How much is too much??

Putting music theory into practice

How much is too much??

Postby (Kopfjaeger) » Thu Dec 06, 2012 4:35 pm

Ok, it's finally happened! I've "thrown my hat back into the ring" and joined a band. It's been a long time coming and it's just the natural progression of things, getting back into playing, learning new songs, then taking the big leap. I'm joining a mostly established band. Three of the guys have been playing together and it's a new singer and me, starting at the same time.

My goal is to play out and not just be a practice band. While I'm being careful not to use the word serious, since I have a career, I do want to be "professional" in my approach with the pay off being live gigs. I don't expect to make money. I want to have fun and experience the same adrenaline rush I got playing out as a kid. My fondest moment in a band was playing at CBGB, in NYC. I had been there several times for concerts and roadied there for a friends band a few times. Taking the stage at what I consider to be Mecca was an awesome experience.

We're playing rock and metal and the line up contains songs by Metallica, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Dio, Black Sabbath, Led Zepplin, Billy Idol, Alice'n Chains, Shinedown and that sort of stuff.

There is a set list of about 18 songs. I have my first practice on Dec. 21 at a studio and the guitarist said we'll attempt to cover 6 or 7 of the songs, in order, that I was given.

OK, I really don't remember how it was like for me to remember cover songs when I was in my last cover band, quite some time ago. After the cover band, I played out in two bands that had our own original material. Since I wrote all my lines, remembering them was a snap, I think.

It's been about a week and I find myself struggling to get songs committed to memory. The first few were not so bad but I feel like a container that has had too much water put into it. It feels like new musical info is leaking out before it gets processed. I'm kinda mortified at the prospect of not having at least 6 committed to memory by the practice date in two weeks. I can't be the weal link!!

I work on the songs for at least an hour or two every day. If I did not have work or a family, maybe I'd be able to put more time into it. Hey, maybe that's how I did it when I was younger. No job, no wife, and no family.

I realize there is no "magic bullet" and I'm just going to have to work hard until they all sink in. I've sorta taken the stance that I'd rather have 3 or 4 down solid than 6 or 7 iffy. Thoughts? Is that flawed thinking??

I realize that everyone learns and retain info at different rates. Is it reasonable to expect to know and be self sufficient with 6 or 7 songs in a two or three week span?? Is it me or does anyone else think that is a tall order?

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Re: How much is too much??

Postby (woodyng) » Thu Dec 06, 2012 5:10 pm

6-7 songs in 3 weeks with an hour daily practice? It should be enough to get you familiar with,if the songs are not 30 minute epic suites. When i learn cover tunes,i don't always (seldom really) try to do exactly what the original bass line was,unless i think it is cool or too iconic to mess with. (zep's Ramble On comes to mind as one not to mess around with.) If you are having difficulties with a particular one,just try breaking it down to each section/riff and working it out. I have to do a lot of repitition myself with some material. I don't read music or even charts very well,but if there is a song lyric sheet that has the chord changes listed,it can help to get things sorted out. (You didn't mention if you are learning these by listening or reading,not that that matters so much)
The main thing is not to stress too much,get in there and have fun!
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Re: How much is too much??

Postby (sloop_john_b) » Thu Dec 06, 2012 5:14 pm

Don't freak out yet - you still have TWO WEEKS! I would think if you played through each of the songs ONCE every day for the next two weeks, you'd have them down.

How familiar with the material were you before you attempted to play it? In my band, we cover a lot of music that I've never heard before, and what does the trick for me is LISTENING to it over and over and over again - on my iPod, on my commute to work, on my commute home, on my lunch break. This will get you halfway home - you'll now have a good familiarity with the structure, tone, feel, etc. THEN, go play along to it.

BTW, we have a subsection on this forum called "Being For The Benefit Of Musicianship" which is meant precisely for this sort of thing. We're here to help. :)
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Re: How much is too much??

Postby (Kopfjaeger) » Thu Dec 06, 2012 6:32 pm

Oh ****, I did not even notice the other section, sorry. I was looking for the appropriate place and I missed it. Oh well.

