Using The ?Slow Down? Features Of The Tascam Bass Trainer (or other software) To Learn A Song
The Tascam Bass Trainer is one of my favourite pieces of hardware.? It?s a practice amp, tuner and metronome built into one – and it fits into your coat pocket.
But the best feature is that it allows you to slow down an MP3 file without appreciably altering the pitch.? (OK, when you go REALLY slow it does alter the pitch fractionally. You can either ignore it – or retune your bass slightly).
If you use a computer as part of your practice there is software available which does a similar job, so you don?t have to have a Tascam to get value from this part of the lesson.
One of the biggest mistakes that I?ve seen beginners make is that they try to learn a song at performance tempo – and they make lots of mistakes.? They keep playing it over and over, hoping that the mistakes will disappear.? Well, they never do.
Instead what you need to do is learn a song out of tempo first – learn the notes of the pattern you?re learning without any kind of beat or tempo present.? Only when you?ve learned the notes can you then take that sequence and start adding some rhythm.
But don?t start immediately trying at performance tempo – instead make use of the Tascam?s slow down feature (or your software) and play it through a number of times slowly.
What you?re aiming for is to play through the piece slowly several times – this will teach your brain how to play that pattern.? And each time you play the pattern successfully you are teaching your brain the way you want to play that pattern – multiple correct repetitions over time will ingrain the pattern on your brain.
The Tascam has the following speed settings:
Performance tempo (or 0)
So you can actually play a song faster than the recorded version.? This is a great feature when you?re reviewing tunes – I?ll talk about this in more detail another time.
What I want to do is give a demonstration of this in action – obviously this will work better with a real line, so I?m going to use the following segment from the bass line to Superstition by Stevie Wonder:
Now I don?t expect you to learn this – but I wanted to put in a relatively complex piece of music into this lesson so you could see it at work.? One of the other great features of the Tascam bass trainer (and I know that most software systems have this too) is that it allows you to ?loop? sections of a tune.? So you can set your loop in point approximately 4 beats before the section starts…and then loop out just after it finishes.? (You?ll hear what I mean on the video)
What I would suggest is a sequence like this:
- 1)? Learning the notes without any kind of tempo or beat happening.
- 2)? Once you?re confidant you have the note locations memorized play several times at -50.? (I?ll illustrate once on the video – so you know I normally aim for 8 consecutive successful playthroughs before I?ll consider moving up a tempo band).
- 3)? When you?ve played it through 8 times successfully then move the tempo to-32. And play it until you can play 8 times consecutively and perfectly.? (Again, I?ll play it once on the video).
- 4)? When you?re ready, then move the tempo setting to -16.? And again don?t move on until you play through 8 times consecutively.
- 5)? Now move the tempo feature to -12. And do your thing.
- 6)? Now move the tempo feature to -8.? And do your thing.
- 7) Now move the tempo feature to -4. And do your thing.
- 8)? Now you should be fine to work? up to performance tempo.
Some thoughts on this process:
1) It might take you a period of time to work through a particular tempo sequence.? You have to make sure that you are playing at a tempo range perfectly – and can do it multiple times – before you move on.? That?s perfectly OK.
2)? You can use this for simpler songs too.? And sometimes you won?t have to start at -50, you might be able to start at -32.? Or -16.? Each time you learn a piece like this then you?ve improved your ability level a fraction.
3)? Learning a song in chunks using this method will be learning the line at a deep level.? That means that if you learn a line like this, you?ll be able to go 6 months or so without playing the line and then be able to play it from your deep memory.? (This is very cool!)
Paul a question I have looked your web site and gone over some of you lesson on youtube I fine that learning as new song would be much easyer and quicker if i had notation for each song do you do this for members. I think i would like to learn all the songs you have on youtube and much more how do i get the songs and notation for them.
Paul Wolfe says
Yep – members get the notation and tab. More details here:
And use the contact form and ask as many questions as you need.
Very nice setup
Paul Wolfe says
Charles Link says
For awhile I was watching your videos on YouTube and I was learning them. My only criticism was that you never ,at least at the end,played along, with the actual song. I found a young kid, Rob Gray, who is absolutely brilliant, doing it that way and I leaned much faster and better.
Paul Wolfe says
That’s great that you found someone who helped you learn. I have a specific way of teaching and I know it doesn’t work with everyone. As they say, you can\t please all the people all the time, so I just do the best I can!
I use an audio editing program to divide the songs into segments of one bar, or measure, in length and load those segments into Amazing Slow Downer, save the playlist, and loop each bar until I’ve gotten it figured out. My latest project is generating tabs using TablEdit while listening to each bar in Amazing Slow Downer.
I label each bar with the word “Cue” instead of “Bar” or “Measure” as a convenience
In addition, as an aid in memorizing the songs, I create what I call “recursive segments”, the first of which will consist of cue 001 and cue 002 and would be labeled Cue 001 – 002, which follow each successive addition of the next bar in the song. After the first recursive segment will come the next bar, or “cue”. In my scheme: cue 003, so the recursive segment following cue 003 would be labeled Cue 001 – 003, and so on.
For collating purposes, using a batch file, I rename all of the mp3 files with a prefix beginning with “001” and increment by one:
001 Cue 001.mp3 (bar #one)
002 Cue 002.mp3 (bar #two)
003 Cue 001 – 002.mp3 (bars #one and #two)
004 Cue 003.mp3 (bar #three)
005 Cue 001 – 003.mp3 (bars #one through #three)
006 Cue 004.mp3 (and so on)
007 Cue 001 – 004.mp3
008 Cue 005.mp3
009 Cue 001 – 005.mp3
010 Cue 006.mp3
011 Cue 001 – 006.mp3
012 Cue 007.mp3
013 Cue 001 – 007.mp3
014 Cue 008.mp3
015 Cue 001 – 008.mp3
016 Cue 009.mp3
017 Cue 001 – 009.mp3
018 Cue 010.mp3
019 Cue 001 – 010.mp3
I could have used the Start Pt. and End Pt. features of ASD but I prefer having a playlist for the tune load all of the files at once rather than try and ge the start and end points exactly right. Believe it or not I generate a spreadsheet with the beginning and ending times of each bar so that I can customize the playback to any section of the song I like. It’s a lot of work and time consuming, but it works for me.
Paul Wolfe says
Love checking out other people’s methodology – thank you for sharing!
One thing I should have edited into this lesson is that it’s an older lesson – originally filmed in 2012 I think! – and nowadays I do this process with software called Anytune. I’ll film a tutorial showing that as well….
cynthia wolff says
another great tool to help us…Your new website is great…love your teaching style…you really dig deep to get us to learn terminolgy and notes names…
Paul Wolfe says
Yep – I just left a comment for David that I should have mentioned somewhere (I’ll have to edit it in) that this is an older tutorial and you can now do this more cheaply with software like Anytune or Amazing Slow Downer.
Paul Bromhead says
Cool lesson thanks Paul. I like the part about looping and doing the bassline without tempo. I’ll definitely give that a go. I need to get Anytune because every song I’ve learned the last 3 years, I’ve jumped right in at full tempo with the track downloaded from iTunes and played over and over, if making a mistake then going back to the beginning and trying again until the next mistake….and I haven’t been looping any bars. I’ve got Grade 4 in 3 weeks and I’ve played the 3 songs in aggregate over 1000 times , so sick of them now but still haven’t nailed them 100% but almost.
That’s one fine bass you have there!!! 😉