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How to memorize tunes. Your techniques please

BeBopSop

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274
Hi, I can read and play tunes happily enough,but take the book away and ......silence, is there a way of memorizing tunes (other than playing a a few bars while reading,then looking away and then playing from memory?)
any help appreciated
 

llamedos

Senior Member
Messages
431
With me, and I suspect with most people, it's largely down to familiarity. Repetition and more repetition I'm afraid and it can get tedious. But some things I committed to memory umpty-fifteen years ago I can still dredge out of the memory bank. Can't recall breakfast or where I went yesterday but that's an anno domini thing.
Good luck and keep believing.
Dave
 

Pete C

Member
Messages
344
Musical memory is like a muscle - use it and it develops: you get faster at learning new tunes and you can remember more and more. Just keep at it and it will take off. You will be amazed at what you and your fingers can remember.

Pete
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,904
I haven't done a whole lot of this yet but it helps me remember the tune if I also learn the chords (or at least one possible set of chords) and vice versa. It all makes more sense to me that way, as you can see/hear how it all fits together.
 

llamedos

Senior Member
Messages
431
Musical memory is like a muscle - use it and it develops: you get faster at learning new tunes and you can remember more and more. Just keep at it and it will take off. You will be amazed at what you and your fingers can remember.

Pete
You are absolutely right Pete. The memory muscle is an excellent analogy and it gets easier when you get used to recognising patterns in the music.
 

saxplorer

Senior Member
Messages
879
As Pete C said above, practice definitely helps. I start by trying to get the sense of the phrasing: if there are lyrics these can be very helpful to help you keep your place in the melody. Wrestle with the tricky bits, and when those seem smooth, try without the music. Then next day, when you don't even have the music anywhere near, try again. That usually sends me scurrying to the music to remember the forgotten bits. The memory is half in the fingers half in the brain, and (for me anyway) the memory isn't a visual memory of the score. Much more a movement/muscle memory. I would probably struggle to write down even the tunes I know best.

Anyway the other really important thing for me is that when I have it in memory, I can play it so much better, so definitely worth doing.
 

BeBopSop

Member
Messages
274
As Pete C said above, practice definitely helps. I start by trying to get the sense of the phrasing: if there are lyrics these can be very helpful to help you keep your place in the melody. Wrestle with the tricky bits, and when those seem smooth, try without the music. Then next day, when you don't even have the music anywhere near, try again. That usually sends me scurrying to the music to remember the forgotten bits. The memory is half in the fingers half in the brain, and (for me anyway) the memory isn't a visual memory of the score. Much more a movement/muscle memory. I would probably struggle to write down even the tunes I know best.

Anyway the other really important thing for me is that when I have it in memory, I can play it so much better, so definitely worth doing.
Perhaps it gets logged into the subconsious part of the brain, and can be recalled when needed? So which tune shall I make a first into memory?
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Subscriber
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5,949
I'm pretty crap at it. The main driving force is having to remember stuff for gigs. Otherwise I don't bother because I know that if I don't keep playing stuff I'll forget it, so there seems little point in committing tunes to memory for a brief period unless I have to play them in public.
 

rhysonsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
4,372
Quite a few people say that if you learn a piece by ear, you are more likely to remember it than if you read it off the page.

My recent experience tends to back that up - I was trying to learn 'On Green Dolphin Street' and when I had the sheet music in front of me I always kept coming back to it. When I put the music aside, I would make a few mistakes at first but gradually it sank in and now I think I have got it.

Another tip is to learn the lyric if the tune is a song with words.

Rhys
 

jbtsax

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8,005
In my experience there are 3 levels that take place when learning a tune or melody.

-First is hearing the song enough times in order to be able to recognize and identify the tune. Easy

-Second is hearing the song with enough repetitions to be able to sing or hum the tune from beginning to end. Moderately easy

-Third is getting the song "under your fingers". This means finding the finger patterns to reproduce the tune in your head. Moderately easy to difficult depending on the complexity of the song.

If you break the song down to 8 bar phrases and learn one phrase at a time it helps. Since most songs are in the A-B-A form, when you know 2/3 of the song you know it all except for the ending if it has one.

When I was young and learning to play the sax, the closest music store was 120 miles away. If I wanted to learn to play a song I liked like "The Pink Panther" or "Take Five" I had to learn it off the record. With practice it got easier and easier to learn "by ear". When I studied music theory in college and learned about intervals, it became even easier---plus I could take songs to different keys without much difficulty by thinking "intervallically".
 
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Wade Cornell

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2,140
Jbtsax I think has this about right. If you are always reading then it's eye to brain to fingers without necessarily registering anywhere else in between. If you HEAR the music in your head then you know what it should sound like. I prefer to sing, (internally or out loud) and that gives me what I'm going to play. If you are intending to improvise, this is also the key. If you can't hear in your head what you want to play then the best you'll ever do is to regurgitate a cut and paste bunch of riffs, arpeggios, and other canned finger memory stuff. Being able to play what you want to hear = being one with your instrument. It's an extension of your voice.

Get it into your HEARING brain rather than finger memory. Get your fingers to play what you hear. Sounds simple, but this takes years to master, but once mastered you can play anything you can hear within your physical limitations.
 

dubrosa22

Senior Member
Messages
413
I've only been playing for a little over a year but when I learn a new tune I read for the first few times then try to play it from memory best I can - which is usually only the first 4 bars. I limp through the whole tune like this forcing my memory to work. Then I read it through again once or twice to correct my memory mistakes.

