How do YOU memorize music?

hugssandi
@hugssandi
5 years ago
254 posts

Linda, we will learn together!  :)  Bob, I do love getting 1,000 versions from YouTube!!!  Being TAB dependent I am finding that when I do work out something by ear I remember it much more easily.

Bob Reinsel
Bob Reinsel
@bob-reinsel
5 years ago
79 posts

I have never really understood how I memorize music.  It's a thing that I have done since I began playing piano as a child.  In fact, reading music has been harder for me than playing by ear, which comes kind of naturally.  I would only read music until I had it in my head. I don't know if I have ever successfully learned a tune on dulcimer from tab, but maybe I haven't really tried.  

For me, the learning process starts with listening to a tune until I have it in my head.  YouTube is a great resource for finding various interpretations of songs.  I usually will listen to several different recordings when I am learning something.  I also learn the music first and put the words to it later.




--
Bob
Site Moderator

The greatest music is made for love, not for money -- Greg Lake
Terry Wilson
Terry Wilson
@terry-wilson
5 years ago
296 posts

Me too, John.

Jan Potts
Jan Potts
@jan-potts
5 years ago
408 posts

John, I do the "learn it backwards" thing, too, especially on a tune I'm not familiar with and that has a lot of tricky parts.  I learn the end, then back up and play through to the end again, then, when I have all that learned pretty well, I back up even more, etc. etc.  There are just some tunes that seem to work well with this technique!




--
Jan Potts, Lexington, KY
Site Moderator

"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." Henry Van Dyke
hugssandi
@hugssandi
5 years ago
254 posts

Thank you, John!  I especially like the advice to slow down...  And OH yes to rhythm!!  ~might try the backwards thing~

John Gribble
John Gribble
@john-gribble
5 years ago
121 posts

In memorizing an instrumental, I'm pretty "scientific." I like to work from music/tab and I play through a piece a few times to "get the lay of the land," looking for musical phrases which repeat. I love folk songs and fiddle tunes. Most of them are pretty short and most have at least one "chunk" which repeats two or three times. So if I get that part down, I have 1/4, 1/3, or even 1/2 the tune learned. The different endings of the repetitions come next.

After that it is a matter of repetition and smoothing things out. One trick I learned which I find useful is to memorize "backwards." I'll take the last two measures and get them down, then the two measures ahead of those, then two ahead of those, all the way back to the beginning. When working on a new section, I always play through to the end. That way the new material flows into material I'm already familiar with. 

I think it is important not to speed up and slow down. If after I've memorized a piece there's a rough patch I can't play as fast as the rest, there are two things I do. I take that section out and work on it alone, pushing myself slightly to try to get it up to speed. That may take a while. If it takes two days, or two weeks (or two months!), OK, that's what it takes. Most of the time it comes in just a practices session or two. I also continue to work on the whole piece, playing only as fast as I can get through the hard parts smoothly. That way the whole piece comes together without any "seams."

Everybody has trouble with rhythm. Your metronome is a friend who won't lie to you. 

I don't sing or memorize words very much anymore, but remembering the story of the song and the rhymes always helped.

hugssandi
@hugssandi
5 years ago
254 posts

We use amblesideonline, so we learn hymns, folksongs, and appreciate composers as a part of our schedule.  A long while ago I practiced some of the folk songs and hymns, but somewhere along the lines it became easier to listen and sing rather than add practice time.  I'm happy to be practicing again!  (Like David~ the loving it!)  :)

 

David Pedersen
David Pedersen
@david-pedersen
5 years ago
32 posts

Repetition, For me anyway. Over and over again. Then on to line 2,  or Measure 3, either way.  But always loving it.

 

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
5 years ago
1,870 posts

Sandi -- ya messed up, girl!  All along you should have been including "music instruction" in your homeschooling curricula.  Then you'd have had plenty of practice time built in to your schedule!  And, you'd have a passel of people to jam with.

