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How long to learn a new track


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#1 lowdowner

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 07:52 PM

Looking at some new dots today (see http://basslessons.b...ptions.php?i=94 for a current example) and it started me wondering how long it took people to learn a new track in readiness for performance?

I realise this depends on the complexity of the track but in the case of Doobie Brothers "Long Train Runnin'" what do you reckon? 2 hours of effort, 8? 16?

Is this a 'how long is a piece of string?' question?
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Posted 20 April 2017 - 07:57 PM

So there's two sets of memorisation here: you can probably get the finger memory for the parts quickly, especially playing along with track. Then there's the broader memory of the song for and changes between the different sections. I wouldn't like to commit to your timings but it depends on you and the tune: Ramones or Pink Floyd... very different.

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 08:06 PM

I do it in chunks, so each riff/ section then chuck them together. Most stuff I can get down quite quickly then it's just practice practice practice to get it as good as I want it. Easy stuff like Creedance Clearwater Bad moon rising took about 5minutes, some stuff can be a couple of hours spread over a few nights (i divvy up my practice so only do fifteen minutes of new stuff a night unless I really need to squeeze it in). I don't do super complex stuff yet but know that Phantom of the Opera by Iron Maiden, or similar, wouldn't be sorted in that time scale.

#4 pbasspecial

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 08:17 PM

I have just learnt 20 tracks over a three week period for a new band.
Get them to where I am 80% happy with them but I know in rehearsals they are probably going to:
1. Change the arrangement
2. Change the bloody key!
I work on the Pareto principle/80/20 rule whereby you get 80% of the result from 20% of the effort e.g. 1 hour of practise will get you 80% and 5 hours will get you 100%.
I am experienced enough that I wouldn't want to spend 5 hours of my free time learning a song and then they either do 1 and/or 2 or possibly no. 3. Which is drop the song all together. Now that's really annoying but have only lost 1 hour as opposed to 5.

#5 inthedoghouse

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 08:23 PM

A lot can depend on if I've heard the track before as well as how easy/difficult it might be. One of my biggest probs (in the main) isn't so much learning the parts as remembering where all the changes come if it's song I haven't heard before or often.

As you say, how long is a piece of string. It can be a few minutes or quite a few hours. I usually break things into chunks too. Once I've learnt it I'll keep at it over and over almost ad nauseam until it's well and truly in my head and hands.

#6 lowdowner

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 08:24 PM

View Postpbasspecial, on 20 April 2017 - 08:17 PM, said:

I have just learnt 20 tracks over a three week period for a new band.
Get them to where I am 80% happy with them but I know in rehearsals they are probably going to:
1. Change the arrangement
2. Change the bloody key!
I work on the Pareto principle/80/20 rule whereby you get 80% of the result from 20% of the effort e.g. 1 hour of practise will get you 80% and 5 hours will get you 100%.
I am experienced enough that I wouldn't want to spend 5 hours of my free time learning a song and then they either do 1 and/or 2 or possibly no. 3. Which is drop the song all together. Now that's really annoying but have only lost 1 hour as opposed to 5.

yup - good answer... the 80/20 rule is right IMHO
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#7 chris_b

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 10:37 PM

I had heard it on the radio years before, but the first time I played Long Train Running was on a gig. I knew it by the end of the second verse.

I rarely play complicated stuff but if anything won't go in I'll just write a chart.
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Posted 20 April 2017 - 11:15 PM

It depends on the song. Long train running has a pretty simple structure so wouldn't take long. It depends on if I know the song by ear. I've got a good ear and pick stuff up pretty fast.
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#9 lojo

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 05:12 AM

learning the song make up (lines, fills , breaks , middle etc) can be learned very quickly , sometimes 2-3 listens, but keeping a structure and those in your head to perform confidently without notes / sheets is where I struggle , easier for stuff you like or already have heard a million times .

I guess there are 2 parts to playing covers , learning the line and knowing the structures well enough to play without hesitation and be what a bass should be , the absolute rock

Doobie Brothers is a good example , easy line to learn , but so many bands miss getting tight with order of differing verses and the slow down part

Edited by lojo, 21 April 2017 - 05:17 AM.


#10 bazztard

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 05:23 AM

my piece of string is 22cms

Ramones song- 5 minutes , tops

Rush or Dream Theatre? allow 2 or 3......YEARS lol
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#11 xgsjx

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 06:34 AM

2 days ago I was given 5 worship songs to learn for Sunday morning, which is generous as I usually get the set list either Thursday evening or some time on Friday. One of them I've heard before, the other 4 are unknown to me.
I got given links to the Youtube vids & chord sheets as PDFs. One of the songs is not in the original key (it's up a 5th), but it's straightforward enough.
As of last night, I can play all the songs comfortable with the PDFs in front of me. This evening & tomorrow evening I'll spend a couple of hours practicing them without the PDFs, so on Sunday I can enjoy playing.

