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Thread: How do you memorize tunes?

  1. #1
    Registered User mobi's Avatar
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    Question How do you memorize tunes?

    When you memorize, how it is stored in your brain?

    For example,

    1. as staff notation symbols
    2. as C D E F G series of letters
    3. as Do Re Mi solfege
    4. As sequence of frets e.g. tablature numbers
    5. something else

    I am struggling to remember any piece of music without looking at it

  2. #2
    Mandolin Botherer Shelagh Moore's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    5. As a tune, in my case. Once I have that clearly in my head I don't think about the fingering as that's become pretty automatic over many years playing.
    Last edited by Shelagh Moore; Aug-30-2016 at 9:42am.

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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    I do everything by ear
    1) learn chords
    2) be able to sing melody
    3) find melody on fretboard
    4) ALWAYS be mindful of what chord the melody notes are being played over
    5) I think about the note "numbers" not the actual note (e.g. Key of G: G = 1, A =2, B = 3)

  5. #4
    Registered User JKA's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    Quote Originally Posted by mobi View Post
    When you memorize, how it is stored in your brain?

    For example,

    1. as staff notation symbols
    2. as C D E F G series of letters
    3. as Do Re Mi solfege
    4. As sequence of frets e.g. tablature numbers
    5. something else

    I am struggling to remember any piece of music without looking at it
    At my age with great difficulty!

    Seriously though, I find I have to just keep practicing until they are ingrained. I know I've learned a tune when I can play it note for note in my head whilst lying in the bath.

    There's nothing wrong with using the chord charts or music though, just look at all the old dance bands and orchestras that play with their music stands on stage. It's better to play it right with the music in front of you than mess it up.

    Practice till you puke is a pretty good mantra to adopt

    I find it easiest to learn a tune by remembering shapes and patterns as I have no music theory whatsoever...that may help
    Last edited by JKA; Aug-30-2016 at 8:57am. Reason: To add something
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    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    I also only play by ear.For me I need to memorize the tune note for note and be able to play it in my head perfectly, not on mandolin but by whatever I'm listening to be it violin,piano, or whatever. If it's a difficult piece I may try playing along with the recording to get it down, even slowing the recording when needed. But, until I can play the tune in my head perfectly I cannot consider it learned. Then I work on any changes to rhythm or style I might want to try.Like Mr. Moore once I have a tune in my head I can usually play it without much difficulty. And seldom if ever forget it.

  7. #6

    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    I find that not thinking about it when playing helps.

    As soon as I start to think about what the notes are etc, then I mess it up. I just find that my finger's know where to go.

    I don't visualise anything music like when playing.

    When however, I wanted to play chords for a tune with my OM, I found myself having to visualise playing the melodeon, so I could work out which chords were used where.

    Cheers,
    Jen.

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    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    My new faster way is to listen to a version I like,
    Play along to that version,
    Do the same reading the sheet music,
    Record myself playing along with the dots at full speed.
    Then play along to my own recording, for some reason if I do that to myself playing, then the tune sticks really quickly.

    If I don't have anything but the dots to go by, I practice up as good a version as I can, then record that, then play along to that as before.
    Eoin



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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    1. Passively listen while driving or doing other work
    2. Learn to hum it
    3. Figure it out on an instrument
    4. Actively listen some more with instrument in hand for the specific instrument nuances and anything I missed
    5. Work those up
    6. Play it a bunch to smooth it out
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    I generally learn tunes by ear but if i learn from notation I try to play it a few times and then put the sheet music away and see how much I can remember. Then I will go back to the sheet music and check to see if I remembered it correctly. Eventually, I don't need it.

    I also try to associate the title of a tune with the first few notes. As I get older it takes longer to recall a tune but eventually i will remember.
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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    Include in your song list:
    Key
    First few of words of song
    First few notes & chord
    Hope for the best
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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jen88 View Post
    I find that not thinking about it when playing helps.

    As soon as I start to think about what the notes are etc, then I mess it up. I just find that my finger's know where to go.

    I don't visualise anything music like when playing.

    When however, I wanted to play chords for a tune with my OM, I found myself having to visualise playing the melodeon, so I could work out which chords were used where.

