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How do you learn songs?

Pat A Flafla

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I'd have to go with all of the above from when I was gigging, except for the way Pat does it. That's a lot of practice,

It actually *saves* me a lot of practice. Last week I had a fill in gig with a song I hadn't heard of before, that has several changes and one unusual hit. It was 1 day lead time and I was going to have less than an hour on kit to brush up on lots of other tunes, so I scratched out the attached (ugly) chart while eating lunch at my desk. When I chart at home I usually do it in Finale, but I scanned this into Mobile Sheets, ran through it once at home, and it went off without a hitch at the show. Total prep time 15 minutes. I guess 16 if you count importing it to the tablet.
 

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dcrigger

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If I'm just "learning" it for myself - meaning something new I want to play along with... I'll generally just jump in and try and suss it out on the fly - while trying to play it multiple times.

But for anything that I need to learn/prep for a gig or under a deadline... if there's already a chart, I sit down with it and while listening, I'll mark up that chart. Much of that - I'll just tend to remember... but it is through the act of marking it down, that the memory is really imprinted for me.

If there's no chart - then in a similar fashion, I write one.

Under a time crunch - I've prepped for many a gig or session just doing this process - never even sitting at the drums. In fact that's the case most of the time. Because so much of the time, it's not about learning how o play what's required, but more figuring out what's needed.

Of course, if the music demands playing things beyond what I can call up on demand - then after getting the chart in order, actual practice is essential. Subbing on Lion King required that - a lot. As did Les Miserable. Lion King just had so many specific, unusual grooves coming up one after another - along with al of the start/stop, weird transitions, musical-type stuff. So lots of actual shedding with those.

But with most gig type stuff - creating or marking up the charts takes me a long way.
 

Drm1979

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If I'm learning a cover I mostly learn by ear and repitition. If i find myself struggling with a part i'll listen and write out the part to figure it out. Also there's a wealth of free sheet music parts to most popular songs on the web these days.
 

Ludwig4life

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I agree with all these methods. One I would add is playing the songs with no chart , no music, and mixing up the order of set
This forces me to think about the song and not rely on cues to visualize the next part and hum entire melody in my head.

no help just me , drums , and click track
 

Vistalite Black

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Lots of good answers ... Now, here's an honest response.

I search YouTube for a drum cover, and then I look for the youngest kid doing a playthrough... Typically, these youngsters focus on the fundamental beat of the song. Once I have the gist, I build from there with help from videos by older, more accomplished drummers.

System of a Down-Toxicity, Drum Cover, 5 Year Old Drummer, Jonah Rocks - YouTube
 

Toast Tee

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I agree with all these methods. One I would add is playing the songs with no chart , no music, and mixing up the order of set
This forces me to think about the song and not rely on cues to visualize the next part and hum entire melody in my head.

no help just me , drums , and click track
I can do that with 4 songd (well that may have been funny if I were Adam Sandler circa 97)
It actually *saves* me a lot of practice. Last week I had a fill in gig with a song I hadn't heard of before, that has several changes and one unusual hit. It was 1 day lead time and I was going to have less than an hour on kit to brush up on lots of other tunes, so I scratched out the attached (ugly) chart while eating lunch at my desk. When I chart at home I usually do it in Finale, but I scanned this into Mobile Sheets, ran through it once at home, and it went off without a hitch at the show. Total prep time 15 minutes. I guess 16 if you count importing it to the tablet.
That is such a huge advantage, and I'm sure you have steady work. I have had 3 friends who can do that. They all have made their living playing drums.
I remember one of my friends told me he'd have a China he wouldn't use as a makeshift music stand. Idk if he'd always need the entire charts, but I always found that amazing. I can see playing a simple rock groove by chart, but when the fills come, my bpm would have had to drop from 120, to 30. I don't know how well that would fly lol.
I remember learning the Royster 11, or 12 year old linear groove from Burning for Buddy. Thag took me weeks just to play through it, and not even at tempo. To this day I wonder if someone wrote that part out for him, or if he came up with that himself?
I've always had difficulty reading many linear grooves especially. That being said, I don't think I could have learned that w/out having some reading ability. Thoes who can pick that, and other grooves up by ear, have far better ears than I ever had. Occasionally I'll surprise myself, but that didn't happen to often.
 

itsjjp

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By ear, by listening. I grew up playing with the radio, and firmly believe it made me a solid drummer. I listened to each track and tried to make my junk kit sound like the recording by how I played and not by muffling or unmuffling for example. I copied everything in terms of feel, dynamics and sound. If I couldn't figure out a part or fill, I played what I could without losing the tempo. These days when I can't figure something out, and feel the song needs it, I look to YouTube for examples of how to play it like the recording. However I'm more likely to replace it with my own fill, and I tend to improvise in general and focus more on feel and tempo than exactly matching a song note for note.
 

