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Thread: Memory of learned songs

  1. #51
    Registered User kudzugypsy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memory of learned songs

    wow - i was just wondering about this topic the other day - i was at a jam and a tune i had not played for 15 years just flowed out like the day i learned it - verses and all - where did that come from??? - the next week the guys said, do that one again...opps where was it, couldnt remember the first line or verse at all!
    it seems stuff i have worked hard on over the last 5 years just disappears from my memory without a trace. in other words, i can remember stuff i learned early on, but now cant recall even recent stuff very clearly

    my theroy is when you only know a handful of songs you play them A LOT and when you get up to 100's, they all clutter up in some hole in your brain.

    i also think as we age, there is so much input in our world (esp modern day) that many things we learned early on when our minds were fresh get pushed aside. too bad. i've got to where i dont even watch tv anymore (for the last 10 years) or read trivial junk - i just think it eats up valuable storage space

  2. #52
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memory of learned songs

    Here's another interesting old thread, on memory and music, which newer members such as myself may not have run across.

    As someone who is looking toward the far side of middle age, I'm very interested music and cognition. One of the reasons I finally decided to take up the mandolin was as an aid to improving and retaining mental (not to mention physical) agility. I'm a firm believer in neural plasticity. I don't really think it's a case of "If you don't use it, you lose it." I think most of what we learned is stored away in the mental archive, and it's a matter of access.

    I've heard quite a bit that one should try to learn music by ear. Even though I can read music pretty good, I've been trying to do this anyway. This thread has a good amount of discussion of the reason for doing so. Why it works, how it helps that access.

    What a resource this board is!

    Sue


    Sue

  3. #53
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    Default Re: Memory of learned songs

    I've recently been obsessed with the work of the San Andreu Jazz Band, and one of their major precepts is transcribing solos by first learning to sing them. In the linked video, 12 year old Alba Esteban learns the Lee Konitz solo to "Billie's Bounce" by singing along with it until she has it down, then recreating it on the saxophone. No notation involved. Joan Chamorro (the teacher) emphasizes how this approach ingrains the entirety of the solo in the brain, not just the notes. Phrasing, dynamics, slurs, etc. become an integral part of the piece when we learn to vocally mimic the original. Another video shows Elsa Armengou (8yo) playing "Mood Indigo". In the comments, Chamorro says it wasn't improvised or read, she just listened to the original until she memorized it. The number of kids coming through this program who play so expressively and fluidly tells me that learning by singing is the way to go.



    Mitch Russell

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  5. #54
    '`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`' Jacob's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memory of learned songs


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  7. #55
    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memory of learned songs

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post

    As someone who is looking toward the far side of middle age, I'm very interested music and cognition. One of the reasons I finally decided to take up the mandolin was as an aid to improving and retaining mental (not to mention physical) agility. I'm a firm believer in neural plasticity. I don't really think it's a case of "If you don't use it, you lose it." I think most of what we learned is stored away in the mental archive, and it's a matter of access.

    I've heard quite a bit that one should try to learn music by ear. Even though I can read music pretty good, I've been trying to do this anyway. This thread has a good amount of discussion of the reason for doing so. Why it works, how it helps that access.

    Sue
    There is a huge amount of musical material stored away in your brain; the problem is being able to quickly access it. At the higher levels, playing becomes more and more about the mental aspects. I've talked about this stuff in the past, probably to no avail, so I've just pasted a few old posts instead of writing anew. People seem to want the quick gratification of playing some flashy trash licks, or some new tune, and ignore the long-term benefits of rewiring mental flexibility at an early or earlier stage of player development, which when absorbed earlier, puts one far ahead down the road.


    * * * * * * *
    members/2764-mandocrucian
    Re: Learning songs to improve skill
    post #7: Oct. 28, 2013
    You should start playing the 'game' of "Memory Jukebox".

    You have hundreds and hundreds of songs in your head already - start putting some of those melodies* onto the instrument. Make your fingers follow your "ear" (sonic memory) rather than your fingers following your eyes (notes on paper) on melodies you may not have in your head. (*You can add the chords later.)

    This will help you develop the ear>hand wiring which will aid you immensely as the years go by. With enough time, your spontaneous sonic thoughts will start to emerge simultaneously on the instrument. This is REAL PLAYING - "singing" on an instrument.[/B]

    What's on the (your) jukebox? Might be anything and everything, from any era.

