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Drums Life

7 Steps to Learn Complex Songs Quickly

After publishing a drum cover of Dream Theater, several people wrote to me to know what my approach to the study of the song was.


Several people have written to me to know what my approach to the study of the song was.

How did you learn it?

Did you transcribe the parts?

How long did it take you to do that?

What system did you use?

Of course everyone has their own system to study the songs, but I want to recommend seven steps that I used to study from scratch and put online the video of this song in three days.

Number one: listening

It must be said that the song I’m talking about is not exactly an easy song to memorize, we’re talking about “The dance of eternity”, full of odd times, structures that change, fill everywhere, it’s not like making a song of Green Day…

But continuous listening already helps you to understand certain parts, to memorize the sections of the song, to highlight the points where you will probably have to work more ‘because you have not understood what exactly sound.

This is the first phase of the study and serves above all to put your head in order to have a block view of the song.

Obviously try to focus on listening, put the phone on silent and don’t fuck around, otherwise you have nothing left.

By the way, if you notice, when you listen to a song just for the pleasure of listening to it, you never notice certain details that come out when you have to learn that song, even in the simplest songs, for absurdity.

Number two: sing the parts

If you memorize the parts and are able to sing them, you have already done the bulk of the work, because you already have in mind what you have to play.

You can learn the parts exactly as you memorize the lyrics of a song, a rap or poem.

Your brain remembers how to do it and does it without having to think too much about it and already take another step forward in memorizing the song.

So when you’re not on drums, you can already play the song singing it and as they say overseas “if you can sing it, you can play it”.

Number three: (optional) use the score

Why optional?

I almost always use it, but in this case the part is so complex, that I would take too long just to read it, I do first to sing it and play it again.

Besides, who says that to play you need to read? Go tell Deen Castronovo…

So it’s not necessarily the case that in order to learn a difficult song, you have to get a solfeggio diploma, right?

Number four: divide the song into sections

If you’re studying a difficult song, you’ll need to ask the technology for help and isolate one part at a time.

To do this you can use some tools like Tunetranscriber.com, a free website that allows you to slow down or speed up your Mp3 and create loops of sections or isolate specific parts.

There are also several similar apps, I have used in this case Anytune PRO, or if you are more experienced you can use various software such as Logic, Garage Band, Cubase or whatever you want.

This phase is crucial, because you start to play and repeat the sections ten, wind, a hundred times, before moving on to the next one.

Once you’ve worked on the various sections, you’ll also have a clear idea of which ones are more complex or require more concentration.

Number five: slows down the sound

Some sections can be good even at the original time, but often it is necessary to slow down drastically the track, both to understand what the drummer is playing, and to repeat and then gradually increase the tempo, as is normally done in the studio of a musical instrument.

I know, it’s balloon-like, because maybe you play four seconds of a song in a loop for half an hour before you get to the point, but it’s without a doubt the system that works best.

Remember what Dennis Chambers says: “if you can’t play slow, you can’t play fast either”.

As a kid, I remember that my sister had a tape recorder of those for recording speech at school, which allowed you to slow down or speed up the listening process.

I often think about it and it was really my luck, because unintentionally I was already using this system to study.

Number six: working on longer sections

At this point you have worked on the various sections of the song and you think you are ready to play everything from A to Z, instead there will be the difficulty to put everything together, to succeed mentally or technically to switch from one section to another without making mistakes.

But before “crushing play” and continuing to make endless mistakes and pissing you off like a beast, he works on blocks of longer tracks.

For example, if you used to do it before: intro loop, then section loop with double bass drum etc., now put them together, add the blocks one piece at a time until you can play it all in a row.

Number seven: speed up the song

At this point you’ve done the dirty, very dirty work… the piece comes and you feel fine, but I want to give you one last decisive tip.

The reason I published this video playing it 10% faster than the original is because when I study something like this, I also learn it playing it faster, to have a safety margin when I play it at the original time.

It’s a great system, you have less time to think and your hands have to go more, but in this way you really dominate that piece when you do it at the right time.

Of course, your current music level has a big impact on the time it takes to learn the song, if you are not familiar with odd times, for example, it will be hard, or if you started studying the double pedal today, it will be even harder.

But it’s still a great way to learn how to play drums.

As a boy, for example, I learned the double pedal playing the songs of Pantera, Slayer and similar stuff, I never put myself in front of a score, even if I should have…

Watch the full video below.

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