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csmallett

Do you learn songs EXACTLY as they were recorded, or just the general vibe of it?

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Hi everyone!

Was telling a drummer friend of mine how I'm going to start recording bass covers and it caused a massive discussion, so NATURALLY I wanted to put it out there to get everyone's opinion:

When learning a song, do you learn every bar as it was played originally or do you get a feel for the main musical ideas instead and stick with that, and why? Does learning every single deliberate (and accidental) note take the fun out of it for you? 

Obviously this is entirely subjective, I just wondered where everyone lands on it and their thoughts behind it. 

 

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Can't speak for Bass covers, but if it helps my covers band has settled on the following:

80-90% of the time we do as close to faithful as we can get.

10-20% we follow the general sprit of the original, but not exact.

Rarely if ever do we 're-imagine' the song.

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For band use - Depends entirely on the song.

For a youtube bass cover it has to match the thing you are playing along to otherwise it won't sound quite right and you'll get armies of commentators complaining in the comments. Even if you play a line that the band did, say perhaps from a different performance of the same song the YT crowd will still have a go.

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Depends :) 

Learning at home for ones pleasure, then getting all the right notes in the right order.

But if learning to play live, then very much depends on the line up of the band.

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I wish I (and the band) were good enough to learn note for note, but we aren’t. 
So basically, I’d like to, but rarely achieve it.

Not that I think it’s totally necessary, but I’d feel a sense of achievement if i could.  

Edited by dave_bass5

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If I can establish the exact line then I’ll learn it, but depending on the band line up I might simplify if required (1 guitar with widdly solo when original band had 2gtrs etc).

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Very good question... 

I don't play very well but I try to stick to original if it sounds good and if I am able to play it. Otherwise I have absolutely no remorse to adapt it 🙂 As my teacher said : ryhtmn first... 

For example, there are songs where the bass line is quite simple but with a lot of small variations, I never remember where they fall in the song... then it's "free style" for me  IF it sounds good AND IF the band members are ok...  

For other songs, the bass line "is the song".... more difficult to adapt 🙂 

 

Edited by chris7273
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Boring answer: it depends. 

I've been in some bands that never rehearsed so it was important to all work from the same original. If I started varying the bass part and someone else was taking a cue from it, it could destabilise a part of the song. Good musicians would overcome this but we needed to sound tight so we all learned the original parts. 

Other bands I'm in I pick and choose, either write my own part, or if it's a great bassline I learn the original 

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If I am learning a song as an exercise at home I'll learn it note for note exact. When I used to play in a band doing covers I would quite happily play my version of the bass part on the record, depending on the arrangement ect.

Edited by Misdee

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There's been a couple of times that I thought I was playing something the same as it was on the original record, only to realise a fair bit later on listening to the original again that I wasn't.

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I'm not generally good enough to learn and play exact copies (depending on complexities of the song)  but try and work an adapted version. This seems to work in my covers band.

 

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I don't even attempt it. Life's too short. Unless it's a really stand out bass riff, I just follow the cord progression and try to get the general vibe. 

Nobody's listening to the bass anyway. 

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54 minutes ago, stewblack said:

Boring answer: it depends. 

I've been in some bands that never rehearsed so it was important to all work from the same original. If I started varying the bass part and someone else was taking a cue from it, it could destabilise a part of the song. Good musicians would overcome this but we needed to sound tight so we all learned the original parts. 

Other bands I'm in I pick and choose, either write my own part, or if it's a great bassline I learn the original 

I agree - it depends.

Last band I was in I had depped with occasionally so had a working knowledge of the songs - enough to get by without rehearsal.  When I joined them I found it very hard to relearn songs I had played on & off for 3/4 years.

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I'd love to say something about my personal creativity and not wanting to tread on the likes of Paul McCartney by doing a version that never quite captures his brilliance... Yawn. 

I have a set list of over 60 songs. I learn something that captures the original spirit, be it a main riff, a way of phrasing, but I'm not going to remember every single fill and trill along the way. And sometimes I'll throw in my own because I'm bored, or the song needs a bit of space filling that we don't have the instrumentation for, etc. Sometimes I want to learn a fill because it sounds cool. Sometimes I listen to an original recording of a song I've been playing for years and realise the band has strayed massively from elements of the original. 

