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Thread: How does a beginner go about "playing along with" a song?

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    Default How does a beginner go about "playing along with" a song?

    People say that playing along with songs is a great way to learn, but how does a beginner play along with a song? The chords? The individual notes? What is the best strategy?

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    Registered User SincereCorgi's Avatar
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    Default Re: How does a beginner go about "playing along with" a song?

    You're asking all the right questions- there are degrees of 'playing along' with something. You can try to play along with the basic melody, try to play rhythm with the chords, try to improvise over the whole thing, or try to copy a solo note-for-note. All of these things are beneficial to your playing, so I'd just jump in and start.

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    Default Re: How does a beginner go about "playing along with" a song?

    If you intend to eventually learn material to play from either tablature or standard notation, then you might want to check out the free version of TabLedit available for download on the web. It lets you play along at any speed you choose, and there are many tunes available right here on the Cafe that can be opened in TabLedit to play along with. Tablature is very easy to learn. In the begining, this is most helpful for melody playing. But, the software does show/play chords as well. Learning to strum basic chords is easy to do on you own without tab or sheet music if you stick to simple tunes that you already know. Have fun!

    Scott

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    Peace. Love. Mandolin. Gelsenbury's Avatar
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    Default Re: How does a beginner go about "playing along with" a song?

    You could start by figuring out the key (Which notes fit and which don't?) and playing some suitable chords. On slower pieces with a steady rhythm - waltzes are great for this - you can begin to pick out the melody. It will probably be a while before you can do the same with faster music.

    I am trying to do the same thing at the moment. It is a good way to learn because it forces you to play along at someone else's tempo. Practising alone is the way to learn a melody; playing along is the way to internalise the rhythm. It helps to play with others as often as possible, and a recording is a way to bring those others to your home at a time that suits you.

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    Default Re: How does a beginner go about "playing along with" a song?

    find tabs of a song you want, learn song, download audacity, slow song down in audacity, speed up as you progress.

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    Peace. Love. Mandolin. Gelsenbury's Avatar
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    Default Re: How does a beginner go about "playing along with" a song?

    Quote Originally Posted by poniverus View Post
    slow song down in audacity
    Can Audacity do this without changing the pitch of the tune? Must try.

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    Default Re: How does a beginner go about "playing along with" a song?

    Yes, Audacity can slow down without pitch change.

    Open a file, then go to Effects -> Change Tempo

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: How does a beginner go about "playing along with" a song?

    Quote Originally Posted by mandogibbons View Post
    People say that playing along with songs is a great way to learn, but how does a beginner play along with a song? The chords? The individual notes? What is the best strategy?

    It depends. Is it a jam situation? Is it a home practice situation? Is it bluegrass, is it Irish Traditional, is it old time?

    If you mean at home practicing with a recording, then you want to do both. Practice chords and supportive backup, and also try and figure out the tune. Lots of fun. The slowdowner mentioned above is a good idea.

    Spend a lot of time listening at the jam. Chord back up if you know what key they are in is a good idea at first. Keep in mind that only Bluegrass appreciates a chop. So if its not bluegrass, don't chop.

    Old time and traditional irish are very centered on the tune. Not much room for improv. Perhaps record the jam so you can learn the tunes back home, or if you can read, get the tunes from a tunebook. Ask the jammers if there is a book with most of the tunes they do, or perhaps they have put together a tunebook of their jam, and perhaps its available on line or a paper version for printing costs. If not, at least take down the names and search around on line. Good chance a suitable version is posted somewhere.
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    Default Re: How does a beginner go about "playing along with" a song?

    Keep in mind that only Bluegrass appreciates a chop. So if its not bluegrass, don't chop.


    Way too pedantic. Swing, Django-based jazz (to name just 2 flavors) use some form of backbeat 'chop'.

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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: How does a beginner go about "playing along with" a song?

    I am indebted to my orchestra instructors from grade school on. They gave me the foundation of reading music, solid rhythm and most importantly how to play in an ensemble. What they didn't teach was how to pick up a song by ear and play along with others, without a score. That is now my main type of performance (no sheet music). Here's what worked for me as a self-taught guitar player and then many years later teaching myself mandolin:

    I focused on chords first, because that is the majority of what the mandolin is doing in a song (regardless of genre); backing rhythm, with a few leads or breaks thrown in. Playing the correct chords (correct for the key of the song) in the correct rhythm is essential, and is more important than learning the melody. As Don writes in his great new book, the wrong note at the right time can still sound good, but the right note at the wrong time still sounds wrong.

    Knowing the structure of the song (key and rhythm) is a must before launching off into a dazzling solo. If you play in a group of folks, whether in church, a "real" band, fun jam or other, rhythm is the first thing to develop. So I recommend a songbook of whatever music you prefer (fiddler's fakebook, Portland collection, etc.) that shows the music (notes and/or tab, learn one or both) with the chord changes as well. Get a book or look here for mandolin chords. Start with the simpler 2 and 3 finger forms just to get started. Great things about learning chords first are:
    1. You'll find that you only need a few (about 8 chords) to play in the most common keys
    2. You'll begin to see the standard progressions used in so many songs, so you will learn to learn much faster
    3. You'll see that for most songs the melody notes are right there in the chord you're playing, so it will be easier to learn the melody and integrate it with the chords.

    Others have different methods for learning, but for me, focusing on steady rhythm and mastering several chord shapes, quick chord changes and active ensemble playing have brought me to a place in four years on the mandolin that it took me many more years (and hours) to achieve on the guitar. Now I'm in fairly high demand for gigs with a few bands in my area.

