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Tips for remembering songs?

TravisE

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,704
I’ve never had an issue - it’s always been a natural thing for me just learning and remembering songs. In 2018 I had cancer and since then, my memory just isn’t what it used to be. It’s gotten better but still not what it was.

I’m learning a bunch of tunes now and I’m scared about my ability to recall the information when it matters. Do you guys and gals have any tips or suggestions for committing these tunes to memory?
 
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talonmm

Member
Messages
865
I know this may be sacrilegious to some... but you can use an electronic device like an Ipad if you have to. They can mount right on your mic stand.

So many rock stars use teleprompters at the front of the stag,e and they have been signing those songs for decades so why should'nt you have it written out if you need it.
 

TravisE

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,704
I know this may be sacrilegious to some... but you can use an electronic device like an Ipad if you have to. They can mount right on your mic stand.

So many rock stars use teleprompters at the front of the stag,e and they have been signing those songs for decades so why should'nt you have it written out if you need it.
I don’t think I could do it, man. You’re talking to the dude that refuses to use digital pedals and gigs with a spring reverb unit. Lol. I *might* use charts. From a notebook.
 

ripgtr

Member
Messages
10,766
I don’t think I could do it, man. You’re talking to the dude that refuses to use digital pedals and gigs with a spring reverb unit. Lol. I *might* use charts. From a notebook.
I don't think I have any digital pedals and use a Surfy Bear with my non reverb amps.

I still will use an iPad if I need one (not often but I do on occasion). You put it on an attachment to your mic stand, it is hardly noticable, It isn't there to read off of, tele prompters are just that - prompters. They USED to be Human prompters, in case someone forgot their next line, off stage. Cause, you know, it happens. If you are more comfortable with a notebook and paper, that is fine too.
And remember, if someone sees you at a gig with an iPad and has an issue, well, you are the one with the gig, and they aren't so they can go ahead and leave and go book their own gig and do it any way they like. :)
 

stevel

Member
Messages
15,200
I’ve never had an issue - it’s always been a natural thing for me just learning and remembering songs. In 2018 I had cancer and since then, my memory just isn’t what it used to be. It’s gotten better but still not what it was.

I’m learning a bunch of tunes now and I’m scared about my ability to recall the information when it matters. Do you guys and gals have any tips or suggestions for committing these tunes to memory?
Are you talking about from Thursday night to the Friday gig, for a song you practiced Wednesday night, and Tuesday night, and Monday night...???

Or are you talking about a song you haven't played in a week, or a month, or 3 months?

If I get a call for a gig, and have to learn new material that I'm not familiar with - especially a lot of songs - I'll absolutely use a "cheat sheet" which is a kind of "reminder chart" I make for myself. I absolutely owe to the people that hired me to get them through the gig with as few hiccups as possible.

I have noticed I have a tendency to forget songs I learned 10 years ago or even 1 year ago, but I can still play songs from my childhood.

But I forget things all the time and have to keep songs "fresh". So I absolutely play them regularly. I have to pretty much spend the week before a gig going over all the material - well, I don't "have" to and could hack my way through, but I really want to do the material well.

It really also helps me to have the song in "aural memory" - that is, I've also listened to it countless times. There have been many times where I've learned songs for bands that are the kinds of music I just don't listen to, and then when we take a break it's not something I even know how it goes. But songs I listen to a ton, I do know how they go. So that also helps me to know "bridge is coming up and that goes to the IV chord" so that's better than just trying to memorize the song in it's 1-2-3-4-5-6- chords in order kind of state.
 

70 Mach 1

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,448
I have to totally commit to memory.
If we don't play something is say 5 months I usually will have to relearn it.
Only saving grace is its easier to learn second time around.
By the 2nd loop I usually have the gist of it.
 

twoheadedboy

Member
Messages
12,797
I’ve never had an issue - it’s always been a natural thing for me just learning and remembering songs. In 2018 I had cancer and since then, my memory just isn’t what it used to be. It’s gotten better but still not what it was.

I’m learning a bunch of tunes now and I’m scared about my ability to recall the information when it matters. Do you guys and gals have any tips or suggestions for committing these tunes to memory?
I've never had trouble remembering music, but back in my gigging days I usually had to put in some work to remember all the words to songs that I didn't write.

For songs that I didn't know well, I would write the first line of every verse and the basic song structure (e.g., intro, verse, chorus, solo x bars) down on a sheet of paper. I would put that on the floor beside the set list. It didn't take up a lot of space and gave me what I needed if I got stuck.
 
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ant_riv

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,944
For me the best method has always been repetition, playing songs enough times that I don't need to think about them.

When that can't happen, I have a notebook (I choose not to depend on an iPad) and on a single page, I will have song titles, Key, and the letter names of the chords for the verse, bridge, chorus next to the title.
That is usually sufficient to prompt my memory, if need be. Except for when I forget the notebook ...

Best wishes to you, OP, for continued recovery! My wife is 12 years and counting!
 

