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How many songs can you learn in short period of time?

Discussion in 'Bands on the Run' started by sertshark, Jun 26, 2018.

  1. sertshark

    sertshark Strat-Talk Member

    May 11, 2014
    Oakdale, CA
    A local band may need a new guitarist soon. I was sent the set list (three sets) and asked to stop by to jam and to think about if I might like to join. I am not really getting my hopes up too much because we all know how that goes, but I'm curious how many songs you think you can learn in just a few weeks. I've been cramming like it is a midterm coming up, and you know how that goes, the more songs you cram into your brain the less you have them "down". Especially since there are about 10 song that I would be singing too, plus lead. What do you think is a reasonable expectation as far as number of songs you can learn in a short period of time (lead guitar and vocals).
    circles likes this.
  2. Grux

    Grux Strat-Talker

    May 17, 2018
    Clarksville, TN
    Reasonable 2 sets worth if your familiar with the songs.....(the rest you could do but sloppy) work your way down the lists. If your not even familiar with the're gonna have a rough go probably.

    I'd make a compromise, if you some songs they dont, they should also learn in the middle. Crush the gig!
    Electgumbo and sertshark like this.
  3. jeff h

    jeff h Senior Stratmaster

    Jan 13, 2017
    Really depends on your skill level. I can pick up songs now far faster than I could years ago, but still, 3 sets, vocals on 10 songs +leads isn't happening in a few weeks unless you have nothing else to do in your day. Focus on what you can accomplish and do it well. If they like you, there will be plenty of time for the rest of the material.
    circles, Bcorig and Triple Jim like this.
  4. Paperback Rocker

    Paperback Rocker Nitro-mancer Strat-Talk Supporter

    Sep 18, 2014
    Lewisville, TX
    Learn three songs very well to play with them as the audition, then add as able. Chart them out and lay it on the floor or use a stand if you need crib sheets.

    If they are Metallica or Jethro Tull or something complex . . . that changes things!
  5. hornpiper

    hornpiper Senior Stratmaster

    Apr 23, 2014
    Portland, OR
    I've joined a band before, or filled in and had a gig a few days later, and I did what Paperback Rocker above suggested. Make " crib sheets" or "cheat sheets" as I call them, of the songs you really don't know and/or sheets with quick tips or reminders of parts of songs you kind of know. I use large, visible letters with a sharpie, and then I've fanned them out on the stage or floor in front of me as needed, as discreetly as I could, and changed them set by set as needed. Taped or weighted by someting if it's an outdoor gig. I don't like using a music stand at gigs, it's a personal thing, I think it looks lame in a Rock or Blues Band setting, with the exception for a horn section or keyboards.
  6. Mr. Lumbergh

    Mr. Lumbergh needs you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too. Strat-Talk Supporter

    Jan 10, 2014
    Initech, Inc.
    As you get better at guitar, you get better at learning songs it seems.
    But as for me, it takes a while to learn a few...
    Paperback Rocker likes this.
  7. Rastus

    Rastus Senior Stratmaster

    Jan 1, 2014

    Don't be too hard on yourself here ! No cover-band ever has all the tunes down exactly, simply because each musician interprets the tunes & their parts differently, & so the tunes come out different...

    The "trick" would be to pick a handful of tunes that you know well enough from the list, to play through comfortably at the audition. If you feel settled & confident with the folks you're playing with, the rest will fall-into-place naturally, over a little time.

    Make a CD of all the tunes so that you can get familiar with them all, & note any key-changes from the originals, to the bands preferred keys...Ask the band to make a note on each song title as to what key it's in...(You don't want to have to relearn the same song twice, there's enough work already for you lol)...

    Remember to enjoy yourself, it's meant to be a good time for everyone,

  8. ido1957

    ido1957 Senior Stratmaster

    Oct 13, 2014
    a) If I am singing something I transpose it, if needed, to a key that I can sing. I spent way too many years either straining or dropping songs I liked that were too high. I just learned 40 new songs in about a month. After two months I had the lyrics all memorized. I transposed maybe 4 songs down a step. The faster I get the vocals down the sooner I am done and can move on to the next song. I cringe when I watch singers "miss" that high part.

    b) If I do transpose it, then I have to adjust the solo. If it's too hard to play the solo in the transposed key (especially A, E open stuff) then I drop it. I place more emphasis on the vocals, I am not straining my voice anymore (see above) in order to play an EVH solo (remember Roth?). Pro players are able to adjust IMHO or drop it.

    c) I use a music stand. I didn't on the road, but then again we played the same song a thousand times. Even if I have memorized a tune. Safety net. Screw appearances. My PT gigs involve hundreds of songs sometimes and I don't play as often as FT.

    d) When we were FT, we learned a lot of songs. We kept current with all the Top 40 stuff. We had a workaholic band leader who paid us to do that. Meh we got paid well. Maybe 3-6 new songs a week. Our catalog was maybe 150 songs. It was a ***** when we had to do an "old" tune after a month of not playing it.

