How do YOU learn songs?

Stickman

Junior Member
Don't troll me if this has already been posted :p

How do YOU learn songs?

Do you use tabs sheets/music charts/learn by ear? Do you have your own certain way such as breaking it down in sections for example?

I have tried all three ways, - I find reading is pretty easy and accurate but I am always told not to rely on this method but I feel that I struggle learning by ear. I'll think I have the song down but then come to find that I have missed things out such as open hi-hats, using the ride, extra kicks, fills are sometimes incorrect or sometimes I just can't make it out clearly what the drummer is playing on tricky parts. - This always results in me having to break out of the sequence that I have hammered into my head to relearn the whole song again with sheets. :-(

Advice please
 

Numberless

Platinum Member
If it's a standard I'll listen to it for a while and after that I'll check out a lead sheet.

If it's a rock/pop song I'll usually learn it by ear.

If it's original music then I'll use a chart and at some point I may ask or make a midi file or something to play along to.

I think you should make it a goal to learn songs by ear, start with simple ones below your level and work on it. Developing your ear is a skill like any other and requires practice.
 

tcspears

Gold Member
I think it depends on the song, and how you're going to be playing it.

I played a gig with a children's choir the other day and they just sent me Youtube links to their past performances, so I learned by ear. They were mostly xmas songs, but I made notes on the arrangements.

If it's a jazz gig, you often are given a lead sheet 30 seconds before you play the song, and you interpret it on the fly.

If someone wants me to play a cover of a song, I'll usually listen to it and figure out the form, and just find something that works with the style/form. If they are looking for an exact cover (which is rare for me), then I would either transcribe, or have them provide me with music. Music is the best way if you are looking for 100% accuracy, but often it's easier to just play by ear.
 

Jhostetler

Senior Member
I think it depends on the song, and how you're going to be playing it.

I played a gig with a children's choir the other day and they just sent me Youtube links to their past performances, so I learned by ear. They were mostly xmas songs, but I made notes on the arrangements.

If it's a jazz gig, you often are given a lead sheet 30 seconds before you play the song, and you interpret it on the fly.

If someone wants me to play a cover of a song, I'll usually listen to it and figure out the form, and just find something that works with the style/form. If they are looking for an exact cover (which is rare for me), then I would either transcribe, or have them provide me with music. Music is the best way if you are looking for 100% accuracy, but often it's easier to just play by ear.
This.

Like Spears said, it all depends on the situation. The majority of my gigs involve a simple lead sheet where they show me the form and whatnot. The rest is up to me. If they want it perfect, I ask or try to find a transcript. The majority of the time though, most people won't notice if you aren't 100% correct. As long as it's close to the feel of the original I'd say you're fine in most scenarios. When you get obsessed with playing a piece perfectly note-for-note you run the danger of neglecting the feel and groove. Keeping the groove is way more important than note accuracy as many here will attest.
 

Superman

Gold Member
I only play rock so I can't speak for jazz. That said, unless the song has an odd beat or unusual changes I can usually just play it after hearing the song once. If it needs to be exactly like the record, some songs might take a few listens, but normally I can just feel how it needs to be played.
 

force3005

Silver Member
Hi stickchick, remember everyone does this differently and is not set in stone. That being said this is what I did and still do.
1.) Listen to the song a few times to get the melody and feel of it.
2.) Now just play with the song to get the basic beat and feel for a few times.
3.) After you feel comfortable with the basic beat or something that comes close and has the same feel as the original beat, start working on the intro and ending. Again, try to get it close, if not sounding wise.
4.) Now work on any special breaks and or fills if any in the song.
5.) Now after you feel comfortable with the basic beat, intro, ending and special parts if any make a cheat sheet. Song title, how the intro is played, basic beat, what meter the song is played at. Any notes that you can follow while playing to it. It should work like a road map and you if can play along to the song with it and it works you did a fine job on your map.
6.) One last thing, what I did was for delayed drum intros I would write a few words of the song before the bar I would have to come in, so I could start my count and hit it right. Same thing with fills or breaks, write a few words before them. After a few rehearsals with the band it was well worth it and I have a lot of song cheat sheets today. But if your band asked you to nail it just like the original this way works also. Good luck and have lots of fun.
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
I don't read so, listen, play, repeat as necessary.

