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Thread: I know that tune... um... how's it go again?

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    Registered User Jonathan K's Avatar
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    Default I know that tune... um... how's it go again?

    So, a few months ago, after screwing around for a couple of years with classical and jazz, I decided that bluegrass was going to be my thang. 1) Great tunes! 2) Everyone is doing it! 3) Great tunes!

    I've been working on and learning about one tune a week, my improvisation is getting better as I practice over backing tracks and at jams.

    My problem is that the structure and chord progressions of many of these tunes are so similar that when I stare at a song in my little book - I frequently cannot remember how it goes! I have to find an example on the 'tube and listen to the first .5 seconds. Then I can play the A, the B and the breaks just fine.

    Anyone else have this problem? I assume it will resolve itself with time, but it's embarrassing to call out "Golden Slippers" and then start playing "Liberty."

    I must be getting old.

    Thanks!

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    Default Re: I know that tune... um... how's it go again?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan K View Post
    My problem is that the structure and chord progressions of many of these tunes are so similar that when I stare at a song in my little book - I frequently cannot remember how it goes! I have to find an example on the 'tube and listen to the first .5 seconds. Then I can play the A, the B and the breaks just fine.
    I'm assuming your songbook only has lyrics and chords, but no notes?

    What I find helpful is to write down just the first few notes of each song or tune. If I forget how a tune goes, a super-quick glance at those first few notes gets me started, then I can usually remember the rest of the tune. Sometimes it's also useful to write down the first few notes of the "B" part of a tune as well as the "A" part, because there are a bunch of tunes (especially if they're tunes that I don't play very often) where I can remember the "A" part but then on the "B" part I might be tempted to stray off into another different-but-similar tune. Seeing those first few notes though, cures most of the uncertainty. The first bar or two of written notes serve the same function as what you mentioned about listening to the first 1/2-second of a YouTube video.

    Even if you don't read music yet, you might still be able to get a general idea of where the melody flows to, by a quick glance at the written notes - written music is basically just a graph anyway - when the printed notes are higher up on the page, the pitch is higher; and lower notes have a lower pitch. So seeing a couple bars of a tune might help create a visual way for you to see/'hear' the ups and down of the melody, to help remind you how the melody goes. Or, at the very least, it might help in a sort of "process of elimination" type of thing, like if you see the melody aiming upwards, then that would rule out melodies that aim downwards (even though both might be using the same chords).

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan K View Post
    Anyone else have this problem?
    Yes. I don't think it's particularly unusual.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan K View Post
    I must be getting old.
    Nah! Heck I was like that even at 14 and earlier. The problem isn't you, it's the tunes - some of them are indeed very similar in a variety of different ways, and it's easy enough to occasionally get them mixed up. I grew up with fiddle tunes (oldtime fiddle/banjo stuff), was immersed in that from a very early age, and I still wasn't very old when I'd occasionally find myself starting with one tune and inadvertently switching to another tune without intending to. Not a medley, although I suppose a person could pass it off as such.

    Actually, it seems like the more tunes you know, the more that some of the tunes start seeming similar in various ways.

    Later on when I was older and started also playing a different genre (Irish trad tunes), same thing there, easy to get some of 'em mixed up. So many tunes... but so comparatively few notes and chords to build tunes on... bound to be a lot of overlap.

    I think it can be especially difficult to keep track of instrumental tunes, because there aren't lyrics to help the memory along.

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    Default Re: I know that tune... um... how's it go again?

    Yeah …. The first melody line... sometimes all it takes it the correct kick off. And when you get down to it many of these songs are so similar that you can "cross pollinate" pieces and parts from one to another. Think of it of like musical cut and paste.... I IV V with the at choice VIm …… R/
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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: I know that tune... um... how's it go again?

    to the point, sometimes where I will write down in my cheat sheet the opening notes. Just enough to get my mind right!

    f-d
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    Registered User archerscreek's Avatar
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    Default Re: I know that tune... um... how's it go again?

    No need to be embarrassed. If the fiddle tunes are that similar no one will probably notice, and some might even say, "Hey, that was a neat little twist you played there." Haha

    In my book, Clarence White was the best bluegrass flatpicker out there. A few of his tunes sound very, very similar on his 33 Instrumentals CD. So you'd be in good company.

    And frankly, I'm also guilty of this. Heck, I might even do it a bit when there are words to hum along with.

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    Default Re: I know that tune... um... how's it go again?

    Everyone gets crossed up now and then on fiddle tunes.

    I have difficulty between Cherokee Shuffle and Big Sciota particularly and sometimes Salt Creek. It is really difficult if you just played one you cannot get out of your head. One really good fiddler I know started playing either Salt Haired Boy or Red Haired Creek one time as he mixed A and B parts of the two tunes. Everyone in the jam rolled with it.

