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Learning a lot of music quickly, and for keeps

Discussion in 'Ask Justin Meldal-Johnsen' started by meursault42, Nov 14, 2012.

  1. meursault42


    Jun 21, 2006
    I've always had a lot of respect and admiration for players like yourself who seem to be able to "digest", if you will, large amounts of music in a short amount of time. I remember reading an interview you gave about learning the NIN material, and if I'm not mistaken, it was a situation where you had a TON of music to learn, and of course it all had to be spot on. Do you have a method or way of organizing yourself when you're in these situations? Does it just come naturally? Is there a particular element of the music (i.e. lyrics, song form, melody, etc.) that you tend to hang your hat on? Do you ever have to use scratch charts?
  2. meursault42


    Jun 21, 2006
    Perhaps this was covered elsewhere? If so, somebody please point me in that direction. Or maybe this is just a weird question?
  3. jmjbassplayer

    jmjbassplayer Justin Meldal-Johnsen

    Mar 25, 2005
    Not a weird question, truly.

    I don't know the secret except relentless immersion in the material to be learned. In the car, in the house, in your headphones when you're studying it. Plus, memory of music happens far more readily when you have an emotional connection to it; as you listen to each song and make a chart for each (which I find essential when there's any large quantity), write down thoughts in the margins or at the bottom of any sort of emotional/personal resonances you feel about it. If you can't think of any, find some. :) It's potentially a big help.

    It does come naturally to me, but that's just because I've learned so many repertoires over the years. It gets easier, not harder, in fact.

  4. meursault42


    Jun 21, 2006
    That's a really interesting point about the emotional connection. Seems obvious of course. Nowadays, it seems far too tempting to sit down with a song and start breaking it down into its component parts (bits of data perhaps?), and in the process overlook the most important elements.

    I just personally wish I could play more often in situations where the music was great. The times when I do seem SO much easier. And to that end, I feel like the scene these days is a mixed bag. On the one hand, you've got a ton of people making music. But of course the flipside is that a lot of it (most of it) isn't so good.

    Thanks so much for the thoughtful response. Means a lot.
  5. AuntieBeeb


    Dec 12, 2010
    This is very true - one of the things you'll notice, after trawling through a lot of songs, is how similar a lot of the basslines are, and how similar a lot of chord progressions are (watch out for the different variations on I-IV-V that are dotted all over the place!). It can take a while, and maybe a fair bit of theory, before you start picking up on these, but keep at it, it does come eventually.

    You may also find that there are a lot of "stock" bass figures that you can run under a lot of songs, and few, if any, in an audience will notice that you're not playing the original bassline. Depending on the repertoire, you may even find you're improving on the original bassline!
  6. Drewski9


    Sep 10, 2010
    I always learn the form first - verse-chorus-verse etc. This sets up a roadmap that is easier to remember and tag with memory-emotional clues.