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Learning song forms

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Wademeister63, Mar 23, 2009.

  1. Wademeister63


    Aug 30, 2004
    Denton Tx
    Not sure if that's exactly what you would call it, but it's something that gives me a lot of trouble and I'm trying to work on it. I tend to concentrate on details and do pretty well nailing down all the parts, but then the parts tend to get jumbled in my brain. Or I can't remember if we go through this measure twice or three times in a particular spot. Or I lose track of if we're in the second verse or the third. Stuff like that. I know that I tend to pay close attention to details and then lose track of the big picture, but I'm having a rough time trying to "zoom out"

    I was reading the thread about rehearsing without a singer (http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=527551), and this is something that I just can't hardly do right now except for on a very few songs.

    I have heard before about learning the words, but it's partly the same deal for me. Where's this part come in? After the guitar solo or before? Does that solo go through four measures or eight? Frustration city!!

    Anyone have any tips or tricks they use to get stuff mentally mapped out so they can retain it well?
  2. Do you write down a rough arrangement chart of the song? Not necessarily to use at rehearsal, but I find the mental process of putting it down on paper really helps a lot to get an arrangement into my brain.

    Not necessarily the actual chords (unless you want to).

    Here's a rough example of what one of mine might look like:

    GOOD HEART - Gmin
    Intro riff
    Verse 1
    Verse 2
    Chorus 2, repeat last line of chorus
    Solo over verse x2
    Intro riff
    Repeat last line of chorus twice.
    Riff x3 then end
  3. Wademeister63


    Aug 30, 2004
    Denton Tx
    I've got the words to the songs written down and I've messed around trying to arrange some sort of chart that really ties things together for me but I haven't come across anything yet that really makes it click into place for me.

    What you have there doesn't look too bad, Phatbass. Simple enough to not get lost or caught up in detail, yet descriptive enough to not miss something along the way.

    I'll try formatting some things like that and see if I can get the patterns to burn in to my brain better, thanks!
  4. Les Izmor

    Les Izmor

    Mar 10, 2008
    Western Mass
    +1 thousand.

    Seriously, this is very good advice. It forces you to identify and order all the parts in a song. If you can record the rehearsal, that helps too. Listening to the recording and writing out a rough chart or map, as suggested by phatbass, should do the trick. Any confusion about length of parts, amount of repeats, and the like, gets totally worked out.

    Also, if you can't record (or even if you can), write out arrangement details as you work on the song in rehearsal.

    Definitely learn the lyrics too. Good luck.
  5. Wade-
    I use something similar to what Phat has listed for chord changes and structure. I usually look at each song during break just to get refresh the roadmap for that tune.
    But I think you're on to something when you mention 'Zooming Out'. Don't forget to engage the rest of the band visually while you're playing and listen for the que's that they throw out indicating a change is coming. I play in several different bands who do some of the same songs with different arrangements. I'm always looking/listening for cues. I also enjoy the interaction with the rest of the band.
    I find that I also need something written out that's BIG ENOUGH for me to see with my aging/failing eyesight. I usually have a music stand on stage with a small light on it as a reference.
  6. DudeistMonk


    Apr 13, 2008
    Newark, NJ
    I run songs through just rooting the chord changes a few times before I try to write/learn a line. I find this helps me absorb the structure of the song, by visualizing the changes on the fretboard in as simple a manner as possible.
  7. the engine

    the engine Guest

    I've been doing this for 21 years and to me Phatbass NAILED it. Come up with your own shorthand version and then "map out" the songs. I do a ton of fill-in gigs and I always put my "map sheets" right on top of my rig. Most of the time I don't have to look but it's nice to have that safety net. Sometimes I write out the chords for the first verse and chorus and then just abbreviate from there. One of mine might look like this.

    Song Title

    Intro: G D A
    Vs: C D G Am F
    Chorus: G D C Am 2X (2X means two times through)
    Vs, Vs, Ch, Vs, Ch, Solo = Vs,
    Bridge: C Am B D 2X
    Chorus 2X

    So what this is saying is that the song has an intro followed by 2 Vs, chorus, verse, chorus. "Solo=vs" simply means that the guitar solo uses the same chords in the same pattern as a verse. Anyway...you get the picture. Find your own shorthand and write it down! This will make it easier to rehearse and the more time you play it the more likely you are to remember it! Good luck!

    P.S. I just made up the chords. No particular song. So if you make a hit out of it, send me a check. Thanks! Bwahahaha.
  8. Wademeister63


    Aug 30, 2004
    Denton Tx
    I think I got it. Here's what I worked on this evening:

    Standing Still- Jewel

    Intro (4 measures)

    (Verse1)(no bass first 4 measures)(come in on B)


    (verse 2) (more staccato)

    (chorus 2)(down to F#)

    (bridge- 2 measures, no guitars)

    (chorus 3)
    (scales on measures 7-8)

    Still working on this one a bit but I think I made good progress tonight after having (mis)played it a few times over the last several months. It's still going to be hard work for me but I can see that my work will pay off better and of course I can bring the cheat sheets along for a welcome confidence booster.

  9. That looks great - nice and simple. And now you've got it mapped out you'll find it easier to remember as you have a picture of the overall arrangement.
  10. 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

    That will give you the overall "big picture".
  11. Why is the engine's post header so different from everyone else's.

    Anyway, I am going to give a try at this, its helpful to have chords there, since its what everyone in the band will recognize. I think I am going to add some simple bar structures like |G D|A A| so it can help the drummer as well.
  12. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I like the bar lines idea.

    I just write a jazz style chord chart on staff paper.
    no notated melody, but all the bar lines, lines, repeats, D.C.al coda's etc. I like the specificity of being able to point a at a specific bar when something unusual is going on. I do go a further step and mark which sections are bridge, verse, and chorus etc.

    If you are going through the trouble to make a chart of some kind, maybe going the extra step of mapping it out as if it were actual notation (with the dots left out) would be helpful. It certainly eliminates any ambiguity.

    Plus if you ever play with guys who can read, it saves a ton of time.
  13. What everyone said about visual clues is a big deal. There are tonnes fo times where guys miss stuff on the gig cause they were off rocking out in their own world. Look at the band, listen to the tune, and learn to feel amonts of bars.

    what i mean by that is like learn to feel chunks of 4 bars. If it feels like you should change then chances are you are going to. Bars of 4 feel good, bars of eight feel good, 6 feels weird, 5 feels worse. But on the other hand 4+1 feels fine, and 4+2 feels fine as well. Getting used to those arranging techiniques will def help you remember song forms, or at least be able to feel whats going to happen.

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