Memorising tunes

BUMNOTE

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#1
Hi just wondered what other people do to memorise tunes,i have some tunes I can just play and others I have to refer to the dots,the ones I can play seem to have obviously locked in,but other others have not...why?Dont rememember how some are there and are not.So what do you do,is it repetition till its there,piece by piece and done daily.Bumnote.
 

spike

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#2
I think you've answered your own question.
I prefer to not write anything down. When I do I become reliant on it.
That goes for the dots as well, read the dots, get it right then chuck 'em.
You can probably whistle so many tunes and melodies because you've heard them so many times.
Repetition, piece by piece and done daily til it sticks.
 

jbtsax

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#3
Great question. The tunes I have memorized that have stayed in my memory were all learned by ear---not reading the "dots" as you call it.
  • The first step is to get the tune in my head by repeated listening
  • The second step is to be able to sing the tune in its entirety using the lyrics, or du's and dot's
  • The third step is to slowly work out the tune on the saxophone. This is slow at first, but gets faster with practice
  • The fourth step is repetition
  • The last step is to occasionally review the tune to keep it in your ear and under your fingers
 

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#4
Hi just wondered what other people do to memorise tunes,i have some tunes I can just play and others I have to refer to the dots,the ones I can play seem to have obviously locked in,but other others have not...why?Dont rememember how some are there and are not.So what do you do,is it repetition till its there,piece by piece and done daily.Bumnote.
My new regime consists of practising scales an arpeggios, and learning a few different melodies by ear, I find that learnings a particular melody has helped me get a better understanding of the scale I am practicing, Summertime is a good one for a Major scale. Each time I learn it in a new key it comes to me a lot quicker, It also helps me to understand the Blue Notes,
 

Colin the Bear

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#6
The blue notes being the minor bit ;)

Some tunes just play themselves. Some will come if I work at them. Some others I need the dots. Complicated harmonies and melodies with fast tricky bits that my ear won't catch. I get them under my fingers with the dots and then stick 4 or 8 bar segments together like lego, till I have memorised the whole thing. You know you're getting there when you don't hear the joints.

Some pieces need deconstructing so you can understand what the idea is.
 

jbtsax

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#8
The blue notes being the minor bit ;)

Some tunes just play themselves. Some will come if I work at them. Some others I need the dots. Complicated harmonies and melodies with fast tricky bits that my ear won't catch. I get them under my fingers with the dots and then stick 4 or 8 bar segments together like lego, till I have memorised the whole thing. You know you're getting there when you don't hear the joints.

Some pieces need deconstructing so you can understand what the idea is.
Have you ever tried "Transcribe". It lets you slow down the tempo and loop sections that are a bit tricky. I have used it with good success to learn tunes, and improvised solos without actually writing them down.
 

Colin the Bear

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#9
My mp3 player will do that. I don't find hearing it slower helps me. I have a habit of playing something similar instead of what's required. It never ceases to amaze me how many different routes there are to the same destination.
 

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#10
How does that work - Summertime, being minor? Or are you equating it to relative major, which can work but possibly not the most obvious way to think.
That probably shows my understanding of theory is very limited, if you take the notes in the melody of Summertime, they are all within a major scale.
 

kevgermany

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#11
That probably shows my understanding of theory is very limited, if you take the notes in the melody of Summertime, they are all within a major scale.
It's always that way. You just start at a different place. A minor is the relative minor of C major. So play the notes of the C major scale, starting with A. And you're in A minor.

By convention, tunes end on the keynote. But not always.... You need to listen. And tunes often change keys once or more before they end.
 

MikeMorrell

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#12
I agree with @jbtsax's method but IMHO some tunes are more easily 'long-term rememberable' than others. It's as if they have become part of our 'musical subconscious'. There are probably multiple factors that determine the difference but I would postulate at least 3:
- repetition: the more times we've heard/played a tune, the more 'rememberable' it becomes
- simplicity/complexity: the simpler the tune, the easier it is to remember
- the 'emotional association' (that anchors the memory in whatever way)

I've heard 'Summertime' multiple times, it's a simple tune and I like it and I remember it. The same applies (for example) to John Lennon's 'Imagine' or the Beatles' 'Hey Jude' or even Slade's "Merry Christmas". I've never played any of these tunes but they are deeply ingrained (through repetition) in my memory. I like a lot of other stuff too (like 'Round Midnight and Harlem Nocturne) but I would have to dig deeper to remember the notes when I endlessly played them over and over again. I practised John Renbourn's guitar pieces so often 40 years back that I can still play them note-perfect.