I listen first to the basic kick and snare pattern and work on transitions after.


If it's tricky I loop the recording and sometimes map it out via midi.
 

gdmoore28

Gold Member
Practically all I've ever played were covers, so most songs I know by heart before ever playing it. If I am faced with a song I've never heard, I'll just learn any patterns that define the song in most listeners minds, and then I'll fill in the rest with my own interpretations. Except for "signature" drum patterns, I rarely ever mimic a song exactly the way it was originally recorded.

GeeDeeEmm
 

K.Howden

Senior Member
For songs I haven't written, whether it's a cover or an original (more often the case) I'll learn the arrangement of the tune first off. I find it's far easier to learn the the notes or indeed figure what notes I'm going play if I know the form of the song first. From my experience doing session work, it's less time consuming re-doing a take because you messed up a part rather than because you don't know where to play...the latter leads to a really uneasy feeling that definitely shows in a take.

My process, in a nut-shell, goes like so:

Step 1: Listen to the tune and define what the sections are + write them on piece of paper

Step 2: Listen to the tune and count the number of bars per section + add the number next to the section title

Step 3: Listen to the tune whilst reading the skeleton chart + count the bars along. I do this until I can know where each change is without having to count.

Step 4: Listen to the tune focusing on the melody, chords and phrasing of the other instruments.

If it's a cover I'll transcribe the snare and bass drum pattern + the main pulse (quarters, eights, sixteenths) and make a note of the instrumentation (ride, hi-hat, crash).

If it's an original I begin to generate an idea of what I'm going to play at this point and repeat until I have a transcription of the bare bones of what I'm going to play.

Step 5: Take it to the drumset, practice the tune and solidify what I'm going to play.

It's important to communicate what you've got to the person(s) hiring you at this point, just so there's no nasty surprises in the studio. Sometimes you'll have musicians who tell you to do "whatever you feel" (even if you ask them beforehand) who in actuality have a very clear idea in their head of what they want all along, but for whatever reason just assume you'll arrive at the same way of thinking as them or straight up just don't know how to communicate it! It can and does happen.

That's my take anyways.

Hope everyone has a lovely Christmas :)
 

mikel

Platinum Member
Me? By ear. Get the groove, flavour or mood of the song right and go from there. If there are any signature fills or changes, nail them and jobs a good un. Never been interested in playing note for note, the feel of the song is all. I also learn the vocal so I know the whole song, it helps to know where I am when playing and the vocal is the key.
 

Frosticles

Silver Member
For songs I haven't written, whether it's a cover or an original (more often the case) I'll learn the arrangement of the tune first off. I find it's far easier to learn the the notes or indeed figure what notes I'm going play if I know the form of the song first. From my experience doing session work, it's less time consuming re-doing a take because you messed up a part rather than because you don't know where to play...the latter leads to a really uneasy feeling that definitely shows in a take.

My process, in a nut-shell, goes like so:

Step 1: Listen to the tune and define what the sections are + write them on piece of paper

Step 2: Listen to the tune and count the number of bars per section + add the number next to the section title

Step 3: Listen to the tune whilst reading the skeleton chart + count the bars along. I do this until I can know where each change is without having to count.

Step 4: Listen to the tune focusing on the melody, chords and phrasing of the other instruments.

If it's a cover I'll transcribe the snare and bass drum pattern + the main pulse (quarters, eights, sixteenths) and make a note of the instrumentation (ride, hi-hat, crash).

If it's an original I begin to generate an idea of what I'm going to play at this point and repeat until I have a transcription of the bare bones of what I'm going to play.

