Learning songs - question

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by MarshallNole, Jan 20, 2014.

  1. MarshallNole


    Dec 1, 2013
    When learning a song, when should you move on to other songs? I can play about 3 songs with 90%+ accuracy, but I still mess up here and there (hit a wrong not, pluck wrong string, etc). I've only been playing for 1.5 months.

    Do you all learn a song 100% and play it with 100% accuracy consistently before moving on? I feel like I sit and do the same stuff over and over when I sit down to practice.
  2. Don't worry about that...as a newbie...just play as much as you can. It is perfectly fine to move on to another song and continue trying to perfect other tunes you had worked on in the past. Any playing is a good learning experience for you now, and your muscle memory and skills will develop in time. Someday, what seems hard now, will seem easy. Now go keep learning new stuff ;)
  3. I agree with Faulknersj, time to move on to some new songs. Every once in a while go back over your "known" songs again. When you start playing with people it will automatically provide the focus on the specific tunes you need to learn "100%".
  4. I just have to say "hang in there man". You're at the stage where things are cool because you're first getting into it. The next natural stage in your bass playing is where you think "man, I suck and everything is so hard and frustrating."

    So, that being said, feel free to move on to certain songs, but ALWAYS go back to the songs you've previously learned. When there's a part of a song that you're having trouble with, practice it by playing the whole song, then focusing on that little part. Play it over and over again. Ideally, use a metronome and put it a slower BPM. If you can't nail something playing slow, you'll never nail it playing it fast.

    Really focusing on parts you can't play is how you eventually get them down. If there's a song you can play 99% of, but there's just one little run that you can't accomplish and you practice by playing the whole song, it'll take much longer to bring up that other 1%.

    So, long answer short, don't get frustrated if you can't bring a song up to 100% right away and feel free to start practicing other songs, but remember not to neglect songs, as they may have a technique you still need to develop that will help in the rest of your playing.
  5. Depends what are your goals. We cannot tell you your goals, you need to decide that for yourself. If you want to be a studio musician or composer, then learning songs 100% is of great value. If you want to be in a cover band or jam with other musicians, then learning more than 3 songs is necessary, and you may need to compromise accuracy to make that happen. :)

    What I would recommend to you if I was your teacher is this: Turn on the radio and try to play along with the songs in real time. At first you might only be 10% accurate, like maybe you can figure out what key the song is, or you can get the main bass groove but not the fills. If you spend 1 hour, or even just 30 minutes a day jamming along with the pop or oldies station, you will make tremendous musical progress!

    I would say that, if you split your practice time between polishing a small number of songs to 100% perfection (your "recital pieces") and learning brand new material (don't be afraid to make mistakes!) then you will become a balanced and well rounded musician.

    If you have a good teacher, then he or she will help you structure your practice time so that you are doing a mix of learning new songs, practicing old songs, learning theory, practicing sight-reading, rhythm, composition, ear-training, improvising, etc. (depending on your musical goals).

    My first goal when I started was to play gigs with other musicians as quickly as possible. So I learned maybe 6 cover songs to about 50% accuracy, and then my band wrote a bunch of original songs. The nice thing about originals is that nobody can say you are playing them "wrong"! So after 6 months we had about a dozen songs, originals and covers, and got our first gig at the high school battle of the bands. I listen back to the recording of that gig sometimes, there are lots of mistakes and missed notes, but nobody cared, we all had a blast! :)

    [edit] One thing I forgot to add, to answer your specific question: It is a very good skill to learn, when listening to a song, to pick out which parts of the bass line are "signature licks" that you have to learn 100% for the audience to recognize and respond appropriately. For example if you are in a wedding band, you have to learn the main "Brick House" lick accurately. But then other songs, or parts of songs, the bass is playing in a supportive role and is not the main "hook" of the song. So in that case, you can play simple bass lines that support the harmony (like the roots of the chords), you can play simplified variations of what the bass player is playing on the recording, maybe you can improvise new bass lines, etc. It is all about the listening skill, to know what fits the song. :)
  6. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    From memory - how many songs can you remember? I use sheet music and play what is on the sheet music, that way I can play hundreds of songs. Moving on to something more important; will you play A, B, C or 1, 2, 3? No not 1, 2, 3 in tab, but 1, 2, 3 in Nashville numbers.

