Learning new music

haredrums

Silver Member
Yes you're totally right. I agree completely. My approach does not apply to jazz very well. I would look pretty silly on stage trying to read down a note for note transcription of someone elses solo haha.

I don't really approach jazz gigs the way I just described. For jazz gigs I generally just try to internalize the melody (if there is a form and a melody and we're not doing something completely free). I find once I've done that I know the form inside and out. Then when the band drops out and gives me an unaccompaned solo I know where I am, can play over the form and can structure my solo with motifs and licks from the melody itself which helps the audience and band to experience what I'm playing as it relates to the context of the form. At the end of the day all the other musicians have to solo over the form so why shouldn't we drummers! hehe

But yes you are of course right. Transcribing note for note from the recordings and trying to read it on a gig is not really an appropriate way to approach a jazz gig at all (though it can improve your playing in general if used by yourself in the practice room). Cheers
Well put. And I am totally with you on the soloing over the form/melody thing. In fact it is a huge part of what I work on and try to do in my own playing.
 
Hey McNeil,

Thanks for the great input. I think the approach you describe really fits the kind of music you are playing, and you bring up a lot of good points. When you are trying to "recreate an experience" for your audience, the closer you can get to the original the better.

My post was focused on the kind of music I play which is very open and improvised. So you can understand why I would recommend not trying to duplicate a recorded performance, it just wouldn't make any sense! I think that the two different approaches to performance produce these two distinct styles of learning new music. Great perspective, and thanks for sharing!
Yes you're totally right. I agree completely. My approach does not apply to jazz very well. I would look pretty silly on stage trying to read down a note for note transcription of someone elses solo haha.

I don't really approach jazz gigs the way I just described. For jazz gigs I generally just try to internalize the melody (if there is a form and a melody and we're not doing something completely free). I find once I've done that I know the form inside and out. Then when the band drops out and gives me an unaccompaned solo I know where I am, can play over the form and can structure my solo with motifs and licks from the melody itself which helps the audience and band to experience what I'm playing as it relates to the context of the form. At the end of the day all the other musicians have to solo over the form so why shouldn't we drummers! hehe

But yes you are of course right. Transcribing note for note from the recordings and trying to read it on a gig is not really an appropriate way to approach a jazz gig at all (though it can improve your playing in general if used by yourself in the practice room). Cheers
 

haredrums

Silver Member
When learning new music I listen to it and transcribe it (or sometimes just write a basic chart).

I play a fair amount of pop/rock cover gigs and as such we are not just trying to play through the songs but are trying to re create an experience for the listener as accurately as we can. So I find it generally important to try and play everything note for note from the recordings. It's a great reading challenge and of course a great challenge to transcribe the stuff in the first place. So I listen and transcribe and then read it on the gig/rehearsal. Of course it would be nice to have more time to actually play through the stuff before performing it but I generally don't have that much time. By the time I've transcribed it though I've listened to it enough that it's usually not a problem. I also find this approach is great for developing an instinct for styliscally and musically appropriate fills and avoiding stock licks. A lot of the fills on pop/rock recordings are just right for their corresponding musical moments since they had to be approved by the musicans/producers and recording engineers (a team of high level music professionals) before getting to the final track. Plus, at the end of the day they had the time to go back and redo a fill until it was just right. lol

Cheers
Hey McNeil,

Thanks for the great input. I think the approach you describe really fits the kind of music you are playing, and you bring up a lot of good points. When you are trying to "recreate an experience" for your audience, the closer you can get to the original the better.

My post was focused on the kind of music I play which is very open and improvised. So you can understand why I would recommend not trying to duplicate a recorded performance, it just wouldn't make any sense! I think that the two different approaches to performance produce these two distinct styles of learning new music. Great perspective, and thanks for sharing!
 
When learning new music I listen to it and transcribe it (or sometimes just write a basic chart).