If people want to hear an exact reproduction they can stream it/ get the CD. If they want to have fun listening to a live band they have to accept some "artistic licence" which may also mean, lack of ability!! 

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2 minutes ago, uk_lefty said:

Sometimes I listen to an original recording of a song I've been playing for years and realise the band has strayed massively from elements of the original. 

I've found that a number of times. Songs I learnt note perfect that I still thought I was playing correctly & then you realise it has evolved over the years.

 

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Unless I'm in a tribute band (and I've never been, and am unlikely to), then much as above: the iconic bass lines (Good Times, Hysteria, This Charming Man, etc, etc) get played right, the rest depends on the band, the lineup (I do a lot of trio work, and that requires some filling/simplification, etc) and the gig, but most importantly how the song as a whole sounds.

It doesn't do to get too hung up on it, though: if anyone on here's played the bass line to Superstition, then technically you're doing it wrong, because the original's not on the bass... 😀

 

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I have an occasional band that does a CCR tribute. I learnt the 6 albums note for note and we did a few gigs over a 3 or 4 year period. Our drummer left and when we auditioned a replacement (who is excellent) it all sounded wrong. He too had learnt everything as per the recordings but we (the band) had naturally evolved and moved away from the recordings over that period without really realising.

Generally I tend to go for a feel otherwise, unless I am required to learn it perfectly.

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Yep, I agree - I had a bit of a thing a couple of years ago when I revisited some songs after I realised I'd been playing them wrong all along, so I learnt them right. The next gig the guitarist said 'What are you playing? That sounded rubbish...' 😕🙂

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The scene : a variety band, mid-'70s, France. I've just joined, so I'm rehearsing drums in the BL's headquarters with the crew. On the menu..? The Stones 'Satisfaction'. No sweat, count in, off we go. Basically just straight 'pop rock' pattern, with light crashes on the 'cos I try...(pish...)' etc. Nothing too outrageous, but 'Stop, stop, stop..!' cries the BL (but in French, naturally...). 'That's not how it goes..! Play like the disk.' Hmm... I'm a bit stumped, as I knew the song, of course, but had never listened to the drum part specifically. We went on to play other stuff for this session, and I bought the single (pre-Internet days...) and listened to it. The next rehearsal, I played what Mr Watts played for the single. S'not hard, it's 'four on the floor', 'stomp, stomp, stomp' with both feet and both hands, with no respite, from end to end. The 'chachacha' is Jagger's tambourine, and is the sole relief throughout. It sounds dreadful when played like that. 'What on Earth..?', cries the BL. 'That's what you asked for', I reply, and play him the 45. He had to agree that it was rubbish. From then on, it was my drum parts that were played, with no more quibbles.
I did transcribe stuff like 'Hotel California', or Chicago's 'If you leave me now', but the musette, basic rock, disco or 'typique' Caribbean parts I would go by feel, and the response from the room. 9_9

Edited by Dad3353
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Interesting answers. Obviously if you're playing with others, they have to be factored in because if adjusts, everyone else HAS to - But what about if you're learning and playing something for the fun of it? 

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1 minute ago, dudewheresmybass said:

Cover bands - spirit of the song, mostly as accurate as needed

tributes- as accurate as poss

But what about when learning something on your own just for the fun of it? 

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for my own fun : it depends 🙂 

Sometimes it's "If it’s Godunov for Boris, it’s good enough for me"

 

 

Edited by chris7273
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Just now, csmallett said:

But what about when learning something on your own just for the fun of it? 

That’s totally up to your preference. If you’re happy to play along in the spirit of the song, that’s great. Equally it’s great of you want to play it to perfection 👍👍

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4 hours ago, fretmeister said:

For band use - Depends entirely on the song.

For a youtube bass cover it has to match the thing you are playing along to otherwise it won't sound quite right and you'll get armies of commentators complaining in the comments. Even if you play a line that the band did, say perhaps from a different performance of the same song the YT crowd will still have a go.

This is my thinking - if I'm playing to a recording of the original, to NOT play it as the original will create clashes. 

I asked it as I'm going to start with Cant Stop by the Chilis (because there aren't enough of those on YouTube) and I heard a mistake in the bass which I'm going to reproduce, and I'm sure THAT will elicit comments. 

 

Can't win! 

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