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View Poll Results: What do you mean by "learning a song"?
Note-for-note in the original key it was recorded in 7 13.46%
Musically note-for-note but no vocals because i dont sing or remember lyrics 7 13.46%
Faithful reproduction but different key or tuning to accommodate my vocal range 16 30.77%
Just the cool intro/solo/outro 1 1.92%
Recognizable but simplified so I can play it 17 32.69%
My unique take on a known song; intentionally different from the original 25 48.08%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 52. You may not vote on this poll

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  #16  
Old 01-15-2022, 01:31 PM
Nymuso Nymuso is offline
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Well, it is early in the voting but I was surprised to learn that what I do is in the lead. And what I do is say thank you to the writer (and/or the or the original artist) for a great song, but I’m doing it my way.
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  #17  
Old 01-15-2022, 02:56 PM
Glennwillow Glennwillow is offline
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Learning a song to me means being able to play it front to back, not just pieces of the song, preferably with lyrics and chords memorized and internalized, so that the song can entertain others.

It could be just like the original, it could have a person's individual twists added, it could be in a different key, it could even be quite different from the original. To me, the entertainment value of a song is what counts. Am I entertained by playing it? Would someone else enjoy hearing it?

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  #18  
Old 01-16-2022, 06:19 AM
Straw Straw is offline
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Since I sing, I try to learn all of the words, in the right order. That's where I'm closest to the original recorded version of the song. I may take more liberties with lyrics in traditional songs (which don't necessarily have definitive versions).

I have recognized the need to change keys for my singing voice. And I typically play the guitar in my own style and allow that to be what it will be, learning the chord progression but ignoring signature runs or strumming patterns if I like. Given my (lack of) skill, that might fall more in the "simplification" option.

What matters to me when playing a cover is inhabiting that song in my own way, conveying the emotions that make me love and want to perform that song.
If I don't feel that way about a song, or if I can't find my voice in it (personally, vocally, and on the guitar), then it's not really a good one for me to play.
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  #19  
Old 01-16-2022, 10:03 AM
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Mr. Jelly Mr. Jelly is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
That's why I asked the question......

What does it mean to you?
Different things. I learn the song the way the original performer created it. Then I learn the song the way the latest notable performer performed it. Then I'll learn the song the way others have performed it. Finally, I learn the song the way I want to perform it. Then I decide if I really want to continue playing it. In the future I may stumble on to something that will get me to revisit it and remake it. Then I'll have to relearn it. But, hey, that's me.
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  #20  
Old 01-16-2022, 01:36 PM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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I ticked boxes 1, 3, 5 and 6 - but that's just the way I learn songs most of the time. Sometimes it would be 2 (I don't sing myself, much, but I'm often transcribing for people that do, and they don't need the notation. If 3 (transcribing in a different key) it could be for another singer, not for myself.)

Sometimes it would be 4, but then I wouldn't call that "learning the song". I'd call it "learning the intro", or whichever bit I was interested in.

And of course there are times when I learn parts of a song note for note, and other parts more generally.

It depends on the reason I'm doing it, of course. To play it myself? To both sing and play it myself? For someone else to sing while I accompany them? To play it in a band with other singer(s) and instruments? Or am I doing it for someone else to play? Or for professional publication (whether I play it or not)?

All of this governs how much detail I transcribe, what key I write it in, and whether I simplify it or arrange it in any way.

But in general I do like to get lots of detail - maybe more than most would bother with. When I really like a song, I usually like all of it, and I like to dig deep.
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  #21  
Old 01-16-2022, 03:07 PM
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I checked the next to last box, but it’s really a combination of the next to last and last. I don’t gig, so I don’t bother to memorize chords or lyrics - I always have my iPad open to the song and I read the lyrics and chords as I play. I obviously have to play a song a number of times before I really get a feel for it, and muscle memory takes over with the chord changes at some point, but I still see the chords on the iPad if needed.

I play chords up and down the neck on electric, but on acoustic I mostly play cowboy chords because I just love the sound of open strings ringing out. And on most songs I play the rhythm on acoustic while I “sing” (or should I say “vocalize”?), so I mostly simplify the songs so I can play them in my preferred manner. I’m not particularly good but any songs do is gonna be recognizable - I’m not THAT bad! But to a certain extent, I bring something of myself to it because I don’t know how not to. I’m singing it, I’m playing the rhythm the way I feel it, so it’s gonna sound like my version, for better or worse. I perform it to sound like the original in my head, but when I’m done, if you listen back to back, mine never sounds much like the original…

-Ray
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  #22  
Old 01-16-2022, 03:10 PM
tbeltrans tbeltrans is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glennwillow View Post
Learning a song to me means being able to play it front to back, not just pieces of the song, preferably with lyrics and chords memorized and internalized, so that the song can entertain others.

It could be just like the original, it could have a person's individual twists added, it could be in a different key, it could even be quite different from the original. To me, the entertainment value of a song is what counts. Am I entertained by playing it? Would someone else enjoy hearing it?

- Glenn
This ^^^^^^^^

If somebody asks you to play a tune, can you do it - all the way through?

That has nothing to do with whether you did it just like the record, whether you sang it with some type of guitar accompaniment, or played it solo in some instrumental style. All it means is can you play the tune so the listener can recognize what that tune is?

For some reason, guitar players seem to have a lot of trouble with with this. Go into a guitar shop and you will hear strums and licks. Go into a piano shop and you will hear ... recognizable music.

