How To: Transcribe Song For Drums - i.e. Learn To Play Covers

ZootELoops

Senior Member
I have been taking lessons from a pro for almost a year now. We have been working on technique/rudiments, working mostly from 'Syncopation' and 'Stick Control'. I feel I am at a point where I would like to grow as a drummer and I have searched out for other fairly new musicians (1-2 years experience) to play with. I have found a lead guitarist and a bassist to start practicing with in a couple weeks. We are going to be playing mostly hair metal cover tunes.

My question is, what was the best thing you did to start learning how to transcribe and learn to play cover tunes. I have yet to apply what I have learned in lesson to the whole kit with a specific song in mind, although I can roughly play through these songs on my own, keeping the basic beat. I am specifically asking what you do to break-down the song, to be able to count it out, play the unique parts, and reproduce the exact beat that has ben recorded.

I have 2 weeks to learn about 10 songs for our initial practice and although I am excited to play with people, I am very nervous that I will not live up to the expectations if I do not learn these songs and can drive the beat from start to finish, including fills and changes.

Any advice in how you approach this or how you started to learn how to play cover tunes would be greatly appreciated.
 

zambizzi

Platinum Member
Learning and transcribing cover tunes is an excellent way to grow as a player. I'm always learning at least one, even if I'm not playing it w/ a band. Part of practice every night is playing along to some music.

Start with something simple and transcribe the transitions, fills, etc. that you don't immediately understand. Spend some time working them out repetitively until they feel natural and you can do them in a relaxed manner (muscle memory). It doesn't hurt to chart an entire song but that's obviously more time consuming.
 

jeffwj

Platinum Member
Have you worked on any drum set with your teacher? If not, you should probably pick up a copy of Rod Morgenstein's Drumset Musician and work out of it. The patterns in that book are largely based on contemporary and classic rock tunes. By working on the book, you will start to recognize patterns and learn what they look like written down. This will help when you are transcribing.

There is also a book called The Art of Transcribing Drum Set which should be very useful for you. Here's the link.

http://www.steveweissmusic.com/product/1101898/drum-set-methods-cd

Jeff
 

ZootELoops

Senior Member
Have you worked on any drum set with your teacher? If not, you should probably pick up a copy of Rod Morgenstein's Drumset Musician and work out of it. The patterns in that book are largely based on contemporary and classic rock tunes. By working on the book, you will start to recognize patterns and learn what they look like written down. This will help when you are transcribing.

There is also a book called The Art of Transcribing Drum Set which should be very useful for you. Here's the link.

http://www.steveweissmusic.com/product/1101898/drum-set-methods-cd

Jeff
Yes, our lessons involve me sitting behind a kit. We have worked through Syncopation and an Elementary lesson book. We are now doing stick control. I can read and understand sheet music as well. How would this book help beyond that?

As for the transcribing book, I'll look into it.
 

Monica McCoy

Senior Member
I start by making tabs for what I'm hearing. Then I'll put it in music notation (or not, LOL).
Whatever I have trouble with, I bring to my weekly lesson and have teach fix it up.

No sense making it difficult on yourself. That's why you pay for lessons.

As far as disappointing the band, don't even sweat it. No one is expecting perfection on the first go-round. That's what rehearsal is for...to iron out the kinks and dial it in.

Relax, count and keep time. Everything else will fall into place. :)
 

jeffwj

Platinum Member
Yes, our lessons involve me sitting behind a kit. We have worked through Syncopation and an Elementary lesson book. We are now doing stick control. I can read and understand sheet music as well. How would this book help beyond that?

As for the transcribing book, I'll look into it.
If you are applying Syncopation or Stick Control to the kit, it probably is not in a pop or rock context. The Drumset Musician book that I recommended will help to introduce you to contemporary patterns. The more you see and play those type of patterns, the more you will be able to transcribe them.

