#1

Memorizing songs - How does a pro do it?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Mon Dec 23, 2013 2:35 pm
by dlraben • 278 Posts

Hypothetical situation. Your band mates love song X and want you to learn to play it. Let's leave the timeline we have vague, but think days/weeks and not months/years. You have never heard the song before, but it's in your genre(s) and you managed to get your hands on perfect quality sheet music from good old Google. (This is just to keep the conversation away from transcription.) Your band mates expect you to play it as close to the original as possible, so we can't just completely improv our way through the intro/fills/solos/outro.

What is the professional musician's plan of attack to learn to play the song from memory? I'm looking for a methodical approach, similar to the rest of the lesson plan this forum follows, that is more detailed than "continually play it as many times as possible." Of course, repetition will be unavoidable, but there's got to be more to it than that. (I have SOME ideas, but I don't want to share them yet.)

I'm selfishly posing this to the group because I seem to be unable to memorize complete songs. I can do licks/riffs here and there, but complete songs (complicated things ... think instrumentals) are tough. I can only seem to play music well when I'm sight reading tab, playing exercises, or totally improvising. I'm assuming this is a common problem which has a solution. So who wants to share it with me?

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#2

RE: Memorizing songs - How does a pro do it?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Mon Dec 23, 2013 3:31 pm
by deltadiscos • 310 Posts

Sorry i have nothing to add that you don't already know. Listen, song form, slow, repetition,

Also start with a few bars at a time and keep extending it. so learn two bars then the next two and so on right through the song. next time round learn four then the next four and so on, then 8 bars at a time then 16. Just an extra idea.
sorry couldn't add anything extra.


You think you practice enough.......YOU DON'T!............PRACTICE MORE! Darryn U.K
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#3

RE: Memorizing songs - How does a pro do it?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Wed Dec 25, 2013 3:17 pm
by John567 • 156 Posts

Hey dlraben,

Dude, I just went through the your hypothetical situation about a month ago. The group that I play with wanted to add "Better Days Ahead" to their set list and I only had about a week to get it down.

Thankfully, I had the PM fakebook so I had a good lead sheet (although there was a mistake in the melody in the first line). My approach, probably not the best, buts its the only thing I could do to bring it up to speed:

1. I practiced the head (melody) at a slow tempo and brought it up to speed. Altogether it took me about 3 nights after work just practicing the head. Once I had it up to speed I played it along with the recording over and over WITHOUT the lead sheet. I have a program called "Transcribe" that allows me to slow down the song without losing pitch and loop sections. This really helped me iron out some trouble spots.

2. The second part was the chords. It was a real bitch for me because of the rhythms and the tempo of the recording. I knew I could play the chords but not at the tempo required. But, I did the same thing as with the melody and used the Transcribe program to clean up some mistakes I was making. Again, when I was getting up to speed I used the lead sheet. Once I had it where I needed it I would practice without the lead sheet just the recording.

3. Finally, I would just play the song's chord progression without anything but just he metronome to keep time. I needed to remember the form without any cue's that you would get from the recording. This was hard for me. I really had to concentrate on the chord shapes on the neck and see them over and over again.

4. Once I did all that, I finally looped it with my looper and practiced the head, 2 solo passes, and finally head out. I figured that would cover as much as I needed before the next rehearsal.

I tried to post a video of my result. But the forum won't let me again. I don't know why. Sometimes I can post some times I can't. If you want to see it just email me via the forum. I'll send you the link.

One more try:

Nope.

I don't think its working.... oh well.

:0


... addicted to Dava... I dont know how to quit.

Last edited Wed Dec 25, 2013 3:25 pm | Scroll up

#4

RE: Memorizing songs - How does a pro do it?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Wed Dec 25, 2013 6:53 pm
by dlraben • 278 Posts

Yeah, song structure, harmony, melody, repetition. Looking back at my post, I'm not sure what else I was expecting... I guess I haven't been working hard enough on memorization. I'll change that. Thanks guys.

John, yes, I'm very interested. E-mail coming forthwith.

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#5

RE: Memorizing songs - How does a pro do it?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Wed Dec 25, 2013 9:18 pm
by NicholasJacquet (deleted)
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My understanding, is that the very process of trying to become as good of a musician as is possible, is one that is charactarized by developing a way to function on ones instrument without being reliant on memorization.


