Re: How do YOU memorize songs?
- From: Charmed Snark <snark@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: 17 Aug 2007 13:19:49 GMT
On 17 Aug 2007, michaelcjeep@xxxxxxxxx wrote in alt.guitar.beginner:
Being later in life than most starting musicians my memory
capability has already started to fade. In learning to play the
guitar, one of my objectives was to learn how to read music -
standard notation. Hence, I try to play from sheet music that has
standard notation with tab for reference. I primarily use the
standard notation and have become halfway decent at sightreading.
Good for you. With some practice, standard notation is actually much
more informative than TAB.
So my question may seem stupid, but how do memorize songs?
The only stupid question is "what was the question"? ;-)
a) play infinitely until it naturally embeds in the hands and
Some of that. Sometimes a piece memorizes itself.
b) consciously sit down and memorize separate from playing
Some have suggested writing out the lyrics-- that seems to help me
memorize them better than "a" for the lyrics. I've never tried to do
that for notes, but that might be worth a try if you have time for
c) memorize only chord changes and fill in the gaps on the fly
I guess it might depend upon the material, but for finger style
pieces, I don't really see this as a "method".
d) memorize through intricacies of music theory and relationships
of notes, keys, etc with only a faint reliance on known melody
My brain isn't fast enough for music theory on the fly. I do think
you tend to learn (over time) what chord changes work and what sound
colours you get from this 'n that (i.e. familiarity with what
In the same way, learning to improvise lead guitar over different
kinds of background music, you just become familiar with what works
with no memorizing really required. It just starts to become part of
you and eventually you start to express yourself musically based
upon how you feel within a given context.
e) never consciously memorize, just sightread everything
I find that once I wean myself from the sheet music, I can then
start to put real feeling into the performance. Because by this time
I've stopped putting mental energy into "reading" and "conforming"
to the written page, and now start to "feel" the piece instead.
One fault that I have, which I suspect is common, is that I focus on
playing the notes (only) at first. But my guitar teacher is always
after me to practice the dynamics (soft/loudness) at the same time,
so that they become instinctual. Otherwise, you tend to fallback to
your old habits of leaving out the dynamics (in acoustic playing
But having said that, I know that some who have been at it for a
long time could easily do both (read music and express themselves).
So it doesn't have to be that way, but for those of us starting out,
I think a piece tends to perform better after it is memorized.
There is at least one option that you left out, and this one is the
most important to me:
f) Memorize the piece in phrases- a few bars at a time.
Generally I work from top to bottom, but sometimes I might just
learn the easy (or most fun) parts first. Read where you need to and
then play from memory for the phrases you know. Music is usually
easily subdivisible this way.
g) Anaylize the music when you first start learning it.
Music often repeats phrases, or repeats them with minor variations.
Even in classical material, you'll find that entire sections repeat,
but might include a few substitutions in a bar here or there, just
to keep things interesting. So when you realize that, you can cut
the memory work to 55% (one half + the minor variations), where the
repetitions occur. Modern music tends to be even easier in this
regard, with a few exceptions.
Divide and conquer! Its the only way.
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