Learning Solos note-for-note

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by stevel, Feb 20, 2009.

  1. stevel

    stevel Member

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    Just curious - what do you think?

    Is learning solos note-for-note beneficial?

    Have you done it? Do you do it? How useful have you found it? etc.

    I'll say I've learned very few solos note for note. There are some that I've learned relatively to very close. The one to "Don't Stop Believin" was probably the first real solo I learned, and that one was note-for-note. But as I progressed, I would always "add my own" elements to things. I may, as a tribute, play something pretty darn close, but I typically stray at some point.

    I've also found if I catch the recognizable bits, the audience member will comment "man, that was just like the record", when really, it wasn't, so I tend to be less concerned about the flurries and unmemorable/unremarkable bits anyway.

    Do you do more, or less, note-for-note?

    Steve
     
  2. dsqu4r3d

    dsqu4r3d Member

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    I dont like learning a solo note-for-note becuase, for example If i would ever cover that song, I dont want to play the exact thing he played, because for me thats boring. I like learning the main parts of the solo and adding my own touch to the rest of the solo.
     
  3. joachiml

    joachiml Member

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    I find that it's easier to do your own thing after having learnt it the "proper" way, so yeah, I attempt to learn it note-by-note.
     
  4. Flyin' Brian

    Flyin' Brian Member

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    Absolutely beneficial! You give yourself a base from which you can develop your own thing. Transcribing solos is even better.

    Wes Montgomery, my guitar hero, started out playing Charlie Christian solos note for note...worked pretty well for him.
     
  5. edgewound

    edgewound Member

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    Only if the solo is an unmistakeable element of the song...then note for note.

    Some Santana songs such as his version of "Black Magic Woman", or "Oye Como Va"...where people might sing the solo.
     
  6. Lucidology

    Lucidology Supporting Member

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    Never really worked for moi ... Never has been much of a necessity ...
    However, the realization of concepts being applied during an admired solo has been of great value ...
     
  7. dantedayjob

    dantedayjob Member

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    I might learn certain melodic passages; the intro on Santana's Black Magic Woman, the repeating line in The Cure's Just Like Heaven, the lick that starts the verses to Stevie Nicks/Tom Petty's Stop Draggin My Heart Around... beyond stuff like that I always improvise any lead that I do... I find that some things work better than other and may stick to a certain theme each time I play, otherwise it's all improv... live in the moment, for good or bad, put your heart out there...
     
  8. entraind

    entraind Supporting Member

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    I do like to learn solos (guitar and horn) note for note and I use that as a way of building my vocabulary. Usually there are parts of solos that I can play pretty quickly and then there are parts in which the phrasing is really counterintuitive for me. *Those* are the sections I tend to work hard to play perfectly because they force me to play in a way which isn't natural for me. After playing them in various contexts for a while they become natural and my vocabulary.

    One listen to Lucidology's clips above tell you that learning things note for note isn't the only way up the mountain, nice playin!...
     
  9. Bryan T

    Bryan T Guitar Owner Silver Supporting Member

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    Absolutely. I built a lot of technical skills imitating others.

    Not much these days for my own purposes. I do help students work through solos.

    Bryan
     
  10. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    It is possible for it to be a dumb, fruitless exercise.

    It is also possible for it to be enlightening, in some cases.

    Depends on what YOU, the student, bring to it.

    I've met some great players who have done it, and some very very great players, whom you've probably heard of, who never did it ever in life.

    Many 'educator' types stress its importance. I'm talking about guys with degrees that teach in colleges, or who publish widespread instructional materials.

    I don't always hear actual 'great' players talking about it as much--like the really inspired/inspiring guys. For whatever that means. Some do, many don't.

    I have learned solos from records and written them down before. I've done the same with arrangements, either as assignments from teachers, or just for fun.

    I don't do it much anymore. Now I am far more interested in the mechanism behind a certain sound. I'm more interested in 'big picture.'

    I'm more interested these days in the rationale behind a broad, general sound--harmony-wise, or whatever-- than I am the specific order in which an artist played those notes. I want to know where it is coming from and why a gesture sounds how it does. For me, lately, this understanding has been enough to spark hours and weeks of investigation. Mission accomplished.

    However, for a very young student or someone new to the whole process, I could see the virtue in learning solos note-for-note to learn phrasing and maybe some language.

    But that begs the question, if the student has to learn solos to get the sound of phrasing and language in their ear, are they not listening to a lot of that kind of music? And if not, why do they want to play that kind of music? That kind of stuff 'learns itself' through exposure, I think.
     
  11. shane88

    shane88 Member

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    I subscribe to the close enuff 4 r+r theory and i would hope the dood that recorded it doesn't play it "note 4 note" live :)
     
  12. liveone

    liveone Member

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    There are solos I learn to play note for note cause I love it. I don't just love the notes they play but how they play them. I can't believe there are people who never desired this. Of course these solos are extremely melodic and an integral part of the song.

    Solos that are just showcasing virtuoso playing can be fun to listen to a couple times but I probably wouldn't put in the effort to learn note for note.
     
  13. purestmonk

    purestmonk Member

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    i do it very often.. it's useful .. but at the same time i know what i could improvise over that solo bit too, so after learning note for note, i throw it away and add my own elements
     
  14. wstsidela

    wstsidela Gold Supporting Member

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    Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don't. The Santana stuff is fun to play note-4-note especially BMW. It's hard to hit a bad note in Dmin.
     
