Do you memorize your music?

Gayle Maurer
Gayle Maurer
@gayle-maurer
7 years ago
31 posts

I think when you're playing in a band, you have to learn so many songs. By repeating them over and over, they probably really get embeded in your mind after awhile. It does get harder, though, as you get a little older, and medications and head injuries probably don't help matters either. If you're not in a band anymore, I wouldn't worry about it. If you play for your own enjoyment, do it by whatever means you can and just enjoy making music.

I do envy those of you who have 50-75 songs memorized! Grin.gif

phil
@phil
7 years ago
139 posts

When I played in bands I had everything we played Memorized. Sometimes people would ask for something we didn't know all that well and out would come the sheet music. Now days I don't know if its form a head injury I had a few years ago, all the meds I now have to take or just age catching me to soon in life, I am only in my early 50's. But I seem to have trouble Memorize music. Maybe I just don't play enough. I have to keep the music close.

Paul Certo
Paul Certo
@paul-certo
7 years ago
245 posts

The fiddler in that clip is very, very good, but she ain't a BIT funny!

I'm not sure memorize is the word I would use. I memorize lyrics, but for me, music is more a matter of getting the feel right than copying each note of someone's version. What if they wrote it wrong? Our local newspaper has a list of corrections every day on page 2. I listen repeatedly until I get the song into my head, then I work out how I am going to play the song. Tab is a starting point, and a guide when I get lost, but I take detours on any journey. I can't read tab fast enough to play in a jam with it, so I let my ears take over.

Paul

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
7 years ago
1,612 posts

I know what you are saying, Gayle. When i use a tab to learn a tune, it takes me a while to 'get' the tune, and I sometimes will refer back to the tab when i forget parts- Like you, I do sort of 'see' the tab numbers in my mind, but once i play the part many times then again it's the sound that helps me actually 'learn' the tune. Tabs can help me pick my way through a tune that's complex or unfamiliar to me. Learning tunes by ear is a skill that is improved the more you do it, even when you start with something as simple as Mary Had a Little Lamb. Now after many years I can pick up a tune through tab or by ear, but it's when you internalize a tune and play it your way from the heart (no matter how slowly or simply) that it becomes your own. I'm sure we all feel that way.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Gayle Maurer
Gayle Maurer
@gayle-maurer
7 years ago
31 posts

So far, when I play the dulcimer, I am remembering the numbers or at least that the first note of a sequence starts with 6 then back to a sequence that starts with 2. Of course I know I am wrong if it doesn't sound right - so it must be a combination of sound and numbers.

I never played tab with the guitar. It was all just traditional music notation - basically flat-picking or sometimes they call it Carter Style. So playing with tabs is new to me.

I really do have those numbers going through my head as I'm playing. I know I'm not thinking what note I'm playing (a,b, c etc.) because that is all relative to the tuning and changes with each mode.

That's probably the difference between people who play strictly by ear and those of us who have to have a roadmap. Hm! Kind of a topic for another discussion.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
7 years ago
1,612 posts


Mandy said:

Wowzers! You call knowing 75 tunes a smaller number. I would be thrilled to be able to really know that many songs.

lol, Mandy! I actually said "I usually work on a current repertoire of about 75 tunes, putting other stuff on the back burner for a while." That doesn't mean I can play all 75 tunes by heart, it just means I'm working on those right now. I am usually working in 3 slightly different genres at any given time- old-time fiddle tunes, old songs or ballads, and lately a minstrel repertoire from the mid 1800's.

I'm pretty familiar with several hundred tunes and songs, but I certainly can't play them all by heart at any given time- I have to work on chunks of my current favorites to keep them polished up. Many of them don't have lyrics, and many are ones I play a supporting part in but maybe not the lead (but I better know the supporting part I created).

I could memorize tab, but listening to tons of version of it being played helps me much more than any tab ever could.

Do people actually memorize tab?- as in memorizing the tab NUMBERS, as opposed to the how the tab sounds? If people could memorize tab numbers, then they wouldn't need to look at the tab paper...but they do! I can't imagine trying to memorize a whole page full of numbers. How else would one 'memorize tab' if not by memorizing the numbers? If one memorizes how the tab sounds, then they are memorizing the tune version, but not really memorizing the tab itself. I know, maybe it's comparing apples to oranges...




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Mandy
Mandy
@mandy
7 years ago
143 posts

Wowzers! You call knowing 75 tunes a smaller number. I would be thrilled to be able to really know that many songs.

I totally agree with your thoughts here. I think of it in the same way. Memorizing any monkey could do (hey wait a sec am I calling myself a monkey? hmm not sure). But really getting intimate with and knowing a tune is different IMO. I could memorize tab, but listening to tons of version of it being played helps me much more than any tab ever could.


Strumelia said:

I don't think of it as memorizing a tune. I think of it as knowing a tune. Once i listen to a tune many times, and then play it many times, either alone or with others...that's when I know the tune. I might still make an occasional mistake or lapse, but I'll know it's a wrong note immediately and I'll hear in my head what it was supposed to be.

I learn tunes through several methods- sometimes sheet music, sometimes TAB, sometimes a recording, sometimes from other people playing it live with me so I can learn it. But no matter what method i use to 'catch' the tune, once I know it well I won't need to look at paper anymore.

That said, if time passes I might need a memory jog as Robin said, but usually I can pick the tune back up pretty quickly at that point, because I once knew it under my fingers.