Tony
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  #23  
Old 01-18-2022, 09:11 AM
Bushleague Bushleague is offline
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IMO learning a song means you can play a fair representation of the entire thing. I dont ever really bother to learn stuff note for note, but people do know what song I'm playing and I do play the whole thing. If I just know a riff or two I would not claim to know the song.
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  #24  
Old 01-18-2022, 09:19 AM
Bushleague Bushleague is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raysachs View Post
I checked the next to last box, but it’s really a combination of the next to last and last. I don’t gig, so I don’t bother to memorize chords or lyrics - I always have my iPad open to the song and I read the lyrics and chords as I play. I obviously have to play a song a number of times before I really get a feel for it, and muscle memory takes over with the chord changes at some point, but I still see the chords on the iPad if needed.

I play chords up and down the neck on electric, but on acoustic I mostly play cowboy chords because I just love the sound of open strings ringing out. And on most songs I play the rhythm on acoustic while I “sing” (or should I say “vocalize”?), so I mostly simplify the songs so I can play them in my preferred manner. I’m not particularly good but any songs do is gonna be recognizable - I’m not THAT bad! But to a certain extent, I bring something of myself to it because I don’t know how not to. I’m singing it, I’m playing the rhythm the way I feel it, so it’s gonna sound like my version, for better or worse. I perform it to sound like the original in my head, but when I’m done, if you listen back to back, mine never sounds much like the original…

-Ray
This, especially if trying to learn a song that was originaly done by a whole electric band on a single acoustic guitar, sometimes things need to be simplified. A long blazing guitar solo will often be shortened, or even aranged to omit it. I've turned punk songs into country songs, and metal songs into blues numbers, as well as making major chord substitutions to get it to sound "bigger" on the acoustic, and I would still claim to have learned the song.

Rather alot of us on here talk about playing the song "Comfortably Numb", I doubt most of us play all the solo's in their entirity note for note, and honestly it isnt going to be that sonicly pleasing to listen to a solo acoustic guitar play single note runs for that amount of time.
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  #25  
Old 01-20-2022, 08:16 AM
Pnewsom Pnewsom is offline
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In my case, learning or "working up" a song means I'm ready to perform it on stage, solo, or in a band format. It involves writing a one page intro-extro chord chart, transcribing and memorizing(if there's time) the lyrics, and then a month or so of developing my vocal phrasing and guitar arrangement. My goal is to convey the original nature of the song, but by the time I'm done it will have drifted a bit.

I'm fortunate to work within a community of versatile improvising musicians. The lineup can range from duo on up, and rehearsal is a rare thing. The chord chart that I make goes into my 'Bass Book'. That book is the key to the whole thing. With it and a good bassist, we can make a tune sound pretty tight the first time through.

It's a good way to roll if you don't enjoy rehearsing, which I don't.

Last edited by Pnewsom; 01-20-2022 at 09:49 AM.
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  #26  
Old 01-20-2022, 08:32 AM
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Methos1979 Methos1979 is offline
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We (wife and I, acoustic duo) fall somewhere between Faithful reproduction changing key for vocals and Simplified version I can play. So I selected both of those. I don't/can't solo so any sort of complicated single line type intro and or outro usually gets dummied down to something that is at least a headfake towards a recognizable facsimile of the original. Lead breaks mid song are usually scatted by the lead vocalist.

The process for us is to identify songs we want to play, go on the Ultimate Guitar app and check for difficulty level which is usually how many and how complicated the chords are to play. If it's not too bad then we'll save a personal copy which I'll then transpose (via the slick auto transpose feature of the app) and capo to find a key and an arrangement that works for us. As long as it's 'close enough' so as to be enjoyed by the target audience then we'll add it to the setlists.

While I appreciate those that have the skills and demand of themselves to only play/perform perfect renditions of songs, I just don't have that ability and likely never will. But as long as people enjoy what we do, we'll continue to do it for them.
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  #27  
Old 01-20-2022, 09:08 AM
J-Doug J-Doug is offline
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Great topic. I have a few approaches.

- For the fingerstyle acoustic it is pretty much note for note learning but I'm not afraid to change something if it is not working for me. I have enough experience to modify a tune as required.

- For the fingerstyle slide stuff I'm a bit more liberal with it since I'm relatively new to slide. I'm mostly focused on getting the thumb driving the rhythm and good intonation on the melody.

- For electric I'm even more liberal. For these tunes I'm coming up with my arrangement from scratch using tabs and recordings. Usually the source material is multitracked so I'm trying to get the song across faithfully but worked out for one guitar. I play the rhythm quite close and then reproduce iconic moments for fills and solos but otherwise allow myself to improvise the rest. My goal would be to make it recognizable enough to jam with others on it.
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  #28  
Old 01-23-2022, 02:12 PM
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Kinda with Glenn W on this.
Learn it all the way trough. Get the lyrics correct (sometimes but rarely alter a word or two- if applicable) If a cover seldom if ever note for note, but definitely have it be both recognizable with the original and authentic to how it makes me feel (no intention of change) yet it may change a bit, or not much.
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  #29  
Old 01-24-2022, 11:53 PM
N4640W N4640W is offline
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A very accomplished and professional rock guitarist once said that to learn a song means that “you can play the song from start to finish competently and know it so well that if someone blew your head off with a shotgun you could still complete the performance”.
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