    With the 6 string rhythm guitar I would play A, B, C, however, when I went over to the Bass I started using 1, 2, 3 (scale degrees of the scale or chord). Give me 5 minutes to look over a song in Nashville numbers and I'm ready to play.

    I came to bass from 6 string rhythm guitar where, with the style of music we play, fake chord sheet music is used 99.9% of the time. Band director hands you a sheet of fake chord music before the gig and you are expected to follow the chord changes, provide the harmony and keep the beat laid down by the bass or the drums. That same thing can be done on the bass if you do the following.......

    OK first thing you will need is some fake chord sheet music on the songs you will be playing, Google can normally find this for you. http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/h/hank_williams/cold_cold_heart_crd.htm
    Some people bad mouth Fake Chord from the Internet as not being exact. Well first I don't care if it is not exact, if I don't like what I got I'll change it and second, what I got was someone's best efforts. That is close enough for me to start with for now. Ask yourself. Can you pick out the chord changes by ear or would having someone's best efforts to start with have merit? In the real World the director hands out the sheet music, he/she wants played - right or wrong - if we all play from the same sheet of music it'll, 9 times out of 10, sound OK. Moving on.

    I take this one more step and transcribe my fake chord into Nashville numbers and from there on my major scale box pattern provides the numbers for me to play. So now I'm playing 1, 2, 3.....

    Major Scale Box.

    G|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 1st string
    E|-------|---R---|-------|---2---|4th string

    I like for my Nashville numbers to have the lyrics shown, as I normally follow the lyrics to know when to change chords. So I just mark through the A, B, C's with 1, 2, 3's.

    I keep every song I've transposed in a 3 ring binder, so when the new schedule for the next gig is given me I just go to my 3 ring binder and pull out the selections we will be using. Look them over and run over the one or two that I feel I need to take the rust off of.

    Knowing my major scale box and knowing how to use Nashville numbers makes playing songs a piece of cake. So should you go A, B, C or 1, 2 3? Up to you.

    Interested - just ask questions here.
  7. MarshallNole


    Dec 1, 2013

    Ummmm...what? I don't really understand your post.
  8. MalcolmAmos is describing a System you can learn to easily learn 1,000's of songs. It is based on Numbers... there are 7 notes in the scale, right? So each note gets a number from 1 to 7. Now I can teach you a song I wrote, it is "1-5-6-4 in G" so you can figure out the bass or "root notes" of the progression are G-D-E-C. It's easy!

    I am surprised your teacher didn't teach you this in the first lesson, or the book you're studying from didn't cover it in the first chapter. What have you been doing the past 1.5 months? What songs did you learn, how did you learn them, where are you getting your information, what lessons have you taken, how do you structure your practice time? :)
  9. pfox14


    Dec 22, 2013
    I would caution you that you should not discount repetition as a means to becoming a good player. It's all well and good to learn different songs to keep things fresh, but basic repetitive scales and exercises will help build up your chops. Hopefully, your teacher should be giving you plenty of this kind of stuff to practice.
  10. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Yes we all have to run our scales and our arpeggios so our fingers know where the good notes are on the fretboard, however, when we start playing songs most of us play a tune or harmony to that tune - that has already been written, i.e. we play the song from sheet music. We play "covers". We take all the scales and chord tones we have learned to do into songs. Fake chord, Nashville numbers and the major scale box pattern is one way of doing this.

