I've discovered I can use to slow songs down to a snail’s pace. Tried it for my first time last night and it looks (sounds) promising.
  8. lokikallas

    lokikallas Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2010
    los angeles
    I use jamup on my iPad and it has tempo, pitch and loop functions. I check out YouTube, concert footage and online tab (with a grain of salt).
  9. ThomasG


    Jul 20, 2007
    San Diego, CA
    Yeah Magic, I am not sure how good my ear is. It depends on tune. Thanks for feedback Magic....
  10. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan Strings, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg Keyboards
    I have been playing for 36 years and never learned to read music. I also do not understand theory very well. Luckily, I have a very good ear and can usually learn a song after hearing it a couple of times.

    I have tried to learn theory and to read music but just don't get it. I have a hi IQ (147), graduated cum laude from a major university, was inducted into the International Honor Society and the National Society for Leadership and Success. I have played with a keyboard player who has degrees from Berklee and several other music schools. He currently teaches music. He has given me many compliments about my playing. When we were playing together he asked how I could play so well without knowing theory or learning to read. He then said "If you learned to read you would be deadly and could play with anybody". He told me that I understand theory very well, I just haven't learned the terminology. Not sure I agree with him on these points.
  11. Jhengsman


    Oct 17, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    For a 70s Funk band you are probably not going to find sheet music with any iconic bass line. If you are lucky there may be an old out of print piano portfolio with the head and a chord structure. If the song was popular enough someone may have tabbed out a line in the past but my first instinct will be hear it and attempt to play it followed by a trip to Youtube
  12. Woodshed the songs at least a week before the practice; Practice to iron out and make sure that the band blends alright.
  13. GigJones


    Jun 10, 2009

    This is my approach as well.
  14. I usually get issued a chart that's 80% accurate and +/-50% likely to be in the right key for where it's going to end up being performed.

    I find a recording on the webs that's likely not in the key or arrangement I'll have to play it in.

    I convert it to numbers while "correcting" the chart for my purposes. Takes about an hour, per song.

    Then I'm more-or-less good to go.
  15. sm49341


    May 12, 2013
    Songs, I Always learn by ear. But step one is to listen to the song several times and get that line in your head. If is song is a little more elaborate I might listen to a chunk at a time. I'll get the 90% down in a couple minutes. Play the song over about 5 times, then go back and get the little details you might have missed. and run over again 4 or 5 times. I walk away with it learned. But.... then I go over the song a couple times the next day, and the next day. take a day off, then do it the next day. You need that time away and then come back. Then I walk in to rehersal looking like I was born knowing how to do all this. And when the bass player knocks out the foundation everyones job is sooo much easier. Its just puttin in the time. Its not work for me cuz I love doing it.
  16. Gaolee

    Gaolee Outta my way! I'm caffeinated! Supporting Member

    I use a program called Transcribe to slow things down and EQ out the parts I'm not working on directly. Once I have the chords figured out, I drill them and the timing of the chords on guitar. And, then I drill the bass line and figure out how it fits in a similar way. It takes some repetition, but it is worth it and it is fun.
  17. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I usually listen to the recording and see if I can figure it out by ear. I don't worry about getting every nuance note-for-note, it's more structure, feel, and any distinctive riffs or fills that need to be nailed. If I can't just get it by ear, I'll check online for a chord progression, and if there's some specific riff or something I'm having trouble figuring out, I'll see if I can find a transcription or tab.

    As others have said, tabs are often unreliable, and besides that it helps you develop as a musician to rely on your ears instead. I used to learn whole songs straight off tabs when I started out, but stopped doing that after the first year or so. But I think it's fair game to think of a tab simply as another player's take on how THEY do it. It may be right, it may be wrong, but it's useful to ask others what they do, so to speak.
  18. I would definitely agree with Him
  19. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Intergalactic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon sofware rep.
    I learn by ear mostly. I use Song Surgeon for assistance. Paid software but, IMO, it pays for itself because it makes learning so much easier because the bass parts (or any part) can be isolated. Great ear trainer. Slow downer, pitch shifter, 31 band eq., multiple loops, creates new file out of loops, records what you hear and a whole bunch of other cool features.

    Create a chord chart arrangement for each song in Word to keep in my song book. Include the lyrics as well for reference.
  20. zenman


    Jan 30, 2008
    St. Paul, MN
    +1 This pretty much my approach. I listen to the song(s) a lot, until I can hum or sing the bass part. Then I sit down with the bass & figure out how to play it. Get the bass line inside your head first, then work it out on the bass.