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View Full Version : How many times do you play a song to learn it well?



jnorris235
02-27-2017, 10:54 AM
Say you're a year in - so hopefully reasonably competant! In order to play well having learned the music and the words, as a goal, in a pub, would you reckon on actually playing the song through. 20 times, or 50, or more? Getting a handle on how much actual practice on a song is to be expected rather than just bashing through song books with a group.

JackLuis
02-27-2017, 11:46 AM
Depending upon how well you know the chords ~100 times to get the phrasing and smoothness, voice infection and tempo. SOme songs are more difficult and take me ~150-200 plays. :old::music:

Gammo
02-27-2017, 11:56 AM
In the pub scenario, it depends on the stage of the evening. By the end of the night, it'll sound fantastic after 1 practice run.

CeeJay
02-27-2017, 12:15 PM
In the pub scenario, it depends on the stage of the evening. By the end of the night, it'll sound fantastic after 1 practice run.

Okay ,thanks,now i got
beer down my nose and up my monitor :biglaugh:

jnorris235
02-27-2017, 12:17 PM
WOW! Really? So glad to hear this. Thinking of all the kids playing in bands who sound perfectly competant made me wonder about this question. But thenIi see how many hundreds of hours they play on video games to get good. So I am astonished but pleased with your answer. I will persevere!

mikelz777
02-27-2017, 12:27 PM
It might be one of those things that by the time you played it enough to have all of the lyrics and chords memorized to where you can play it smoothly with no errors that you'll be so sick of the song you won't want to play it anymore! :D

jollyboy
02-27-2017, 12:50 PM
It might be one of those things that by the time you played it enough to have all of the lyrics and chords memorized to where you can play it smoothly with no errors that you'll be so sick of the song you won't want to play it anymore! :D

Yeah, I get bored of songs way before I've gotten any good at playing them :)

DownUpDave
02-27-2017, 01:17 PM
It might be one of those things that by the time you played it enough to have all of the lyrics and chords memorized to where you can play it smoothly with no errors that you'll be so sick of the song you won't want to play it anymore! :D

I was going to say the exact same thing.

Our uke group did its Christmas party in a pub this past year. I did two instrumentals on stage, Christmas Time is Here and Greensleeves. I played them so many times for months and months leading up to Christmas I lost the Christmas spirit :eek:. Seriously hundred of times for each song.

But I had them both memorized and could play them forward and backwards with no sheet music. Other simpler songs that I am strumming and singing maybe 20 - 50 repetitions.

kypfer
02-27-2017, 01:49 PM
WOW! Really? So glad to hear this. Thinking of all the kids playing in bands who sound perfectly competant made me wonder about this question. But thenIi see how many hundreds of hours they play on video games to get good. So I am astonished but pleased with your answer. I will persevere!

Perseverance ... AKA practice, is where it's at! The time factor is one that can't really be defined. You may already know the song, more or less, and just need to fit the chords around it and memorise which order the verses come in, if that's important. With a simple arrangement maybe an evening or two ... say 30-50 repetitions.

For a long song, 10-12 verses or more, that you've heard but don't really know, but want to learn, maybe with a few awkward chord changes, 1-2 months easily.

You'll be singing the words as you go about your daily routines, in your head if not out loud, with a copy of the words in your pocket for reference, practicing the tricky chord sequences at every opportunity, even if only for a few minutes, then still spend time trying to put it all together in one cohesive event ... just 'cos you want to ;)

Most of all, enjoy! It's not called playing the ukulele for nothing :music:

peanuts56
02-27-2017, 02:12 PM
I find that I need to run through pieces that I've learned as often as I can. I have been a musician for 50 years but not a string player. I am originally a trumpeter and can still play pieces from memory that I have not played in years. I still think like a trumpeter but not like a string player.
I was practicing fingerstyle earlier today and went back to a piece I had last played about two weeks ago. I had to stop and get the music out.

kohanmike
02-27-2017, 03:36 PM
I pretty much always use lead sheets. I play a song enough to get comfortable with following on a lead sheet. I don't get bored with the songs we play.

bikemech
02-27-2017, 05:01 PM
For me, its a lot like getting to the center of a Tootsie pop. A 1, a 2, a 3, crunch. And then I give up and move onto something else.

TCK
02-27-2017, 06:50 PM
The adult ADHD is so strong. I play with a lead sheet for every song. Every week I play four or five more...If it makes it int my live set I will actually learn it, but so far, my live set is once. 650+ videos in the seasons, and never once have a played without a lead sheet. Most can't tell I am using one so I guess that is good.

Debussychopin
02-27-2017, 08:43 PM
For me, its a lot like getting to the center of a Tootsie pop. A 1, a 2, a 3, crunch.

You just gave away your age range

Croaky Keith
02-27-2017, 10:16 PM
I have to agree with people here, if I play something for the Seasons, (that means making a recording), I'll practice it 6~8 times & record whilst having it written in front of me.