Jeff_G

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,161
I play the songs over and over and over again. Then I have an iPad up there just incase I need to glance at something.
 

Turi

Member
Messages
9,924
A couple of things - for me, a huge mistake is playing them with the lyrics.

I never remember anything that way. I've got songs I play, every gig, that I wouldn't even reach the first chorus in, without the lyrics, because they were just slapped in as easy songs I don't actually like/love - never bothered to learn them. I just play them. LOL.

For remembering.. playing them over and over is one way, but the best for me is to learn them by ear.

Learning songs by ear burns it into my brain way better than jumping on ultimate-guitar to get the chords etc and then singing along to the lyrics. The lyrics there are probably wrong anyway. So are the chords sometimes.

Learning songs by ear helps immensely with learning the lyrics and chords, timing, phrasing.. everything about learning songs by ear and writing it all down (by hand, for me) just destroys any other method.

I used to think my memory was failing or something because I couldn't remember the lyrics to as many songs as I know. But no, it's not, it's because some of them are songs I play all the time, but always have lyrics in front of me for.

Ditching that has been the best thing ever and I'm almost ready to be gigging again without having lyrics etc in front of me. Which is crazy because I've used lyrics for ages.

It got super annoying going to jam sessions and feeling like I always have to play the same few songs, despite actually knowing how to play like thousands of songs (in a very basic way, of course).

I don't know your specific situation but if you're not learning by ear and hand, make the switch.
It takes longer but it's worth it.

I understand this is common knowledge to like 99.999% of TGP folk.

For someone like me that has always had easy access to chords/lyrics etc thanks to the internet - it's a game-changer to NOT use them.

I've also noticed every single song I've learn by hand and ear has resulted in an infinitely better rendition, because I'm picking up passing tones and notes etc that aren't in the chord charts etc. It's also way better picking up noises etc vocalists make that aren't literally lyrics, too. Try learning a Pearl Jam song with only the lyrics. You'll miss like 75% of the vocals. LOL.
 

ldizzle

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,470
others have some great insight. Personally, I learn by ear OR sight read exclusively. Not a mix of both. Most pop T40 country etc are super easy to recall- it just takes some repetition. If it's like... orchestral, theater, screen type work... I want barred notation.
 

Emigre

Senior Member
Messages
4,346
For the type of music I play, classical, acoustic finger style or more complex rock/metal songs I use notation.

I used to memorise, but there are a few issues with that. For one, it’s a real effort to memorise a piece before I can play it.

Secondly, I have a ceiling of 2 hours in each of my genres, and third and more important, maintaining that to any degree requires constant repetition to the extent I barely have any time to learn new material.

I have now stopped memorizing and read notation solely. And yes because of the volume of material, but also page turning, it’s all in an iPad and an AirTurn. I dislike using technology in music, and resisted it for the longest time, and compiled huge binders of music, but the advantages of modern tech are very difficult to refute.

If I have to have a gig then sure I’ll select my pieces and memorise them, and revert to reading once that’s done.
 

TravisE

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,704
A couple of things - for me, a huge mistake is playing them with the lyrics.

I never remember anything that way. I've got songs I play, every gig, that I wouldn't even reach the first chorus in, without the lyrics, because they were just slapped in as easy songs I don't actually like/love - never bothered to learn them. I just play them. LOL.

For remembering.. playing them over and over is one way, but the best for me is to learn them by ear.

Learning songs by ear burns it into my brain way better than jumping on ultimate-guitar to get the chords etc and then singing along to the lyrics. The lyrics there are probably wrong anyway. So are the chords sometimes.

Learning songs by ear helps immensely with learning the lyrics and chords, timing, phrasing.. everything about learning songs by ear and writing it all down (by hand, for me) just destroys any other method.

I used to think my memory was failing or something because I couldn't remember the lyrics to as many songs as I know. But no, it's not, it's because some of them are songs I play all the time, but always have lyrics in front of me for.

Ditching that has been the best thing ever and I'm almost ready to be gigging again without having lyrics etc in front of me. Which is crazy because I've used lyrics for ages.

It got super annoying going to jam sessions and feeling like I always have to play the same few songs, despite actually knowing how to play like thousands of songs (in a very basic way, of course).

I don't know your specific situation but if you're not learning by ear and hand, make the switch.
It takes longer but it's worth it.

I understand this is common knowledge to like 99.999% of TGP folk.

For someone like me that has always had easy access to chords/lyrics etc thanks to the internet - it's a game-changer to NOT use them.

I've also noticed every single song I've learn by hand and ear has resulted in an infinitely better rendition, because I'm picking up passing tones and notes etc that aren't in the chord charts etc. It's also way better picking up noises etc vocalists make that aren't literally lyrics, too. Try learning a Pearl Jam song with only the lyrics. You'll miss like 75% of the vocals. LOL.
I have been learning everything by ear. Heck, I played on one of the records that I’m learning - but it’s been a year and a half or more.
 




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