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#470498 - 02/01/07 03:30 PM Learning new songs  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Mike Dunbar Offline
Mike Dunbar  Offline


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Joined: Apr 2001
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Nashville Tennessee
How do you learn new songs. Do you buy sheet music? Learn by ear? Do you break it down into sections? On the keyboard, do you learn the right hand first, then the left, vice versa, or both at once? On the guitar do you learn the chords first, then the runs? Does your chewing gum lose it's flavor on the bedpost over night?

Just Curious,
Mike


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#470505 - 02/01/07 03:50 PM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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Scott Campbell Online content
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Cool topic, Mike.

Before I forget, when are you playing in Tampa? Fla State Fair?

Since I started writing, I have learned hardly anyone else's songs. But when I did, it was always by ear. Sometimes the odd chord would give me trouble (Beatle's in particular were tough) but I usually managed to figure it out.

Scott

#470508 - 02/01/07 03:54 PM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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Jack Swain Offline
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The only way I can remember songs is to have a clear visual picture of the storyline in my mind, otherwise I have trouble remembering the order of verses. On my songs, this is seldom a problem because the storyline is firmly planted in my mind. On the guitar, I usually have little problem hearing the changes, as long as I know the starting chord. Often times if I listen to someone else play I recognize the chords without having to look at the player's left hand.

I might search for lyrics on the internet, or listen to a recording of something I want to sing and write down the words.

#470559 - 02/01/07 06:58 PM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Jack Swain]  
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Mike Dunbar Offline
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Nashville Tennessee
Scott,
Here's a link with info on the Florida gig: http://ae.tbo.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=front_event_detail&eventID=21715
It's at the State Fair in Tampa on Feb. 15

Good answer. The Beatles sound deceptively simple, until you try to learn their stuff.

Jack,
I like the storyline answer. If you learn a song with the storyline in mind, you'll perform it "lyrically." Always good.

Mike


Last edited by Mike Dunbar; 02/01/07 07:00 PM.

You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#470660 - 02/02/07 02:30 AM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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Emily Sanders Offline
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Hi, Mike,

This is an interesting topic.

For me, it really depends on the type of song.
I use sheet music to learn songs from musiclas, classical music, religious music and choral music.

I can figure out many songs from the radio by ear - starting with chord progressions, and then melodies- as I have fairly good knowledge of chords.

Emily

#470741 - 02/02/07 02:52 PM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Emily Sanders]  
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Softkrome Offline
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Mike, I first try to learn (memorize) the lyric because I usually know the melody. If I can't work out the chords for the song, I'll resort to the internet. If I can't find what I want, I'll write out the entire melody in notation on my computer and work out the chords from the melody line as an assistance. I then try to put the song together as one, melody,lyrics,chords, and rhythm. Of course, if I have the music either in sheet form or in a book, things are much simpler, but I still start by learning the lyric. It usually works.


Softkrome
#471090 - 02/03/07 07:19 PM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Softkrome]  
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Kaika Kale Offline
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I learn the lyrics first and then the chords. The lead stuff, I just wing and play what I think would sound cool if I wrote the song. I learn songs by ear mainly.


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#471422 - 02/04/07 07:55 PM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Kaika Kale]  
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Jean Bullock Offline
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First of all: My chewing gum loses its flavor long before it goes on the bedpost.

Regarding the songs. I get the sheet music first and play the notes on the guitar. I don't learn well by ear and due to my old folk singing roots, I tend to rewrite the song a little if I don't have the notation in front of me.

Then I copy the notation into my Finale music notation program and listen and read through the song several times. Then I break it down into sections of musical phrasing, planning out where to take breaths, and sing along with the program until I have mastered all the sections. Then I use my guitar and accompany myself with chords and strumming or picking and find any tricky areas and work on them.

After that, I add dynamics and work on the song to make it my own .


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#471440 - 02/04/07 08:46 PM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Jean Bullock]  
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Mike Dunbar Offline
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Nashville Tennessee
This is interesting info, all.