    Cheers,
    Jen.
    The problem with this is, how do you improvise over a section or add some variations? The most unproductive years I had growing as a musician was when I would learn fiddle tunes in one or two variations and I didn't know what chords I was playing over, and would not have been able to improvise a section if I wanted.

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    Registered User Polecat's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    If I go to the trouble of transcribing a tune (for example, for other musicians or because I want to write an arrangement of it), I know it afterwards, without having to "learn" it - the process of listening and notating "burns" it into my brain (the same is true of lyrics to a song - writing them down from a recording is the most reliable way I know of learning them). Learning by ear takes a while longer, and learning from sheet music even more so - it took me six months or more to get "Sleepers Awake" into my brain although it is a mere 56 bars long.
    I remember music as sound, and believe that most other people do - just as you don't picture a poem as lines of printed characters, but as words with meaning, the dots on staff paper or numbers and letters in tablature really represent what you hear (or should hear).
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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    You play it a lot. A lot. Until you can play it in your sleep and are bored with it.

    Even if you do eventually forget a few parts if you have not touched it again for a while, they will soon come back.
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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    Playing by ear you should know what notes go with the chord change when it happens, knowing the chord changes of a song makes it easy to apply scales and after a while your fingers just seem to know where to be placed, one thing that comes with playing for many years is to know how to cover a mistake so that it doesn`t sound like a mistake, thats why a lot of pickers depend on playing scales instead of sticking to the melody...It takes time and a lot of practice and after a while you will realize that a lot of the same note progressions are used in a whole lot of songs, mainly in bluegrass...I have been asked when playing at jams, "Is there any song that you don`t know", it is just being familiar with what notes go with what chords...

    It will come and you will ask yourself, "Why didn`t I see that before"

    Good luck and above all, DON`T GIVE UP...Even if you have to take a few lessons...

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  18. #15
    Registered User mobi's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    Some good suggestions here. In my mind I was somehow under impression that when you memorize, you kind of inscribe mentally in such a way that you would be able to "tell" the tune to someone over telephone and person on the other end would be able to interpret your correctly.

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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    Quote Originally Posted by mobi View Post
    I am struggling to remember any piece of music without looking at it
    Memorize it in smaller sections. If it's a fiddle tune for example - learn the A part and practice just that until you can do it by memory.

    Even songs I know pretty well I still need to play occasionally to sort it out again

  20. #17
    Lost my boots in transit terzinator's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    Yeah, are we talking "tunes" (as in fiddle tunes) or songs/melodies? (Or longer pieces? Like a Bach cello suite?)

    I don't read music (well, I can, from my old high-school choir days, but I can't translate that to mandolin in real time), so learning by ear is my modus operandi.

    Listening to it enough that it gets ingrained, that's important.

    I love figuring out fiddle tunes, and for them, it's simple repetition (to the point that it makes my wife crazy). Then, it's being comfortable enough with the basic melody to then take liberties and make it more interesting. But really, it's repetition repetition repetition until the fingers know what to do.

    Like someone said before, if you start thinking about it, that's when you run into trouble. (How many times have we gotten a fiddle tune down perfectly in your practice room, then try to play it for the first time in a jam with others? You start to THINK about it, and you feel like you've forgotten everything you remembered.)

    A woman I know is a brilliant clarinetist. But, she's heavily reliant on the sheet music. Some people are improvisors, some are memorizers and others read. (I don't know enough about clarinet to understand how it "lays out" like a fretted instrument does, with patterns, etc... But I can see how it would be a major challenge to memorize if I didn't have a sense of the "patterns."

    For longer pieces, like a Bach suite, I think it's similar, but it just takes a lot longer to memorize it. I think it helps to break it into smaller tunes. So, maybe it's like learning a half-dozen tunes. More effort, but a big payoff once you get them strung together. And again, it's listening to it enough times so you get the melody INGRAINED. If all you did was memorize the notes, you'd be completely lost if you got lost. (But if you really know the melody, you can get back on track.)

    Anyway, rambling here, but suffice it to say just play it 100 times every day for 100 days. Then the memorizing kinda takes care of itself.

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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    if I can whistle it, I can play it.