Nope, no 30 minute ballads. A few 5+ minute songs. How familiar was I with the material? Hmm, sadly, I was about 70%. Out of the 18 or so on the set list, I had 14 or 15 of them on my I-Pod. Some I have never heard of. Like Ten Years Gone, yup, call me an idiot. I'm not really a Zeppelin fan. I like certain songs by them and this one is not one of them. Immigrant Song? Hell yeah, I'm all over that one.

Another issue I'm having is the tabs I have found stink!! A handful are rated high but most either have pieces missing or are "ball park" at best. Back in the day, I could read sheet music. Upon getting back into this, I discovered TABS and I thought they were an amazing crutch!! If you can find a good one!! To make matters a bit worse, there are two Red Hot Chilli Pepper songs on the list. Now, Flea is an amazing bassist. I pop and slap about as well as I breath underwater. I'm just not into it at all. It's going to be tough for me to pull those off even if I attack the strings harder than usual.

I realize I do have 14 more days to get them down. i was hoping to have a week to polish them before being put under the microscope.

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Re: How much is too much??

Postby (jps) » Thu Dec 06, 2012 7:01 pm

Kopfjaeger wrote:...there are two Red Hot Chilli Pepper songs on the list. Now, Flea is an amazing bassist. I pop and slap about as well as I breath underwater. I'm just not into it at all. It's going to be tough for me to pull those off even if I attack the strings harder than usual.

Sepp

For the slap part do what I do that John Entwistle stole from me, hit the strings with the flesh of your fingers like you are spanking the bass, literally. It get 95% of the thumb slapping but easier to do, IMO. I am not a fan of popped strings so much but the slapping bit should take care of most of it, anyway.

As to learning songs, JB's method is what I do, listen to the songs a lot and get them in your head. I don't think these guys will expect you to sound like you've been playing these songs for a long time, so just learn what you can, with the most important things being the arrangement and any major points bass-wise in the songs, the rest will come with the whole band growing, together.
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Re: How much is too much??

Postby (cassius987) » Thu Dec 06, 2012 7:03 pm

jps wrote:As to learning songs, JB's method is what I do, listen to the songs a lot and get them in your head. I don't think these guys will expect you to sound like you've been playing these songs for a long time, so just learn what you can, with the most important things being the arrangement and any major points bass-wise in the songs, the rest will come with the whole band growing, together.


+1

Don't focus so much on sounding like a given player unless the band requests it... if you nail Flea's tone (for example) and even his technique, but fail to groove, you have effectively killed the song. Put the groove first.
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Re: How much is too much??

Postby (Kopfjaeger) » Thu Dec 06, 2012 7:41 pm

Thanks guys. I know I'm being difficult on myself. I do not want to fail or look stoopid! :D It has been 25+ years since I've done this and it kills me that I use to go about this so effortlessly when i was younger. If I didn't make the band, no big deal, I'd buy a copy of the Aquarian (NYC musicians paper) and go to another one a few days later. No big deal.

I was so much more flexible and carefree back then. The guys in the band are all around my age and they all have been doing this since they were teenagers. It's me who took a 20+ year vacation. :(

I think my technique is better now than it was when I was younger. I think I'm a better bassist now than I was back then as well but I guess we'll see how that statement holds up on Dec. 21! I'm just wound way tighter than I was, back in the day.

Jeff, I'll give that technique a try. I certainly can't strike the string with my thumb! It looked like I was trying to hammer a tack into my bass with my thumb, and it sounded even worse!

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Re: How much is too much??

Postby (cjj) » Thu Dec 06, 2012 7:52 pm

sloop_john_b wrote:BTW, we have a subsection on this forum called "Being For The Benefit Of Musicianship" which is meant precisely for this sort of thing. We're here to help. :)


Kopfjaeger wrote:Oh ****, I did not even notice the other section, sorry. I was looking for the appropriate place and I missed it. Oh well.


Fixed...
I have NO idea what to do with those skinny stringed things... I'm just a bass player...
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Re: How much is too much??