Emily, I love going through sheet music sections at music stores. I have a modest collection of vocal music and quite a few Christmas pieces from my old choral master days. Most stuff for the dance band, I learn by ear.

Softkrome, another "lyric driven" approach. I'm glad to see that. One of Nashville's best session pianists, Willie Rainsford, wants a copy of the lyrics as well as the number charts. Willie's always there for the song.

Clamman, and another lyric guy. Then chords and lead by ear. Good stuff. By the way, I had razor clams in Oregon that were incredible. What do you get up there in New Hampshire?

Jean, same with my chewing gum, although pizza tastes pretty good next morning, if I remember to close the cover on the box and keep the flies off...without my glasses they look like black olives. A multi-pronged visual approach, eh. I like the idea of reading and then copying. I often learn lyrics by copying them, I'll put them in my book and, sometimes, just the act of copying them by hand gets me to memorize them. Keep making them your own!

Again, good posts, all. Keep 'em coming. This is interesting.



You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#471446 - 02/04/07 09:06 PM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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James B.Williamson Offline
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Where have y'all heard any new songs worth the effort....certainly not out of Gnashville!....just kidding.
I usually find the lyrics easy but keeping bangin' n clangin' til I find the chords if there's 4 or more lol

#471705 - 02/05/07 10:16 PM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Jean Bullock]  
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Lady Fitzgerald Offline
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Lady Fitzgerald  Offline
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Tempe, AZ , USA
Originally Posted by JeanB
First of all: My chewing gum loses its flavor long before it goes on the bedpost.

Regarding the songs. I get the sheet music first and play the notes on the guitar. I don't learn well by ear and due to my old folk singing roots, I tend to rewrite the song a little if I don't have the notation in front of me.

Then I copy the notation into my Finale music notation program and listen and read through the song several times. Then I break it down into sections of musical phrasing, planning out where to take breaths, and sing along with the program until I have mastered all the sections. Then I use my guitar and accompany myself with chords and strumming or picking and find any tricky areas and work on them.

After that, I add dynamics and work on the song to make it my own .


Hi, stranger!

I often learn music in the same way. If I have sheet music to work with (often I don't), I'll notate into my Finale notation program (one of the el cheapo ones) and work with it there (one bonus is I usually wind up making an arrangement for my little group so when I do, I'm part way there) since I don't sight read worth beans, don't play an instrument anymore (sold the sax years ago) and have no keyboard chops.

Being a senior citizen, the old memory isn't what it used to be (and it never was all that great to begin with...what were we talking about?) and I often find my memory of a song I knew sometime back is not quite right so I always try to find a good recording or some sheet music before arranging anything. Unfortunately, much of what I arrange is folk music (real folk, not sixties protest songs) and often there are umpteen variations for each song. This is especially true with Irish music. In that case, I go with the variation I know and let my vict...singers worry about learning a new version.

Btw, I had to give up chewing gum years ago.

Last edited by Lady Fitzgerald; 02/05/07 10:17 PM.

Jeannie

#471730 - 02/05/07 11:28 PM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Lady Fitzgerald]  
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Samuel Harris Offline
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Samuel Harris  Offline
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I just listen to the song and identify the key signature. From there, I memorize the the lyrics and "fake" the chords (on guitar). If I like it and want to preform it, I will try to add some of the lines and themes I hear on the record. This doesn't work too well if someone has tuned the guitar differently and you haven't. Lately I have discovered chordie.com You can look up a title or artist and read chords and tabs but it is an open unedited site so some contrubutors are way off the mark. It does help speed up the learning process and you can select the "key change" feature and can learn it in different keys.

#471848 - 02/06/07 09:06 AM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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Chuck Crowe Offline
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Chuck Crowe  Offline
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I almost exclusively learn stuff by ear. It's kind of a layering process... I settle in quickly with the chord changes in a kind of basic way. Then over a period of time I go back and pick up details (fills, riffs, accents, unusual chord voicings etc...).

