Trouble Learning Songs

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by SJLee, Aug 30, 2010.

  1. SJLee


    Nov 7, 2007
    So I've been trying to learn roughly 45 Blues songs (both instrumentals and those with lyrics) over the past month and I'm having trouble remembering some of the beginnings and ending of songs. Once into the songs there's no problem playing but since all these songs sound so similar to me (at least for the bass parts) that I'm having trouble remembering how some of these begin and end.

    Do any of you have tips or suggestions with this? I've been making notes for the songs but don't want to hold up the guys at practice while I'm going over my notes. I do my homework during the week to learn the songs, and listen to the songs via YouTube, but they are all so similar at practice that they begin to become all one big song to me. Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

  2. J-B'ass


    Sep 3, 2007
    The best way to cement things in your memory is to try and remember them without your notes.
    Using only your internal memory, try and play along to each song and be able to anticipate the next section. If you don't know what's coming, stop, check your notes, put away your notes, and start over from the top.

    Learning the lyrics to the different songs will help each song become a unique and distinct entity in your mind. You will be able to remember which beginnings/endings go with which set of lyrics, rather than having a bunch of beginnings/endings floating through your mind on a sea of similar sounding basslines.
  3. SJLee


    Nov 7, 2007
    It's interesting when I hear a song on youtube, there is enough to distinguish the song from another due to the timbre of the singers voice and how the song is produced, so I know where I'm at in the song and what's coming next. However, when my band plays the songs, they all sound the same. We also don't play them in the same key as the recordings and they are often in different keys than on the youtube clips I'm learning them from.

    I will try learning the lyrics because language is a net for memory.
  4. fcleff

    fcleff Inactive

    Apr 22, 2005
    Austin, Texas
    Learning the lyrics will help because you will also learn the melody. While the chord/harmonic structure of many blues tunes is nearly identical, the melodies are often unique. Learning them will help you to remember the song.

    I read an interview with Jaco a long, long time ago. The interviewer asked him, "What is the best advice you have for younger players?" His answer: "Learn melodies."
  5. SJLee


    Nov 7, 2007
    There isn't much melody happening. Basically playing underneath a guitar solo from start to finish.
  6. TRob1293


    Feb 1, 2008
    Sacramento, CA
    I am NOT one to provide advice.
    In saying that, maybe I'm more asking the experts to provide a YES or NO as to this approach:

    Learn the chord changes and play within the them (small fills, etc...) that flow with the song - not too much on the fill dept though. Just enough to know the root notes and any accompanying notes, within the chord, that may help fill-in.

    I'm hoping that memorizing the chord progression per song is easier and a good first step, as opposed to a note-by-note memorization. Once the chord progression in each song is nailed, maybe hit each song with a small piece of each fill as written in the song. After that, progress to the whole song and every note.

    Maybe just learning the chord progression and providing your own fills will only come with knowledge and comfort.

    OK, open season....
  7. you can use certain phrases as cues.....learning to watch the bandleader for visual cues works.....when you see them straighten up and raise the guitar neck,or bring the arm around in a big windmill that is often what they are doing...a soloist will often bring you back with a certain phrase at the tatum was reputed to be capable of solo tangents for 24 bars,and still land perfectly on the one,and he was one of the greats,so don't feel bad if you need a cue here and there
  8. SJLee


    Nov 7, 2007
    We are doing that now. Our guitarist is giving the look :eyebrow: and head cues for the endings. It's just not knowing which of the 45 endings we'll do. Actually, there's only about 5 or 6 different endings for all 45 blues tunes. For me and my skill level, learning 45 tunes in a month is a lot. I think what would help is having maybe 6-8 songs I can focus on per week as opposed to not knowing which songs out of 45 will be coming at me from week to week.

  9. J-B'ass


    Sep 3, 2007
    Heh sounds like a real trial by fire. Sometimes that's the best way to learn though.
  10. SJLee


    Nov 7, 2007
    It has been. I'm just hoping that the fellas are patient. I know they both want to get out an gig ASAP. I do too, but the pressure of learning 45 songs as fast as possible is actually slowing down my learning.

