You have this great opportunity to play a show and earn some good money, or to get into this high-level band, but you need to learn their whole set of songs you never heard before, for a show they have in 4 days. Things like this happen regularly in this fickle industry.
Here’s 7 tips that will help you prepare for those kind of situations.
- Set Yourself A Deadline You Can’t Escape.
Might seem a silly topic considering that the show you have to play 4 days after being hired is already a serious deadline in and of itself. Yet, you can battle and target that deadline, setting mini deadlines to accomplish as stepping stones towards the main deadline: the show. Tell the band who hired you to have a rehearsal tomorrow or within 2 days the latest of you getting the songs. It is amazing how much you can accomplish when you set yourself constant deadlines. You will find yourself working much harder and being much more focused when you set a short deadline you cannot escape. Tell them that you want to rehearse with them tomorrow and that you will most of the songs down by tomorrow’s rehearsal. Stay up all night if you have too: play the songs non-stop till you cannot forget them anymore. Push your limits and push your memory.
- Don’t Waste Time “Getting Organized”.
You don’t really have time to waste and you surely don’t have time to start making practice schedules or create an organizational fuss. The task is simple: you have 14-15 songs to learn and a show in 4 days. Speak up: the band might already have tabs or chord charts written out. Ask them to save time and hassle figuring it all your by yourself.
If they don’t have music or chords written out: get to work. You don’t get fussy about which song to start with: you pick the first one on the CD they gave you and you figure out the chords asap. When you’re done, you immediately get to the next song and figure the chords out to that one. Keep going till you have all the chord charts prepared to all songs. If they play cover tunes, find the tabs online to save yourself time transcribing. Don’t start learning and practicing songs till you have all the chords and guitar parts to all the songs on paper. While you’re in the transcribing flow: you will find yourself finish this part of the job much more quickly if you don’t get distracted into playing, then transcribing again, then playing again, then back to transcribing, etc. Don’t interrupt what you are doing and don’t multi task. Remember: you don’t have time to waste. Finish one part of the job completely before you move on to the next step. All successful people apply this important rule. When you are done compiling all the charts: go back to the first song and memorize it all. Only move on to the next song when you have the song you were practicing close to completely memorized.
- Get Amazing Slow Downer.
This is amazing practice software. It allows you to change the tempo and the pitch of songs independently from one another. If the song is a bit too fast to your technical abilities, slowing the song down will make it easier to play. You can then gradually speed up the song over numerous repetitions as you keep getting better. The main time saving feature to address here is the “start point” feature. You can set a starting point so the song always starts from the same spot in the song upon simply hitting your space bar. Even better: you can also set the ending point of the fragment you want to repeat over and over again. Now the fragment loops and you don’t even have to hit your space bar anymore to start the music. When the musical passage hits the end marker, the music automatically jumps back to the starting point and keeps repeating between your 2 cue points. This is unlike for example iTunes or any music playback software, where you have to physically grab your mouse to pull the song position slider back, then wait till that section of the song comes up where you need practice; and then do all that over and over again. This saves a lot of time with Amazing Slowdowner.
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- Don’t procrastinate.
Listen to the songs whenever you have a minute.
Listen to them in your car. If the songs were emailed to you as mp3’s, burn them on a CD or put them on your iPod so you can listen to them everywhere all the time. While listening: try to memorize the song forms and structures. Is there an intro? How long are the verses? Can you tell the chord progression by ear? Having the structures of the songs memorized, is already half the battle. The good news is: you don’t need your guitar for that and you can practice this anywhere. You just need to keep listening to the songs over and over again.
Every single second you have should be dedicated on getting those songs down. Those songs, for those 4 days, are your whole world. Nothing else exists.
- Repeat… Repeat… Repeat!
Repetition is the mother of all skills. The only way you are going to get those songs down in no time at all: is trough focused, continuous repetition. Don’t take breaks: keep repeating till the material is hammered in. Here’s a good tip: the moment you feel you are starting to get the song memorized that you have been working on, move on to the next one. During that time, the previous song will have time to sink in, and some of it will get forgotten again. Then after 15-20 minutes, move back to playing the one you felt you almost had down 20 minutes ago. That way you feed the information to your brain, let your brain assimilate the info and forget some of it, then feed it to your brain again, and so on. It is like having multiple rehearsals a day of the same song. This is the very best way to get things memorized.
- Keep Positive Thoughts.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed and to think that you cannot do it. Change your thinking: you can do whatever you set your mind to. There is no greater waste of time and energy than thinking negatively. As a matter of fact: you don’t even have time to think. Keep working, keep learning, drink lots of water and eat a small meal every 3-4 hours to keep your energy up. This is totally doable. As a matter of fact: you could learn 15 songs in a matter of only hours of time. In preparation for these kinds of situations, you should practice your ear relentlessly. The better your ear: the lesser time it takes to learn songs. Thinking positively also opens up your mind to find solutions. If for example you somehow don’t manage to get all the songs down by your rehearsal deadline: bring your chord charts in case you forget parts of certain songs so you can read them. If you will not be able to get all the guitar solos down note for note: simplify them, or ask if it would be ok to improvise your own solos, which would save you a lot of study time if there are a lot of guitar solos. Panicking leads to tunnel vision, which results in a narrow perspective, which makes it harder to see solutions and possibilities. Be positive!
- Play Behind The Beat.
When you have that rehearsal, it helps to play behind the beat. Not only does this make you sound more relaxed, it also gives you that fraction of a millisecond extra time to hear what the next chord is that the band is playing. Especially if you have a really good ear, playing a bit behind the beat buys you that fraction of extra time to hear which chord the band is moving to next. This too saves you a great deal of memorization time. You still want to have the song memorized, but it takes away, pressure, worries and stress, to know that this trick will aid your memory on the spot while performing the songs with the band.