But I can't chew gum and play at the same time... with or without a bedpost...

Chuck Crowe

#491803 - 04/11/07 02:07 AM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Chuck Crowe]  
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Linda Sings Offline
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Scorpio
Good question.
I learn music BEST and FASTEST if I can access the sheet music--even if I'm just vocally performing it. I plunk it out on the piano as I sing. I'm a visual learner, so having the notes in front of me to look at is huge. As I memorize it, I'll put the music away and just hit occasional piano notes to make sure I'm not wandering away from the pitch, until I can do it a cappella.

There are radio/band songs I want to learn that I can't find the sheet music for, though, so I can't always do that. I've noticed that just because I can sing along perfectly and on cue with the radio on, DOES NOT MEAN I'm ready to take it out to an a cappella open mic! If I take myself away from the band performance, I'm lost again.

I *still* need to go to the piano, plunk the melody out by ear, and use the same methods as above to truly learn how to sing the piece.

I'll sit in the car (or drive) looping the song I'm working on, and lead the music with my hand to get the feel for the downbeats and timing. Without the sheet music, I don't automatically know "oh that's a whole note" or quarter notes or a triplet or whatever. I may be *feeling* it OK, but not labeling right.

Practice over and over and over is about the only way, though.
I do break it into sections, yes. Especially if I'm having a rough time with certain parts. I will go over a certain phrase as many times as necessary to drill it into my head.

The most frustrating thing of all is to think I've got it and try recording it, only to find out I still sound crummy or flat in parts. frown When I thought I had it down pat. Listening to a playback definitely shows me where to work, especially where phrasing and dynamics are concerned. I might be doing something I think sounds "cool" only to find out it's overdone or melodramatic on the tape. Whoops!

I can really get hyper-critical of myself in a hurry when I listen to my own voice. Not good. Eventually--with enough practice in front of a mic & recorder--I hope that'll get better.


Linda

#491816 - 04/11/07 02:53 AM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Linda Sings]  
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Hummingbird Offline
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Victoria, B.C. Canada
If I write the music, it's in my head right away. If it's by someone else, sheet music helps, but in the absence of a lead sheet, I listen to the tune. I listen to the song a couple times, and then start singing nonsense syllables with the stuff that sticks (usually & hopefully the hook & chorus). Once I've gone through the chorus & the verse and feel I have it, I'll record myself singing it against the music to check that I'm accurate on the notes & with the rythm. Depending on the complexity, it can take a few minutes to an hour to get a song down to the point I feel I can perform it to some extent, & I'll do a rough cut just to hear how it sounds and see what needs to be tweaked. Once I have the words, melody & rhythm it's all about expression.

The most difficult thing I've had to learn is entire operas (especially in French. Italian's easier). For that I'd start with the sheet music, playing my notes on the piano. I'd listen to a recording of the opera as well. I'd also play my notes on the piano & record it, and then listen to that every night before I went to bed while reading the words. I would separate it into sections so I wouldn't feel overwhelmed. I'd spend two hours a day singing through all my parts, starting about 2 months before we went up, and continuing right up to closing night. I was sooo afraid I would lose it if I didn't run it everyday. Fun.

I've often learned arias by separating them into sections. They can be very complicated and it's often easier to learn a page at a time than to try and get it all at one go.

In my trio one of us will bring lyric sheets, and then sing the new song to the others a couple times and then we'll all start singing along, and once we have a feel for it, we'll try out harmonies. We'll sing the same song through several times, especially the chorus, trying things out and feeling our way until it starts to click.