I'm all for really knowing a smaller number of tunes, rather than half-knowing a whole bunch. I usually work on a current repertoire of about 75 tunes, putting other stuff on the back burner for a while. I don't try to 'keep knowing' everything I've ever known how to play well, and when i go back to stuff i knew in the past I often need to refresh it for a while. I've read that the great fiddler Tommy Jarrell only had a repertoire of less than 50 fiddle tunes that he played wonderfully over the years.

Gayle Maurer
Gayle Maurer
@gayle-maurer
7 years ago
31 posts

Yes, remembering a tune long enough to record it is different than long term remembering it.I was happy when I remembered "Golden Slippers" long enough to record it.Grin.gifEven now I would want to go back and review it before performing it for someone.

I can't even imagine how much time and work Hillary Hahn put in to perfect the violin concerto. That was wonderful, by the way! People with that much talent simply amaze me.

It is liberating, though, when you don't have to rely on the sheet music in front of you. That's probably why so many performers never play the same tune exactly the same way twice. Once you know it well enough, you can tweek it here and there according to your current whim or mood.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
7 years ago
1,612 posts

I don't think of it as memorizing a tune. I think of it as knowing a tune. Once i listen to a tune many times, and then play it many times, either alone or with others...that's when I know the tune. I might still make an occasional mistake or lapse, but I'll know it's a wrong note immediately and I'll hear in my head what it was supposed to be.

I learn tunes through several methods- sometimes sheet music, sometimes TAB, sometimes a recording, sometimes from other people playing it live with me so I can learn it. But no matter what method i use to 'catch' the tune, once I know it well I won't need to look at paper anymore.

That said, if time passes I might need a memory jog as Robin said, but usually I can pick the tune back up pretty quickly at that point, because I once knew it under my fingers.

I'm all for really knowing a smaller number of tunes, rather than half-knowing a whole bunch. I usually work on a current repertoire of about 75 tunes, putting other stuff on the back burner for a while. I don't try to 'keep knowing' everything I've ever known how to play well, and when i go back to stuff i knew in the past I often need to refresh it for a while. I've read that the great fiddler Tommy Jarrell only had a repertoire of less than 50 fiddle tunes that he played wonderfully over the years.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
7 years ago
1,551 posts

Memorize, memorize, memorize. Except in an orchestral setting, where, as Robin points out, the maestro is telling the players how to "feel" the music, IMHO having paper on stage while performing is tacky. Others disagree with me; but that's OK.

It also, in part depends on how long the piece is, too. Memorizing a major concerto or opera or whatever - say The Planets Symphony -- is not realistic. But with dulcimer we're mostly playing repetitions of a verse and chorus.

I think its possible to have a memorized repertoire of over a hundred songs. I know I have more than a hundred songs that I can play with little or no prodding. I do keep a cheat sheet around with the first few measures of over a hundred songs on it, so I can remember how a tune starts when I'm hearing all sorts of other music around me at a jam or open mic. Again it depends on the nature and complexity of the tunes. I play mostly folk tunes with a verse and chorus; Robin plays more complex fiddle tunes.

Robin Clark
Robin Clark
@robin-clark
7 years ago
253 posts

One thing I forgot to mention was that memorising a tune for performance is not the same as longer term remembering a tune. I have memorised perhaps 100 tunes that I have recored or performed without music - but I'd be hard pressed to 'remember' 10 of them at present without some sort of memory jog to get me going. That memory jog could be written music or hearing the tune. Most of those tunes that I once 'memorised' for a performance would require some work to get back to that standard again.

So I wouldn't get too hung up on not 'remembering' tunes. Most musicians 'by ear'repertiore is made up of the 20 or so tunes they are currently regularly playing.

Rob N Lackey
Rob N Lackey
@rob-n-lackey
7 years ago
444 posts

Gayle,

What Robin said! I feel I'm just "practicing" a piece until it's memorized. Then, and only then, can I work on it to try and "fine tune" the arrangement and make the song mine. I find some songs are easy to memorize and others are more difficult. As an example, I memorized "Nonesuch" in less than a week, however, I've been working on the "Farewell Pavane" now for about 2 to 3 weeks and still it's not coming together in my mind. I thought I had the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance memorized and ready to go; now I can't remember it at all. Oh well! I agree with everything you both have said.

Robin Clark
Robin Clark
@robin-clark
7 years ago
253 posts

Hi Gayle,

Certainly memorising your music will improve your performance of it in the long run as it frees up mental capacity to allow you to focus on the tone and feel of the piece. Lets take this top level professional concert as an example.

The orchestra members are using the music- the conductor is doing a lot of the 'feel' and enterpretation 'work' for them. The conductor and soloist themselves know the piece intimately and work without the sheetmusic, and this frees up their capacity to put real feeling into the performance.

Basically, reading the music is taking up brain space in the moment that you could be using for listening and adapting. It takes a lot of work to memorise a piece of music but as you have found it can allow you to improve your performance.

Robin

Gayle Maurer
Gayle Maurer
@gayle-maurer
7 years ago
31 posts

For some reason I am finding it easier to memorize dulcimer music than I ever did guitar music. Maybe it's because I'm down to three strings (I even took the double string off for now) and don't have all the sharps and flats a chromatic keyboard has. In any event, I am enjoying memorizing it because then I can concentrate on getting the notes to sound correct when I'm not constantly referring to my sheet music. Just wonder what others think and if it helps them to play better - or not.


updated by @gayle-maurer: 04/16/18 11:42:54AM