How do you learn songs?

AZslim

Senior Member
All,
I'm learning songs for a new bad, mostly covers. As I was practicing them, I was wondering how different drummers go about learning songs. Maybe there would be a more efficient way
I could learn them. Right now I listen to the recording until I have the basic beat, this usually only takes a few minutes. Then I start learning the breaks and fills. This is the time consuming part. I almost always find a cool little lick in every tune. Sometimes the cool lick is too time consuming and I have to change it or leave it out.

I'm asking how you get a song gigworthy as quickly as possible. I know we can always make them better with time. Do you memorize the song before you play? Do try to play every fill note for note? Do make notes? If you do, what kind notes do you take?
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
I do the same as you are doing. I learn the basic song well enough to play it with the band. I revisit the songs whenever I get a chance and I slowly learn all of the fine points a little at a time.
It is kind of overwhelming to try and learn a lot of songs in fine detail all at once.
The main thing is to get the songs to a point where you can play them in an acceptable way.
Rome wasn't built in a day!
I also sit down and listen to the songs while I am watching TV during commercial breaks. I find that it is less tedious that way. That is how I do the memory work.
I make a playlist of the songs and I work on a few of them each night.
 

Ivan Dias

Junior Member
Usualy I do the same as you, take the major beat, then the fills, the licks and so one

Its almost like that:

Major beat: very simple just to be enought to follow the track and/or the band.
When i do feel its ok a jump to the next step

The Breaks, Fills and licks:

One thing that helps me a lot with the fills is to play them almost like we practise rudiments, i slow them down and do it faster and faster as i start feeling ok to do so.

PS:
As I posted in the "Introduce Yourself" thread, i do have only 4mths druming, so, thats the way, the beginner here finds it easier to do it.
 

mcbike

Silver Member
Most of the time when my band is learning a new cover I listen to the track a few times. We get together in rehearsal and figure out how it starts and how it ends, we go over the beginning and the end and then move on to the next song. I know this isn't alot of help to beginners but thats just how we do it. We try to learn the new songs as fast as possible so we can get to working on originals.

Alot of times if there is a new song in a set we will do it at sound check, then play it in the 1st and 3rd sets. Sometimes we leave it in the 1st and 3rd sets for a few weeks until we can get it to were we like it.

Most pop songs follow really standard structures so they are easy to follow and know where the transitions are.

If I really want to learn a song note for note I will transcribe it onto paper rough once, and then copy it to a clean sheet once I work out all the kinks in it. I have this program called the amazing slow downer on my computer and I slow the track down so I can transcribe it.

Usually by the time I've written the chart out and copied it I can usually just go play it straight away. a few times some complex fills might take a minute to work out.
 

mg33

Member
I agree ... writing out the form of the song helps me learn the song faster.

Knowing the form of the song helps my memory ... 8 bars intro ... verse 8 or 12 bars ... prechorus ... Chorus.. Then lay out the arrangement ... intro, verse, chorus, verse chorus, instrumental .. etc. etc.

The form of the song give me a visual of how the song is laid out. [and if there are any odd sections]

At the top of the page, add the tempo and feel of the song at the beginning. [i.e. rock 4, shuffle, 4 on the floor dance, etc. ]

After the form of the song ... I add the fills and any changes to the drum beat for each section.

Even if you forget these notes, you will know and remember a lot of material much faster. [at least i do].
 

tomk

Senior Member
Usually listen to the songs and play along to them. Take note of specific fills or drum parts that are really important to the song and also write out the form on the song in some way you can understand. I do it very similar to how mg33 does it actually... That's pretty wierd lol.
 

Nodiggie

Gold Member
If I really want to learn a song note for note I will transcribe it onto paper rough once, and then copy it to a clean sheet once I work out all the kinks in it. I have this program called the amazing slow downer on my computer and I slow the track down so I can transcribe it.
This is what I do to some extent however, I use the lyric sheets to write notes on. It works for me.
 

Spiney

Member
I agree ... writing out the form of the song helps me learn the song faster.