    Another regularly plays Red Haired Boy when she gets under pressure if the song is anywhere close. One time someone called Redwing. She said key of A which seemed weird and her run through it sounded odd to me but maybe she was improvising I thought. Then when my turn came I started playing and she stopped dead and said "What on earth are you playing?" About four people said Redwing all at once and she said all embarrassed "Oh my goodness I was playing Red Haired Boy. Then we started in G with everyone together. She has done that at least three or four times when I have been around. An otherwise excellent player and no hack.

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    Default Re: I know that tune... um... how's it go again?

    One of my favorite musical hero stories involves Mark O'Conner Sam Bush Bela Fleck Tony Rice Mark Schatz and Jerry Douglas. One year at Merlefest this super group started in on Salt Creek and at the end of Jerry Douglas' break it hat tmorphed into Red Haired boy. The players were looking around at each other and smiling. The musicians in the audience were laughing and looking around at each other to see who "got it". It happened in the late 80's or early 90's ….. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Registered User Jonathan K's Avatar
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    Default Re: I know that tune... um... how's it go again?

    Thanks so much for your feedback. I'm such a dork, I do read music but it never occurred to me to jot out the first measure of each tune in my little black book of songs I (supposedly) know. I will get on that!

    And I'm glad to read these stories of other folks confusing tunes.

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    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Re: I know that tune... um... how's it go again?

    Heck, I write all my own songs - and half the time I can't remember how they go!

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: I know that tune... um... how's it go again?

    Curmudgeon warning.

    I am a melody person, and I find it a comfort that many tunes have a similar chord structure, so I can concentrate on the melody as I play the chords.

    And it helps in improvising as I kind of "learn the territory" and can get around a bit easier.

    My breaks stay close to the melody and its own drama, but knowing the chords so well helps immensely.
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    Default Re: I know that tune... um... how's it go again?

    Somewhere in YouTube-land there is a video of Sierra Hull on stage asking the audience how Whisker Before Breakfast starts. She was laughing along with the audience. It can happen to anyone.

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    Registered User Jonathan K's Avatar
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    Default Re: I know that tune... um... how's it go again?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dukesdad View Post
    Somewhere in YouTube-land there is a video of Sierra Hull on stage asking the audience how Whisker Before Breakfast starts. She was laughing along with the audience. It can happen to anyone.
    That's a great story and even better song title!

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    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Re: I know that tune... um... how's it go again?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dukesdad View Post
    Somewhere in YouTube-land there is a video of Sierra Hull on stage asking the audience how Whisker Before Breakfast starts.
    Good thing I wasn't in the audience . . . I would have said 'It starts by opening the bottle'.

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    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: I know that tune... um... how's it go again?

    Some of the worst feelings in my musical life have been when someone looked at me and said, "Okay, kick it off!"
    Phil

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: I know that tune... um... how's it go again?

    I find that I have trouble starting tunes that are not in frequent rotation in my regular jamming. That, to me, is the downside of a "tune a week", that I can learn a tune or two or five, but unless they get into my regular rotation, they slip pretty quickly off the table.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: I know that tune... um... how's it go again?

    Quote Originally Posted by Philphool View Post
    Some of the worst feelings in my musical life have been when someone looked at me and said, "Okay, kick it off!"
    LOL Yes. But it usually means that person can't start it either. LOL
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    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Re: I know that tune... um... how's it go again?

    Quote Originally Posted by Philphool View Post
    Some of the worst feelings in my musical life have been when someone looked at me and said, "Okay, kick it off!"
    A number of years ago I finished a local television gig and afterwards went to a hometown bar with the rest of the band. Unbeknownst to us, it was 'open mic' night. At one point, they yelled out 'can anybody play the drums' - so, I jumped on stage, and just as I sat down the leader of the house band quickly said to me; 'Okay, 'Chapel Of Love' - kick it off' Not exactly what I would have expected to happen to a fill-in guy who had never played with the house band before . . . but I survived . . . .

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    Default Re: I know that tune... um... how's it go again?

    Ah, yes, the blank space. Thankfully it’s only happened to me a couple of times, and always in the friendly confines of a youth worship service where it’s easy to turn it into a joke or a teachable moment, lol. The last time it happened I was playing the lead/finger picking guitar part on a song we’ve played a lot and that I’ve practiced a ridiculous number of times, because I’m the only one playing on the first verse. Just drew a complete blank, looked at the kids in the crowd and just started talking about it while mindlessly fingerpicking, and, then, suddenly, there it was, lol. Then turned to the lead singer and said, “You ever gonna come in? What’s taking so long?” Everybody cracked up, and then we were off and rolling. But, man, that’s a terrible feeling!!
    Chuck

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