Step 5: Take it to the drumset, practice the tune and solidify what I'm going to play.

It's important to communicate what you've got to the person(s) hiring you at this point, just so there's no nasty surprises in the studio. Sometimes you'll have musicians who tell you to do "whatever you feel" (even if you ask them beforehand) who in actuality have a very clear idea in their head of what they want all along, but for whatever reason just assume you'll arrive at the same way of thinking as them or straight up just don't know how to communicate it! It can and does happen.

That's my take anyways.

Hope everyone has a lovely Christmas :)
Wow, Such a pfaff!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

Destroyer772

Gold Member
Don't troll me if this has already been posted :p

How do YOU learn songs?

Do you use tabs sheets/music charts/learn by ear? Do you have your own certain way such as breaking it down in sections for example?

I have tried all three ways, - I find reading is pretty easy and accurate but I am always told not to rely on this method but I feel that I struggle learning by ear. I'll think I have the song down but then come to find that I have missed things out such as open hi-hats, using the ride, extra kicks, fills are sometimes incorrect or sometimes I just can't make it out clearly what the drummer is playing on tricky parts. - This always results in me having to break out of the sequence that I have hammered into my head to relearn the whole song again with sheets. :-(

Advice please
I just listen to the song, pick up the beat, transition's and just go with it. I have never had someone say you missed a open hi hat there. But everyone is different, some drummers feel they need to play a song note for note, I dont stress it, and im generally pretty close any way, but i cant read music either. I wished i could, but it does not hinder me.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
Not trolling you, but I did want to point you at some other threads on the subject to bring you more answers, more quicker-like:

http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=56789&highlight=learn
http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=120267&highlight=learn
http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=115486&highlight=learn
http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=92875&highlight=learn
http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=97776&highlight=learn
http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=91388&highlight=learn
http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=87750&highlight=learn
http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=63756&highlight=learn
http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=62981&highlight=learn
http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=61759&highlight=learn

For me, the answer differs depending on what it is I'm trying to do. I play in some very different playing situations, each with its own approach.
- For a cover band, or a band where I'm playing someone else's originals, it's usually a combination of listen-throughs and making my own charts (if need be). In this case, I want to be as accurate to the original as possible/required, only deviating if the bandleader/bill-payer allows it. I pay attention to the tempo, dynamics, starts, stops, song structure, and what the other instruments/vocals are doing throughout the song. I pay attention to the specific way the song is started and ended for our playing situation.
- For a band in which I am creating the drum part (either a reworking of a cover or a complete original), I work to create the drum part that best fits the music with the other band members, and chart it if need be. Then I concentrate on playing it consistently; often I do scratch recordings of rehearsals to help with this. Big ears are a help here, to catch the changes in the songs (after all, we're the only ones who have heard the song, and few times at that!)
- For a scored musical piece, I read the chart and (if available) do a listen-through with the score and the chart. Then I woodshed the hell out of it, understanding that in rehearsals stuff will change. Usually for these performances I read while playing, so the learning is based on the reading and my ability to follow the chart, not memorizing so much.
 

Morrisman

Platinum Member
I agree with the previous posts. There are different methods I use deoending on the situation:

Simple, predictable songs - listen once, then just jam along, watch for a cue at the end.

Complex songs or songs that really need to sound like the original - listen many times, find transcriptions or write some kind of chart. Read the chart at gigs for as long as it takes to learn it. Recent examples for me would be Uptown Funk, Go Your Own Way (Fleetwood Mac) and Only Whisper Her Name (Harry Connick) I wrote detailed notated charts for these.

In between these extremes would be to print out the lyrics and write a few beats, stops or cues above the words as required.

I used to learn all new songs just by listening and playing. I think you learn more thoroughly this way, but it takes me a long time for me to absorb new songs now. I'm better off reading something, then gradually weaning myself off the written chart after several gigs.
 
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