    e) Solos are the hardest. The more complex, the longer it takes. I like to go note for note on "well known" solos. Blues and Country I can just improvise. It really varies as I am more a vocalist who plays lead, than the other way around. I would sell my soul to play like Hyland or Mason but that's never going to happen. I jammed with a guy that played like that this past Saturday. He was scary good. It was embarrassing to follow him with a solo but I still did lol. I wondered how much woodshedding he had done as kid.
  9. rolandson

    rolandson Most Honored Senior Member

    reading is fundamental.
  10. Stratoskater

    Stratoskater Most Honored Senior Member

    Feb 8, 2011
    Running with Scissors
    23.7, no more, no less.
    circles likes this.
  11. mw13068

    mw13068 Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Jul 29, 2009
    Ithaca, NY
    I'm with the "cheat sheet" guys above.

    I regularly sit-in with a few different projects in my area (sometimes on guitar, most of the time on drums), in addition to my own band. No matter the project, I create song sheets (with lyrics, chords, style notes) for each song and put them in a binder of clear page-holder thingies. One binder for each project. At practices, I make notes on the sheets, and at gigs, I have the binder on a music stand. I don't try to memorize anything -- but it happens naturally over time.

    Some dudes have something against using music on stands during a gig, but I don't care. Symphonic musicians do it, big name headlining bands have teleprompters these days, and I damn sure will have my binder if I want it.
    circles and BallisticSquid like this.
  12. Dadocaster

    Dadocaster Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

    I can't even learn the songs I write.

    When I was a youngling a couple of guys from work and I would do a New Years party gig at the home of whoever was having the party that year. We would make a tape of 12 familiar songs, distribute the tape a couple of weeks in advance, work on the tunes alone then have one rehearsal and a couple of days later play the deal. From that experience, I would say

    You can get as many as half a dozen ready to roll, an additional three or four that you can get through, and another three or four that may or may not be a train wreck. Three sets worth is nuts.
    Nadnitram likes this.
  13. rocknrollrich

    rocknrollrich Senior Stratmaster

    Jan 8, 2016
    With a cheat sheet, i can have quite a lot done in a week. Maybe 10 songs that i have never heard of or played before.
    If they are tried and true cover songs that ive played before, but just need to brush up on, that number goes up significantly.

    If i have plenty of time (who does tho), and there is no deadline looming over me, 5 songs a week is a pretty reasonable/ comfortable number.
  14. BallisticSquid

    BallisticSquid Senior Stratmaster

    Oct 12, 2016
    I have a binder of cheat sheets. As time goes on I need fewer and fewer of them. I put my music stand off to the side so I can refer to it as needed. Sometimes I just glance at it before the song starts and I'm good to do. I need repetition to burn the songs in my brain and we don't practice/gig enough for that to happen, especially with a constant adding/dropping of songs. All part of being in a cover band :).

    On average, I was able to get down 3 songs per week when I first joined my band a year ago. Solos are largely improvised, though I've learned some basically note for note.
    ido1957 likes this.
  15. Strat Jacket

    Strat Jacket Senior Stratmaster

    May 11, 2018
    Define "learn".
    Getting chords and rhythm down is fairly easy, but for me, soloing can eat me alive if it's complex or fast.
  16. Hudman_1

    Hudman_1 Strat-Talker Strat-Talk Supporter

    May 12, 2018
    Gibraltar Michigan

    Very true. Excellent advice. Most cover bands don’t do note for note covers. The casual listener pays the most attention to the singer and lyrics.
    Rastus and Strat Jacket like this.
  17. rocknrollrich

    rocknrollrich Senior Stratmaster

    Jan 8, 2016
    It does get easier over time to learn them or forget them as needed.
    3 per week is a good number.
    When I joined my current band, i was under the gun.
    They had a gig a month after i joined and the songs (while I had at least heard them before) were not ones I had ever played. That was a challenge. I told them 5 per week, which was not enough to be ready in time.
    I learned 5 per week (really learned them, from memory). The rest i had cheat sheets , and a familiarity with the songs. That was a trial by fire.
    BallisticSquid and Strat Jacket like this.
  18. Bcorig

    Bcorig Strat-Talker

    Feb 17, 2018
    Chino Hills CA
    “I can’t even learn the songs I write” I can’t stop laughing and simultaneously can’t stop admiring the fact you write your own.
  19. Bcorig

    Bcorig Strat-Talker

    Feb 17, 2018
    Chino Hills CA
    3 sets of 10 is a tall order.
    1. Songs you know - practice
    2. Songs you’re familiar - listen and practice
    3. Songs you don’t know - download and listen, map out chord changes on a cheat sheet and practice
  20. BallisticSquid

    BallisticSquid Senior Stratmaster

    Oct 12, 2016
    Something I find helps me a lot, especially for songs I never heard before or never really listened to, was to create a play list and listen..I mean really listen, to the songs...over and over and over again. It makes the learning and practicing much easier.
    rudos1 and rocknrollrich like this.