Living Dead Drummer

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I write arrangement charts. If a part is harder, or very specific I'll write out the actual music as well. A typical chart will look like this:

Intro x 4
VS x 8
CH x 16
VS x 8
CH x 16
Solo x 16
Bridge x 8
CH x 16
Ch x 16

Now this is a generic rock song kind of arrangement, but you get the idea.
 

FatBoy46

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I'm just curious to how other's are learning new/challenging songs in 2021?
Has this changed for you in the past 10+ years, and if so, how so?
Listen, listen listen and listen more.. assuming you have a set list--- make notes on tempos, breaks, figures- comping or not for the soloists...I get gigs for folks I haven't played with for years or ever.. I ask for any recordings they have- or at least the version of the song they'll do and listen to that artist- My band doesn't do 'covers' so we paly them "like they should have been recorded"
 

gra7

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For a song I am not familiar with, I first search online for the BPM of the song and then listen to the song at least twice, looking for key sections of the song - important fills, breakdowns, vocal hooks etc - and make notes for that. I will next see if the original band (or maybe other drummers have a drum cover) posted the song on YouTube and see how my notes compare to what they have played. This whole process will take around an hour on average.

Next I will overdub the click track on top of the song and make a recording of that so the click begins two bars prior to the song and continues at a just audible level throughout the song and continue till after the song ends. I then listen to this overdubbed version a few times and then leave it until the next session.

On the next session I listen to the overdubbed version twice before attempting to play along with it on the kit. I focus on playing the primary groove and take educated guesses at the key sections I took in my notes on and see how it goes. I'll play like this maybe 5 times and then usually I will have 80-90% of the song by the end of session two.

On the next session, I will focus on the finer details like the fills and dynamics to finish off the learning of the song.
 

Roch

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I make a rough chart and add a little description of intros, fills, breaks etc...then, I play along to the recording using the chart until I am confident with things..which I never am..but repetition seems to stick...I never bring the charts to gigs...
 

notINtheband

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I listen in the car over and over and over again..............then I play it over and over again with phones to shut out the sound of my drums.............this takes awhile but after numerous and numerous takes, i feel comforatble and loose instead of tense that im going to miss a fill..............takes awhile to learn it from the beginning and I try to learn it without having to count...do it by feel....
EXACTLY!!
 

bassanddrum84

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In ear headphones, iPad. I play through it at least ten times then use moises app to remove the drums and play through so I know my parts solid. I don’t like to rely on vocals or guitar or any instrument for cues. That way if someone messes up I can keep it going.
 

GretschMan61

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I pretty much follow the same thing as @dcrigger . I use the Chart making shorthand that I learned from The book “ How to write a fast , easy drum chart “. The author is Liz Ficalora and she has now built an App you can use to write charts on your device .
 

gwbasley

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I make a rough chart and add a little description of intros, fills, breaks etc...then, I play along to the recording using the chart until I am confident with things..which I never am..but repetition seems to stick...I never bring the charts to gigs...
I pretty much do the same thing.

Depending on how much time I have to prepare for a gig will determine the detail I go into. I always go with the original "hit" version and write it out measure for measure. Like Roch, once Ive gone through this process I have it permanently memorized and don't need it at the gig.
 

Pat A Flafla

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Honestly, I'm just lucky enough to have a good memory. What I usually do is listen to the song I like on repeat. Somehow this is how I learn. Sometimes when there are some lines that I don't understand, I open to see the lyrics. I repeat them two three times, and that's all. I remember tho, there was one time I was on Karaoke, https://shirtsroom.org/karaoke, with some friends. Everybody was singing this song, and I didn't know it. So I looked up to the screen and read the lyrics. I remember it to this day.
Songs have lyrics? I could listen to a song long enough to transcribe all the instrumental parts from memory and I still won't have noticed more than a quarter of the lyrics.
 

Tornado

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Songs have lyrics? I could listen to a song long enough to transcribe all the instrumental parts from memory and I still won't have noticed more than a quarter of the lyrics.

It helps me to know key phrases sometimes. Like if the song has a break in a certain section that follows a certain lyric, I'll listen for that lyric to make sure it's coming. We do a few Bob Seger songs that have places that I have to cut out, and learning some of the lyrics was the easiest way for me to learn the song.
 

drums1225

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Songs have lyrics? I could listen to a song long enough to transcribe all the instrumental parts from memory and I still won't have noticed more than a quarter of the lyrics.
Same here. I could sing every note of a guitar solo, but couldn't even tell you what the song is about, if the title doesn't make it obvious.
 


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