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What is the best way to learn a song?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by H2ODog, Jan 25, 2004.


  1. H2ODog

    H2ODog

    Sep 30, 2003
    Roseville, CA
    I have been playing bass for two months and I’m really enjoying it. I’m taking lessons and it’s helping a lot. I’m learning some blues songs with my teacher but I’m also interested in learning some rock songs on my own. I have gone to tab sites and found a couple but some don’t seem to be very accurate or don’t really have the whole song. My question is, what is the best method to learning a new song by yourself. I know I can ask my teacher but I don’t want to constantly pester the guy with questions and I would rather do these particular songs on my own just for my own learning experience. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Jason Carota

    Jason Carota Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2002
    Lowell, MA
    That is what your teacher is there for. Don't get me wrong, though, figuring out songs is a great form of ear training.

    As far as learning a song goes, just take your time. Listen to the song as many times as you can. This helps you to memorize the melody, beat, structure, and feel of the song. Then tackle one section of the song first. If you have to, go note-by-note (don't worry, speed will come with time.) Just take your time and don't get frustrated.

    Good luck!
     
  3. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA

    Slowly.
     
  4. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    There a few parts to REALLY learning a song:

    1. learn to sing the melody; if it has words, learn them too EVEN IF YOU WILL NOT BE SINGING IT

    2. work out what the chord progression is

    3. learn to SING the recorded bass line

    4. learn to play the recorded bass line
     
  5. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    I assume you are learning some theory at your lessons. Theory knowledge greatly helps in learning a song. If you can figure out what key a song is in, and chords in the song, it becomes a little easier to predict what the notes are.

    As for me, in addition to using theory, I like to take the song note-by-note (at least for tricky parts). This allows me full focus on the note being played.

    Hope this helps. And don't worry, you're ear will improve in time. :)
     
  6. RicPlaya

    RicPlaya

    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI
    Playing two months your just getting your feet wet. I understand why you are trying tab and it's O.K. as long as you focus on your theory and chops with your instructor. I started off tab too. Understand 99% of tab will be wrong. Don't look at the song as a whole you need to break it down into parts. These parts are intro, verse, chrous, bridge and or solo and outro. These are the main parts of most songs and not all songs contain all the parts. But listen to the song 40-50 time before you even pick up you bass, get it into your head. Learn the intro (if it has one), then the guts the verse and chorus. Then the bridge or solo's and outro (if it has one). Then once you know the parts it's just a matter of playing the correct parts at the right time. You may need to change notes in the tab. Listen to the song about 50 times before you even try to play it (i stress that again). Your ear will be your best friend, it will let you know what is right and wrong with the tab and the song structure, and also tab cannot tell you when to play the note like conventional music so your ear must tell you that. Then just work it out. It took me over two weeks to do my first song off tab, now it takes me minutes, and it was a tab from a mag so I know it was good. When downloading tabs off the net download every copy, most are rated for you as far as how correct it is, but lets say 95% of a tab is right and it may have one bad part but another tabber may have got it right on another tab so you can piece them together. Keep in mind tab is just a very rough guideline most of the time. Another thing is if you know a guitarist see what his hands are doing in some of the rough spots, a lot of the time in rock your doing the same as the guitar. Keep in mind this is not the preferred method, like yourself I don't interrupt my thoery training by learning songs with my instructor so I can understand. It will take a lot of time to do, keep at it it will get easier. PM me if this makes sense and you need more assistance..good luck... my fav site is Mxtabs
     
  7. H2ODog

    H2ODog

    Sep 30, 2003
    Roseville, CA
    Thanks everyone for your input.
     
  8. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    UK
    the way that'll be most beneficial to you in the long run, is to sit down with the record and your bass, and just keep listening, trying emulate it on the bass, rewinding & keeping on hammering away at it

    at first, it's a slower process than hunting out a tab on the internet, but the advantage is that you're training your ear at the same time you're learning the line... you're also making only your own mistakes, not other peoples (many tab/transcriptions you find on the internet are hopelessly wrong)

    (i'm assuming here, you're talking about learning the bass line to a song, not necessarily the chords, melody, harmonies etc)
     
  9. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    I thought ric player's post was very informative, but, there is one more very important step that I don't think has been posted (If somebody mentioned it, I missed it.)

    As ric said, any tab you use is just a rough guide, later you won't use tab at all for this - just ears.

    My advice - chart it. Write it down. If you don't read / write music yet then write it in tab.
    After you have listened to the song a bunch, and before you pick up your instrument. Figure out the time signature and start dividing your staff paper into measures (4 bars per line usually works well) Use enough paper and mark off enough measure to chart the whole song with no repeats. Then mark all the sections of the song - intro, verse, chorus, etc. Then you can listen to the track again as you follow along on your chart and place a mark every where you hear the chord change. Then use your tab, or trial and error, to start figuring out any main riffs and writing it all down as you go. Once you figure out the intro and the verse - when you've got a couple riffs down, you should usually be able to figure out the key. Look for anything you are writing that might be out of key. This can help you to spot the wrong notes when the original tabber was off by a semi-tone.
     