I play a fair amount of pop/rock cover gigs and as such we are not just trying to play through the songs but are trying to re create an experience for the listener as accurately as we can. So I find it generally important to try and play everything note for note from the recordings. It's a great reading challenge and of course a great challenge to transcribe the stuff in the first place. So I listen and transcribe and then read it on the gig/rehearsal. Of course it would be nice to have more time to actually play through the stuff before performing it but I generally don't have that much time. By the time I've transcribed it though I've listened to it enough that it's usually not a problem. I also find this approach is great for developing an instinct for styliscally and musically appropriate fills and avoiding stock licks. A lot of the fills on pop/rock recordings are just right for their corresponding musical moments since they had to be approved by the musicans/producers and recording engineers (a team of high level music professionals) before getting to the final track. Plus, at the end of the day they had the time to go back and redo a fill until it was just right. lol

Cheers
 

haredrums

Silver Member
I'm not much keen on one-offs where I have to learn a lot of songs in a short time. It doesn't suit me - it's more for trained players.

I like nutting a song out with a group of friends and and don't have much of a system. Often my approach will be influenced by my current drumming fetish of the month.

Because my current band likes to cover classics and standards with some kind of different angle I like to listen to all the different cover versions I can. Like anyone else, I'll pinch the parts I like best. I have to take into account how the parts might work with the band, given their qualities and limitations.

When I sit and play the song, however, often what I've thought of goes out the window - the ears (and desire to please) take over. We'll start by jamming songs, if it breaks down at some point then we know what needs work.

I record all band get togethers and post on our private website. I love recording - that way you don't forget your best ideas. I rarely write anything down. Our music is rhythmically simple and often more sophisticated harmonically so the tuned instrument musicians cling on to their written chord structures like a lifeline :)

We work out some songs quickly (eg. Sunny Afternoon) and more complex songs very slowly (eg. Feeling Good, Sometime Ago La Fiesta - the latter may never be giggable lol).

That's pretty well how this amateur outfit does it - inefficient and fun.

PS. Agree with DumDrum (you sound anything but dumb BTW) - always enjoy your posts, Andrew.
Thanks for your perspective, it sounds like a really great method to me.

You (are we not calling you Pollyanna anymore btw?) bring up a couple great points. Different ways of learning music work for different situations. Actually your scenario is kind of the ideal way to learn music in my opinion. If you have the time and the people you are working with are willing/available to rehearse, then sitting down as a group and just playing until everyone feels solid is the best possible way. In addition the point about recording yourself is brilliant!

I don't know about you, but I have learned an incredible number things (mostly cringe-worthy) about my playing just from listening back to recordings I have made. It is really impossible how your playing is coming across as you are playing, so being able to record and evaluate your playing after the fact is one of the most beneficial things you can do. So I often when I am listening back I will find myself thinking, "Oh, that sounded like that?!"
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
I'm not much keen on one-offs where I have to learn a lot of songs in a short time. It doesn't suit me - it's more for trained players.

I like nutting a song out with a group of friends and and don't have much of a system. Often my approach will be influenced by my current drumming fetish of the month.

Because my current band likes to cover classics and standards with some kind of different angle I like to listen to all the different cover versions I can. Like anyone else, I'll pinch the parts I like best. I have to take into account how the parts might work with the band, given their qualities and limitations.

When I sit and play the song, however, often what I've thought of goes out the window - the ears (and desire to please) take over. We'll start by jamming songs, if it breaks down at some point then we know what needs work.

I record all band get togethers and post on our private website. I love recording - that way you don't forget your best ideas. I rarely write anything down. Our music is rhythmically simple and often more sophisticated harmonically so the tuned instrument musicians cling on to their written chord structures like a lifeline :)

We work out some songs quickly (eg. Sunny Afternoon) and more complex songs very slowly (eg. Feeling Good, Sometime Ago La Fiesta - the latter may never be giggable lol).

That's pretty well how this amateur outfit does it - inefficient and fun.

PS. Agree with DumDrum (you sound anything but dumb BTW) - always enjoy your posts, Andrew.
 

haredrums

Silver Member
I've been playing alittle over two years now. No band, just solo. more fun for me and thats why I started playing in the first place.....but any way,

There is so much truth to what you said in you last paragraph in your initial post. Turning your brain off an just play. I found this out kind of later on, but it's about how you approach the music. If you approach a piece with the idea it's beyond your talent, your doom to fail. Approaching a piece with the attitude that you can get it down and being upbeat goes along way.

