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Thread: Memorizing a song

  1. #26
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    It is the peghead nation classes. I just have a hard time remembering the music to play. I have done some lessons so many times I can't understand why I can't remember them. Once I hear it I am generally ok but sometimes throw in a different note because it seems to me that is what it should be but it isn't. I have not used the music notation but probably should.
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    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    Me too John, I sometimes throw in a different note.

    It helps me to go over scales and arpeggios for the tune, that way I think about the harmonic structure too, which is often just simple progressions in C, D or G major.
    It’s sort of looking at each 1-4 measure melodic phrase, and feeling them like a mini tune on it own in terms of what notes work and what don’t.


    Also a couple of hours with ear/mando training apps.

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  4. #28

    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    Many of the classes on Peghead teach solos based on the teachers interpretation, throwing in a different note that feels right to you but isn’t taught by the teacher doesn’t feel “wrong” to me. It feels like your own interpretation and I will speak for myself and say that is what I am ultimately looking to do.

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  6. #29
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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    I reckon what's right for the individual is the method to use, so trying every way you hear of makes sense.

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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    I have a running list of about 300 "gig-ready" songs that I have the words, lyrics and leads committed to memory.

    For me it's a lot of listening. When I'm learning any song I listen to it a lot. Sing along with it. Play along with it.

    I can sight read well but I don't bring sheet music, lead or lyric sheets when I play out. One thing that helps me learn lyrics is writing them out myself, either typing or long hand. The act of copying them manually helps me remember them.

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  9. #31
    The Acoustic Bruh Paperdog's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    Last edited by Paperdog; Jul-17-2021 at 12:54pm. Reason: redundant replies..trying to remove one

  10. #32
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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    I have the same problem... My solution is to just keep rehearsing/playing the song, until it becomes a growth on my skin I have also noticed, its easier to remember them if you practice them in a set list (preferably the most current one ) . Something about context of the list, helps me remember it like a map.

  11. #33

    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    There’s "learn mode" then there's rehearsal. Don't quit/move on simply after you learn a tune. Most don’t understand just how much rehearsal is needed. If you can't remember it, more rehearsal. If you don't like this part, it will be difficult. Just sitting alone playing is my anti-depressant.

  12. #34
    Still Picking and Sawing Jack Roberts's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    Another vote for singing along.

    Years ago when my daughter was learning piano from Anna Magdelena's Notebook she was having a terrible time with them. So she and I sat down and made up really silly but easy to remember lyrics for the tunes. In one day her attitude changed from "I hate piano: I can't do it" to "Let's play it again."

    I can't claim originality for this idea. Years before that I watched Peter Serkin perform. I was close enough to hear him singing along while he played. So lousy players like myself, good players like my daugther, and the greatest performers like Serkin use this technique.
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    When time is broke and no proportion kept!
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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    Quote Originally Posted by farmerjones View Post
    There’s "learn mode" then there's rehearsal. Don't quit/move on simply after you learn a tune. Most don’t understand just how much rehearsal is needed. If you can't remember it, more rehearsal. If you don't like this part, it will be difficult. Just sitting alone playing is my anti-depressant.
    Agree. One of my daughterís friends is a pretty good singer and guitar picker. After one of their coffee shop concerts a few years ago I heard someone ask her mom, ďHow does she learn all that and make it look and sound so easy?Ē Mom replied, ďWhen she hears a song she wants to do she listens to it a lot, then works out or finds chords/lyrics, then plays it until everyone in the house is so sick of it we canít take it anymore!Ē

    Thatís pretty much my approach, for better or worseÖ

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  15. #36
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    I have been using the apps for interval and such. I have the Ohmson book which this time around is making more sense but theory seems to be a hard slog through slushy mud. But as long as one foot keeps getting in front of another you slowly get there. Operative word being slowly! I have not figured out how to use it to help me remember times yet. I’m not worried about lyrics at this point.
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  17. #37
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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    Listen to the tune until it is internalized. Even then, there are struggles. Iíve lost count of how often Iíve played St Anneís Reel but still have difficulty in remembering how it starts if Iíve skipped it for a while.
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    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    Iím a bit puzzled by the fact that no one asks how you go about learning a new tune. What are your sources? Iím asking this because when I got started on mandolin (after ten years of guitar) I was into colloquial, non-notation, genres such as old-time and Bluegrass. The moment I was through transposing a song from a record I ďknewĒ it ,what the notes and chords were, how they related to one another, the structure and story line, as it were. ďAllĒ that remained was to work the tune up for performance, deciding on the groove and key and harmonic details, finding variations and possibly ideas for an arrangement (in time you will have to learn how to transpose a song by ear, not by ďfiguringĒ).

    The key to memorization, as always, is understanding: how the tune is constructed, what makes it work, how it builds and progresses, how and where it reaches some kind of conclusion, what makes it stand out
    (as even worth remembering). There are theoretical concepts that facilitate this kind of understanding, and you should start by getting the big picture before going into details.

