What's a reasonable time to lear 40 songs?

AZslim

Senior Member
All,
I recently had a bad experience with a new band. I auditioned for a rock cover band who was doing older rock tunes and got the gig. many of them not so easy (at least for me), like Blue Collar Man, Radar Love, Boys Are Back and Tie Your Mother Down.

I burned all the tunes on CD's and was making road maps for them, as I haven't played them before.

At the second rehearsal, I wasn't playing these songs perfectly, in fact I was having trouble with with a couple, but some I did real well. I was getting a real bad vibe from the singer, in fact I'm no longer in the band.

I think this attitude at second rehearsal is too soon for this sort of thing.

The band didn't have a gig, so I figured I had some time. I should have talked about ti before, but live and learn.

My question is, if you havn't played most of the songs, what is a reasonable amount of time to learn them with a once a week practice?
 

ChipJohns

Senior Member
It sound like the chemistry just wasn't right.

it is my personal opinion that a new band needs to just let loose and jam together for a bit to just get to know each other..

As far as learning songs. This comes with (1) experience playing in a band and (2) your resource of songs that you know.

I know my abilities fairly well. If I am learning a lot of songs that I am not that familiar with, I would probably tell everyone. I would ask if we could first play some songs that I do know. This will help give the band a positive edge from the very beginning. I am positive THEY were very familiar with these songs. This wasn't really fair to you.

However, as I said, I know my abilities fairly well, I would also know if I was playing with guys that were out of my league..

Really it boils down to one thing.. Experience. When you know, and you know you know, confidence replaces fear.

One last point. People need to just get real. They must have liked what the heard when they asked you to join..! so, what happened. They were unrealistic concerning you. IMO you are better off not being with these guys. Sounds like they aren't real..
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
My question is, if you havn't played most of the songs, what is a reasonable amount of time to learn them with a once a week practice?
As many as possible.

I think that clear communication is needed before you suddenly "don't live up to expectations" that you didn't know were expected of you. If they expected that you have all 40 songs perfect in a week, especially after you expressed that you'd never played any of them, then you should have told them that it's too lofty of a goal and you want to set your sights a little closer to reality.

As for my opinion...I think that 40 songs should/could be learned in a month. 10 a week is reasonable, if you really want to work on polishing them. But, keep in mind that rehearsal isn't a time for learning the songs...that's what practice time is for. Rehearsal is for making sure that everyone is on the same page, locks in to the groove, and that the arrangement is understood. That's it...learn your parts at home or don't rehearse the tune that night...
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
Yeah, something here is not quite right, for mine. 40 songs in a week is a big ask, especially since you'd mentioned that you were unfamiliar with most of them. Almost as if you were set an impossible task that was destined for failure. Considering there was no gig to be up to speed for, I think they've had second thoughts and used any excuse to chop you. But then again I'm a cynical bugger by nature....so perhaps I'm reading more into this than what's warranted.
 

eamesuser

Silver Member
With no gig coming up,they should have been a little more laid back,unless they told you they wanted you up to speed quicker.10 a week is doable,but that can be tough,or slow going at first,esp if you are not real experienced with the genre of music.I will usually ask how close to the original do they want,and then I try to learn as many as I can,giving myself some easy ones so I can have a lot ready for the first rehearsal,then I will tell them what songs I may need more time to work on and ask which ones they want me to focus on for next rehearsal.I always try to learn the beat like the record,and really key fills,but I would rather concentrate on having the arrangement down,the start, the stops ,the middle eight and bridges,and the ending.When you learn a style or genre of music,you start to fill up a" bag of tricks" and usually your learning curve will increase expotentially if you are doing your prep work.
 