    Kid's songs: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Row Your Boat, The Worms Crawl In & The Worms Crawl Out, The Foot Bone is Connected to the Leg Bone, ........

    TV and movie themes: Capt. Pugwash ("Trumpet Hornpipe"), The Avengers, Goldfinger, "Always Look on the Bright Side" (MP's Life of Brian), the Benny Hill chase music ("Yakety Sax"/"Mah-nah-ma-nah"), Secret Agent Man, Harry Potter theme

    Any rock/pop/country/folk songs that you persoanlly like. - Beatles songs are always a good start, with plenty of memorable tunes to choose from ("Yellow Submarine", "Eleanor Rigby", "Nowhere Man", "The Long And Winding Road", "Birthday", "Michele" etc. etc.).

    Or just pick a band or singer..... Rolling Stones, Bonzo Dog Band, Grateful Dead, The Kinks, Steeleye Span, Van Morrison, The Doors, Elvis, Emmylou Harris, The Ventures/Shadows, Aretha Franklin, Bob Wills, - whoever......... - and then, whatever tune pops right into your mind, try to find it/work it out on the instrument. (Sometimes you'll find that you want to add that particular song to your permanent repertoire.)

    I've been playing 40 years, and I still play this 'game' regularly (on several instruments). Some recent 'jukebox' tunes (that have stuck around).....
     "You Only Live Twice" (James Bond film)
     "The Look Of Love" (Dusty Springfield)
     "Jackson" (Carter/Cash)
     "The Magnificent Seven" (movie theme)
     the (old) Masterpiece Theater theme (Mouret: Rondeau in D)


    But as far as the "beginner" situation is concerned. I have applied this approach of ear>hand training to myself when I started messing with the flute (from scratch) a few years ago. I'd try to play the simpler tunes I'd played for years on mandos and were entrenched in my head - make the fingers follow the "ear", and hope that on an unconscious or subconscious level, the brain would learn to translate mando fingerings in flute fingerings - would recognize the patterns and apply them to a new pattern (like changing a font style or size on a PC).

    There are a half-dozen different instruments I can play (perform) "parts" on for performance or recording purposes, but I don't consider that I "really play" these instruments. (I could if I put in time on effort on those other instruments so I could "think" on them rather than regurgitate my rehearsed/practiced bits.) When I play "Memory Jukebox", I'll try to do it first on flute - if it's in my head firmly enough to play it there, on no mando it's no problem. But sometimes, I'll need to do it on mando first to get it anchored in my mind. I will usually transcribe recorded flute solos using my mando, since it's so much quicker to get it down onto paper that way.)

    However, I intend to eventually really play flute, and I put in the practice hours on it. So, I'm not giving you advice that I have not followed myself when learning a new instrument from square one (mechanically).

    Niles H

    * * * * * * * **

    Re: Learning songs to improve skill
    post#16: Oct. 30, 2013
    The "Transposing Game" in another excellent variation for developing the ear>hand wiring, and it does some different things within the mind than playing Memory Jukebox. These "games" operate on multiple levels; it's just not the physical of getting the fingers to move smoothly.

    With Memory Jukebox, you will almost invariably remember (hear) the tune/song in the same key as the version (if there are multiple recorded renditions by different artists) that you listened to it on your stereo or radio. One of the (other) mental things Memory Jukebox does is that you become more and more comfortable rummaging around in the dusty mental sound archives stored in your memory banks. The stuff is in there, but often buried under loads of more recent memories (think of a house in the show "Hoarders"!), so those tunes won't emerge in consciousness unless triggered by something else and you can clear a pathway to get access it....i.e. you hear the tune used on a TV commercial, or somebody mentions the name of the tune or the LP/CD in a conversation, or perhaps you're thinking about some event that the song has/had some association with on a mass or purely personal/individual level.

    For example: What has the biggest radio hit during your final year of high school (or college)?