Modoric Aknowledgements:

Play Guitar better than Fred Durst?---Check

Play Guitar better than Lil' Wayne?---Check

Play Guitar better than Franz Listz?---
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#6

RE: Memorizing songs - How does a pro do it?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Wed Dec 25, 2013 9:38 pm
by NicholasJacquet (deleted)
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I was smoking a cigarette outside thinking about the implications of this, and I realized that the process which many would call "bringing something up to speed" is a one that I intensely dislike; it is approaching the act of playing music in a way that feels dehumanizing and antithetical to music. And even after having gone through this process, there is no guarantee of pay-off, insofar as that being able to play something "up to speed" that you have spent the last few weeks focusing on, right here and right now, does NOT mean that it would be "up to speed" say six months down the line after half a year of focusing ones attention elsewhere. My whole point here being, that often it produces no residual benefits, and I guess thats probably why I dislike it so much.


Modoric Aknowledgements:

Play Guitar better than Fred Durst?---Check

Play Guitar better than Lil' Wayne?---Check

Play Guitar better than Franz Listz?---
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#7

RE: Memorizing songs - How does a pro do it?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Thu Dec 26, 2013 9:04 am
by John567 • 156 Posts

Quote: NicholasJacquet wrote in post #5
My understanding, is that the very process of trying to become as good of a musician as is possible, is one that is charactarized by developing a way to function on ones instrument without being reliant on memorization.


Hi NicholasJacquet,

So how do you know where middle C is on the guitar without using your memory?


... addicted to Dava... I don't know how to quit.
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#8

RE: Memorizing songs - How does a pro do it?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Thu Dec 26, 2013 9:07 am
by John567 • 156 Posts

Quote: NicholasJacquet wrote in post #6
I was smoking a cigarette outside thinking about the implications of this, and I realized that the process which many would call "bringing something up to speed" is a one that I intensely dislike; it is approaching the act of playing music in a way that feels dehumanizing and antithetical to music. And even after having gone through this process, there is no guarantee of pay-off, insofar as that being able to play something "up to speed" that you have spent the last few weeks focusing on, right here and right now, does NOT mean that it would be "up to speed" say six months down the line after half a year of focusing ones attention elsewhere. My whole point here being, that often it produces no residual benefits, and I guess thats probably why I dislike it so much.


How do you know that there will be no pay offs? There will aways be results and from those results you can build a strategy to get you towards your goals. Do you have any specific goals that you are trying to achieve on the guitar?


... addicted to Dava... I don't know how to quit.
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#9

RE: Memorizing songs - How does a pro do it?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Thu Dec 26, 2013 2:44 pm
by NicholasJacquet (deleted)
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My goal is to chip away at/ get to the point where I have removed any anatomical playing constraints so that it would appear as though I didnt have any


Modoric Aknowledgements:

Play Guitar better than Fred Durst?---Check

Play Guitar better than Lil' Wayne?---Check

Play Guitar better than Franz Listz?---
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#10

RE: Memorizing songs - How does a pro do it?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Thu Dec 26, 2013 3:43 pm
by John567 • 156 Posts

Quote: NicholasJacquet wrote in post #9
My goal is to chip away at/ get to the point where I have removed any anatomical playing constraints so that it would appear as though I didnt have any


Okay. That's good that we have a goal. But, I don't want to pretend that I know exactly what you mean. Can you explain to me what you mean by "anatomical playing constraints". I just want to make sure I understand what you mean by that. Because right now I only have a guess. My guess would be that you want to be able to play the guitar really well so that you don't really have to think about what you are playing. That its an almost... unconscious reaction. That it happens automatically and effortlessly. Is that close to what you are saying?


... addicted to Dava... I don't know how to quit.
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#11

RE: Memorizing songs - How does a pro do it?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Thu Dec 26, 2013 4:05 pm
by NicholasJacquet (deleted)
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Everytime I am physically able to play something that was not possible before now, a constraint has been eliminated.


Modoric Aknowledgements:

Play Guitar better than Fred Durst?---Check

Play Guitar better than Lil' Wayne?---Check

Play Guitar better than Franz Listz?---
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#12

RE: Memorizing songs - How does a pro do it?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Thu Dec 26, 2013 4:12 pm
by John567 • 156 Posts

Okay. So, what would you say those constraints are? Mental, physical, financial, time, etc... I'm guessing you mean physical. Am I right about that?


... addicted to Dava... I don't know how to quit.
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#13

RE: Memorizing songs - How does a pro do it?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Thu Dec 26, 2013 4:15 pm
by NicholasJacquet (deleted)
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physical is porbabably the most obvious one to me, mental is probably the hardest one for me to work on...one example would be to see how small you can make a subdivision of time before you can no longer sense that it is there.