Postby (s4001) » Thu Dec 06, 2012 8:15 pm

Tabs notoriously suck.
Get the sections and chord progressions down. Obey the groove beyond that.
Unless there's some stand out melody line that's a hook of the song, nobody notices bass beyond groove.
If you get stuck on a part or chord, I'm sure we'd all be happy to help.

Go forth and conquer and good drummers to you!
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Re: How much is too much??

Postby (jps) » Thu Dec 06, 2012 8:51 pm

Yes, forget the Tabs, just use your ears. There are things you will pick up over time with hearing the songs that can not be translated into Tab, or even notation, sometimes. I find that I retain the songs much better that way than if I were to look at a chart, which seems to hamper my remembering the changes and form of the song.
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Re: How much is too much??

Postby (cjj) » Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:01 pm

Yeah, what they said!

Most tabs, it seems, are written by people who "learned" the song by ear and then tried to write down something close to what they thought it sounded like. Just skip the "middle man" and do the learning yourself...
I have NO idea what to do with those skinny stringed things... I'm just a bass player...
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Re: How much is too much??

Postby (woodyng) » Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:06 pm

Joe,i am in the same boat,i stopped playing for about 18 years,altho i always had a bass laying around and would pick it up to learn a song or riff. I have been playing more since i moved to Oregon 3 years ago than i have since i was in my 20 's,and really enjoying myself. Like Cassius said,it is better to find your groove and work on that,than worry about "sounding like the record". And I've never nailed the art of slappage,but you can find other ways of striking the strings and getting a similar effect. I frequently use all the fingers on my right hand together to literally smack 3 and 4 string power chords,its VERY percussive sounding....but i digress....
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Re: How much is too much??

Postby (Kopfjaeger) » Sat Dec 08, 2012 10:28 am

Many of the songs on the set list have pretty specific bass riffs so I'm going to have to replicate them. Of course there are others where I can alter them either my taste or playing style. I was talking with our drummer, my co worker, and he said he thinks 4 or 5 down for the first practice will be perfectly fine. Some of the songs are pretty technical as well as it's going to take a bit of "together practice time" to get us all on the same page. For instance, the intro for Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" marries both guitars and the bass to the same riff. We all need to be spot on or it will sound like hell. I normally don't like a lot of distortion, a bit of grit is fine, but for this song I'm going to have to do something with my sound. I think my Dunlop Swollen Pickle will fit the bill, Thoughts Joshua?

Another little rant. This set list contains songs no fewer than 3 different tunings. Standard, drop D and EADG all flat (Alice'n Chains). While I do have enough instruments to tune to all three, I'd rather not lug 3 basses around. Drop D was a huge departure for me and I'm still not 100% liking the muddy low D string sound. We've decided to not tune down to EADG flat. That will help since I really don't want to have to worry about de tuning, retuning then de tuning and retuning during the set. It will make playing along with the song difficult since the key will be a half step out. Unless I go with my Modulus 5 string and rerwork the tab to fit the 5 string. The Modulus Quantum is a nice bass but I don't enjoy it nearly as much as my 4 string Rickenbacker's. yeah, it's the RIC snob thing, again!

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Re: How much is too much??

Postby (jps) » Sat Dec 08, 2012 12:38 pm

Kopfjaeger wrote:We've decided to not tune down to EADG flat. That will help since I really don't want to have to worry about de tuning, retuning then de tuning and retuning during the set. It will make playing along with the song difficult since the key will be a half step out.

Sepp

I bought this great program for doing just that as many songs, especially those from the '60s and '70s are not at concert pitch so I'd have to constantly change my bass' tuning to match. It is really great for changing pitch and tempo can be slowed down dramatically for learning tricky parts. I learned about Transcibe! while reading an article in (UK) Bass Guitar Magazine a few month ago.

http://www.seventhstring.com/
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Re: How much is too much??

Postby (cjj) » Sat Dec 08, 2012 3:48 pm

I use Audacity for pretty much the same thing. You can change the tempo, pitch, etc. It's even a decent DAW. And it's free...
http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
I have NO idea what to do with those skinny stringed things... I'm just a bass player...
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