The weekend before last, I got an email from a local(ish) band. They said their rhythm guitarist was leaving and they’d been talking about having a keyboard player instead – classic rock covers from the 70s to today – mainly weddings – was I interested? I said to send me their set list with the keys of the songs and give me a week or two.

But the singer’s more of a “now” person. He sent me 36 tracks and asked if I could go to a rehearsal on the Wednesday.

I’ll be honest. Thirty-six tracks in a few days is quite a headful. So I got him to reduce it to 20-something to focus on. We had a band practice and decided it would work. Last night, we had another practice including most of those 36, with a dozen or more thrown in for good measure.

To try and make this news relevant to this blog, here’s a quick how-to on getting your head round a big set, quickly. (It’s only the second time I’ve done this in the last few months, so could be refined.)

o Make a youtube playlist of all the tracks, while copying and pasting the lyrics onto a word-processing document

o Print out the lyrics, pages numbered, with an index at the front

o In a folder of plastic sleeves, put the lyrics on the left, with a blank page on the right

o Find a website with all the chords for all the songs you need (I’m using ultimate guitar because you can transpose the key without paying a fee)

o Play through the tracks, checking the chords as you go and writing them onto the page facing the lyrics

o Refer to youtube “How to play [name of song]” if necessary

o Listen to the youtube playlist with a glass of wine (or few) and make notes on the lyrics about where to come in, marking solos, backing vocals etc

o Play along to the playlist if you have time – as often as possible – making a note of the best keyboard voice to use

o When you turn up to the band practice/audition, play something not on the set list as a warmup. I tend to improve for a bit and then play “Child in Time” because I can sing the first part of it – and everyone loves Deep Purple

Obviously, the band might be a bit nervous that they’re wasting their time having you along. Fortunately, technology has come up with easy ways for you let them know you can play a little. I spent six minutes playing live into Garageband, which I imported into iMovie, with an iMovie stock image wibbling away in the foreground. I was in a hurry – I had a lot to do (see above). Then uploaded it as a public video to youtube.

If you’re interested, you can see/hear it here.

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