    You may draw a total blank at first, but then you think about some of your pals you used to hang out with, and maybe singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" in Garth's mirthmobile. Once the first couple of tune titles bubble to the surface, there will probably be another half-dozen more close behind. It's like opening up a file folder on your computer - you start remembering what other stuff is in that file. The more you go back to the "archives", the more (and more) you bring all that stuff up towards the surface of your consciousness. (For example: last night during a rehearsal, the singer had a new original song with a I-vi-ii-V progression (in B) and what popped up in my mind was Buddy Holly's "Everyday", and I'll bet that B was the key in which Jimmy Gaudreau and Country Store recorded it. The next idea that emerged from the air was to start playing George Benson's "Breezin" over those changes.) So playing the mental jukebox can help provide you with a vast vocabulary or licks/phrases etc. (that are there, for free, just from hearing the radio and records over the years!), and if you can develop the ear>hand wiring more fully, to just let your thoughts come out of the instrument.

    Now this phenomena of remembering the tune in the key which you heard it, or the key that you learned it and play it on an instrument can also lock you in (unfortunately) to only thinking/hearing of it if you are playing something in that same key and tempo. Or to lock those licks in that tune into a particular fingering tied to playing it in that one key. You may not even "hear" those possible licks as usable soloing ideas if you are in a different key. That's where the transposing game comes in. First, you free the tune (and its component licks) from being locked into just one set of mechanical fingerings in just one particular key. So when you transpose the tune into different keys, it becomes easier the play licks and ideas, no matter what LH finger you happen to start it on. Of course, you are training your hand to follow your ear, because you already KNOW how the tune goes and what it should sound like. You are also training your mind/ear to start hearing the tune in other keys, which makes it more likely that some of that stuff will occur to you to play when you are playing in some other key.

    That is just the start. You can also shift the tune from major into minor, (say) from D major to D minor. Besides the mechanical/fingering practice, you begin to develop the ability to flip a mental switch which lets you hear/think/translate a tune into minor (or vice versa). Example: Sing "Row Row Your Boat" or "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star".....now sing it (or try to) as minor. Can you? Now you probably could do it on the instrument, because you "logically" know that you have to flatten certain notes (3rd, 6th, 7th) for the parallel minor, and this usually doesn't require changing the fingering of those altered notes...but being able to play it using your analytical mind is not the same thing as hearing it. (You can't sing it if you can't hear it).

    .. continued in the next post >>>>>

  8. #56
    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memory of learned songs

    Continued from Post#55 >>>>

    Similar mental manipulation variations of raw material (tunes, motifs) could be to play the tune in a different time signature(s). And when you get better and better, you can change change the key and the scale (minor, mode etc) and the meter all at the same time. Take a 2/4 tune that you play in D major, now play it Bm in 6/8 (or 7/8, or 5/4). Yeah! Work those brain cells......Do you feel the burn?!

    (For example) I need more fluidity (on flute) in E major (and using that G# key), so as a way of acquiring it, I'll move D tunes ("Merry Blacksmith", "Rory of The Hills", "Cuckoo's Nest"...) and G tunes ("Kesh Jig"...) into E. (And Em tunes up into F#m: "O'Keefe's Slide", "Trip To Sligo" etc.) The idea is not to try to play the stuff fast (initially), but to mentally sing the tune in my head and play it with the fewest errors and wrong notes, without thinking (much about) pitch names. I want the hands to be in direct response to sonic thought. After that, then start to up the tempo and put things into muscle memory.

    Again, I cite the above as just an example that I do use my own 'advice' on myself.
    (And, as Ry Cooder has said..."It's ALL one big instrument.")

    Niles H
    * * * * * * * *

    Learning To Play By Ear
    mandocrucian
    May-01-2011, 4:13pm

    Try playing some tunes that you already know really well by heart. On mandolin, whistle, flute, etc, I've found that once I have a tune well entrenched in my head, it's pretty easy to get it to come out of the instrument. Try simple Christmas carols, folk tunes, TV ads, pop songs, etc.

    Definitely! "Memory Jukebox", as I call the exercise of trying to play any melody that might be/land in your head on the instrument, should precede, imo, learning "new" tunes by ear. You should spend time giving your mind the opportunity to make the connections between pitches and the fingers before saddling it with the additional burden of learning and remembering a new tune on top of trying to make the fingers find the notes (the mind doesn't really have in palce).

    All the kid-school songs......"Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", "Three Blind Mice", etc. which are ingrained permanently in most peoples' brains. Then TV/movie themes..."Gilligan's Island", "Maverick", "Rawhide", "Hawaii 5-O", "Goldfinger", "Bonanza", ...... or whatever (depending on your age).

