8 Tips to Help You Learn Songs Better – Score Short Reads
Know what is expected of you
When faced with a new song (or a dozen), it is important to know what you need to do. Are you being asked to play each and every note in a guitar solo exactly the same as in the album version, or are you free to improvise your own cadence over the chord structure? Should your drum beats be sleek and understated or thick and intense? Be aware of that.
Listen a lot
When you get new music to learn, listen to it on repeat as much as you can. One part is active listening, where you focus, without being distracted, on specific elements of the song, analyzing as you go and trying to memorize some parts. Other times it is passive listening while you walk, cook, work, pack your bag, etc. Everything helps.
Listen to different versions
If you’re learning a new piece that other artists have covered, listen to as many interpretations as you can before it’s your turn to play the song. Likewise, if there are YouTube clips of the band or artist you’re playing with, performing the same song at three different gigs, listen to them all.
Tap on recordings
If you are given a recording of the song that you need to learn quickly, whether it is a simple demo or a finished studio track, play over it as many times as you can before going to the concert, studio, or rehearsal room. The more you play along with the song in a simulated performance and you can experiment with what works best when you play on it, the better prepared you will be once the moment of truth arrives.
Get sheet music, if you can, and take notes
Take a look over the shoulders of many musicians in concert and you will see sheets of music and chords filled with pencil notes, rhythms, symbols and reminders. Whether you take note of when to play loud and when to play soft, when to play staccato, and when to make a hasty ending, don’t be afraid to jot down your scores in any way that best helps you remember what to play, when, and how.
Don’t always start at the beginning
When you get into a new song, try to learn the final chorus first, or face the difficult bridge that comes in towards the last minute. Oftentimes, working on a few things beforehand can help you get a feel for the entire song and a greater musical sense once you put the pieces together in order.
Write your own score
Remember that everything you write does not have to look pretty, what you create is purely functional and just for you, so write your chords, transcription or cheat sheet in the format that will best help you to follow the song at once. Writing your music down will also improve your confidence.
Improve on every rep
If you are faced with a difficult new song, whether during band rehearsals, in the studio or live, your main goal the first time you play should be to get from start to finish and do your best. The second time? The same, but now that you have it a little more in your fingers you can devote a little more attention to pinpointing those accents well in the second verse, for example.
The third time? All of the above but maybe this time you will have the mental space to focus on connecting well with the drums in the guitar solo and that the voicings of your chords in the final part support the voice as much as possible.