Jeff
 

aboylikedave

Senior Member
Hi Zoot

Firstly let me say that when I started transcribing covers for the first time my playing went through the roof - its such a good way of getting in side other drummers heads and playing things you'd never have thought of yourself.

Basically I get on itunes so can keep jumping about in the track. Get a sheet of A4 paper and be quite organised on it. Some tracks you can just have a section for 'verse' and 'chorus' other tracks have different verses so you will have to have sections for verse 1 and verse 2 etc. Different tracks need a different layout. I take it a row for each verse.

Then add the fills at the end of each verse. So it ends up on my sheet as something like Intro, verse 1, fill, chorus, fill, verse 2, middle bit, etc...end. Sorry if this is too basic.

Then when I 've got the basic grooves and fills, I go over it again to work out what the cymbals are doing and in particular the crash. To do all at once would be too much for me.

Sometimes I look on the web for drum tabs to help, they an speed up the process but I find them a bit hard to read and I can never find many out there for the tracks I need. Mind you if you are going to cover popular tracks (BLink 182, Nirvana, etc etc) go straight and find a drum tab and someone will have done the work for you!.

A couple of things - firstly it takes lots of time! A couple of hours per song. Secondly I write the bits out in proper musical notation, I just find it easier to read back.

To speed things up you could just work out a basic verse groove and a basic chorus and the key fills and not worry about getting it perfect.

Good luck! Its a lot of work but if you get just some of the grooves and fills right you'll sound good and impress them!
 
Last edited:

simpson

Junior Member
Listen to the tune as much as possible and play along if you can. For years I have been putting on a set of headphones and playing along or just cranking up the stereo. Listening to a song you want to cover is one thing, but when you actually play along to the real thing you'll find yourself hitting every little note and if you miss it, rewind and do it again.

You can also learn different styles very quickly and mix it up. The other thing that happens playing along with the stereo is it helps you with the timing of the song.

I've got an I-pod thats loaded with my fav's, works for me.
 

ZootELoops

Senior Member
All great advice.

I started doing this (for the ones that I couldnt find on the internet), but where I am struggling is how to take what I hear and apply it to the kit. I also struggle to "hear" the drum track and in some cases cannot make out what is being played.

I'm getting a bit frustrated because I am having a hard time nailing the fills and beat changes especially with what I would consider easy songs. I don't get more than 30 minutes or so a day to play/practice as it is - and I don't feel like I am making any headway on this.

I also know that I have a lot of work to do on my chops and sometimes I wish I knew other local drummers (other than my instructor that charges me $30/30 minutes to just listen to the song).

Lately I just feel like I am in over my head and perhaps not ready to play with other musicians. I'm sure this is a stage that everyone goes through when first deciding to play with others but I find that it takes me quite a bit of time to learn/practice to nail a beat. I am not naturally talented or gifted with coordination. I have to work very hard (and have over the last year) to get where I am today. I don't want to make a fool out of myself by not being able to play along during our upcoming practice.
 

zzdrummer

Senior Member
If there is a fill or something fast that you cannot figure out, search and download the "Super Slower Downer" program. You have to put a cd in, but it makes it so you can fully hear the whole fill.
 

ZootELoops

Senior Member
A program like Transcribe from Seventh String Software helps a lot too. It allows you to slow things down without changing the pitch. You can also mark points so that you always rewind to the exact place that you are working on.

http://www.seventhstring.com/xscribe/overview.html

Jeff
That's REALLY cool! I downloaded it and put it on karaoke mode (to take out the vocals) - I can really hear the beat now! I will definitely pay the $50 when my 30-day trial is up.

Thanks!
 

xaq

Junior Member
don't get discouraged if you are having trouble haering the drum parts exactly or being able to play them exactly, those thigns come with time, and the other musicians are most likely far more concerned with you just keeping a steady groove that is musical and fits the songs. Definitely go to this jam session, and many more! playing with other musicians is the single best thing you can do to get better as a musician yourself, along with having a blast!
 
Top