I've caught myself trying to overthink a song I'm learning and it only leads to frustration. I've been learning some of Foo Fighters new songs, and I approached them much different than past songs. In the past I tried to get every beat and accent down perfect and it just drove me crazy and took longer to learn the song by cutting up the song into sections. Now I just listen more and play more. It takes me a few tries but it seems to come quicker and I start hearing the song better, and enjoy my time behind the kit more.
I am glad that you have had this experience and learned from it. I remember a quote from Brian Blade that was something like "If I am thinking on the bandstand I know I am in trouble".
 

jafo

Member
I've been playing alittle over two years now. No band, just solo. more fun for me and thats why I started playing in the first place.....but any way,

There is so much truth to what you said in you last paragraph in your initial post. Turning your brain off an just play. I found this out kind of later on, but it's about how you approach the music. If you approach a piece with the idea it's beyond your talent, your doom to fail. Approaching a piece with the attitude that you can get it down and being upbeat goes along way.

I've caught myself trying to overthink a song I'm learning and it only leads to frustration. I've been learning some of Foo Fighters new songs, and I approached them much different than past songs. In the past I tried to get every beat and accent down perfect and it just drove me crazy and took longer to learn the song by cutting up the song into sections. Now I just listen more and play more. It takes me a few tries but it seems to come quicker and I start hearing the song better, and enjoy my time behind the kit more.
 

haredrums

Silver Member
Thank you so much for checking out the blog, and I am really glad it is helping you with the jazz stuff!

Sounds like you have a really great system that is working well for you. I especially liked what you mentioned about writing little charts to help you keep track of things. I often do the same thing on charts that I get, but I forgot to mention this in the post. Thanks for the great feedback.
 

DumDrum

Member
First off, thanks for all the insightful posts you have on your blog Hare.. I really enjoy them and as a drummer who has played for a while but trying to learn the jazz genre, your blog has been a big help to me.. keep up the good work!

A lot of the work I have been getting lately is as a sub drummer for different cover bands.. this means that I usually have a short time to learn 30+ songs for each gig... i recently had one really hairy weekend where i had two gigs in two different genres of music that I don't really listen to, country and hiphop/reggae... I had a week to learn about 80 songs, most of which I hadn't heard before...

First, like you mentioned in your post, I try to be as organized as I can and I build a play list in Itunes as soon as I get the song list emailed to me... I spend at least a day or two just listening to internalize as much as I can.. I even go to bed with the music playing in my ears at low volume... Then I sit behind my kit and play along with the play list.. most cover gigs will consist of a lot of the same songs that are pretty simple so i make sure I know all the basic grooves and hits, making notes/simple charts only on the songs that are more difficult or that I'm really not familiar with at all... (I take the notes and scan them and then load them onto my ipad so i can easily pull them up and see them in the dark) Then I make a seperate play list of the songs that I had to make notes/charts on and spend time in the evenings tapping along on a practice pad to internalize grooves or sticking patterns for fills etc while the wife and kids are sleeping... I think something that really helps me is to use the shuffle feature when I'm rehearsing a play list because more often than not, the band leader usually just calls out tunes to play throughout the show, and it cuts down on the flutters that I get when trying to remember how a song goes the minute it's called.

There's one band that I regularly sub in where the whole show is based on audience requests... they have a huge list of songs from Rage Against the Machine to country to lady gaga type stuff... i really dig this gig because it really keeps me on my toes.. I have a pretty big 200+ play list just for that band that permanently resides on my ipod that I listen to everywhere I go... Like you said, the most important part is internalizing everything! I find that as long as I can own the grooves and signature fills for covers, no one in the audience knows the difference... as long as i "look" like i'm playing them with confidence lol!

Anyways, this is the basic learning process that I use... as a hack who can't really sight read and has to rely on memory or simple notes/charts to get through a gig... but it's worked for me so far and I've gotten a lot of calls!
 

haredrums

Silver Member
Hey Guys,

Learning new music is a huge part of being a musician, but it is not something that I see a lot of discussion about. Here is a blog post I just put together with some advice for navigating this process:

http://haredrums.blogspot.com/2012/05/learning-new-music.html

My basic position is that everything you do to prepare should be geared towards getting the music in your ear so that you can turn your brain off and just play. How do you guys approach learning new music? Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated!
 
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