    Small example, Fire on the Mountain. Before you even try to find he individual notes you will note its structure: One part in A (possibly repeated), followed by a par in D, and a two bar tag re-establishing the original key.

    Iítís important to realize that learning an instrument (at least a first instrument) involves quite a bit of theory.
    I memorize the melody first, then the harmonic structure. Learning the form is part of learning the melody. That's what works for me, but I surely wish i could memorize the harmony without the melody. Can't do it.

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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    Quote Originally Posted by A-board View Post
    Listen to the tune until it is internalized. Even then, there are struggles. Iíve lost count of how often Iíve played St Anneís Reel but still have difficulty in remembering how it starts if Iíve skipped it for a while.

    That prompts my recurring question: how did you learn that tune in the first place? I learned it from a Tommy Jackson LP more than 50 years ago, because I liked it. I've played it many times on both guitar and mandolin, and of course the two instruments offer different possibilities for creating variations, and improvising. But I've always stuck with Jackson's choice of an A7 chord, not a G, in the 3rd bar, and although I'm aware of that possibility I've never introduced the bm chord in the second part. On guitar I've played in open position, but also off the 7th fret, sometimes with several position changes. And on mandolin I've tried it out in Eb, F, and Db.

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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    I believe I recently had an epiphany regarding this subject.

    A little background first. I have been playing mandolin for a year and a half and never had a in person lesson. I play a lot, sometimes I bet 3 hours a day. I too could never remember all the right notes without reading the tab. I can play 30 tunes or so by tab pretty well, however most of these tunes are first position and donít require me to look down at the fretboard.

    I recently heard the Teelin Bay Waltz and fell in love with the melody. The b part requires several position changes that I am not familiar with which require me to look at the fretboard. Since I canít look at the tab and the fretboard at the same time I actually learned this b part and remember it. For me, I learned this by going slow one phrase at a time and then combining phrases. What does this mean? I believe I have been relying to heavily on the tabs during the learning process which hinders my memorization.

    Now I have to go back and relearn those 30 tunes. Lol

  21. #41
    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    Quote Originally Posted by killntime View Post
    I believe I recently had an epiphany regarding this subject.

    A little background first. I have been playing mandolin for a year and a half and never had a in person lesson. I play a lot, sometimes I bet 3 hours a day. I too could never remember all the right notes without reading the tab. I can play 30 tunes or so by tab pretty well, however most of these tunes are first position and donít require me to look down at the fretboard.

    I recently heard the Teelin Bay Waltz and fell in love with the melody. The b part requires several position changes that I am not familiar with which require me to look at the fretboard. Since I canít look at the tab and the fretboard at the same time I actually learned this b part and remember it. For me, I learned this by going slow one phrase at a time and then combining phrases. What does this mean? I believe I have been relying to heavily on the tabs during the learning process which hinders my memorization.

    Now I have to go back and relearn those 30 tunes. Lol
    Congrats on your progress so far! I don't think tabs hinder your memorization as much as your not using it if your looking at tab. I would pick one of the songs your good at, play it with tab, then close the book and try it. If you get hung up ,look at the tab, then close it again. And better yet find a recording you can play along with and put it on repeat!

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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    That prompts my recurring question: how did you learn that tune in the first place?
    I listened to a few versions on YouTube, worked it out by ear as well as I could. Then refined it after reviewing a tab version and practiced repeatedly by segments until I had it down. A number of teachers advise learning new tunes a phrase at a time.

    My approach is evolving. Now I think about the chord progressions, playing arpeggios through the progressions to become more familiar with tune structure. As mentioned in an earlier post, tunes can accommodate notes that differ from the “original“ version. So you don’t have to worry about not playing it exactly as you heard it the first time as long as you’re playing a chord tone.
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  23. #43
    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    If you have the time, read the Practice of Practice. It's a great book overall regarding how to practice pretty much anything.

    I approach lyrical songs and fiddle tunes slightly different. The TL;DR is - break up songs / fiddle tunes into parts, learn the parts, then use mnemonic device to help you memorize those parts in order.

    For either song or fiddle tune, first I memorize the melody. I don't need to know "how" to play it, just how to sing / hum the melody either in my head or out loud. Generally this is pretty easy - just listen to the song a bunch.