Knowing the form of the song helps my memory ... 8 bars intro ... verse 8 or 12 bars ... prechorus ... Chorus.. Then lay out the arrangement ... intro, verse, chorus, verse chorus, instrumental .. etc. etc.

The form of the song give me a visual of how the song is laid out. [and if there are any odd sections]

[at least i do].
For those of us who need visual aids would you be willing to share a scan of a page of a worked out song? Thanks, Spiney
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
All,
I'm learning songs for a new bad, mostly covers. As I was practicing them, I was wondering how different drummers go about learning songs. Maybe there would be a more efficient way
I could learn them. Right now I listen to the recording until I have the basic beat, this usually only takes a few minutes. Then I start learning the breaks and fills. This is the time consuming part. I almost always find a cool little lick in every tune. Sometimes the cool lick is too time consuming and I have to change it or leave it out.

I'm asking how you get a song gigworthy as quickly as possible. I know we can always make them better with time. Do you memorize the song before you play? Do try to play every fill note for note? Do make notes? If you do, what kind notes do you take?
There have been a number of threads on this over the years, including some really useful information. Do a search and see what you dredge up.

Essentially, you need to figure out what works for you. Some combination of your ears and your eyes is usually the trick. The more senses you can get involved in memorising something, the better.

I use a wide variety of techniques incl. (first and foremost) listening to the song very carefully. If there is a chart available I'll use that to visualise the form, etc. or I'll write my own lead sheets if I have the time. If I'm pressed for time, a simple sketch of the form and groove for each section will suffice. Then it's a matter of playing along with the track until you can get from start to finish with authority and control.

If there are fills or licks that are tricky, whether I learn them note-for-note is up to the timescale. If I have time to work them out, I do. If not, I'll use a reasonable facsimile that captures the feel and/or impact of the part. You don't have to play every fill note for note, but if there is a fill that has a very specific and important job to play in the song, then I have to play something that does the same job. For example, replacing a long crescendo of 16ths on the snare with something completely different could completely wreck the vibe of the tune. Take Pride (In the Name of Love) by U2, for example: If you don't play those snare fills into the chorus, the whole thing loses something. They create just the right tension and release for the tune, and their something even a casual listener will notice if you leave them out.

But with any cover situation, you have decide on your approach. You can try to stay slavishly loyal to the original or you can try to come up with something on your own that captures the feel of the tune or creates an entirely different mood. It really depends on your concept.
 

dairyairman

Platinum Member
i have a notebook where i write down the basic structure of each song we're trying to learn. by that i mean i'll write down things like "8 bars intro, no drums", "first verse, drums come in", "chorus, play ride cymbal", etc. just the process of writing that stuff down helps me visualize the structure of the song and commit it to memory.

once i have everything written down, i keep my notebook next to me as i play along to the songs on my electronic kit. soon enough, i don't need the notebook anymore and i can basically play the songs. i never go so far as to learn a song absolutely note for note. that's just too much work! however, i will go through the trouble to learn signature fills and other things that make a drum part unique.

having done all this, i show up for band practice totally prepared only to find that no one else has bothered to learn squat and i'm the only one who has any idea how the songs go. but that's another story!
 

AZslim

Senior Member
This is what I do to some extent however, I use the lyric sheets to write notes on. It works for me.
I've done this before with originals it worked pretty well for me. Do you know where I can get lyrics I can print for classic rock songs?
 

Witterings

Silver Member
having done all this, i show up for band practice totally prepared only to find that no one else has bothered to learn squat and i'm the only one who has any idea how the songs go. but that's another story!
OOhh how I can understand where you're coming from !!
 

RogerLudwig

Senior Member
With rock songs, I print out the lyrics and try to memorize them. It makes it a lot easier for me to get the feel of the song if I know the lyrics.

Then, like others in this thread, I get the basic beat down. Then I make notes on the lyric sheet as to where fills, cymbal crashes, etc. will go.

When it comes to jazz, I need charts from which to work until I get the feel down tight
 
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