Jan Potts
Jan Potts
@jan-potts
5 years ago
408 posts

I hope music instruction is part of your homeschooling!  I learned a LOT of songs from members of my family.  If you have a section of your home used for instruction, I would start a list of Tunes We Know by Heart and add to it any time someone comes up with a tune they can hum or sing all the way through.   If they can sing the lyrics, add a star!  Keep another list on excel file and you can keep it alphabetized for quick reference.  This is something that every member of the family (age 2 or 3 and up) can join in on. Sing while you do chores, wash dishes, etc.  Helps the time pass faster, too!




--
Jan Potts, Lexington, KY
Site Moderator

"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." Henry Van Dyke
Terry Wilson
Terry Wilson
@terry-wilson
5 years ago
296 posts

Good for you, hugssandi.

hugssandi
@hugssandi
5 years ago
254 posts

HA HA!  ~I got a good chuckle out of that, actually, Terry~  Six kids are the reason I haven't played in a few years, but now I have older ones along with younger ones (18 - 2), and they are working me out of a job!  I've never made them watch their siblings, but when Whit came along they all just wanted to.  :)

As I make our homeschool schedule for the year I just might schedule thirty minutes a day for myself to have dulcimer time, because I enjoy it so much, and it's having such a good effect on me!  :)  ~right now still = lazy days of summer, so I am reading and playing and enjoying~  


updated by @hugssandi: 08/24/16 03:11:01PM
Terry Wilson
Terry Wilson
@terry-wilson
5 years ago
296 posts

Hey hugssandi, how do you find time to play anything?  With six kids?  Wow.   Strumella may see fit to give you a fotmd.com metal of honor one day.

Like a circus balancing act, huh?  My advice would be for you to NOT MEMORIZE SONGS, YOU NEED YOUR SLEEP.thumbsup

 

PS:  Sandi, please understand that what I wrote above is a hahahaha moment for you.  I just funnin with ya.


updated by @terry-wilson: 08/24/16 02:27:45PM
hugssandi
@hugssandi
5 years ago
254 posts

I am SO PLEASED that y'all continue to share.  I think the key for each of us is to find our own niche, as everyone learns so differently!  I'm sure many will find answers here, as I have.  *THANK YOU ALL!*

Terry, I'm sure I wanna do this!!  :)  I truly am having SO MUCH FUN playing my dulcimer again!!!!!  


updated by @hugssandi: 08/24/16 02:03:58PM
Terry Wilson
Terry Wilson
@terry-wilson
5 years ago
296 posts

I just came across this topic and was fixing to give my two cents, a then read Gail's post above.

It works.

When I'm driving my car the 14 miles to town, or 35 miles to my grandkids school to watch them play ball, if I'm not practicing harmonica,  I'm singing songs that I have to memory or listening to songs I am learning.  Whew!

This is just my simple way of keeping these songs in my muscle brain memory.  I just beg for excuses to drive alone.  

A key for me in my practice routine is  (and this is important) as I am singing a line, I practice visualizing the beginning of the next line.  If this makes sense, you can't think it, you have to see it

But once you really get it, there's really no thinking or seeing at all, it's just there.  The problem you may experience is going to sleep at night, or just taking a nap during the day.  Brain overload.  You're extremely sleepy, but your songs won't let you sleep. 

You sure you wanna do this?

Gail Webber
Gail Webber
@gail-webber
5 years ago
70 posts

I think the first thing is to have the tune in your head.  I usually do - because it's one I've heard and want to learn.  You can always go to YouTube and hear almost any tune you want.  Then, whether learning by tab or by ear, I start at the beginning learning bits at a time and building on them until I can play the whole thing through.  Once it's thoroughly implanted in this old brain, I normally don't need to look at the tab again.  That's just my method - hope it helps!

hugssandi
@hugssandi
5 years ago
254 posts

That's a great idea!  I don't have a metronome, but I could sure employ a similar idea....

Robin Clark
Robin Clark
@robin-clark
5 years ago
237 posts

I switch on my metronome!

I usually have only a very short time to learn and memorise and then record any new piece. As soon as I can just about play it I then switch on my metronome and play. If I make a mistake I leave the metronome on and pick up the tune a few measures before the error.