    Next for lyrical songs, I almost always either find a chart that has lyrics and chords online or make one myself by listening to the song. From there, I review the chords while humming the melody. If the chord changes are easy enough, I may skip this step and just go straight to singing the song while playing the chords (usually slightly slower than the normal speed of the tune - though that depends). Once I have that, then I focus on playing the melody on the mandolin. Last I focus on memorizing the lyrics. To memorize the lyrics, I'll start by singing the song while reading the lyrics till I get to the point that as long as I know the first lyric in the verse / chorus, I can remember the rest. I do this by memorizing the "idea" of a verse or chorus which ultimately helps me remember the rest of the lyrics. For example, Old Home Place -

    the song starts off with setting the time and place (it's been 10 long years)
    then the point of the song (I fell in love with a girl from the town)
    then the chorus is the narrator questioning himself (what have they done to the old home place)
    then he explains why he's questioning himself (The girl she ran off with somebody else)
    Last he explains how beat up he is (now the geese fly south and the cold wind blows)

    For fiddle tunes, I learn how to play the melody in at least 2 or 3 different positions (i.e. open, first position, second position). Once I have those down, I swap positions through the song (play the verse all open, then the chorus all in first position, then the verse in second position). Then I focus on learning the chords in those same positions and swapping them similar to the melody. Last I'll find (or make) a backing track for the song and play it at a slow speed (60 - 80bpm) and gradually move that up to normal time for the tune.
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  25. #44
    Registered User John Hill's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    Sheet music for me. It gives me the framework for the note intervals without restrictions on fretting choices like tab does. I’ve never been able to remember tunes with tab.
    There are three kinds of people: those of us that are good at math and those that are not.

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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    Quote Originally Posted by Frankdolin View Post
    Congrats on your progress so far! I don't think tabs hinder your memorization as much as your not using it if your looking at tab.
    I've read this sentence four or five times and donīt understand it, although I understand each single word.

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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    I've read this sentence four or five times and donīt understand it, although I understand each single word.
    I hear you Ralph. What I meant was, if your looking at tab or music while your playing, that's how your playing. Your not using your memory, unless you can memorize it and play the same piece with the book closed. I hope this helps to understand what I mean.

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    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    I read notation ok, but prefer TAB.
    I’m actually quite lucky though because my eyesight is going.
    I’ll read my newest tune but since my eyesight isn’t so good I have to use my ears and memory. I use the TAB to help remember where the lead notes for the main harmony are on the fretboard.

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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    Quote Originally Posted by Frankdolin View Post
    I hear you Ralph. What I meant was, if your looking at tab or music while your playing, that's how your playing. Your not using your memory, unless you can memorize it and play the same piece with the book closed. I hope this helps to understand what I mean.
    I understand now: what threw me was your spelling: "your" for "you're".

    Tab may not be the problem, maybe (reliance on) tabs is. I do know that to some people the "advantage" of tabs is never having to "worry" about keys etc. I.e., "learning" an instrument without learning (about) music.

    I remember tunes by understanding them. I've learned tunes mainly by notation (whenever available and reliable) or picking them out from records. Reading notation is not the same as spelling your way through it note by note. Notation (properly understood) allows you (at least in simpler cases) to see at a glance what's going on, musically.

    In the case of bluegrass and related genres I've never used a written source. And, as I don't own a music stand, I usually learn the whole tune before playing.

    In a previous thread I asked: how do you go about transposing a song you know by tab only to some more convenient or expressive key? No one answered.

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  31. #49
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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    I'll throw this out here, just as food for thought... I guess the title of this thread bothers me; maybe I'm just in a completely different paradigm because I do so much jamming...

    If your goal is to be able to improvise new tunes on the fly like at a jam, there really isn't time for memorization. Jams are somewhat unpredictable; you may hear the song only once, or if you're lucky and you're down the line in the jam you may hear it half a dozen times before its your turn to take a break with it. Either way there isn't time to memorize a song note-for-note.

    What you have to do is have a personal tool set full of musical "parts" -- runs, progressions, fills, vamps, etc., -- that can fit into just about any song both for breaks and for backup. And you build that tool set each time you pickup a new song, every song you learn potentially contributes "parts" to this tool set. These "parts" are key, meter and tempo independent, so they can be used with any song; they include both major and minor "parts" as well as "parts" that work well around odd chords. And the larger your tool set is, the more variety you can put into songs as you play them. And, you get to know these "parts" extremely well because you re-use them all the time.

    Then when you hear a song for the first time and need to be able to reproduce it, you pull from that tool set immediately. And as you re-play the song, you eventually build a repeatable arrangement of it using "parts" from your tool set. Once your arrangement of a song is solid and sounds both recognizable and pleasing, you re-use that arrangement for jams and/or performing. Your arrangement can change easily using other "parts" to add variety or for local variations, you can move it between octaves and even modulate to other keys or change meter with it on the fly. It's all about the "parts" you have in your tool set.

    And then, you move on to the next song.

    This is not at all intended to be talking down actually memorizing an arrangement of a song note-for-note -- this is great for an exercise, but in real life "frozen" arrangements are by nature difficult to perform. And if you do that, what do you do when you hear someone else's arrangement? Eventually you have to decide to stick with an arrangement and if it doesn't fit with other people playing other arrangements, someone has to change. Why not instead be prepared to improvise the song from the beginning using your tool set?
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  33. #50
    Registered User Mike Buesseler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memorizing a song

    “I’m actually quite lucky though because my eyesight is going.”

    You are a guy with a really positive outlook!

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