(After learning to play for a year), I can only play one short melody from memory. :)

jnorris235
02-27-2017, 11:33 PM
On a jazzguitar.be forum I read "I recently read a quote (someone help me out), where the grizzled old jazz cat told the youngster that you need to play a tune 100 times to be able to play it by yourself and 1000 times to play it well with others. Or something like that."
I know leadsheets are said to be cheating and bad form in public. Do you use them even if only as a comfort blanket, cos eye contact with the audience is vital?

jimavery
02-28-2017, 01:23 AM
I think the only real answer to this question is "until it's ready". There are some songs I'm still coming back to after some months, ever hopeful that one day I'll play them satisfactorily.

bunnyf
02-28-2017, 01:38 AM
Reading this thread and thinking that it was funny that just yesterday I was leafing through my music library and trying to formulate a setlist of songs that I want to memorize. I tend to do this once or twice a year and then forget about it. I have more than a thousand songsheets on my iPad, but probably have only a half dozen memorized. At times, I might have a dozen but if I don't play them regularly, they start getting sketchy. I'd like to pump this number back up and get to at least a couple dozen that I can confidently break out at any time and not need music.

Tomorrow I'm going to continue to distill a set of songs to memorize. I'm going to try for ones that I really like, so I probably know the lyrics pretty well already, ones without the most difficult chords, ones with a relatively simple structure or chord progression, and ones that I feel best suit my voice. I'm also including a few that are not personal favs, but ones that are super popular with folks in general. It's always nice to have some songs memorized that are very familiar tunes.

My other goal is to work on the melody line of a few songs that I wind up having to play constantly in a group setting. I have gotten quite sick of a few tunes and this will relieve the boredom of playing them. I bet you know which ones I'm talking about (hint: a young woman with a particular color eyes...wanting to go to her residence via a rural route... Rhythmically swaying while being conveyed on a wooden vehicle).

Rllink
02-28-2017, 02:11 AM
Can you put a number to it? I mean, you just play it until you are feel comfortable with it. And how many here actually keep a tally of how many times you've played a particular song? I sure don't.

strumsilly
02-28-2017, 03:05 AM
Reading this thread and thinking that it was funny that just yesterday I was leafing through my music library and trying to formulate a setlist of songs that I want to memorize. I tend to do this once or twice a year and then forget about it. I have more than a thousand songsheets on my iPad, but probably have only a half dozen memorized. At times, I might have a dozen but if I don't play them regularly, they start getting sketchy. I'd like to pump this number back up and get to at least a couple dozen that I can confidently break out at any time and not need music.

Tomorrow I'm going to continue to distill a set of songs to memorize. I'm going to try for ones that I really like, so I probably know the lyrics pretty well already, ones without the most difficult chords, ones with a relatively simple structure or chord progression, and ones that I feel best suit my voice. I'm also including a few that are not personal favs, but ones that are super popular with folks in general. It's always nice to have some songs memorized that are very familiar tunes.

My other goal is to work on the melody line of a few songs that I wind up having to play constantly in a group setting. I have gotten quite sick of a few tunes and this will relieve the boredom of playing them. I bet you know which ones I'm talking about (hint: a young woman with a particular color eyes...wanting to go to her residence via a rural route... Rhythmically swaying while being conveyed on a wooden vehicle).got the first 2, but the latter escapes me.

jollyboy
02-28-2017, 03:26 AM
Rhythmically swaying while being conveyed on a wooden vehicle).


got the first 2, but the latter escapes me.

Rock The Boat? Surfin' U.S.A.? Proud Mary?

bikemech
02-28-2017, 04:02 AM
For me, its a lot like getting to the center of a Tootsie pop. A 1, a 2, a 3, crunch. And then I give up and move onto something else.


You just gave away your age range

Yes, I am 3.


Ok, to tackle the OP's question a bit more seriously. It really depends on your experience and familiarity with the song and its structure, I think. My brother is a talented musician and has been playing guitar for about 40 years. I started playing guitar 15-20 years ago. We both took up the ukulele about 2 years ago. He has played in bands and understands music theory. I am a couch monkey, a string whacker who knows very little about music theory, although I am trying to learn more.

We played ukulele together for the first time at our family Thanksgiving gathering last year. It took me a couple months of practicing before I felt comfortable performing the music I wanted to play. When we played through the songs that I had practiced, my brother was able to play it well (and much better than I could) after the first time through. When he brought his music out, I gave it a go, but after a short while I just sat back and listened. It's like the difference between Mozart and Raffi. And I couldn't even compare to Raffi.

Barrytone
02-28-2017, 04:39 AM
I guess I'm old school. I practice scales regularly. This works for me as now, after a long time, my ears can pick out melody notes in chords. This means I usually know which chord progression is going to give the sound I want. If it's a tune I'm unfamiliar with, I listen to it many times until I can hum a reasonable version. Then I find the key that fits. I enjoy jazzy type tunes as they allow for variations on the theme.
If I'm strumming in a group then I go with whatever the rest are playing and drop fills and turnarounds as appropriate. I have been playing for a long time, including 5 string banjo so I have become used to ad-hoc jams and playing on the fly.
However, I still practice every day as my memory needs regular updating.
As a last thought, I find practice before sleep definitely helps.

actadh
02-28-2017, 04:44 AM
When I started playing in 2014, I had many song sheets printed out, and I also used my 17" laptop to play songs stored there as well. I did ok, but tried not to get dependent on the sheets.