    Part of the "game" is to get your fingers used to being in service to your mental ear. But you are also using it to connect the music playing program to the vast store of sonic memory files inside your brain. (The problem with many many musicians is that they are unable to run the two programs at the same time.) The more you get used to "calling up" musical memory files, the easier and easier it becomes to retrieve them.

    Pick a year.....say last year of high school. Try to remember the songs that were popular. Getting the first four or five will be the hardest, but once that mental file cabinet is opened, another dozen should shart to tumble out. It makes no difference if the songs are really corny or something you'd never play in public for your friends..... "This Diamond Ring" (Gary Lewis & The Playboys", "Boots" (Nancy Sinatra), "Tie A Yellow Ribbon" (Tony Orlando), "Close To You" (Carpenters), "Macarena", ....some of those irritating earworms are imbedded deeper than the better stuff. (Besides, you can punish pickers that irk you, by playing some of these tunes and reinfecting them with stuff that will be stuck in their ear all day!!!)

    At a more advanced level of ear-playing, is the "Transposing Game". Here, you take a song/tune you already know and play it in a different key. Several things are happening here: you are making your mental ear "hear" the tune in a different key than the one it was recorded in (on the LP/CD, and/or in your brain). And, you are making the fingers respond to the melody, but in different fingering configurations than the one-key-muscle-memory you have established. (This is also a remedial exercise for players that get locked into muscle memory and finger diarrhea.)

    You can also play the tranposing game in conjunction with memory jukebox.

    IT MAKES NO DIFFERENCE IF YOU NEVER INTEND TO PLAY THESE TUNES PUBLICLY. And it is doesn't matter if you can't play them up to the actual tempo.....just that you can play them with less and less stumbling and bogus notes.

    When you learn a "tune" you not only learn the entire tune, but you also learn all the shorter phrases and note sequences within the tune. These short "molecules" (an arpeggio, or scale fragment) will occur again and again (in different locations and contexts) in countless other tunes. If your brain recognizes a previously encountered fragment, it doesn't have to relearn it from scratch. Which is why the 50th fiddle tune is so much easier to learn than your 3rd.

    BTW: I "play" both these "games" a great deal on flute, which I've only been working on for a few years. I want my fingers to automatically respond to something I am thinking sonically in my mind, avoiding thoughts about which "notes/pitch names" I should be playing (from mentally imaging a mando fretboard). And I want my fingers to respond correctly if I mentally move the melody to another key and/or meter. (I may practice technical exercises/patterns or solos/tunes out of a book for convenience. Different slurrings, articulations, etc. and work on muscle memory for velocity. But I want technique to always be in service to the ear .)
    * * * * * * *

    Here is how to use Google to search the Cafe for multi-word subject matter:
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...rd-phrase-quot

    Niles Hokkanen

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  10. #57
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memory of learned songs

    Wow, Niles, what an amazing data dump! Thank you, thank you for reposting this stuff!

    With enough time, your spontaneous sonic thoughts will start to emerge simultaneously on the instrument. This is REAL PLAYING - "singing" on an instrument
    How cool is that? Wicked cool. I will start putting quarters into my "Memory Jukebox" the next time I pick up the mandolin (in a little while after I do a couple more chores).

    Ha Ha, Secret Agent Man - "They've given you a number and taken away your name...."
    You are right about everything that is in there, just reading your post triggered tons of internal music that I hadn't thought about in years... all the way back to singing in the back of the station wagon as kids

    Sue

    BTW, a tad off topic but in reference to TV music, am I the only one who remembers the song to "It's About Time" (It's about space, about two men in the strangest place...)

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    Default Re: Memory of learned songs

    BTW, a tad off topic but in reference to TV music, am I the only one who remembers the song to "It's About Time" (It's about space, about two men in the strangest place...)
    Joe E Ross (Grok I belive was his character name) & Imogene Coca as cave people. Gillgan's Island gone prehistoric It isn't amazing how just seeing those lyric fragments turns on the tune in your head (after 50-53 years when it aired on TV)? This is a super-power every player should work to harness!

  12. #59
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memory of learned songs

    Ha ha, you are the first person I've run into that remembers that. I just came in from the lawn chair, where I played the whole song. Amazing.

    I loved that show as a kid.

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