Through emotional associations, a few tunes (for example by Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Nina Simone) have also become ingrained in my musical memory.

I'm no psychologist but I've read that there is a gradual difference between short-term, medium-term and long-term memory retention and retrieval. My take is that short-term memories are measured in days, medium-term memories in months and long-term memories in years. A few memories may shift from short-term to medium-term or from medium-term to long-term. But this is not a process we can consciously influence. Musicians who have been playing 'jazz standards' in different combo's for 10, 20, 30 or 40 years have the tunes and chords 'ingrained' in their musical memories.

So like @jbtsax, the only things I suggest to improve memory retention is to listen, play and repeat.

Mike



Hi just wondered what other people do to memorise tunes,i have some tunes I can just play and others I have to refer to the dots,the ones I can play seem to have obviously locked in,but other others have not...why?Dont rememember how some are there and are not.So what do you do,is it repetition till its there,piece by piece and done daily.Bumnote.
 

David Dorning

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#13
Musicians who have been playing 'jazz standards' in different combo's for 10, 20, 30 or 40 years have the tunes and chords 'ingrained' in their musical memories. Mike
Learning a tune is learning a sequence of intervals, and whether we use them consciously or subconsciously, intervals are the clues that help us to triangulate sequences of notes. They give the tune a context by providing a clue to the chord centres, as Mike says. Once you know the intervals in a tune it’s much easier to play it in other keys.
 
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thomsax

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#14
The second step is to be able to sing the tune in its entirety using the lyrics, or du's and dot's
That's the way I learn most songs. I'm a singer that plays the saxophone!! I listen to the singing saxophonists. Red Prysock, Louis Jordan, "Cleanhead", Bullmoose Jackson King Curtis, Jr Walker, Clarence Clemons .... to todays Jimmy Hall, John Fogerty, "Woody" Woodford, Andrew Clark, Sax Gordon, Jimmy Carpenter ...... (all R&B or Rocksax players). I never sing something that Coltrane, Parker played. I wish I was able to do, but to play lyrics through my sax is easier for me. Today I'm singing more. The day I'm not able to play the saxophone, I can continue to sing!!!
 

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#15
How does that work - Summertime, being minor? Or are you equating it to relative major, which can work but possibly not the most obvious way to think.
This is why I usually refrain from offering advise on the Forum. I usually practise 1 key a week, I sometimes stay with one for 2- 3 weeks depending on time and progress, I practise the Major scale form each point, I use the exercises on Scales from Taming The Saxophone and I learn some melodies by ear, Summertime being one of them, if I am learning in the key of D Major I learn Summertime in this key which I now understand to be B minor but I believe it is still related to D major. I then go on to learn the D Blues Scale and learn a melody related to that scale ( Alfies Theme being one of them) ( at the end of the week I have a good blow in the key I have been learning) I find that this helps to understand a scale and I find that as I move through the keys I learn the melodies a lot quicker. ( is this a really strange/unobvious way of learning)?
 

BUMNOTE

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#16
Thanks all for your replies,some great advice,some of which I am aware of,some tunes seem to embed in my mind easy and others not so,so yes repetition is key,but how long does it take to sink in,do you play it each day bit by bit,can you learn a tune in a couple of days or a week?.
 

spike

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#18
I'm 71 years young - these days it takes me a lot longer.
I can play riffs and licks and solos that I played 40 or 50 years ago at the drop of the hat.
At my last gig I had to nip over to the guitarist and ask him to sing me the opening riff.
Once he'd reminded me of the the opening notes - no problem.
Keep your brain active - do crosswords - I do the German crossword in my local paper every Saturday morning.
Over the last few years I've become aware that I really need to find new ways to remember.
What was the question ? ;)
 
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