Hummin'bird smile


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#491818 - 04/11/07 03:08 AM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Hummingbird]  
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Graham Henderson (D) Offline
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Esperance. West Australia
I usually find a midi of it. Open that in jammer from www.soundtrek.com and select a couple of rhythm tracks then tell Jammer to build a progression based on that.
Doing that, gives me the basic pattern, what key it is in, and tempo.
I then listo the midi and enter where all the section changes occure as it plays.
I them mute all the midi files, and stat telling jammer what band styles I want and when I get to the end, hit compose and listen a few times, after which a change any chords i feel it wants and when i am happy with it, i record a sing and suck over it and listo that to see if I like it.
If I want something more than the basic chord progression, when starting, I select one, maybe two melody or harmony tracks of the midi, and maybe an extra rhythm track, and tell it to build a progression out of that.
The more you select, the more complex the progression wil be.
They can get real scary sometimes i tell ya, but sure do come out woith a lot of stuff i find interesting anyway.
Graham

Last edited by Graham Henderson; 04/11/07 07:21 AM.
#491820 - 04/11/07 03:15 AM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Graham Henderson (D)]  
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Linda Sings Offline
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Scorpio
Hi Graham,
The link you just posted sent me to a talent agent's site. Where do I find this cool Jammer program? It didn't seem to be available from that link. It sounds fun to play with.
Thanks!

Linda

#491843 - 04/11/07 06:18 AM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Linda Sings]  
Joined: Feb 2001
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Two Singers Offline
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Usually At Home
Linda...

Here is the link to the Homepage for the Jammer Pro software:

http://www.soundtrek.com/content/index.php

I use it all the time. I bought the full version with all the band styles, etc. Well, actually, my wife got it for me for my birthday last year. If you got to my Soundclcik website, you can hear some of what I have done with it. The following songs were done using Jammer Pro 6 for programming the music, and Audacity for the actual recording thereafter:

So Easy In Love
Piano Purgatory
Jazzed Up And Baroque
Heartache Or Goodbye
Dear Heart

There are a few others, but these are the ones that come to mind. Other than the guitar work, which I do myself, everything else was done in Jammer Pro 6.

Here is the link to my Soundclick website. Click on the Mp3 Music page to find the songs:

http://www.soundclick.com/pro/view/01/default.cfm?BandID=276329

Hope this helps!

Alan

Last edited by Al David; 04/11/07 06:34 AM.
#491845 - 04/11/07 06:29 AM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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Two Singers Offline
Two Singers  Offline

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Mike...

My answer is very simple, but accurate. I simply listen to the song once or twice and then I play it. I learn everything by ear. I do not read music. God blessed me with an indigenous ability to hear music and know what the chords are. If I know the chords, the lead comes naturally, thereafter. In effect, lead riffs are no more than extrapolation of the various notes from the chords. The only exceptions for my ability to hear and then play are classical music and jazz that gets too far out.


I have very few exceptional talents. But, I can competently play guitar, learn foreign languages and build computers. You will notice that all three of those have one thing in common...a defined syntax. One thing builds upon another and all are inter-related in some way. For whatever reason, things that are pragmatic like that just work well for me.

As far as the chewing gum...Lonnie Donigan chewed it all before I got to it!

Best to ya, Mike!

Alan

Last edited by Al David; 04/11/07 06:29 AM.
#491848 - 04/11/07 07:27 AM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Two Singers]  
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Graham Henderson (D) Offline
Graham Henderson (D)  Offline

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Posts: 13,618
Esperance. West Australia
Sorry Linda. I missed the e, and have corrected it so it doesn't foul others as well.
As Alan says, it is a handy little program. I have only got Jammer 5 but saving up for 6 as i have used the demo one, and it has a lot of added since 5 features i really like.
I was surprised clicking the link actually sent me to one called soundtrack, given it had to add two letters instead of the one e I missed.
Graham

#491958 - 04/11/07 05:46 PM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Graham Henderson (D)]  
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Joe Wrabek Offline
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Joe Wrabek  Offline
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Garibaldi, OR USA
If I hear something I want to learn, like off the radio (and it doesn't happen very often, with the radio), I will try to catch the title and artist, then when I'm at the computer, I'll google the tablature. I uaually won't get actual tablature, but I'll end up with lyrics and chords. Then, I'll try to play it on the guitar and see if I can make it come out like I remember.