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    Registered User Chris Bowsman's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    Like everybody else said, I listen to the song endlessly. Being able to him or sing the melody is necessary. Then I learn it in small chunks, and practice each chunk until I don't have to think about it. Breaking it down has helped immensely. I do that until the fingering is muscle memory.
    "There ain't too many folks, who can play too many notes... on the mandolin"

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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    I try to think of each phrase as a sentence or a lyric. Its basically the same thing. A phrase of notes is just that a phrase. So if you can remember "she sells sea shells by the sea shore" then you can remember a phrase of music although it may come out "sea shells sea shells by the sea shore" on occasion but then you recall the correct way and adjust.

    At least that's my method and it seems to work for me. I will usually learn just a few bars at a time until committed to memory and then move on to the next bar or two until I have the whole piece memorized.

    Steve

  27. #21
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    The fact is that very few musicians -- folk or classical -- memorize tunes, inside their heads, in something like standard notation, or solfegio, or a lettering or numbering or tablature system of any kind. That can happen, but it is the rare exception, and not the rule. Instead, the vast majority of musicians remember the sounds of the melodies and the harmonies, and they produce a kind of "muscle memory" on how to obtain those melodies and harmonies on a particular instrument (a mandolin, a piano, a trumpet, etc.). So the answer to your inquiry is "5. something else." We store mental images of tunes another way. In fact, as you know, we store plenty of images of tunes we've just heard, but never played. We don't store these in any kind of notation at all! Most people on this planet, after all, have never learned any form of musical notation, yet are perfectly capable of recalling lots of music, and humming or singing it.

    If you are good enough on a given instrument, it is often possible to directly go from a mental image of the melody (and possibly also the harmony) to immediately playing a version of the tune, with little extra effort. This is what we mean when we say "play by ear," after all. But in most cases, and certainly for tunes that are well learned (and also for those folks who don't play by ear), the process of making music involves large amounts of repetition and practice, to develop an automatic correspondence between the mental image of the tune and the physical motions required of the body to produce that tune using the instrument. This is what is meant by "muscle memory." You begin to get to the point where you can play the tune "automatically" without deliberate thought, on a note-by-note basis, of what you're doing in every instant. Once committed properly to muscle memory, you can concentrate instead on other musical subtleties of the performance, like tone production, dynamics, emphasis, and so on, rather than just getting the right notes.

    Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

    After that, the music just gets more and more beautiful...
    Last edited by sblock; Aug-30-2016 at 12:29pm.

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  29. #22
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    I guess the tunes memorize me

    But I really can't explain it. I just play a tune, say, 200 times, and it sticks for a week. From then on, daily playing makes it more permanent.
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  30. #23

    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    If you are good enough on a given instrument, it is often possible to directly go from a mental image of the melody (and possibly also the harmony) to immediately playing a version of the tune, with little extra effort. This is what we mean when we say "play by ear," after all. But in most cases, and certainly for tunes that are well learned (and also for those folks who don't play by ear), the process of making music involves large amounts of repetition and practice, to develop an automatic correspondence between the mental image of the tune and the physical motions required of the body to produce that tune using the instrument. This is what is meant by "muscle memory." You begin to get to the point where you can play the tune "automatically" without deliberate thought, on a note-by-note basis, of what you're doing in every instant. Once committed properly to muscle memory, you can concentrate instead on other musical subtleties of the performance, like tone production, dynamics, emphasis, and so on, rather than just getting the right notes.

    Hard to add anything to this. I think it's very much like speech. It took awhile to trust that my fingers were going to be in the right place at the right time. I'm still amazed how the brain works. But if one equates it to speech, just about every part is analogous.
    That's not to say this all occurred unintentionally. I purposely did not and do not write tunes down. I purposely do not have a set list. I made a few chord & lyrics sheets for piano. #$% if it isn't hard to wean off those, cheat sheets.

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  32. #24
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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    The fact is that very few musicians -- folk or classical -- memorize tunes, inside their heads, in something like standard notation, or solfegio, or a lettering or numbering or tablature system of any kind.
    I do have an image in my mind of a pattern of notes that I'm working on or getting ready to play. I think it forms as I learn a tune. Like a phone number (before speed dial) that you know by it's pattern but can't say the numbers if asked. Not sure if that's normal

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    Default Re: How do you memorize tunes?

    Listen over and over and over and over. Once I can hum it I can figure out how to play it.

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