1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Where do you learn your covers?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by MCBTunes, Apr 19, 2005.

  1. Well I can't seem to find a decent place to learn any top 40 or pop songs... I've been trying to learn some Blink-182 and all the tabs are deadwrong they only include the first verse and keep replaying it, which is wrong because I've seen them play a lotof these songs... and you cant learn it by ear because half the time the Distorted guitar kills the bass....

    So if my guys want to do some Blink-182 covers what do yousuggest I do to learn them? Powertabs.net just doesntcut it.
  2. walewein


    Jun 13, 2003
    To learn blink 182, use your ears, those songs aren't really hard to play and to find the lines.
  3. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA

    I know you won't want this advice, but, I've played mostly covers my entire music career, and I have to say, unequivocally, the best thing to do is drop the tabs, and use your ears. It's not the easiest thing in the world, but you are wasting your time with tabs.

    The ear is the most important tool you have as a musician. You must be able to hear well on stage, and in rehearsal. Develop it now, however slowly it happens. It is crucial, vital, extremely important to develop these skills. Musicians change things while on stage, you must be able to adapt, tabs are often wrong, and not often available for a tune you want to learn. What if you have to learn an original tune for a band you're joining? Does distorted guitar often drown out bass? Yes. Hell, I just had to learn 30 Hendrix tunes in 3 days. I know a thing or two about that.

    Make ear training a main part of your daily practice routine. Every little bit helps.

    My advice for ear training:

    - listen to the song a minimum of 3 times prior to beginning to learn it.
    - note the structure of the song. (e.g. intro, verses, chorus, bridge, outro).
    - listen for the chord. train your ear to learn the difference between major and minor, and major 7ths versus minor 7ths.
    - start out just playing roots. learn the rest of the song as you go, but get the roots of the chords in good, solid times.
    - try using the blues. the blues have a very common structure that will help you hear chord changes that are common in rock and popular music genres.
    - hunt and peck if you have to, there's nothing wrong with that. Try one not, then another, then another, then another.
    - make sure you're in tune.
    - learn more theory, it will help you learn the tunes.
    - learn songs from different genres.
    - don't give up.
  4. PlayTheBass

    PlayTheBass aka Mac Daddy Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2004
    Carmichael, CA
    +1!!!!! I absolutely, positively could not agree more. I also have been playing 90% covers for my career, and because I end up subbing for a lot of bands, I often am faced with learning 20-30 songs in a week or two. When the Internet came along and tab got popular, I thought it would be a great resource to help save time. But every time I tried it out, the transcriptions were so far off it was ridiculous. (Just as part of a practice session a couple weeks ago I thought it would be fun to learn the fretless parts in "Graceland" -- after I got it, I decided to check the tab in the archives here, just for the heck of it… what a joke!! They must have been on crack.)

    When I first started I thought there was no way I could learn songs accurately by ear. (I've had a lot of students who felt the same way.) But the more I did it, the more I realized I could, and the more I trusted it. It really is something you need to practice, preferably by setting aside time in EVERY practice session. You'll find yourself getting better and better, and more able to pick off groups of notes at one time instead of just one note at a time. You CAN do it! :)

    As far as not being able to hear a bass part, I think that's something you get better at too. It may be hard in some recordings, but there should always be enough clues there to figure it out. And besides, if you truly can't make out the bass part, then nobody else can either! So if you just play something that works (trusting your ear!), no one will know the difference.

    Hopefully you're in a situation playing covers where you can balance the "note-for-note" approach, which is appropriate in places (like memorable hooks, or parts that are really locked with other parts), with injecting your own style. That's what makes it fun, for me anyway.

    Sean Mc
  5. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    Agree with all the above. Another good way to train your ears quickly is to try playing along with TV commercials or a radio station that plays a simple but unfamiliar genre - maybe try country.
  6. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    And don't forget, it's possible to do it without tabs. Think back only 5-7 years ago, thereabout I guess, when there weren't tabs. Think back further. Players used to buy 45s and listen to scratchy recordings, (no digital quality), and that's all musicians had to learn tunes by.

    It can be done.
  7. Mr.Phil


    Apr 9, 2005
    Upstate NY
    Get the chord changes and improv...
  8. i have attempted to learn theory there is just nowhere to do it free. I'm a broke student living with mommy haha.

    I have kinda been working the ear though.... I hum, hit a note and see if they sync. chord progressions and major minor is kinda outta my league though. I do know the notes on the fretboard if i count them out... but i havnt memorized them.
  9. bmc


    Nov 15, 2003
    Use your ears. Tabs are often so badly done they make me laugh. My daughter often pulls down tabs off the net and I'm amazed how many of them use only one string of a bass. Makes me laugh. The upside though, is that I challenge her to figure out the song using notes elsewhere on the board. This has helped her learn her way around the neck tremendously. She has now taken to pulling down tabs and and firguring out other ways on her own.