This technique forces the physical muscle memory for that tune into the non-conscious and ties the sound to your physical movement. I can memorise new tunes very quickly and get them to full playing speed using this technique.

hugssandi
@hugssandi
5 years ago
254 posts

OH so much to digest, and this is why I love all of you!  ~I will read and reread~  *THANK YOU!*

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
5 years ago
1,489 posts

Sandi, as others have pointed out, you are actually asking several different questions here.  The answer to all of them, though, is repetition.

If you want to be able to play without staring at the fretboard, you need to play the same dulcimer--or at least one with the same VSL--all the time so that you get used to equating the difference between tones with a distance on the fretboard.   I would also suggest sliding more than normal because your ear will cue you when you're approaching the right note.  Although I can play my guitar without looking at the fretboard a whole bunch, I find it much harder on the dulcimer, where we jump around on the fretboard so much.  HOwever, if you are really at a campfire, the fire will provide plenty of light to see the fretboard.

I have to admit that I am not sure how to tell you to "memorize" tunes.  For me personally, by the time I know a song, I know the song, meaning I can play it without tablature.  I can't really "play" according to tablature but only use it to learn tunes. I am sure if you went measure-by-measure or phrase-by phrase through a song you could memorize it. But I would suggest changing the way you learn songs so that you can memorize them all (until you get as old as I am and start forgetting songs you used to know).

As Ken says, you have to really "know" a piece of music in order to play it without tab. That means getting it into your head. I heard a story of Linda Brockinton driving from Arkansas to Florida listening to the same rendition of the same song over and over.  She had to get the song in her head before she was able to play it on the dulcimer. Once I know what a song sounds like, I think about it's structure. Is it AABB?  ABC? or whatever.  Then I look for other common patterns.  Maybe it is a song generally played AABB with the both parts taking 8 measures.  Is each of those 8-measure sequences a single melodic line or actually two (which is often the case).  Now I have a song with four distinct phrases, and usually the second part of the A and the second part of the B will be similar, sometimes even identical.

I do all that analysis (which only takes a minute or two once you have th esong in your head) before even playing. But I find it's important to understand the structure of a song so you can remember where you are when you are playing. Once I start learning the song, I will indeed take one phrase at a time or even one measure if it's really hard.  And as others have said, repetition is the key.  My wife and daughter hate it when I learn a new tune because I play it dozens of times every day for many days in a row.  I often play nothing other than a song I am learning until I really have it down and "know" it, by which I mean I can play it with no tablature.

Of course, I sometimes forget tunes later on, but usually all that is needed is for someone to play or hum the beginning and then my memory kicks in.  Ken says he writes down the tab for the beginning of each tune for the same reason, I'm sure.

I don't know if any of this is helpful, but I would suggest not playing songs that you can't hum or whistle or sing.  Get it into your head first, and watch your fingers on the fetboard while you play. Then your eyes, ears, and fingers are all making connections between the differences in tone between two notes and the distances on the fretboard.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Noah Aikens
Noah Aikens
@noah-aikens
5 years ago
33 posts

Memorizing the melody is the easy part. Memorizing timing and lyrics is the extremely hard part for me.

Colleen Hailey
Colleen Hailey
@colleen-hailey
5 years ago
67 posts

The hard part is when you have a song half-memorized.  Then you play along from memory until about halfway through and end up frantically looking at the tab trying to figure out where you are.  Or, there's a really difficult section that you have practiced repeatedly and have finally gotten down, only to realize that you can never remember what comes next.  I've been playing for two years and only have 2 tunes memorized, though, of course, I haven't really put any effort into trying.

Jan Potts
Jan Potts
@jan-potts
5 years ago
408 posts

Sandi, I see your question as addressing several issues, as well.

  • ...Being able to play without looking at your fretboard is about muscle memory.  It takes practice and at first you're missing notes all over the place...then you hit the right note or chord a lot of the time....then most of the time.  Start with songs that don't make giant leaps on the fretboard.  There's a reason why Boil 'Em Cabbage Down is a beginning tune!
  • Memorizing lyrics is really hard for me.  I'd have to go over it a gadzillion times, at least.
  • With memorizing the tune, I suggest you start with songs you already know and get good at playing those without tab.  I'm currently working on a list of tunes that I have in my head, adding more to the list as I think of them.  I'm up to about 125...and I only have on it the ones that come readily to mind...I'm not lookin through my books or files.  You can always start with songs you've known since childhood (Twinkle twinkle Little Star, Deck the Halls, Happy Birthday, etc.)  You may not want to PLAY all these on the dulcimer, but when you make the list, you may surprise yourself at how many tunes are already filed away in your brain!