If--and this happens more often--I catch the song in somebody's live performance, I will watch real careful what the rhythm guitarist is doing, listen real careful to what the bass player is doing (because I can usually follow bass lines), and afterwards catch one of the band (or the artist, if there's only one of him/her) and ask who wrote it and what the name of the song is. And then do the google-tablature and try-to-play-it things.

Doesn't happen often, because there are very few songs written by anybody else that I can sing because my voice range is too narrow. Of the two that I did pick up during the past couple of years, one was a Doc Watson tune I heard on the radio (good for him!) and the other was a Tom T. Hall song I saw performed by a bluegrass band.

Mostly, I don't worry about it much, because I'm not going to be performing cover songs in public anyway. When I play live, it's almost always exclusively my stuff, anyway (and most of the groups I play with have gotten used to me and expect it), and my excuse is that I virtually can't sing anybody else's stuff.

The Artist Formerly Known as Moonless Joe

#492063 - 04/11/07 11:34 PM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Joe Wrabek]  
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Graham Henderson (D) Offline
Graham Henderson (D)  Offline

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Esperance. West Australia
I just had a listen to some of your stuff Alan and note you like the mixing of Baroque and other stuff as i do.
It sure opened a few mor windows for me when i found I could do that one.
Great.
Graham

#492264 - 04/12/07 04:42 PM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Graham Henderson (D)]  
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Linda Sings Offline
Linda Sings  Offline

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Scorpio
Alan,
Thank you! I'll check it out over our vacation this weekend. Cool! Looking forward to it--I could use an arranger. :-)

Linda

#492338 - 04/12/07 10:32 PM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Linda Sings]  
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Two Singers Offline
Two Singers  Offline

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Graham...

Yeah, it seems that of the various classical styles of piano, Baroque better lends itself to adaptation into other more traditional and contemporary genres. I'm sure Mike would know why that is, but I sure as heck do not! I just know that it seems to work that way. I am not a huge fan of classical music, but this has been a very interesting project! However, I doubt that there will be much general interest by listeners in this. But, I am enjoying the heck out of it!

In fact, I should have a CD available in 2 or 3 months of songs in which I have put Baroque piano riffs into modern and traditional music. I have 8 of the songs written and recorded in some degree of the evolutionary process. So far, I have 2 that are Movie Theme, I Rap, I Reggae, 1 Upswing Jazz, 1 Blues-Rock, 1 Alternative Rock and 1 Latin Jazz. I am not sure what the other 2 are going to be, but I am thinking about another Latin Jazz (have a tune running through my head for that) and who knows what else. I have tried Country several times, but can't make it work convincingly. We'll see.

Glad you enjoyed the tunes! Best to ya, cobber!

Alan

Last edited by Al David; 04/12/07 10:34 PM.
#657788 - 10/07/08 05:00 AM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Two Singers]  
Joined: Jan 2001
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Johnny Daubert Offline
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Johnny Daubert  Offline
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Posts: 7,898
New Jersey, USA
I just learn them!

Oh,,,HOW?

I have a pretty good idea of what is being played when hearing it, so I just go with my best guesses and correct the wrong ones. In past cover bands, I was the one that usually picked out the chords if someone asked for them during practice. I could hear the record as if playing, so I just found the chords and shouted them out. (Most songs we played were basic Classic Rock).

Just learned McCartney's "Only Love Remains", off his 1986 live version on YOUtube with him at a grand piano. Could see some of his arm and hand movements, so the visual combined with hearing the inversions or not in spots really made it easy for those areas.

The hard part is trying to sing that good!





Actually a Member Since 1996 or 97 (Number One Hundred Something).
Songnado I and II:
http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page_music.cfm?bandID=322686





#844610 - 09/17/10 07:22 AM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
Joined: Sep 2010
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Cody Presley Offline
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Cody Presley  Offline
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Joined: Sep 2010
Posts: 1
I first listen carefully, then play by memorising, Secondly a few months ago I found a tutorial by Marty schwartz on you tube and now I often watch his videos on youtube he just teaches songs on Youtube... and these videos are really very helpful for me, its my own experience. Moreover there is another way of learning by finding tabs for the artists of 20 century (like Lighting Hoptkins and Mississippi John Hurt) and bands like Three doors down, Creed, John mayer and Nirvana.

