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Question about how you go about learning a new song

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by EXCAV8, Jan 4, 2020.

  1. EXCAV8


    Dec 15, 2019
    I don't read music.

    I truly wish I could read music, but when it comes to bass I have not been able to wrap my head around translating those black dots into notes on my fretboard. I typically rely on tabs or charts. I know where the notes are on the fretboard, but musical notation continues to elude me.

    Therefore, in order to learn a new tune I typically look up the tabs, find the song on youtube, and then break it into bite sized chunks that I'll play over and over again until I can link all the chunks together.

    My question is, does anyone have a better or more efficient way to learn a new tune given my notational deficiencies?
    Cernnunos likes this.
  2. Malcolm35


    Aug 7, 2018
    I can read standard notation, however, not fast enough to play from it. So I let Google call up fake chord sheet music on the song in question then armed with the sheet music I then call up a video of the same song. Put both in the same key and then while listening to the video play from the fake chord sheet music.

    Why not practice SN so I can play from it? I have never had a band director hand me a sheet of SN. It's always fake chord, and we all play from that. So I just do not get enough SN time in to increase my skill level.

    This is a hobby for me and fake chord does what I need.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2020
  3. dc-upright


    Mar 31, 2013
    The way I did it in the old days of record players was to keep moving the needle back about a hundred times until I got the line in my head, and then I would simplify notes and or rhythm if needed until I could play something that both fit and sounded good. It is even easier now that we have software to loop and slow down the parts.
  4. 1st: Identify the key (that will give you a pallette of notes to work from)
    2nd: Define the chord progression(s)
    3rd: Break the song down into chorus, verse. bridge, intro, outtro, etc.
    4th: Work on individual sections
    5th: Put it all together
  5. EXCAV8


    Dec 15, 2019
    So it sounds like what I've been doing is pretty much the way to go!
  6. lokikallas

    lokikallas Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2010
    los angeles
    Playing along with Youtube sucks. I use an iPad app called Jam-up. It lets you loop sections easily, slow down, pitch shift, etc. It's perfect for my practice and learning needs. I've just learned to pick out the bass line and go over it until it matches. Sometimes I still figure out new bits and pieces when I hear an old song I play.
    Cernnunos and BassPilot like this.
  7. I look up a chord chart to get a rough sketch, and play along with the recording. If I’m stumped after a few passes, I’ll look up tabs or YouTube videos. I know how to read, but I’m very slow.

    In a perfect world, I’d learn it all by ear. But sometimes I have a heap of songs to learn and I choose the fastest route.
  8. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I do it entirely by ear.
  9. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I do it mostly by ear. First I just try to find the root notes, which pretty quickly indicates the key, as @FatStringer52 said. Get the chord progression in place for the various sections and then work out the specific lines and fills. I don't normally look at a tab any more (I did in my first year or so of playing) unless there's a tough bit where it's hard to figure out by ear what they're doing, so I check how others play it.
  10. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    If you really want to learn, you'll find a good teacher. It isn't rocket science, it just takes work. ;)

    If you're learning the music most bands play there isn't a lot of accurate standard notation out there anyway. I can't remember the last time I learned a song from standard notation. I don't use tab either, I just use my ear.
  11. Oddly

    Oddly Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2014
    Dublin, Ireland.
    I sometimes use an app called Chordify, that takes a youtube video and works out the chord progression.
    Once I've got that I can usually work out any riffs or fills needed.
    If I get stuck there, I'll check out tabs on Ultimate Guitar.

    Now I fully accept that's not the ideal 'real musician' path, and I should be able to always work out everything by ear, but I'm lazy, and life's too short.
    It gets the job done for me.
  12. lbbc


    Sep 25, 2007
    Seaford , DE
    3 ways (depending on my mood and amount of time I have to learn it).
    1. By ear... repetition
    2. Look up chords and play within the chord structure
    3. Playing from sheet music
  13. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i think you're spot on. although i read: if the tune is tricky enough (for me), and if i can even find a written bass part: i'd still break things into sections, same as your method...i think almost everyone learns new stuff that way. ;)

    FWIW: you don't have to become a great sight-reader to benefit from learning to read standard notation. just sayin'. ;)
    MCF likes this.
  14. EMoneySC2

    EMoneySC2 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Minneapolis, MN
    I'm capable of learning most songs by ear, but that is a process that demands all of your attention for quite a long time, so I'm a fan of using Guitar Pro tabs I find on the Ultimate Guitar website.

    There are benefits to be gained by learning songs by ear, but most of the time I'd rather get straight to the mechanical learning of how to play a song.
  15. Ekulati


    Jan 2, 2016
    Richmond, VA
    I drop the needle on the record, copy what I hear in bite size pieces, rinse and repeat.
    btmpancake, EXCAV8 and 4dog like this.
  16. 4dog


    Aug 18, 2012
    by ear almost totally....occasionally by watching youtube and using my eyes but my ear is more accurate than my eyes...og way!!!
    Brookmichael likes this.
  17. swrbassboss


    Sep 30, 2010
    Wilmington NC
    I learn by ear & tab. I break them into manable parts and play them until it deesnt suck. There is a really cool and FREE app called music player for musicians or MPFM. You load mp3s into it. It enables you to break songs into as many parts as you need. You can loop those parts until you get it, or your wife threatens too kill you. Can also slow down and speed up. I think i had in the neighborhood of 30 parts learning yyz. It even has an eg that works great for bumping up the bass for learning, and mixing it out for practicing. Its got a bit of a learning curve, But well worth the time
    Strung_Low, PaulS, Alik and 1 other person like this.
  18. swrbassboss


    Sep 30, 2010
    Wilmington NC
    That was supposed to say "eq"
  19. jthisdell


    Jun 12, 2014
    Roanoke, VA
    Getting chord sheets with lyrics will give you a huge head start on learning new songs. If you know a tad of theory, what notes are in the scales for those chords, you can figure the rest out pretty quickly.
    Cernnunos likes this.
  20. Droopy_TX


    Jul 17, 2016
    Regardless of how you notate your charts, I would suggest that you practice transcribing music on your own for three reasons...

    Firstly, a lot of chord/tab charts on the web are just wrong: wrong keys, wrong chords, wrong passages, etc.. Secondly, the practice of transcribing by ear will improve your ability to hear and learn music on the fly in order to jam and improvise with others in real time. Lastly, the act of transcribing, and verifying your work, will help you memorize the piece.

    I am not saying you should never look-up the chart for a simple song on the web. But if you do, you should always verify the chart's accuracy; and don't just save a copy the chart. Transcribe it to your standard charting software or template, and test it as you go. I often find, by the time I'm done transcribing and verifying a song, I have it memorized.
    Cernnunos, Manticore, Alik and 3 others like this.

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