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Bilbo

Practicing Long Pieces

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I am spending more time playing guitar than bass at the moment as I am getting fewer and fewer bass gigs and there doesn't seem much point in practicing for gigs I don't have so I am working on learning to read guitar music so, in the longer term, I can become self sufficient as a player and end my days playing with myself ;)

 

This has presented me with some new challenges that I didn't expect. I have come to realise that, as an improvising musician, I have never had to spend time learning pieces that are very long. Bass parts tend to be very repetitious, solos tend to be relatively short etc. I am looking at guitar t pieces that could be five or six minutes long with endless streams of sixteenths (Bach mainly) and I have realised that long, complex pieces can take months to learn and to get to grips with. I recall a Jaco video where he said it took him nine years to learn Donna Lee. All of this has made me realise that I have come to expect to get things under my fingers in minutes or hours instead of weeks, months or even years. Bass parts are easier to read and easier to play as they are mostly monophonic and repetitious. Guitar parts can be three four or five notes with two or three distinct themes progressing simultaneously.

 

My question is, does anyone have any thoughts on learning long and difficult pieces that are that much harder to remember?

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I suspect you probably know the answer yourself already, but there’s no short cut to hard graft. As a fan of prog and tech metal, the bass parts can be like the guitar parts you’ve described. It’s just a case of breaking up the piece bit by bit, even bar by bar. The very first ‘tricky’ (or what I thought was tricky at the time) bass line was a track called Metropolis Pt2 by some cheeky little prog band. I nearly threw the dodgy transcriptions out the window they were so bad. It took me ages!

These days, I will use my DAW software or the likes of Guitar Pro to loop up sections of the song so I can practice them over and over with a virtual band. The loops will start with bars, then sections. Oh and most importantly.... slowly! Guitar Pro for example allows me to pull the tempo back to ensure proper technique in fast passages as well as remaining relaxed instead of tensing up when the tempo goes past 160 in 16ths or whatever.

keep looping. You are moving sections of music from your short term memory to long term and I understand that from a psychological angle, repetitive well spent practice will enable this better than just staring at the page hoping it will go in. :)

Edited by Dood

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I have made an arrangement of Bach's second Cello Suite but transcribed for guitar and 'Latinised'. It gets a bit lairy in places to say the least. I put it into Sibelius and have been going back to it for months, gradually commuting sections to memory and playing them slowly, sometimes as the whole transcription and sometimes a few isolated bars. Progress is evident but slow. I think the early days of bass playing, when we are learning riffs and clichés that we don't yet know are clichés spoil us for understanding the long game. Evan the Cello Suites 'untouched' are long and detailed in bass terms, years of work especially if you want to bow them!! 

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A tip I picked up on this very forum: Start at the end and work backwards.

My work flow for a new piece of music is to import the audio into Capo (other apps are available) and break it up into sections. Then I start with the last section and spend some time on it, then the section before, and so on. The benefit of this is at the end of each section, you reach another section which you are already more familiar with. Conversely, if you start at the beginning, you are forever running into 'harder'/unfamiliar bits, which makes you 'learn' to stop and falter repeatedly as you go through.

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Get a recording and learn from both the recording and the dots at the same time. The sound bit is vital, as important, if not more so, than the written music, which doesn’t really convey the feeling or style effectively (even in classical music).

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