Last edited by Cody Presley; 09/17/10 07:23 AM.
#845103 - 09/18/10 11:11 PM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Cody Presley]  
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Joe Wrabek Offline
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Joe Wrabek  Offline
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Garibaldi, OR USA
Well, being mostly tone-deaf, I watch the rhythm guitarist's hands if I can. Now that a lot of old stuff has been youtubed, that's easier than it used to be. Sometimes I can follow it if the song is really simple (country music, preferably, because of the only-three-chords rule) and has a strong bass line; if I turn the volume loud enough, I can *feel* the bass instead of hear it, and then the guitar just has to follow what the bass is doing.

It's not like I have to do it very often. Because I also have a really narrow voice range, there's not a lot of stuff by other people I can sing anyway. As far as the lyrics go, I will get them in print one way or another. Either they're online in some database somewhere, or I'll get the author to send them to me. Occasionally I'll just have to listen to a song a lot and try to memorize the lyrics as I go along, but that doesn't happen very often.

I did some of this when I played with the Dodson Drifters, 30 years or so ago. We did a lot of old bluegrass classics, and I worked out the tablature to some of them, listening to the old recordings over and over again. Years later, when I actually saw somebody performing them, I realized I'd been dead wrong about the tablature (never entrust this job to the tone-deaf guy)--but I liked (and I think audiences liked) the way the Dodson Drifters did it better than the original.

Joe

#845339 - 09/19/10 10:02 PM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Joe Wrabek]  
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 351
Mike Siegel Offline
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Mike Siegel  Offline
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Talofofo,Guam USA
In the old days, I used to drop the needle on the LP and scribble the words as fast as I could write... it took 3,4 listens to get them close.. then recopy and listen more to get the chords... sing along with the record a bit, then practice by myself.

I kind of miss that, now I generally get the lyrics from the net, and figure out as much as i can without referring to the recording. then I refer back to it, correct anything I've remembered wrong- and if it's an older song, listen to a variety of covers on youtube...

then I try to use different instruments and see if I can get the song over, like a uke or an accordion... if it's for my group, I'll focus on the particular instrument I'll use- and get that part solid.

mike

#845604 - 09/21/10 12:35 AM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Mike Siegel]  
Joined: Sep 2008
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Keith Gamble Offline
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Keith Gamble  Offline
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Joined: Sep 2008
Posts: 49
Playing in a horn section I have found it easier to write-out my part. It is time consuming, but you truly find yourself getting into the music, and having a sense of ownership in the music; obviously not from a copyright stand-point, but having an intimate knowledge of the piece, and its nuance.

Sincerely,
Keith Gamble, Saxophonist
Booking/Info: (313)330-0346
keithgamblemusic@comcast.net
www.myspace.com/keithgamblemusic
"Gamble soaring on tenor sax like Sonny Rollins"
Muskegon Chronicle

#845609 - 09/21/10 12:50 AM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Keith Gamble]  
Joined: Jun 2006
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Linda Sings Offline
Linda Sings  Offline

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Posts: 5,601
Scorpio
Wow this thread is sooooooooooooooo Ooooooooooooooooooooold I posted on it 3 years ago when I was here before.

And I'm still having the same problems.

Urggggghh

#970598 - 08/03/12 05:11 AM Re: Learning new songs [Re: Linda Sings]  
Joined: Aug 2012
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ElizabethHannah Offline
Casual Observer
ElizabethHannah  Offline
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Joined: Aug 2012
Posts: 3
PA. US
I hear the music all times it is the energetic one to working peoples when they are in enjoyment or in sadness music is the best entertainer of world. Musics from various classical styles of piano, Baroque better lends itself to adaptation into other more traditional and contemporary genres.


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