I bought some mini lights that clip onto your cap or shirt collar.




--
Jan Potts, Lexington, KY
Site Moderator

"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." Henry Van Dyke
hugssandi
@hugssandi
5 years ago
254 posts

Y'all are sooo amazing~thank you for sharing your wisdom with me!!!  I will continue on....

Patty from Virginia
Patty from Virginia
@patty-from-virginia
5 years ago
233 posts

My daughter and I have been to a couple of campfire events. If it's done correctly and you are sitting near the fire (not too close) you should get enough ambient light to see the fret board. If you feel you will not be able to see, Ken's suggestion is a good one. As for me, as Ken said, repetition is the only way I can memorize a song. When I play it so much that I'm just about sick of it then I know I got it memorized. Take a line at a time. When you got that one down go on to the next adding line by line. You will be using muscle and mind memory to know where to place your fingers or noter if you play noter drone. 

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
5 years ago
1,870 posts

Sandi -- go to a bookstore and look at those small LED reading lights which clip onto the book you're reading.  Like Lisa I can't play in the dark, and our new Open Mic location is kinda dark already.  I'm going to get one of those reading lights and see how it will work.


updated by @ken-hulme: 08/18/16 05:43:54PM
hugssandi
@hugssandi
5 years ago
254 posts

Ken, you are right.  The one song I know well is the Constipated Bible one, but I worked it out myself.  The others I am learning are from TAB....

Strumelia, you bring up a good point.  I was thinking by campfirelight I'd be able to see my instrument...  HHHMMMMMm...  I am finding I do better after memorizing lyrics, but I have quite a hefty list I'm working on.  That could also be a piece of the puzzle~slow down and work on one at a time???

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
5 years ago
2,002 posts

Sandi, I'm sensing two different issues in your question:

1) the ability to memorize how to play the tune with your fingers, and/or to memorize the lyrics,
and
2) the ability to play the music with your fingers if it's dark and you cannot see the fretboard at all.

 

I find it impossible to play either dulcimer or banjo in the dark without being able to see my fretboard at all...even if I have the tune memorized.  I think if I were playing solely chords on a guitar it might be easier and more automatic, but when playing melody notes that go all over the place it's proven to be more than I can handle when playing in dark campsites.  Some folks say you can get good at it by practicing at home with a blindfold etc, but that's something I myself am not going to devote practice time to.   This said, you might find you have few problems with playing in the dark, so you might want to experiment a bit with it.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990

updated by @strumelia: 08/18/16 01:15:21PM
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
5 years ago
1,870 posts

Words are poetry, mostly.  That makes them fairly easy to remember, because verses have internal rhymes.  Tunes are built from phrases.  Start with one, then add a second... a third, etc.  

My major tool is R E P E T I T I O N.    I play by ear.  So.  I listen to a song -- cassette, CD, Youtube, Midi track -- over, and over, and over, and over.  After 40 or 50 repetitions I'm pretty much able to whistle or hum the tune, and I whistle/hum along for another 40 or 50 repetitions.  Then, when I can sing/hum/whistle the tune without any glitches, I'm ready to sit down with my dulcimer, a pen and some paper, and start writing out the tab for the tune on the melody string.  The writing out of the melody tab numbers really fixes the tune in my head.  And after I've played the tune a dozen or so times, it's part of the repertoire in my head.  I write down the tune name and the tab for the first couple measures on my master list, and it's there.


updated by @ken-hulme: 08/18/16 12:49:19PM
hugssandi
@hugssandi
5 years ago
254 posts

As I practice for the campfire I find that I am improving, but I would sure like to know many songs by heart.  I mean, it might be too dark to see the music!  Please share your methods for memorizing music with me.  TIA!


updated by @hugssandi: 02/18/20 11:35:24AM