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    Default Re: How does a beginner go about "playing along with" a song?

    LOTS of reasons to chop-- and you dont need to chop only on a backbeat-- A chopped chord (or octave or interval) has a LOT of punch. To say that it belongs only in bluegrass is unbelievably limiting. Listen to Sam Bush do Sailin' Shoes. In fact, my biggest problem with the mandolin is that people insist on pigeonholing a VERY VERY complex and broad-spectrum instrument into the bluegrass and celtic niches. To say something only belongs here, or to only do that there is to build unnecessary and stifling walls.

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    Default Re: How does a beginner go about "playing along with" a song?

    "Chop" in other-than bluegrass? You bet!

    When I was a bit younger, the first mention of "heavy metal" came along with the Beatles' "She's A Woman", where Lennon's staccatto back-beat chords had the tone & volume as sledgehammers on a railroad spike. Now THAT was metallic, and years before the term came to mean whatever that over-driven stuff is now.

    Personally, I find jams (non-BG & non-Celtic) to work best when participants provide an array of complementary voices. Since a rhythmic "chop" is often the most ignored, that's where you'll often find me - even before mandolin took over my life!
    - Ed

    "What our group lacks in musicianship is offset by our willingness to humiliate ourselves." - David Hochman

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    Default Re: How does a beginner go about "playing along with" a song?

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanN View Post
    Keep in mind that only Bluegrass appreciates a chop. So if its not bluegrass, don't chop.

    Way too pedantic. Swing, Django-based jazz (to name just 2 flavors) use some form of backbeat 'chop'.
    Playing chords on the backbeat perhaps, but not that percussive snappy bark like chop.
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    Default Re: How does a beginner go about "playing along with" a song?

    I didn't mean to turn this into a chop or not to chop thread. There are more than a few of them around.

    If folks are saying that certain kinds of jazz and rock and swing encourage experimenting with different techniques and voices, I have no problem with that. I love it actually.

    But that is using the chop as a technique that fits into a genre that encourages a broad array of technique. (I might even argue that a chop in these cases is used to evoke a bluegrassy feeling.)

    What I am getting at is that many folks (more years ago, less now it seems), think that if its a mandolin it should chop, and there are genres of music where a chop is distinctly not appropriate.

    So to clarify, chop if you are playing bluegrass. If it isn't bluegrass, and you want to introduce it as an effect, in a genre of music or a jam that encoures experimentation, go for it - always sensitive to whether it works or not. But don't chop only because well, thats what you do, or some mistaken notion that that is what a mandolin is for. For newbies, it is a good rule, if it ain't bluegrass, and you are not trying to play bluegrassy, don't chop.
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    Default Re: How does a beginner go about "playing along with" a song?

    The way you used the quote mechanism makes it appear as though I wrote the bolded phrase.

    I didn't. I wrote this: Way too pedantic. Swing, Django-based jazz (to name just 2 flavors) use some form of backbeat 'chop'.




    Originally Posted by AlanN
    Keep in mind that only Bluegrass appreciates a chop. So if its not bluegrass, don't chop.


    Way too pedantic. Swing, Django-based jazz (to name just 2 flavors) use some form of backbeat 'chop'.

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    Default Re: How does a beginner go about "playing along with" a song?

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanN View Post
    The way you used the quote mechanism makes it appear as though I wrote the bolded phrase.
    .
    Hmm. Not sure how that happened. Not what I intended. Oh, I see, yea you quoted me in italics instead of a quote box, and so it got included in the text box I used. Yea, I was only responding to your line.
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    Default Re: How does a beginner go about "playing along with" a song?

    Most beginners would benefit greatly with an instructor. Later on Band in the Box is a great tool for learning to play along.
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

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    Default Re: How does a beginner go about "playing along with" a song?

    I'd go for learning the key of the song, then getting the chord progressions down and play along. When you ge the melody in your head, then try to duplicate what they are donig on the recording. Once you get the drill down you can really make some impressive advances in your playing. Have fun, take two aspirin and call me in the morning.

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    Default Re: How does a beginner go about "playing along with" a song?

    Quote Originally Posted by mandogibbons View Post
    People say that playing along with songs is a great way to learn, but how does a beginner play along with a song? The chords? The individual notes? What is the best strategy?
    One thing at a time:
    1. find the key (if it's not a given) Specificly, listen to the end of verses, for the root chord tone.
    2. Once the key is known, find the first change. As in chord change. Does it go to the IV or the V, or something else. If you don't understand what I, II, III, IV, V etc. is all about, Google "chord theory."
    3. Find the second change. And the third and or forth chord change.
    4. Once you've established the chord pattern, know that the melody typically lies somewhere within these chord tones. Many a song has the same chord progression. The melody is where the song departs to make itself unique.
    Lastly. If you're listening to a song on the radio or a recording, it only lasts so long. Consider yourself worthy if you've fleshed out the aforementioned in the span of a typical song. This is a very good reason to use a recording, so one may repeat it as many times as ness.

    Now you know what i know. Which isn't much. And no, i can't typically play along with every song on the radio, by the time said song is over. Remember this technique is only for unfamiliar songs/tunes. The more one plays, one becomes familiar with patterns, and related tunes. Best of Luck

  20. #20

    Default Re: How does a beginner go about "playing along with" a song?

    Thanks a lot everybody. That really helps greatly. I will go forth and attempt to play along.

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