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How Do You Learn New Songs?


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It's a mix for me. I should probally work on my ear more, but to sit down with the CD and work something out takes me FOREVER, and although I can get the relationships, I'm generally off key untill someone more accomplished sets me straight. I tend to look for the sheet music, try to play as it's written, SLOWLY at first, and once the finger memory starts kicking in and I don't need to read along as I play, I break out the CD again, and from there I may drop stuff, find other ways to do things, simplify, whatever. However learning something new in jam sessions, I just watch "the guy who's got it figured out"'s fingers and try to keep up.


I know the sheet music is kind of like cheating, it feels like it, but I'm already 40 and my ear is s##t so, what the heh?

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I generally use my ear and compose it from what I hear on the recording (CD etc.). However, for tunes with more complex guitar parts, I try to get the music in guitar tabulature format since it clearly shows the position of the notes on the fretboard. This is helpful since on a guitar, unlike a keyboard and many other instruments, there is generally more than one fret/string location where you play the same sonic note.
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For me, in a worship band, I get the lyrics with the chords above them. From there, I listen to the CD until I'm sick of it and that gives the map of the song (V1, chorus, V2, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus) burned into my head.


From there, I sprinkle it with some Mikegug magic (just a little as I don't have enough to really give out), shake, bake and VOILA!, a song!


At that point, our drummer usually says, "I haven't really listened to the song. How does this go?" :mad:


Ah, it's all good. :D That's life with musicians and drummers. :wave:




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It's nice if there is a lead sheet with both the melody and chords, and repeats marked out. A sheet with lyrics and chords written above is OK, too. I still listen to the recording, though, most of the time, even I don't plan on adhering strictly to the original arrangement. There have been times when I played tunes I never heard before, though, and did OK with it.


But I can learn a song by ear if I have to, and then usually just write the words and the chords. I should learn to write out proper charts, though!


For tunes with complex jazz changes I usually look for the sheet music, but I need to do more of that by ear, for sure!

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