Then after my practise session I consciously try to sing or whistle the whole tune best I can with as much attention to the timing as possible (not just casually like I'd normally do). So until my next practise I keep the tune thoroughly in my head.

Generally, I can pretty much play the tune 2/3 from memory the next day after one more read. After that I glance at the page for the spots I keep stuffing up and articulation :)

If I play a tune I've memorised at least twice a week it stays there but then I've only got a repertoire of around 20 songs so far.
 

allansto

Senior Member
Messages
471
I havent been playing long but lately ive been playing/learning some christmas carols and when I play them I tend to sing the words in my head.
But if I sing the wrong words then I also play the wrong notes.
backfire.
But it definately helps when I sing the right words
Not all music has words to match but you could always make some up to help.
good luck.
 

visionari1

Senior Member
Messages
1,581
]


Get it into your HEARING brain rather than finger memory. Get your fingers to play what you hear. Sounds simple, but this takes years to master, but once mastered you can play anything you can hear within your physical limitations.
Amen to that...... My prayers will be answered when I get to that stage....

I've also been told learning tunes, you need to listen to them a lot & and a lot.... Then be able to sing it then start playing without reading any thing.
It's real slow depending on several factors, like ears and really sticking at it till your totally sick of it.... Then it comes.

All this does take a huge level of focus, but I'm told pays tremendous dividends in the end.





Cheers & ciao
Jimu

"Together We Create Beauty"
 

Pete C

Member
Messages
344
When I think I know a tune, I try playing it round all 12 keys - then I find out if I really do or not!
 

Rikki

Member
Messages
205
it may seem labourious but once you learn a tune say "Happy Birthday" try to play it in all keys.

Two reasons:

1. You can play along with any other instrument in whatever key, as you will be able to transpose the tune.

2. It will train you to analyse in your head the structure of songs which make them easier to break down and remember
 

Wade Cornell

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2,140
I think Pete and Rikki have got it right about the exercise, but you need to hear and play without translating trough several layers in order to play fluently. If you hear something (like happy birthday), then have to analyse it by saying to yourself OK all is fine until I get to those big intervals, what are they? Oh yes, when I play in my key of C the first jump is an octave above the G (start note) then the next big jump is an F (the forth). Ok they are playing in Concert E that means that (since I'm playing a tenor in Bb) I'm in F so when I get to that part I'm playing a C octave jump and then the forth which is Bb. Yea everybody does that! Right!

You hear it in your head and you play it. Analysis is great for developing understanding and OK after the fact or if you need to figure something out well ahead of time. A pro just plays it, no analysis, no picture of notes on a page, no transposition as a mechanical intervention. You hear it, you play it. If you try to analyse everything on the fly you’re dead in your tracks. If you are trying to make this somehow a fast process when forever translating it’s just as awkward as trying to translate any other language through a dictionary, hand held translator, or even another person who translates. There is a time delay and something always gets lost in the translation. Why not be fluent in the language in the first place? When you work with your ear and your instrument to make them one, then you can play what you hear. Don’t know about any of you, but I think I can sing happy birthday to you in all twelve without thinking about transposition or structure. Can be just as easy to play IF you train yourself instead of trying to forever translate through an intermediary.
 

jeremyjuicewah

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,890
I had to make the break from written when it came to being able to perform. (I havent yet done that but I have some little repertoire now). I read for practice and pleasure but if I want to learn something I check the key and figure it out. For me, its the only way to make it stick.
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,904
I think Pete and Rikki have got it right about the exercise, but you need to hear and play without translating trough several layers in order to play fluently. If you hear something (like happy birthday), then have to analyse it by saying to yourself OK all is fine until I get to those big intervals, what are they? Oh yes, when I play in my key of C the first jump is an octave above the G (start note) then the next big jump is an F (the forth). Ok they are playing in Concert E that means that (since I'm playing a tenor in Bb) I'm in F so when I get to that part I'm playing a C octave jump and then the forth which is Bb. Yea everybody does that! Right!

You hear it in your head and you play it. Analysis is great for developing understanding and OK after the fact or if you need to figure something out well ahead of time. A pro just plays it, no analysis, no picture of notes on a page, no transposition as a mechanical intervention. You hear it, you play it. If you try to analyse everything on the fly you’re dead in your tracks. If you are trying to make this somehow a fast process when forever translating it’s just as awkward as trying to translate any other language through a dictionary, hand held translator, or even another person who translates. There is a time delay and something always gets lost in the translation. Why not be fluent in the language in the first place? When you work with your ear and your instrument to make them one, then you can play what you hear. Don’t know about any of you, but I think I can sing happy birthday to you in all twelve without thinking about transposition or structure. Can be just as easy to play IF you train yourself instead of trying to forever translate through an intermediary.
Different people's minds work in different ways. I agree that we should be working towards the point where you just hear something and play it. But for some of us (eg me) the theoretical framework is a help rather than a hindrance in that learning process. I find it helpful know that it's a minor sixth from A up to F in Happy Birthday in C (ie the sixth to fourth notes of the scale). It helps me to recognise that interval in other contexts if I can put a name to it and have some idea of it's harmonic function within the key. It's no use in a live performance situation, of course, but it does help me in the practice room which is where I'm training my subconscious mind to do these things without having to think about it. And it's gradually working. Yesterday I found myself able to transcribe the opening of Honeysuckle Rose in my head (there's a descending minor sixth in it, which I could actually hear without knowing how I knew). That probably sounds easy to a lot of people here, but I wouldn't have had a clue a few months ago. Apparently some people can just pick this stuff up instinctively, but I don't think I would ever have done so.
 
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