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Practicing by playing covers?

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by Bezo, Aug 27, 2004.

  1. Bezo


    Aug 10, 2004
    I have never tried to learn, transcribe, or play a cover. Of course I've played some of my fovorite riffs, but never full songs.

    I'm self taught(I'll be starting lessons in a couple of weeks) and have been learning by studying theory and writing my own music.

    Things have been going well, but I wonder if learning other songs would speed my progress. And I wonder if it's common to learn covers when you take lessons.

    Any thoughts?
  2. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    I learned a lot of little tricks and things here and there by learning covers. Im also self taught until just recently. I always liked to pick something that was too hard to play for me and then work at it until I can play it. Each one of those built me up a little higher in my skill level and I was able to apply the things I learned to my own material.

    Just my 2cents there.
  3. thewanderer24


    Apr 29, 2002
    SJ, CA
    Most self taught people I know have the opposite problem - we learn everything from listening and playing along. It's a great way to develop your ear, learn to play lots of songs, learn feel, and lots more, but it tends to leave a lot of basic skills (like rhythm, reading, and harmony knowledge) undeveloped.

    I played for years before getting a teacher.

    The one thing learning to play other people's lines will give you is fresh ideas to approach different styles and chord changes. Everyone plays differently, so the more different lines of other people you absorb, the more ideas you can get from it all. Having the theory knowledge only helps, and the teacher will be able to give you some guidance on what to focus on.
  4. supermonkey


    Mar 15, 2004
    Atlanta, GA
    I never took a lesson. I learned to play bass (already having some theory knowledge by way of piano lessons) by learning artists' entire catalogs.
    Every song by the Beatles, Zeppelin, Rush, and the Who came first. Learned them all from vinyl/cassette, in the days before CDs.

    Transcription rapidly became a strength, one which has served me well over the years. Same with playing by ear.
    I found the errors in the published sheet music. I unloaded "Good Times, Bad Times" on my my high school guitarist, and he bitched about trying to figure it out for years... :)

    Seriously, for playing in bands, the more songs you are familiar with and the better you can pick stuff up by ear, the more desirable you will be as a player.
    Take lessons and learn harmony (esp. chord theory), but also spend some time learning your favorite music. IMHO, there's no more direct way to improve your playing than to learn how your idols do it. Then you can go off on your own path, armed with that knowledge.
  5. Bezo


    Aug 10, 2004
    The theory part is not a problem. I played piano when I was younger, and I've been playing jazz, blues, and funk guitar for a few years. So the chord/arpeggio theory and other essentials were already there.

    Ideas are not a problem yet. I've been able to come up with lines fairly easy. I'm influenced by the music I've been listening to, but I'm sure learning some songs will help with ideas.

    The lessons will be mostly for the mechanical aspect of playing. My fingerstyle technique could use some work, I don't slap well, muting, and my speed could use some improvement.
    I'll also need help with some jazz stuff, like walking lines.

    I guess I've been hesitant to learn songs because I don't want to incorporate too much of anyone else's style in my playing.
  6. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    Unless you're trying to parrot other people's playing I don't think you need to worry about that. What you will pick up is inspiration, new ways of grooving, etc. that you wouldn't have if you had never tried to learn what other people have done.

    I mean, what if you wrote "I've been hesitant to read other people's books because I don't want to incorporate too much of anyone else's style in my writing." Sounds kinda silly now, doesn't it?

    Learn what you can from other musicians and make it your own. No sense rediscovering the wheel when countless thousands of bassists have done so already. That's how I look at it anyway.
  7. alapantera


    Mar 22, 2004

    Unless you've never heard a song before in your life, it would be pretty near impossible not to incorporate other players styles into your own. What i've found helpful is to expand my musical vocabulary by listening to music i wouldn't normaly spend time with. When i was teaching myself to play i would queue up all the music i had on my computer play along with it. One song at a time on repeat untill i had grasped most or all of the ideas.

    If ten bass players had been exposed to exactly the same music since they were born, you would still end up with 10 different playing styles. Some would probably be pretty similar, but that would be entirely dependant on the musicians themselves. I feel that the more i listen to and learn from others, the more independant my sound can become.
  8. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    A friend of mine made a song entirely out of chords he learned from various radiohead songs(that he learned from TAB)

    It sounded really good, and didn't sound like radiohead at all.

    I thought it was a testament to how you can utilize other songs and covers to make something of your own.

    That said, I think there is tremendous value in transcribing songs, and in analyzing songs theoretically.

    Also, some songs are just so awesome, both to listen to but also to play. And then you have 'songs' like classical thump, that are less a song than they are a demonstration of a bunch of techniques. And that's valuable to learn to.

    The bottomline though(imo), if you can do something fresh with it, go for it.
  9. Josh Ryan

    Josh Ryan - that dog won't hunt, Monsignor. Supporting Member

    Mar 24, 2001
    Ditto, but replace the Beatles with everything Cliff Burton Steve Harris ever played, and only some of the Who. No vinyl though, cassette and then CDs for me.

    NOTHING serves you more than your ability to hear what's going on.
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  11. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    I'm self taught and have never had a problem with rhythm. I also taught myself to read after I had been playing for several years (I already had basic knowledge from my piano playing days). I do think what helped me though was coming from Carribean heritage (built in rhythm), and having near perfect or relative pitch (ear training). If I feel I missed out on anything it would be proper fingering technique that would allow me to play a bit faster and cleaner.
  12. supermonkey


    Mar 15, 2004
    Atlanta, GA
    Word. By figuring out what's going on in music you are familiar with, you can learn how to pick things out (i.e. bass lines) of music that you aren't.

    Agree. I'm sure my right hand technique sucks if you ask Billy Sheehan, but overall, I don't consider my playing and/or musicianship as a whole any weaker than the avg. "schooled" player.