mrchattr

Gold Member
I think it all depends. I have been called on in a few situations to learn 50-60 songs in a week, though that is rare. My main cover band right now, Pulse, auditioned me that way. On Friday I was contacted for an audition and sent the first set from their last show, which was to be my audition (about 18 songs). On Saturday, the manager said he really wanted to find a drummer who was ready to go, so he sent me the second set as well (an additional 18 songs). On Sunday, he said he really wanted to try everything, just to see what I could do, and sent me the last set (you guessed it, 18 more songs). My audition was Monday night. I walked in there with three sheets of paper (more on that in a minute) and we played their entire show. With the exception of one or two minor errors, I nailed it all. The funny thing is that after we finished, the band asked me to come back for the second audition (we have a three audition process to get in). I agreed, and as I walked outside to call my wife to check on when I could come back, they had a quick meeting and offered me the job. No one there expected that I could learn all that stuff so quickly, they just wanted to see how far I'd get, and if I'd be honest about what I couldn't do. Instead I got the job as soon as I walked back in to set up my "second audition!"

Now, a suggestion for anyone who is joining an already-establilshed band: you can make up cheat sheets for yourself. Write out the basic beat, basic structure, etc, of songs you don't know. Take them with you, and work off of them until you get comfortable. That way, you aren't holding back the band, but you also aren't killing yourself trying to learn new material. Cheat sheets can be as drastic as actually writing out the music, or as simple as some shorthand. For instance:

Name of Song: 2 bar intro, V1 (basic rock on hats), CH (basic rock on ride), V2 (same), CH (same), BR (1 mm rest after 7th bar), CH (double time), outro (16 bars, fade out)

Name of Next Song: Already know it

Name of Next Song: Guitar and vox for 16 bars, fill into verse, V1 (latin rock), CH (hard rock, double bass), V2 (same), CH (same, heavier), BR (half time on hats), CHx2 (light then heavy), Outro (go nuts at the end, watch singer for cut).
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I think you got stuck with a strange band.

I had an audition once and they gave me a list of tunes, one of them "Freebird". Well, I asked if they played it like the record, they said "yes", we go to play it, and the end jam section was completely different from what I actually charted out on a 3x5 card from the actual song!

Of course I didn't get the gig. I didn't protest, they had a strange vibe from the beginning.

If the guys you were dealing with are actually a real working band, I think the expectations would have been different since you already told them about what you know and they were willing to deal with you. I wish you better luck on the next one!
 

Joe Morris

DRUMMERWORLD PRO DRUMMER
My first thing here is you mentioned "once a week practice" that's not your practice time its the bands practice time. You should practice the songs on your own and go to band rehersal already knowing the tunes. You dig? Band practice isn't for learning songs, its to perfect them and work on the rough spots. You should be running the songs at band practice not learning them. That you do on your own time.

To learn 40 songs it should take you about 2 days!! I have done this many many times to get gigs in my career. The biggest problem comes later on after about a week or so when you learn them that fast then you start to mix up starts, and ends, even tempo's with other tunes. Then after about 2 weeks it all comes together, but you should as a drummer be able to learn 40 tunes in about 2 days max!!
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
When I joined my last corporate band, I had about two weeks to learn 50+ songs. No charts or anything, just some CDs of the originals. They played them pretty close to the original though. So over the two weeks we went though 20 each of their regularly scheduled once a week rehearsals. Similar to the OP's situation except that this was for guitar so I had to work out all the chords, specific parts from the songs and so on. They saw that I had written out simplified charts for everything so we didn't go though the entire songs. Once they realized that I could play it, we just went though the special parts, breaks and endings. No need to go though every verse and chorus. I used some of the charts for about a month and then just put cheater notes on the set list for the next month or so.

I do this for any new gig that comes up, even if its just a short term thing (except maybe a last minute casual). Even sub gigs to the extent that I can. I write out any important lines even though I can't sight read well enough to follow them on the gig. Writing it out helps me burn it into my brain, and I can always sit down on a break before that song comes up and go over the part again.

On drum gigs, I try to make at least a simple counting cheat sheet for everything. You can even do this driving (less distracting than a phone to just count along, reach over to a piece of scratch paper and scrawl the bars in the verse, chorus, bridge and how many of each). Then I can re-do it neatly for the gig or rehearsal.