  10. Funkateer

    Funkateer

    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    All other techniques are shortcuts, which may or may not help your situation. If you have a gig/audition tomorrow, you may need lead sheets, tabs, etc. to help you prepare quickly. Otherwise, I would recommend transcribing the tune yourself. And write it down. If you are just starting out, you should learn the basics of reading bass clef. This will repay you handsomely as you progress. Many basslines consist of only a few carefully chosen notes played at very carefully selected times. This makes it easier to capture in notation than piano music (for example).
     
  11. Funkateer

    Funkateer

    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    I forgot to mention that a software package like 'transcribe' (shareware) or one of the practice machines that can slow tunes down without altering pitch is invaluable.
     
  12. Killdar

    Killdar

    Dec 16, 2002
    Portland Maine
    The way I do it is to listen to a portion of song then try to play it (once familiar with the song of course). Then if difficulty is found nailing it, refer the the song slowed down and repeatedly. Learn all of the pieces of the songs and figure out where everything goes relative to all the other stuff, and that's about it. Works for me.
     
  13. RicPlaya

    RicPlaya

    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI
    I would love to be able to sit down with a cd and learn a song. I think I could do it, after 14 months of playing bass, it would take me time though. But after only 2 months I think it would be near impossible. I think we are all right. Untimately it will serve you best to do it on your own by ear, but I know I couldn't do it after 2 months. I think I will start doing it with my ears only as a learning tool, but if your a beginner and need tab for now I don't see anything wrong with that to get going. That's what I did and still do, but then again I learn 2-3 songs a week.
     
  14. Hi,

    I can definately relate. I don't know if you can afford one of these or not, but what I use when I have to learn a song quick is a Tascam CD-BT1 (no, I'm not a Tascam dealer!) :)

    It's a pretty hip little trainer that lets you loop and slow various phrases of a piece on a CD. I used to use one of their "guitar trainers" because up until recently, they had nothing specifically for bass. Anyway, it's another aid that you might want to consider.

    Peace
     
  15. Woodchuck

    Woodchuck

    Apr 21, 2000
    Atlanta / Macon (sigh)
    Gallien Krueger for the last 12 years!
    LISTEN! It'll take me about 15 seconds to learn a song off of the radio. 45 if it's hard.
     
  16. Slot

    Slot

    Oct 17, 2003
    Sydney - The Shire
    play it till your fingers hurt and you hate it, then play it some more:p
     
  17. RicPlaya

    RicPlaya

    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI
    Your the man!
     
  18. tim99

    tim99 Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2003
    Second opinion for the Tascam CD-BT1. You got to get something like the Tascam, the Akai Riff-o-matic or software like Transcribe! to loop and slow down the song. This is not cheating. Years ago guys used to wear out records playing 33 rpm records over and over at 15 rpm. Also, I am a rare exception in that I would recommend looking at the tab. Yes, they are often wrong. But if I print out four or five, I grab this part from one and that part from another. You can pretty quickly catch on to if one part does not meet your needs or another one does. But the best thing that tab can help a beginner with is the correct part of the neck to be looking at. If you are based only on the CD, you might start in a place on the neck that is not the best or the one the actual player used. But you want to strive to be able to work it out by listening. Start with something like easier like Sk8ter Boi. Be listening on the radio for easy songs to work out. Work up to the difficult.

    Remember you are not just learning songs and learning to transcribe, you are learning to play on the bass a part you hear in your head. Right now it is someone else's part. Someone who maybe knows what they are doing. Strive to get in touch with the part of you that can come up with your own part, and listen to that part in your head, and play that on the bass. This transcribing stuff heads you in that direction. You are storing away little parts, and learning how to connect your fingers to a sound.

    Learning the song is not the same as playing it over and over and over until you can play it correct every time. Don't just learn it. Memorize it. Keep playing it. Call your firend and say, yo, lets get together and play this song. Yo, I got a bass, go buy a drum and let's start a band.

    Better players I am around are willing to work on one song for a long time. Not so good players just want to get through a song and then move on to another song and then another song. My ex-band used to work on three songs at a time. We would go through each song four times, then through them one after another after another three times as a mini set, then take a break. No stopping, no talking, no joking, just playing. Man. Good stuff. The fourth time through one song we sounded pretty good, but the third time through the three songs we sounded really good. Think about how many times an ice skater or gymnast goes through one routine. The better musicians do that with one song.

    Tim.
     
  19. adam on bass

    adam on bass Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2002
    New Braunfels, Texas
    Endorsing Artist: Spector, GK, EMG and D'Addario
    At least it's easier nowadays. I remember the days of putting the needle back every time I needed to run a part. My advice is lock yourself in your room for hours at a time and learn it. That's how I did it. If you want to learn it, it the sacrfice you'll make. They make fancy gadgets that slow stuf down, but what's the fun in that. I remember when I figured YYZ out after hours of frustration. It feels better to learn the old fashion way IMHO.
     
  20. H2ODog

    H2ODog

    Sep 30, 2003
    Roseville, CA
    I ordered a Tascam CD-BT1 , i'll let everyone know how it works out when i get it.