    Tab didn't exist when I started. Using ears is the best way. Furthermore, most songs follow the same patterns of chord structure. 1-4-5, 1-5-4, 1-4-2-5, etc if you know the numbering system.
  10. As an alternative to tab, if you Google the song title, and 'MIDI' you may well find that someone has made a MIDI backing track of it. They sound quite cheesy with a budget sound card, but many MIDI players will allow you to play them slowed down, which will help you work out what the chords/bass is doing.


    Jan 25, 2005
    Des Moines, IA
    I agree with all of the above posters. I play exclusively by ear. As a result of all of the practicing in that manner, it has developed very well. However, there ARE songs that require more listening to than others. For them, I use a Tascam CDB1MKII trainer....best $150 I've ever spent!! Here's a link:

  12. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    (stepping on soapbox)

    When will people get it? TAB is NOT the way to learn. Period. Use your ears, develop your own "shorthand" to write out the "signature licks" of the tunes.

    It drives me nuts when people ask for TAB to a 3 chord tune! If that is the case, put down the bass and step away...

    (stepping off soapbox)
  13. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Excellent! That's a great start.

    Most of my theory is self-taught. First, click on my username in this post, and then "Visit Jazzbo's homepage". One of the things I did, and I don't necessarily suggest this, as it might be too boring for some, is I simply read the Harvard Music Dictionary through 3 times. Boy did that open up a lot.

    But here are some things you can do as a broke student. Visit www.musictheory.net. Check out www.activebass.com and use the scale and arpeggio builder to start learning scales and arpeggios. That's theory!

    Remember, when becoming a musician; learning to play the bass technically, and develop your ear, and learn theory, you're learning a new language. These things don't come quickly. Take your time and be patient, and you'll notice improvements as you go along.
  14. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
  15. Roundwound


    May 13, 2004
    Peoria, IL
    Another good option for learning songs by ear is to download the Guitar and Drum Trainer 2. I play in gigging cover band and I've used it for a year. Just plug your bass into the mic input of your computer (with appropriate adaptor) and play along with your song files. The song speed and pitch adjustments are awesome. It also has looping so you can repeat the same part 500x until you actually get it (well maybe you won't need to repeat it that much). It also has an eq so you can eq out frequencies that interfere with the bass. It has done a ton for me.

    P.S. If you use this option, practice with a decent pair of headphones...I've found this more helpful than trying to listen through regular speakers.
  16. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Cheaper than the Tascam Bass Trainer thing - software like Amazing Slow Downer or Transcribe it! (Seventh String) does a great job (those are Mac programs - these or others are surely available for PC). I use them regularly to adjust tuning, slow down and loop tricky parts, and generally learn songs quickly and accurately.

    I agree completely with Jazzbo that tabs... even when they are correct (I don't think I've ever seen *any* tab I agreed with 100%), you'll gain so much more from learning by ear, even using software cheats like those I mention.
  17. I know I'll likely get flamed for this comment, but sometimes it's useful to find the g***ar tab and see what chords are being used. :eek: :rolleyes:


    Jan 25, 2005
    Des Moines, IA
    Yes, PC programs are cheaper than the Tascam and are very worthwhile, but I opted for convenience.... this thing is small and lightweight (fits in my gig bag), can operate on batteries (great for practicing anywhere) does all of the looping, speed variation stuff, and has a chromatic tuner built-in.
  19. Nothing particulalry useful to add, other than a wholehearted "+1" to pretty much all of the posts in the topic :D

    I've got some old cassettes of me jamming away to LPs from when I was first learning the guitar (bass came later), and some of it is truly awful - I thought I was nailing it at the time, but I was playing wrong inversions, wrong tonalities... all over the place. Over time my ear improved, and it's one my most useful and treasured abilities now in a gig situation.

    Admittedly, it's not quite as gratifying in the very outset - There is a cheap satisfaction to be gained from learning from a *correct* tab and being able to say "waheyy it's just like the CD", but you haven't really earned it. Damn, that sounds conceited now I read it back. :p

    Nevertheless, if you can put the time in now to develop your ear, there is no way you could possibly regret it down the track, IMO.
  20. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    Full disclosure, I'm a certified Fender technician working in a music store that carries Fender, Yamaha, and Ibanez products among others.
    +1 here, and nothing to add except that learning tunes by ear also helped me learn tones. I learned a lot about playing technique and using the various parts of the neck, finger pressure, finger/pick/thumb/slap technique, etc by trying to cop Geddy's or Stanley's or whomever's tone with just my hands. I don't think any tab could help with that.