Homework is what separates the men from the boys. Coming in to rehearsal prepared to play the song like the record. Then if they change it up, it's a simple matter to ask if there's any differences, scrawl them on your chart and hit it.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
I think canning someone after a 2nd rehearsal is pretty lame, and shows a lack of living in the real word. I.e. if you want perfection, be prepared to pay for top level players. If you aren't willing to pay for top talent, realize the next level down is going to require a few rehearsls to smooth things through.

On the other hand, If it's a cover band, doing oldies, it's reasonable to assume a player knows most of the songs before hand. It's not like the songs listed are obscure, or originals you have never heard. You should have done your homework before even auditioning or joinig the band to become familiar with typical classic rock songs.

Yeah, learning 40 tunes in just 2 rehearsals is not enough time, but if you join a cover band, you shouldn't be just learning all 40 tunes for the 1st time, you should have at least a vague idea how most of them went before hand.
 

AZslim

Senior Member
Thanks all, I feel a bit better, although it looks like I'm pretty slow to learn songs compared to some of you. I'm fine if it's a basic verse, verse chorus song with no breaks, but I'd say about half of these tunes had arrangements with a lot of specific changes or multiple breaks. With this many songs, I get them mixed up or forget them. I think part of the problem is had some down the first week, practiced new songs the next and forgot some parts to the ones I learned the previous week because I didn't practice them because I wars trying to learn the new ones.

Next time, I think I'll start with say, 10 songs, learn those, then add a few more the next week, but make sure we play those original 10 again then play the new ones. Next rehearsal play those and add more, etc.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
Yeah, although don't beat yourself up too badly mate. You've had a couple of responses from some pretty seasoned players too. Take all advice on board as a matter of course, but I honestly think it's a bit much for an up and coming player to learn 50 songs in two days. I really don't think you should lose heart that you're not able to keep up with guys who's very livelihood relies on the ability to gel instantly. You'll get there, but you gotta walk before you can run mate.

Personally, I think you got a raw deal, but use it as a learning experience and aim to set your bar a little higher next time. Sound advice given by those who stated that you should "learn" the songs in your own time and "practice" with the band though. This approach is pretty much par for the course with every cover band I've ever played in. Do as much as you can in your own time and leave rehearsals for 'run throughs' and working out any nuances that need to be developed.

All the best, my friend.
 

ChipJohns

Senior Member
Just as a follow up AZslim.

We usually run into two different situations when learning new material.;
1) The chops to play the songs. Some songs have some stuff gong on that make it more difficult to play. I remember when Toto released Rosanna. I struggled with that song for quite a while.

2) The blocking of the song. Learning a lot of songs can be difficult when it comes to blocking.

For Number one, you need to sit down at your kit and hash them out. learn/figure out how to play the parts. For number two it's a matter of memorizing the blocking of the song. For this you do not have to be sitting at your set. Keep your ipod with you all day listening to the songs whenever you can. You will assimilate a songs blocking best by simple repetition.
 

drumhammerer

Silver Member
Thanks all, I feel a bit better, although it looks like I'm pretty slow to learn songs compared to some of you. I'm fine if it's a basic verse, verse chorus song with no breaks, but I'd say about half of these tunes had arrangements with a lot of specific changes or multiple breaks. With this many songs, I get them mixed up or forget them. I think part of the problem is had some down the first week, practiced new songs the next and forgot some parts to the ones I learned the previous week because I didn't practice them because I wars trying to learn the new ones.

Next time, I think I'll start with say, 10 songs, learn those, then add a few more the next week, but make sure we play those original 10 again then play the new ones. Next rehearsal play those and add more, etc.
Don't sweat it, man. A lot of these cover bands that are pros expect you to be able to learn their set list in 2 days, and some guys can do that, but not everybody can do that. I certainly can't. I have to actually play the songs through with the band to actually learn them while making mistakes.