    If you think you would like to know more about fake chord and Nashville numbers ask specific questions. So I have a starting point we can start from. If not, that's fine too, keep doing what you are doing.
  11. DavC

    DavC Supporting Member

    May 17, 2005
    Trinity, FL
    maybe work on some other 'stuff' that is in the same key as the Song you're working on ... play some scales in that key ... maybe some Pentatonics around that key ... might help you ' get around ' better on that Song ..!?!?

    I've played piano since I was 6 ( back in 1962 ) and Yes I still play scales and do newer different finger exercises ..
    you can Always improve on your Basics ... it all makes learning songs and 'just playing' easier and more precise ..! as others have said ... building strength and muscle memory is a Good Thing ..

    keep it up ... have FUN ..!!
  12. bassinplace


    Dec 1, 2008
    I can only speak for myself, but I'll usually stick with a song until I learn it note for note. Sometimes I'll get bored with a song and move on before finishing it, but if the bassline really holds my interest, I'll stick with it for however long it takes to learn it from start to finish.
  13. Steady on guys hes only been playing 1.5 months! Just learn what you enjoy, try a few different songs but make sure to keep going back to known ground. You wont believe the progress you'd made if you heard yourself a month ago. Try to learn a few simple riffs, at this point you dont NEED to learn the whole song. Just enjoy, the more you enjoy it the more you practice. The more you practice the better you get.
  14. Zephrant


    Dec 10, 2013
    Spokane, WA
    I've been playing for about as long. I have three songs at 99%, and play them once or twice each practice session. Those will be my demo songs, which I'll put on YouTube when I get them perfect. They are also songs I can pull out and play for friends and family. (I plug an MP3 player in to the amp and play the real song on it.) Two are pretty easy songs from Rocksmith, the third is a harder song from songsterr.

    I have another dozen Rocksmith songs I'm working on. Mostly picked them because RS is a nice way to slow down and repeat songs, and gives me feedback for missed notes and all.

    That is about all I can work on for now, although I'm collecting tabs for the next song I'll work on.

    I want to jam with a band, so have been looking for common songs to learn. The idea of playing along with the radio is not something I've tried yet, but will do so soon.
  15. MarshallNole


    Dec 1, 2013
    For the last 1.5 months I've been doing finger exercises, playing major scales, and doing spider walks and a blues riff to build finger strength.

    I also learned You Lied Tool cover of a Peach song via bass tabs.

    I've learned Losing My Religion and Creep from Rocksmith. I also play the technique games on Rocksmith to try to learn scales and other techniques.

    As far as my bass instructor, he gave me a simple finger exercise at the beginning, and then some small parts of easy songs to learn. These include Seven Nation Army, Money, and When I come around by Green Day.

    He just recently showed me the musical alphabet which I had already learned from studybass.com.
  16. Sorry, I am not familiar with Rocksmith, I don't know whether the lessons are any good or not. Your teacher is on the right track, though: teaching you actual songs you know and love, which is the best way to learn, in my opinion. (Watch out for those "spider" exercises though---they can be harmful to the hands in my experience. Stop practicing them if you feel any pain!)

    What I would do, is ask my instructor something like, "Can you teach me to understand chord progressions, so I can learn new songs more easily? For example, if a song has '1-4-5 chord progression,' what does that mean?" This is such a basic musical skill in terms of learning new songs and jamming with other people, you will not regret learning it. :)
  17. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    Just keep playing. Learning the form of the song is very important.
    Write a quick chart for yourself so you can reference it later.
  18. lyla1953


    Jul 18, 2012
    My goal is to learn a tune so that I can play it 100%, 10 times in a row.
  19. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    One thing to keep in mind is that, in Psychology lingo, "distributed" practice is generally much more effective and efficient than "massed" practice. That is, if you work on a song (or scale, or riff, etc.) for 10 minutes a day, every day for 6 days, you'll make a lot more progress than if you practice it for an hour straight on one day. Shoot for gradual progress, one day a time, rather than trying to master anything all at once.