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Thread: Who doesn't memorize tunes/songs?

  1. #51
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    Default Re: Who doesn't memorize tunes/songs?

    Sherry Cadenhead and Louise NM, I don't memorize either. I need my sheet music (yes, it may be a "security blanket" for me.) The jam I go to sometimes, if you want a tune new to the group, you are expected to bring a sheet for (the usual number of) people there with the words and chords on it. I usually follow the guitar players' chords if it's something I don't know, since I play guitar it's easy for me to "read" the chords from their left hand placement. I used to have to memorize when I was a kid for piano recitals, pieces I had memorized back then I still use music for if I play them today, although admittedly it is often more for a reminder, since my fingers "know the way." I hope I can eventually memorize some things, but if not, I will still enjoy playing.

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    Default Re: Who doesn't memorize tunes/songs?

    Quote Originally Posted by LadysSolo View Post
    Sherry Cadenhead and Louise NM, I don't memorize either. I need my sheet music (yes, it may be a "security blanket" for me.) The jam I go to sometimes, if you want a tune new to the group, you are expected to bring a sheet for (the usual number of) people there with the words and chords on it. I usually follow the guitar players' chords if it's something I don't know, since I play guitar it's easy for me to "read" the chords from their left hand placement. I used to have to memorize when I was a kid for piano recitals, pieces I had memorized back then I still use music for if I play them today, although admittedly it is often more for a reminder, since my fingers "know the way." I hope I can eventually memorize some things, but if not, I will still enjoy playing.
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    Default Re: Who doesn't memorize tunes/songs?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    Yippee! Now there are 3 of us! We should get together.

    This very strange; all three to don't memorize are women?

    How is it that women can't memorize music, but they remember every tiny detail of an insignificant argument that you had with them in 1992?

    I give up . . . .

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  5. #54
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    Default Re: Who doesn't memorize tunes/songs?

    Quote Originally Posted by bratsche View Post
    Then, members of the congregation start arriving, so we have to stop rehearsing. There is now no time left for chit chat over coffee, which we have to gulp down in a hurry. Somehow, it all comes together in the service because God is good, but it is usually a nerve wracking experience, where we have to stay on our toes and to instantly adapt when anything strange happens, as it assuredly will.
    You've just described business as usual in a typical OldTime jam or Irish trad session.

    We have to stay flexible and use our ears in an Irish session because the setting of a tune downloaded from thesession.org and learned from the dots, might be a little different... or a lot different... in the local session. A piper friend of mine sometimes adds an extra repeat of a section that shouldn't be there (in the typical setting of the tune), but the group adapts and follows. Someone starts a set of three tunes that we usually play together, but then spontaneously swaps out a different tune for the third one. There's a moment's hesitation, then the group recognizes the tune and we join in together.

    Flexibility! It's required in some settings, and not others that are more pinned down to sheet music.

    Eye contact is also a factor. In an OldTime jam you don't always know how many times a fiddle tune will be repeated, especially in jams that get into that OT Trance state of endless repetitions. You have to be aware of when someone is doing the single leg left to indicate it's over. Or the double leg left (good for exercising the abs!) that countermands it, and says "No, one more time!" In a Bluegrass jam, you need to see if someone is getting a nod that says "Take your solo break." In an Irish session there is a convention of someone yelling "Hup" to indicate a change of tunes in a set, but in groups that have been together for a long time, it's often done just by just raising an eyebrow or a subtle lift of the head.

    You can't see any of this stuff if your head is down reading the sheet music. As CarlM said earlier, gatherings like this are a form of conversation, where eye contact helps everyone sync into a group organism.

    This is not to say that "visual" jams like this where people aren't tied to sheet music are inherently better than orchestra settings, if the members are able to listen well enough while reading. But it's different, and the differences mean the two types of group don't interact well together (as you pointed out above).

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    MandolaViola bratsche's Avatar
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    Default Re: Who doesn't memorize tunes/songs?

    To clear up a possible misconception, all of us who read don't have our "heads down" in the sheet music, precluding eye contact. To the contrary, eye contact is absolutely vital to good ensemble playing! Our eyes are (or should be!) always darting between the notes and one another. And one should also ideally be reading well ahead of the real-time notes being played.

    Yes, Flexibility is important, and it should go without saying that it's easier to be flexible when you already know the tunes than when you've just heard them for the first time.