Modoric Aknowledgements:

Play Guitar better than Fred Durst?---Check

Play Guitar better than Lil' Wayne?---Check

Play Guitar better than Franz Listz?---

Last edited Thu Dec 26, 2013 4:21 pm | Scroll up

#14

RE: Memorizing songs - How does a pro do it?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Thu Dec 26, 2013 4:25 pm
by John567 • 156 Posts

Quote: NicholasJacquet wrote in post #13
physical is porbabably the most obvious one to me, mental is probably the hardest one for me to work on...one example would be to see how small you can make a subdivision of time before you can now longer sense that it is there.


So we could say you have a mental/physical restraint. You are just like the rest of us, eh? Well, what I get from the following quote from before you have a main goal:

"My goal is to chip away at/ get to the point where I have removed any anatomical playing constraints so that it would appear as though I didnt have any"

Let's call this Goal A. I'll refer to this goal as Goal A from now on or GA for short.

When you say stuff like the following:

"one example would be to see how small you can make a subdivision of time before you can now longer sense that it is there"

The first thing I get from this is that you appear to be able to think very abstractly in a mathematical way. Its like you are using the metaphor of math to explore the music (limit of x as it approaches zero...). Something like that.

Do you think it takes you away from your goal or drives you toward it?


... addicted to Dava... I don't know how to quit.
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#15

RE: Memorizing songs - How does a pro do it?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Dec 27, 2013 11:43 am
by uderoche (deleted)
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Damon, for me, it's always been simply extreme repetition. I don't know if that helps but that's what I've always done. I've gone to jam session gigs where I had the chart in front of me. But that's not memorization. I think to memorize it you just have to drill it everyday. That's what works for me. Steve Vai once said you play something like 500 times and then suddenly you forget how to play it. That's when you know you almost have it memorized.

I don't know if that's what you're talking about but, it works if you are trying to memorize songs.


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#16

RE: Memorizing songs - How does a pro do it?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Dec 27, 2013 2:18 pm
by dlraben • 278 Posts

Alright, sounds good. I do lots of this already, but I need to stay on one song much longer than I have done in the past. Doing that will probably get me past a lot of the areas I perceive to be lacking in my progress. Thanks guys!

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#17

RE: Memorizing songs - How does a pro do it?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Thu Jan 02, 2014 12:50 am
by deltadiscos • 310 Posts

Now learning flight of the bumblebee using the method i mentioned above
16 bars a night
1 bar at a time then 2, 4, 8,/ 16

memorizing whole songs is also something i need to work at.
so will let you know how it goes.

Should take about week.?


You think you practice enough.......YOU DON'T!............PRACTICE MORE! Darryn U.K
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#18

RE: Memorizing songs - How does a pro do it?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Mon Jan 13, 2014 12:24 pm
by deltadiscos • 310 Posts

So flight now totally learned and memorized. since 10th of January.
so took about a week. I know its not the hardest song to memorize.
but think this is a great way to learm/memorize
Also think as with anything it becomes easier and quicker to do the more you do it.

will post a video when i've reached 160 bpm ( about another couple years then lol!)


You think you practice enough.......YOU DON'T!............PRACTICE MORE! Darryn U.K
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#19

RE: Memorizing songs - How does a pro do it?

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Tue Jan 28, 2014 1:43 am
by pebberbrown • 876 Posts

I think the main catalyst for memorizing any material is the forced necessity. Back in the day, and I am speaking of the 70's - when I was trying out for bands they would just give you a list of songs and occasionally a cassette of the material and it was like "here you go, learn these by next rehearsal." If you failed - forget working with those guys ever. Your name went on the local imaginary "do not call" list of people who sucked. If you were already IN a band and they gave you some tunes to learn and you didnt do it - well you got the SHAFT and were kicked out on the spot. It was high pressure because there were a lot of guys who wanted to be in bands and there were lots of gig opportunities for money. A few years later when I was in music school you HAD to memorize the charts to play in class and that shit went by QUICK! Dick Grove gave us a new chart (5-10 pages mind you) to learn for a class/rehearsal 2 days later!!! WORK! Dr. Jack Mason (Chaffey Big Band) was the same except the charts were longer and harder. It all boils down to having the pressure put on you to get something down by due date! No due date=no hard attack (unless you can muster up a remarkable amount of self discipline). So audition for bands, join a band and set some due dates!

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