The reality is, is that a lot of these bands have been playing these songs over and over for a while, so they sure don't want to do that again while you learn the songs. It is much easier if you're already familiar with a lot of the songs. If you're not, then it's gonna be a monumental task learning that many unfamiliar songs. I'd say try out for a band that plays material you're familiar with, and are more casual than the pro bands that want you to have their set down real fast. I'm lucky in that I'm forming a cover band with a friend and his son-in-law, so we're basically learning all these songs together at the same time, so it's much more relaxed and fun. Cover bands are a lot of work either way.
 

ChipJohns

Senior Member
Interesting point I was thinking about. The Professor, Neil, usually starts about two months before he goes on tour to refamiliarize himself with his own songs.

Guess these guys would have been unhappy with him too!
@:)
 

AZslim

Senior Member
Interesting point I was thinking about. The Professor, Neil, usually starts about two months before he goes on tour to refamiliarize himself with his own songs.

Guess these guys would have been unhappy with him too!
@:)
I knew the band was a bad fit, but I did want to find out how off the mark I am in general, so I can get a better fit next time.
 

Masheanhed

Senior Member
Was this a cover band that plays twice on weekends every weekend or a cover band that plays once a month or one starting up that plays cookouts? If a bunch of yokels starting up a weekend party band expect you to learn 40 songs in a week that is too much. A band that is gigging regularly and pulling in some bucks every weekend I think would expect you to learn the songs quicker. If you have a day job it is hard to learn half that many to the letter in one week. If all you do is play drums for a living, well that is a different story.

I auditioned for a band once that one of the members got really upset because I did not know all their songs the first night I showed up, even though I asked for a song list a week before my audition but was never given one.
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
One more thought...most cover bands I've been in and subbed for just kind of "expected" you to know the tunes, or at least be familiar with them. If not, why would you be in contact with them(?), is their thought.

It's like when you go to a jazz jam session and someone calls out a tune like "St. Thomas" or "Autumn Leaves": it's kind of expected that you'll know them, 'cause they're some of the songs that EVERYONE who's well-versed in the genre knows. If you can't play them at the drop of a hat, then your knowledge and understanding of jazz will be severely questioned, and therefore the actual credibility of you being on that stage at that moment, and you'll probably even get booed off the stage by the jazz snobs!
 

AZslim

Senior Member
Was this a cover band that plays twice on weekends every weekend or a cover band that plays once a month or one starting up that plays cookouts? If a bunch of yokels starting up a weekend party band expect you to learn 40 songs in a week that is too much. A band that is gigging regularly and pulling in some bucks every weekend I think would expect you to learn the songs quicker. If you have a day job it is hard to learn half that many to the letter in one week. If all you do is play drums for a living, well that is a different story.

I auditioned for a band once that one of the members got really upset because I did not know all their songs the first night I showed up, even though I asked for a song list a week before my audition but was never given one.
That's the thing. They hadn't played many gigs, and said they thought they would play once or twice a month. Sounded like I would have some time.
 

AZslim

Senior Member
One more thought...most cover bands I've been in and subbed for just kind of "expected" you to know the tunes, or at least be familiar with them. If not, why would you be in contact with them(?), is their thought.

It's like when you go to a jazz jam session and someone calls out a tune like "St. Thomas" or "Autumn Leaves": it's kind of expected that you'll know them, 'cause they're some of the songs that EVERYONE who's well-versed in the genre knows. If you can't play them at the drop of a hat, then your knowledge and understanding of jazz will be severely questioned, and therefore the actual credibility of you being on that stage at that moment, and you'll probably even get booed off the stage by the jazz snobs!
This is a good point. I havn't been playing classic cover tunes for thirty years. Even if I've heard a song for thirty years, learning to play it is a different animal for me. I find a lot of little nuances I never heard while casually liistening to it.
 
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