    And what's with this "women can't memorize" and "women remember arguments from 1992" nonsense? Not even worthy of a reply, from this woman.

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  8. #56
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    Default Re: Who doesn't memorize tunes/songs?

    I guess I'm of the camp of "learn to memorize from day one". But I'm also of the camp of "I have no idea what would work best for you because everyone learns differently, and everyone plays mandolin differently and has different goals (and also I apparently have this weird aversion to standard notation)". 🤣

    I usually learn by reading tabs (I have always been horrible at reading music in standard notation, even before I picked up the mando; my mom put me in piano lessons briefly (sort of a disaster because I was a brat that didn't practice) and in 5th grade I played the cello (I sounded pretty good but could not read music for the life of me)), but as I learn I automatically start memorizing the tune. Once I find that I can play like 70-75% of the tune without looking at the tab I play by memory and just consult the tab once I'm really lost. Granted, I only play pretty short things because I'm just starting out... But I feel like I'm in the habit of doing things this way now, and I feel that it helps me build more confidence and competence in memorization and adding some personal flair once I'm familiar enough with a new tune.

    It was hard to remember things at first but as my fingers got quicker and were able to stay up to speed enough to make a tune actually sound like a tune, it became natural to memorize as I learned/practiced. 🙂 I think memorization is the best way for most of us to go especially if one wants to get to the point where they can just jam off the dome, but I can't really give that advice because I'm not the most confident at jamming yet. 😅 I just think being able to memorize is linked to being able to distinguish tunes and tones that can really help someone craft and execute things on the spot. While I really wish I was comfortable reading sheet music and do plan on learning it someday, I think that first having a strong ability to discern and remember tunes is far more helpful for me at this stage of learning.

    Disclaimer: I don't have nearly as much experience as you or probably a lot of people here. 😅 I've had my mandolin for years but I've only used it enough to have probably like 9 months of experience...

  9. #57
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    Default Re: Who doesn't memorize tunes/songs?

    Quote Originally Posted by bratsche View Post
    To clear up a possible misconception, all of us who read don't have our "heads down" in the sheet music, precluding eye contact. To the contrary, eye contact is absolutely vital to good ensemble playing! Our eyes are (or should be!) always darting between the notes and one another. And one should also ideally be reading well ahead of the real-time notes being played.
    I would submit that it's still a difference in degree (and not quality).

    Maybe it's different in your group, in which case you may be closer to how professional orchestra members can get off the dots while playing them. In the amateur groups I'm familiar with, eye contact while reading sheet music is more predictable. Like reading ahead the last couple of bars at the end of a section, so they're free to look up. The ability to look up is more closely tied to the structure of the written music, and how familiar people are with the tune they're reading. Read-ahead skill also varies in amateur ensembles. I've known people who can't look up at all until the last note is played. Not all groups are like this, but there are a bunch in my area.

    In the group playing by ear, eye contact is more of a constant feedback loop because unpredictable things can happen. There might be another repeat of a tune if someone asks for it. There might have to be a quick group consensus by eye contact that "Yes, we're going to follow that piper who's getting a little lost." There is nothing unpredictable happening in a group reading from sheet music, unless something is going terribly wrong.

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  11. #58

    Default Re: Who doesn't memorize tunes/songs?

    I only memorize the melody of tunes I want to lead in a jam. I learn them by reading the notation and embed the melody by repetition and singing to myself. Don’t have time to learn them from recordings. But I learn the melody to improvise, not play the melody repeatedly. Not an old time or ITM guy.

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  12. #59

    Default Re: Who doesn't memorize tunes/songs?

    Can't read a note, and I've never been great at memorizing. So I just work on learning a song's chords and improvise when I have to take a solo.

    Luckily for everyone, I'm not a pro.

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    Default Re: Who doesn't memorize tunes/songs?

    I think the best meld of reading and ear training rests on flexibility and, frankly, familiarity with the instrument and genre. Certainly in ITM, there are specific phrases that pop up a lot, which is why you have to be careful how you start a tune or you're off in something different before you know it; and people who are still learning how to play do tend to concentrate on that instead of making music.