  15. JonR

    JonR Member

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    I do learn note-for-note if I can. But only to get a feel for how the player was thinking. I would only repeat the solo (in a live cover) if it was an important and distinctive part of the song, that everybody knew and (I guessed) wanted to hear.
    Eg, there are parts such as intros, where I do think it's important to get it note perfect (such as Chuck Berry tunes, and various other rock standards with guitar intros, such as Hey Joe.).
    For improvised solos within the song, it's generally less important to have it exact, and I think an audience expects a player to make it their own anyway - to maybe play something like the original (out of respect), but to stretch out beyond it.
    Personally, from bands I see, I always like to hear intros played exact, but solos improvised (in the right spirit or style, but not exactly copied).
    I think this is because I regard an intro as part of the composition (even tho it might have been improvised originally), while a solo is a section given over to improvisation, that is designed to be different each time.
    What would the original player do, next time he played it? Would he play the same solo he did in the studio? (And even if he would, does that mean I should?)

    This is all in a rock context, of course. In jazz, different considerations apply. Firstly, improvisation (personal interpretation) is what it's all about. Jazz is most certainly NOT about reproducing a recorded version of anything. Studio recording - which has become central to rock - is a side issue in jazz. You would get excommunicated from the Church of Jazz if you repeated a solo from a record! - or even if you repeated one of your own solos from a previous gig. (Or you hope the Jazz Police don't find out...:cool:)
    But note-for-note transcription is still important and useful - because it reveals strategies - it removes the veil of mystery. You CAN steal (sorry "borrow"... sorry "quote" ;) ) licks from other people's solos; but the idea is not to reproduce a recorded version, but to mine it for raw material to recombine into a new improvisation.

    So, I once transcribed Django Reinhardt solos, when I was trying to learn to play like him (in his style). What kind of arpeggios or scales did he use? What kind of chord extensions or alterations did he favour? What kind of rhythmic devices, bends or vibrato, etc, did he employ? It was a great lesson, feeling like I got inside his head (for a moment). But I didn't take it too far. I didn't want to BE him. I wanted to be myself, but (for the purposes of that band) to sound something like him. (It would have been a very dry exercise to reproduce a Django solo - even if it was possible for me. I might have earned some admiration, but it would have been hollow.)

    I also once transcribed parts of the solos from "All Blues", which was hugely instructive about the 4 different styles of the players. I was expecting to get some strategies for how to approach altered chords. Instead I found out how Miles approached altered chords; and how Coltrane approached them (a million miles apart...); and how Cannonball and Bill Evans approached them. Or - at least - how they approached them on that take, of that tune, at that time...
    IOW, you always have to be aware of those variables. It's possible to glean some strategies you can apply to your playing - but mostly you realise that next time it would be different, and has to be different. A "scale strategy for an altered chord" is really a tiny part (maybe 10% or less) of what a solo is all about at that moment.

    So there's nothing wrong with note-for-note transcription. All the jazz greats did it. (Wes Montgomery famously started by copying Charlie Christian solos note for note - and Charlie Christian copied Lester Young and others.) But - although you can "quote" famous players' licks - the point is not reproduction (blind copying), it's building your own vision on a knowledge of the past.
     
  16. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

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    I did the cover band thing for many years and didn't do it unless it was essential to the song. But I gotta say, it was out of pure laziness on my part! I beat myself up a bit for not taking the time but now that i'm writing, I think all the improv paid off. That said, I kinda wish I had learned a few more "tricks" , so to speak. Not to copy but to use as concepts. I hate to coin phrases, but it is what it is and i'm ok with that.
     
  17. JonR

    JonR Member

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    I agree. I was fairly lazy to begin with, in terms of getting things accurate when doing covers.
    Now when I look back - or re-examine those old tunes for new cover versions (they still seem popular enough) - I realise I missed a lot of detail that now seems more important to me. I think I can hear them better than I used to be able to.
    At the same time - as you say - a big part of the old (lazy) way was improvising my own interpretation (where necessary), and that was indeed valuable - and arguably a much better approach than getting anal about details.
    Ironically, one part of me loves the detail (how exactly they got all those great effects), while another part is all for re-interpretation of the most far-reaching kind. (Eg, I used to hate what Bob Dylan does live with his old songs, but now I admire him for it. Even tho, if covering them myself, I would be torn between playing them the old way and opening them right up.)
     
  18. Poppa Stoppa

    Poppa Stoppa Member

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    I do it quite a lot.

    You can get the ghist of a solo very quickly, to the point where you can play something people will recognise it but you won't learn much from it yourself because you gloss over the bits you can't master.

    Deep learning a solo is where you really learn new stuff and extend your playing scope. It's great to have those little lightbulb moments "Ah - NOW I know what he's doing". Or you realise you were actually playing the wrong notes before, or discover a new and easier position to finger a phrase, or have to re-train your picking pattern, or suddenly understand the harmonic theory underpinning the notes.
     
  19. shadowbox

    shadowbox Supporting Member

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    +1 Learning solos has definitely increased my technical skills. I like learning horn solos; doing this suggests new approaches to playing lines on the guitar. Having said that, I find that when I'm jamming in a band situation I rarely play the solo note for note
     
  20. ?&!

    ?&! Member

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    I don't do it much with rock and blues stuff, because it's fairly easy to determine the techniques and approaches used by ear. I'll learn the important melodic bits, but if the guy switches to pentatonic Chuck Berry licks or some fast, obvious scale runs, I'll just do those same things the way I do it, until something integral to the song shows up in the solo again. As mentioned before, it is the "close enough for rock'n'roll" approach. It's more important to capture the vibe than the exact notes.

    Jazz, however, is another story. I try to learn jazz solos note for note, and transcribe them. After that is done, I'll analyze the lines bar-by-bar, to look for patterns, concepts and approaches. After I figure out (at least what I think) the player was doing, I'll play through the tune using those approaches, but not the licks I transcribed. Then I add those approaches to my vocabulary. The gold in transcription is the concepts you discover, not the licks.
     

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