Cover band question. (learning songs)


Nov 5, 2013
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In my opinion, it is not a good idea to pick up 20 songs all of a sudden, especially given the fact that you have a day job and family.

It will be very hard and you'll probably learn some of them really well and some will defitely sound shabby.

Why don't you just reduce the set list to a more reasonable 10-15 songs and learn them well? I am sure if a band sees you play a handful of tunes well, they'll think better of you than if they see you suffer to show 20 not-too-good songs.

When I tried out for the band I'm jamming with, I did that. I only showed them 5 songs, and warned them that the other ones weren't too familiar to me, and they liked what I played with them. And I was in.


V.I.P. Member
Dec 8, 2009
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One thing that most people don't fully appreciate is that depending on the band and number of people, the new guy doesn't need to be a 100% contributor on every single song to still play a successful gig. If there are 5 songs out of 25ish that the new guy doesn't know but that the band has always played OK together, the new guy can bow out of the set a song or two early (if you put those songs at the end), grab a tambourine, dance (preferably when the new guy is actually a new girl :p), just throw a couple of small licks in, or even just stand there pretending to contribute.

So I'd focus on learning about 5 for the audition, then adding 5 more for the next couple of rehearsals (depending on how often you get together), then five more after that...if at the end you haven't quite gotten the entire set down, it might not be as big of a problem as you think.


Village Elder
V.I.P. Member
Apr 7, 2012
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Write stuff down.


You need the set list so you know the order of the songs, and at least what key each song is in. Chord charts are your friend.

At least make a small cheat sheet or index card you can place somewhere and refer to as necessary.

^This… exactly! ^

I have a binder with about 175 songs in it… it's my "fake book". I put each song in one of those glassine sheet protectors. That way, as set lists change, I can easily move the pages around.

It helps immensely, when a song has been out of the rotation for a while. I forget them, if I don't play them regularly :( But, when I open up my book and turn to the song… it comes back - almost immediately.

Start doing this now. And, you'll be amazed in a couple years how many songs you will amass.

I also make a video of my playing each new song, once I get down to rehearsal/performance quality. If I need to, I can just watch the video and relearn it… from myself!

Thunder Dump

That tickles
Gold Supporting Member
Mar 9, 2009
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Get the program Transcribe! (if you have a PC). You can get a free demo and try it out. Awesome for learning songs. First, you can drop the pitch of the song without affecting tempo so if you tune down and the song is in A 440 then you're good. Second, you can loop sections so if you have one part you're trying to learn over and over you can hammer it. Third, you can drop the speed without dropping the pitch (opposite of #1) so if you have a complicated part you can learn it half speed, then 3/4 speed, then full speed. It does a lot more too.

I know there are pedal trainers that do something similar but it's nice to see it on your screen and scrub back and forth. Highly recommended.


Senior Member
Feb 21, 2009
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Yeah bro I think this is how I am gonna go about doing it. I sent my buddy a message to see since you guys mentioned it, maybe I should learn like 10 songs and jam them out to see if we all fit musically.

Personally, I won't even change strings anymore until after I've seen a band play in person or video, let alone pack up gear & get in a room with them. You already know you'd like to try them out, so that's not an issue.

I'd say pick 5 songs that have a variety of feel, tempo, & changes to try out with them. Keep in mind - you are trying the band on for size just as much as they are trying you on. ;) Good Luck!

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