  11. I had the same problem a couple of years ago when I was in an “old school” blues band that had started from scratch. Not to demean blues bands, but to me, it was like floating on a featureless ocean. I very much enjoy a blues tune or two, or three, but not 30 in a row! Once the tune got started I was fine, until the ending. I am not a musician that hangs on the lyrics of a song either, so I was at a big disadvantage.

    I made a list of the tunes with key, feel, and any…features… I could pick out. Very brief.
    The band had a good, printed set list for each gig, which I kept on my amp and kept one tune ahead of in my head.

    I am no longer in that band and doubt that I’ll ever be in a similar one.
  12. SJLee


    Nov 7, 2007
    Thanks for the replies everyone. I'm not one to get flustered but this situation has been really eating at my confidence. I've been in bands with far greater complexity of material. I never thought in a million years that playing in your straight up old blues band would prove to be so difficult. So Low Bass, I'm glad to hear your story. It helps me not feel so bad.
  13. Ivan M

    Ivan M

    Aug 2, 2010
    Bronx, NY
    ALSO tell the Bandmates hey fellas lets just PERFECT maybe 25 Songs instead of 45, with 25 songs or so that will be good for a few GIGS to get you guys in the door to a lot of places, and what you do is try and work on 6-8 of those songs a week, you know cut back a little till you get them perfect, atleast you wont feel like you are climbing mount Everest, i am sure you will do fine, keep at it.
  14. I just looked at this post quick but did see some good advice as to live that a lot do not pay enough attention to or learn young which is - paying attention to what is going on around you on stage especially as a bass player listening to the drummer. Just that should be enough to lead you into fills, in and out of solos, endings etc. Watching the movement of singers or lead players, it will all help knowing what and where to go.
    Quick advice from 30 plus years and having to learn at times to memory 2 or 300 songs in a month.
  15. Arrachion


    Feb 24, 2008
    I have had problems knowing the song by name.
    I jot down the chord progression on the set list and if I don't have it by the time 1 comes around.... fake it. :D
  16. SJLee


    Nov 7, 2007
    The drummer is learning the songs right along with me and is lost as well. We've both been watching our guitarist. We are not at the point where we are playing out but hope to be doing so soon. This is a month old project. About 5-6 of these songs I've ever heard before playing in this combo.

    Watching the guitarist to know when the endings are happening is not a problem for me, but knowing which of several endings are coming in 45 songs that to my ears basically all sound the same is a problem. Like I said earlier, when listening to recordings of these songs, there's just enough to distinguish one song from another due to the recording and singers voice, but when we play them that distinction is gone. So for now I'm making notes on each song until I either learn them or find a better method of keeping track of what's going on.

  17. I think someone mentioned noted on the set list. That certainly works great also. Don't feel like your doing yourself a disservice because you have some notes in front of you. If that is what you need to do to help and you. One thing, rehearsing is great (hate it myself) but a few nights out and you will be surprised how quick it sticks in your head. That is when you will remember the mistakes you make and not do them again. For me, the stage is the best rehearsal because you can't just go - opps can we do that again. Get them down, keep sheets if need be and get out there.
  18. Third Basser

    Third Basser

    Jul 6, 2010
    learning 45 songs at once is a tall order, especially blues songs that all sound alike. if you can learn by ear, that may be your best bet because you can just figure out what key the guitarist is starting on and jump in and play. then visual or drum cues can help signal the endings. I've learned maybe 30 songs at once for a brazilian pop cover project last summer, and I did that by playing along to a CD over and over. the more you play them, the more you will notice the subtle distinctions. what I would suggest is to ask the band to carve out a reasonable set list from there that you would likely play at your 1st gig and learn those first (unless you're expected to play all 45 at a gig?) And then I try to get a recording of the set in the same order of how I would play it at a show. as I familiarize with that, I will then start to notice connections like anticipating how the next song will start because the transition between songs will help cue me in to knowing what key the next song is in.
  19. SJLee


    Nov 7, 2007
    LOL. I think you're right on with the trial by fire approach. It's the real deal or what I call playing for your life. :cool:

    We plan to work on 7 songs this Sunday and I was able to get a set list in advance. Being able to focus on these during the week has been a comfort.

  20. Rudreax


    Jun 14, 2008
    New York, NY
    Just do it. If you can record the songs and listen to them whenever you're not playing.