The good thing about these songs is that they only have about 4-5 chords & are easily broken down into Verse, Pre, Chorus, Bridge 1 & Bridge 2. Then you watch/listen to the MD for how the arrangement progresses.

The other band that I'm in, well the songs are there, but not ready to gig. :lol:

#12 Steve Browning

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 06:57 AM

I wonder if Alan Lancaster is lurking out there somewhere. Any ideas Alan? :)
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Posted 21 April 2017 - 10:13 AM

Long Train Running: If this was a tune alien to me: To get it nailed to the point I could easily adapt to a change to the arrangement, key change ect about an hour. And then I would probably make a note of the arrangement and take it along just as a back up.

To get a something I care about or perhaps more complex right, I could spend a week on and off , possibly more as a work in progress, but then there would be some personal gratification in that which warrants it.

I have a gig this evening where three sets are required. Its a last minuite.com job so some set fillers have been suggested. Billie Gene, Happy, Valerie type stuff. These are gonna get about 20 minutes play through/re-learn each later on but more due to the circumstances rather than any sonic perfection. I'm unlikely to go near these set filling monstrosities till the next panic so probably wont be giving them any real value time any time soon.

#14 Bilbo

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 10:15 AM

Depends entirely on what it is. I am working on the melody lines of Fugata by Astor Piazzolla and it is taking forever as the lines are really intricate. Recently learned Most Precarious by Blues Traveller and it took five or ten minutes.
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#15 chris_b

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 10:19 AM

For me, the wider technique for learning a song is to get the feel, groove, structure and sections sorted. The repeats, intro, outro and riffs come later.

Once you understand the structure and relationship of the sections the key can be moved around as required.
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Posted 21 April 2017 - 10:37 AM

in the case of the op, i reckon an hour or so and then it would be nailing the extra fills.
but it really depends on the complexity of the song, i'm currently working through Sir Duke, but only get 10-15 minutes here and there to pick it up so it taking a while but with that one its more down to gettting the speed of the main break/riff right, the song itself is fairly straight forward once you have the parts.
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Posted 21 April 2017 - 10:47 AM

Our band has been booked as the backing band for this years Northern Soul Festival.... So I'm currently learning sets for 6 artists, approx 80 songs. I have between now and September to get it nailed so a good bit of time.

The down side is there are pretty unknown songs, I have the dots which helps but you still need to understand the songs. I've always found that a few days of continuous play in the car/ipod/home system helps massively when coming to pick up the bass and learn the song.
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#18 dlloyd

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 11:11 AM

Depends entirely on the context. What's the gig? How big is the setlist? How much am I being paid?

For the tune in question... Five to ten minutes to learn a passable version.

As far as rehearsing it goes... depends again on context. With musicians I'm comfortable with, one run through should be enough to produce a tight performance. A band I haven't played with before... depends how good they are.

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 11:47 AM

Yes, It entirely depends on the song. I Predict a Riot just doesn't want to stick, I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor was almost gig ready after 30 mins home practice and a coupe of run throughs with the band.
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Posted 21 April 2017 - 12:10 PM

View PostNicko, on 21 April 2017 - 11:47 AM, said:

Yes, It entirely depends on the song. I Predict a Riot just doesn't want to stick, I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor was almost gig ready after 30 mins home practice and a coupe of run throughs with the band.
we had completely the opposite outcome with those two, just goes to show really :rolleyes:
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Posted 21 April 2017 - 04:14 PM

Also, it depends on how you define learning a song. I have songs where I can play the bass part perfectly but couldn't name a single chord whereas a Jazz musician won't define a song as known unless you can play it in all keys and improvise over the changes.
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#22 dood

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 04:32 PM

Yeah, pretty much agree with everything said so far. It depends on the content of the song. Last year I had three dep gigs together for three different bands with only a few songs that were the same between them. I learned all three sets in a month totalling some 80 odd tunes. What made these songs more difficult to pick up is that one band strung the whole set together via medley versions and interesting musical segways, so not really learning straight from a known source. As a rule, I don't go in with 'nearly right' bass lines ever.

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#23 Japhet

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 04:46 PM

I always have a few listens through and write down the structure first, and I always take those notes to rehearsal so that when the guitarist launches into the middle 8 at the wrong time I know I'm right. Learning the actual song can be anything from a few minutes to eternity and beyond in my experience.
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#24 leschirons

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 05:46 PM

The upside of being an old git in his mid 60s is that I've heard hundreds of thousands of songs over the years. I only play in covers bands so the chances are, I've come across 90% of the songs I'm likely to be asked to play even if I've only heard them once or twice. It's still an advantage. Obviously it depends on the song and a lot of the French songs I get asked to play are unknown to me but I reckon I can do a passable version of anything pop or rock in about 30 mins.

At the last gig, we had a request for "I want to break free" Only the guitarist had ever played it and only at home😂

Singer seemed to know the words and the guitarist had learned it in D. We had to up it to E and then went for it. It's not a hard song by any means but familiarity is the key. It was perfectly gig-able and is now in the set.
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#25 Dad3353

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 06:26 PM

View Postdood, on 21 April 2017 - 04:32 PM, said:

...and interesting musical segways...