Fast forward a year, and copying became harder to do, and I was now using a 14" Chromebook - could only pull up the songs on wifi and even then they were too small to read easily. Many of these are chord melody or Campanella style.
So, I started internalizing them. Now, I have a repertoire of about 2 dozen songs. I don't get sick of them.

Fast forward again to this February. I am now in a ukulele choir and we are using the videos and song sheets of Cynthia Lin. The majority of people have never played ukulele. and we are doing the first songs on her playlist. These are similar chords, but different strumming patterns. I dearly love her voice and she seems like a genuinely good ambassador for the newbies. I like that I am meeting new people, learning to strum in sync with other people, and sing an play at the same time (which is something that I rarely do). I even find myself singing the songs on my own while doing chores. But, I find strumming them for practice so tedious that I usually just read the tab from the song sheet, which since I already know the chords helps me do well in the choir.

bunnyf
02-28-2017, 06:34 AM
Rock The Boat? Surfin' U.S.A.? Proud Mary?

Wagon wheel (rock me mama like a...)

stevepetergal
02-28-2017, 05:08 PM
How many times do you play a song to learn it well?
Exactly 173,384.

willisoften
03-01-2017, 08:44 AM
How many times do you play a song to learn it well?
Exactly 173,384.

That shows a lack of application because I can easily do it in 173,383

PTOEguy
03-01-2017, 09:11 AM
An interesting observation I once heard:

"An amateur musician practices until they can play it right, a professional practices until they can't play it wrong"

stevepetergal
03-01-2017, 05:02 PM
That shows a lack of application because I can easily do it in 173,383

I know when I'm beat.

Camsuke
03-01-2017, 05:07 PM
I never count how many times it takes, it's just too upsetting.

Southern Marylander
03-02-2017, 05:14 AM
I'll let you know when I get good at a song...

I'm currently in fingernail rehab, so no practicing for a few days. I had the horrible habit of biting my fingernails (from my wrasslin' days, where fingernails are required to be very short) and while I've mostly kicked it, I relapsed this week and now they're too short and raw to play. D'oh.

bunnyf
03-02-2017, 07:55 AM
I am now remembering again, why I don't have that many tunes completely memorized. By the time I have them down cold, I am nearly sick of them. I have to figure out for myself, how often do I have to continue playing them to strike the balance keeping them in my long term memory and having them feel a little fresh. I haven't done that yet. I have many that I could play by heart previously, that have now faded. I'm gonna have to be more particular with what I choose to memorize and whittle down the list of potentials to ones that will truly hold up for me.

stevepetergal
03-12-2017, 11:29 AM
How well? The question, as written, has no answer. Even if you qualify it, there may be no way to answer it.
I can learn something well enough to...(fill in the blank) in...(fill in the blank) amount of practice time.
I have performed things I had up to performance level, worked on them for a few months and played them better. The process never stops.
Like evolution:
Which came first? The chicken or the egg? Unquestionably the egg, but at what point do you first call the creature that hatches a chicken? When is a piece played well? When is the piece played as well as is possible? When is the chicken finished evolving? Surely there is a next/better step.

Camsuke
03-12-2017, 01:24 PM
How well? The question, as written, has no answer. Even if you qualify it, there may be no way to answer it.
I can learn something well enough to...(fill in the blank) in...(fill in the blank) amount of practice time.
I have performed things I had up to performance level, worked on them for a few months and played them better. The process never stops.
Like evolution:
Which came first? The chicken or the egg? Unquestionably the egg, but at what point do you first call the creature that hatches a chicken? When is a piece played well? When is the piece played as well as is possible? When is the chicken finished evolving? Surely there is a next/better step.

Great post Steve, I think you've nailed it here, there is always room for improvement & development. Whether it's the way we interpret songs or the way we arrange the various passages within the song, it's constantly evolving as we develop as players.

SoloRule
03-13-2017, 03:26 AM
I never count how many times it take but I can pretty much estimate how many more hours or days I need to get it to the point I can do an audio recording.
Once I do the audio, I can hear mistakes , areas that need further improvement. When that step is done, I can do a video if I am in the mood for it. After the video, I almost never played that song again!

Nickie
03-13-2017, 03:01 PM
when I was a newbie, it may have taken over 100 times for me to feel confident....of course I'm older than the average beginner....
I bet I've played Greensleeves over 100 times, and don't feel confident with it, but I won't give up.

LucilleJustRocks
03-13-2017, 09:58 PM
I usually decide which song I will record short time before I grab my instrument....do a short playthrough checking recording settings..and then go!
Of course there are some songs I have to work on and practise over and over again...especially those in foreign languages like Japanese or Spanish.
And I also have in mind that I'll never play songs because I consider them to be too difficult to play. Something like 'Naima' from John Coltrane for example.