    I've played with a bunch of people at various stages of ear and notation learning and neither is as much fun to play with as someone who is past the beginner stages so they can feel the music instead of trying to beat it to death. I've played with ear-learners who are brilliant but can't read a note and yet can do a counterpoint when we're playing OCarolan's baroque pieces... and one of the best fiddlers I know started out as a classical violinist. she can look at the music and then embellish as needed, the sheet music neither holds her back nor restricts her. Musicians come in all kinds and have different skills and as long as what they do works with whom they play, it's all to the good.
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    Default Re: Who doesn't memorize tunes/songs?

    When I started playing guitar I was thaught to read music. In band in high school everything was played with the music in front of us.

    I read music for most of the songs I play. But if I really like it I will commit it to memory.
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    Default Re: Who doesn't memorize tunes/songs?

    I'm able to read music but I would never claim to be able to sight read, not to the extent that I could immediately play a piece written on sheet music. My familiarity with staff notation dates to lessons on the recorder in middle school. I learned how to play mandolin more through listening and trying to recreate what I'd heard or songs I knew. A book of mandolin chords and a few songbooks of bands whose songs I knew were the most useful tools for me.

    The pholosophical question of which, of either/or, is best answered by "both." I believe the goal should be to get to a point where you have achieved symbiosis with your instrument, and also the music you are playing, so you don't need sheet music in order to play a song. Memorization helps tremendously in becoming familiar with the material.

    Quote Originally Posted by fatt-dad View Post
    I play by ear. The music reminds me.
    I think this says it best, whether or not f-d is being a bit flip. When you bond with a song, it lives within you, and it reminds you in case your mind wanders.

    My first thought when I saw the thread title had something to do with people who use iPads or their phones to display the lyrics and even chords in order to perform. This irritates me no end when band mates do it. It seems to me you should know the material by heart if you're going to be able to put your heart into it. "I'll know my song well before I start singing it" is how Dylan put it. The two main singers in one band I'm in do this, and it drives me nuts. One is a good singer but is getting on in years, might need a few reminders. She's good enough that this method doesn't seem to adversely affect her performance, though one night she'd forgotten to charge her device and had a lot of trouble. The other is a pretty iffy singer to begin with, and his vocal approach isn't sufficient to rise above the input. The few songs I sing I know by heart, and I do as well as my vocal ability allows.

    But that's probably a different topic for a different discussion at a different time.
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    Default Re: Who doesn't memorize tunes/songs?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeZito View Post
    ...can't memorize music
    ...remember every tiny detail of an insignificant argument ... in 1992?
    Two disjointed parts of memory involved here: music goes into procedural memory, words go into declarative memory. The same person can be good at memorizing one and bad at memorizing the other. This phenomenon ist not affected by the gender of that person, nor is the habit of merging memorized anecdotal events into perceived law.
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    Default Re: Who doesn't memorize tunes/songs?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeZito View Post
    This very strange; all three to don't memorize are women?

    How is it that women can't memorize music, but they remember every tiny detail of an insignificant argument that you had with them in 1992?

    I give up . . . .
    The 3 who ADMIT it are women - men tend to "fake" it (as in "Oh honey, I was listening to every word you said" but can't tell you what you said to him.) Just sayin......LOL!!

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    Default Re: Who doesn't memorize tunes/songs?

    Let's stay away from the gender bashing here please.

    The folks I play with, some read music, a lot don't. Those that read very rarely bring it out in a jam unless it is something new they have not committed to memory yet. They can learn music from the page. Some are men, some are women. Both read music, neither plays at a jam with it. I think it's an equal thing, at least where I am and we have, depending on the jam, an equal amount of both most of the time.
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    Default Re: Who doesn't memorize tunes/songs?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    Let's stay away from the gender bashing here please.

    The folks I play with, some read music, a lot don't. Those that read very rarely bring it out in a jam unless it is something new they have not committed to memory yet. They can learn music from the page. Some are men, some are women. Both read music, neither plays at a jam with it. I think it's an equal thing, at least where I am and we have, depending on the jam, an equal amount of both most of the time.
    I know - he was "yanking my chain," I was just yanking back a little. Not gender-bashing.

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    Default Re: Who doesn't memorize tunes/songs?

    I don't blame you, I thought you took the comment quite well. I was talking to both sides. Just thought I would try to stop something before it got started. Good job all, carry on.
    Last edited by pops1; Jul-15-2019 at 11:51am.
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