Such as these..? :lol: :P

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The word you were looking for is, I believe, 'segue'. A common enough mix-up, but always good for a quick chortle. :D
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#26 dood

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 06:36 PM

View PostDad3353, on 21 April 2017 - 06:26 PM, said:

Such as these..? :lol: :P

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The word you were looking for is, I believe, 'segue'. A common enough mix-up, but always good for a quick chortle. :D

If I'm honest, I have no clue. I'm sat here, over tired with baby puke drying on my trousers. I'm not sure even what day it is; I've have been entertaining family and a very demanding youngster for the duration. Frankly, I am surprised I managed to get this far.

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#27 M@23

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 08:33 PM

I think it depends how you learn too. If you have good ears and know a bit of chord theory then working the basics out only takes a few minutes, for straight forward pop tunes anyway.
Another reason the numbers system is so useful, is that many people can play parts brilliantly in the original key; but only in that key!

#28 Phil Starr

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 08:36 AM

View Postlowdowner, on 20 April 2017 - 07:52 PM, said:

Looking at some new dots today (see http://basslessons.b...ptions.php?i=94 for a current example) and it started me wondering how long it took people to learn a new track in readiness for performance?

I realise this depends on the complexity of the track but in the case of Doobie Brothers "Long Train Runnin'" what do you reckon? 2 hours of effort, 8? 16?

Is this a 'how long is a piece of string?' question?
this feels like taking my clothes off in public but if like me you are an 'intermediate' player you'll be very depressed by some of these answers, it takes me longer than this and from some of the conversations I have with other bassists and gigging bands I'm not totally alone in this. To give some context I've been involved in three start up bands and I'd reckon to learn three or four songs a week depending upon complexity spending about two or three hours most evenings working on them. They'll be all I listen to in the car whilst I'm learning them and I'll use every cheat I can (You Tube, tab,etc.) to get there. Like all the pro's here I won't gig unless I'm 100%. In all I've found it takes about twelve weeks to get a two hour set together from scratch.

The other thing no one has mentioned is genre. So far I've played modern pop, indie, 70's Rock, glam rock, 80's rock, each tends to have its own little tricks and it can take a while to get your head round new stylistic things. That slows you down, or maybe it's just me :)

Apart from that the pattern is pretty much what other people describe, breaking it down into parts, concentrating on structure and listen listen listen. No song has beaten me yet but I've taken a month to learn the more stretching ones and as soon as you get quicker at learning you inevitably end up being given something even more challenging to learn.

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 09:11 AM

I spend about 20/30 minutes a day playing through a Spotify playlist of songs I don't know. I try to use the same playlist for a week. Day one, I play through the song with chords up on my iPad and I aim to be able to play through the playlist fully, allowing for getting my ear in for the first verse (and chorus). After this, I then stop looking at the prompts for chords and rely on my ear to guide me. Day two, repeat the process but as I have more familiarity, expect to be able to pick it up within the first 8-16 bars and remember what had been played the day before. Day three, I usually have the initial structure memorised and then concentrate on the groove elements and putting a bit of personality into it. If the band have any links or specific ideas to them, I get those locked in at this point too. Day four, adding any fills or embellishments I think would work and having a bit of trial and error, keeping the good bits. Day five, either treating it like a gig or actually playing it at a gig (if the process is for a dep gig).

I think because I do this regularly, it's improved my memory and ear to the point I can usually learn a dep set of up to 2 x 45 mins in about 2/3 days at a decent level. Maybe a day more if they have specific structures or links, pushes or other bits that need adding in. It's good practice if you get thrown in at the deep end in a jam etc too!

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#30 phil.c60

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 10:20 AM

View PostPhil Starr, on 22 April 2017 - 08:36 AM, said:

this feels like taking my clothes off in public but if like me you are an 'intermediate' player you'll be very depressed by some of these answers, it takes me longer than this and from some of the conversations I have with other bassists and gigging bands I'm not totally alone in this. To give some context I've been involved in three start up bands and I'd reckon to learn three or four songs a week depending upon complexity spending about two or three hours most evenings working on them. They'll be all I listen to in the car whilst I'm learning them and I'll use every cheat I can (You Tube, tab,etc.) to get there. Like all the pro's here I won't gig unless I'm 100%. In all I've found it takes about twelve weeks to get a two hour set together from scratch.

The other thing no one has mentioned is genre. So far I've played modern pop, indie, 70's Rock, glam rock, 80's rock, each tends to have its own little tricks and it can take a while to get your head round new stylistic things. That slows you down, or maybe it's just me :)

Apart from that the pattern is pretty much what other people describe, breaking it down into parts, concentrating on structure and listen listen listen. No song has beaten me yet but I've taken a month to learn the more stretching ones and as soon as you get quicker at learning you inevitably end up being given something even more challenging to learn.

+1. You are not alone.....

Edited by phil.c60, 22 April 2017 - 10:20 AM.






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