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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

How do u memorise songs?

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by yazam2014, May 15, 2018.


    LOSTVENTURE Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 13, 2007
    Charlotte, NC
    This form of memorization take time and concentration. Lots of both actually.
    Rockefeller probably got closest to my personal style.
    This is also why it may take a couple of hours a day working on one song to get it down. Personaly, I never wrote anything down, just practiced a piece over and over.
    When I started playing, 1958, instrumentals were big (think Ventures, Duane Eddy, etc) and I would learn a song, play it over and over, and get it into my head, and hands, so that I could perform it perfectly. Then move onto the next. The guys, that I knew that were writing it down, always had to rely on their notation.
    But my plans all along were to play with a group, so any form of notation was out.
    I'm just saying that you probably have to push yourself a little harder and concentrate on nothing but your playing. Once you get used to commiting each song to memory, you'll wonder why anyone would do it differently.
    Rockerfeller and trahx like this.
  2. Ben-Zion

    Ben-Zion Tele-Meister

    Apr 11, 2017
    I try not to use any printed material (maybe a chord chart at first for complex tunes). I find that if I figure the song out completely by ear, that I digest and retain WAY more information. Whenever I start learning a new tune with any printed matter, I have a difficult time moving away from page.
    PingGuo likes this.
  3. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

    I used to need cheat sheets on stage and became fairly addicted. I still make charts sometimes as part of my learning process but I’ve been able to wean off of them so now I can gig without them. It isn’t that hard if you just commit to it. Right now we have one new original tune with super bizarre chord changes and I may be quite challenged with getting it mapped into my brain and fingers. But more normal tunes really aren’t that hard at all. I’m in a six piece band and the other guitar player is the only one of us who needs a crutch- a stand on stage. The rest of us go commando without any problems.
    Rockerfeller likes this.
  4. MilwMark

    MilwMark Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Apr 29, 2013
    near Arnold's
    Are you talking about lyrics or music?

    Your own songs or someone else's?

    If someone else's, originals or covers?

    In a band, it absent something really unusual, the changes should be pretty straightforward. If you are having trouble with that, i'd suggest focusing on listening to the bass and drums. I find that most trouble with changes result from memorizing my parts and listening to myself, when I should be listening to the song and what the other folks on stage are doing.

    Lyrics, hell, I forget my own sometimes. If I can remember the first couple words, I'm ok, usually. Unless I space out.

    So I physically write them out.
  5. Plumber

    Plumber Tele-Meister

    Jun 5, 2014
    In bands I find that everyone in the room has their own idea of how something goes.

    so I just learn the different sections just the chords and the key. I can solo something over the top if required

    From there I will comp a style that fits

    biggest tip is if you are unsure just funk strum mute strings like a tune washboard and come back in when you are ready, people think I'm funky :)

    I rarely listen to the original song at all any more
  6. hemingway

    hemingway Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 14, 2012
    London, UK
    Slowly and badly.

    Best piece of advice I had for this: you can get away with the odd mistake as long as the band is in the groove and playing in time. As long as you're playing together the audience often won't notice you're not playing the same tune.
    Mr. Neutron likes this.
  7. brbadg

    brbadg Tele-Afflicted

    Mar 11, 2008
    Actually,not quite true.I keep them until I don't need them.They are eventually not needed if the song is played enough.This works if you have to learn batches of songs in a limited amount of time.
  8. regularslinky

    regularslinky Tele-Holic

    Jul 22, 2004
    That’s my experience. You just have to practice until it sticks. If you don’t have the time, use the notes.
  9. Mr. Neutron

    Mr. Neutron Tele-Meister

    Feb 26, 2017
    Near Boring, OR
    I have no solution, words of wisdom, or help here with my own) struggle to learn new songs, music & lyrics.

    I only know that as soon as I turned 60 yrs. of age I've had a real tough time learning new songs...... I know other people "of age" that are in the same boat, so maybe this is somewhat common???

  10. kafka

    kafka Tele-Holic

    Oct 18, 2013
    I found that for classical guitar or anything with complex fingering, it's easier to learn the piece backwards. i.e. starting with the last measure. It's a question of getting the transitions down.
  11. Oldgitplayer

    Oldgitplayer Tele-Holic

    Nov 24, 2009
    Brit in Australia
    Rewind to the 1960's and the most common way to learn a song was to listen to the record (an ancient analogue method of replaying recorded music), and write out the lyric. Then work out the chords. Then work out the bass. Then work out the riffs. Then work out the harmonies.

    Then go to band rehearsal with a new song to show everyone.
    It's well grooved in the memory by then.

    Performing with cheat sheets was unheard of then.
  12. scooteraz

    scooteraz Tele-Afflicted

    Apr 17, 2007
    Peoria, AZ
    If I play a song often enough, it just happens. However, for my church gigs we change music every week. iPad with OnSong is my choice. Also use a page turning pedal. I even upsized to an iPad Pro so I could have a full sized 8.5x11 printed space and be able to read from a couple fo feet away.

    The nice part is that OnSong keeps track of my set lists for me, so I know what I’ve played on a given Sunday over the years. So fourth Sunday after Easter, I can see what I played last year and the year before. It was the killer ap for the iPad Pro as far a I was concerned.
  13. Pineears

    Pineears Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 25, 2016
    Mr. Neutron likes this.
  14. trahx

    trahx Tele-Meister

    Dec 30, 2004
    Timber Town USA
    The bass player and drummer in my last band both used cheat sheets for lyrics and never memorized them. I happen to think it's unprofessional to use cheat sheets at gigs. I would start with a cheat sheet at rehearsals for about 2 weeks and then get rid of it. I also sing along with the songs when I'm driving. After about 2 weeks I've got it down.
    yazam2014 likes this.
  15. Mr. Neutron

    Mr. Neutron Tele-Meister

    Feb 26, 2017
    Near Boring, OR
    As a side note not totally irrelevant here, a machinist friend of mine I worked with had a very thick notebook, with almost everything in it pertinent to all the jobs we ran. He said "I never try to memorize anything. I only try to remember where it's written down at.......".

    I still think it just "looks better" for a singer and/or musician to know the the songs without a cheat sheet. Just wish I were able to do so. At church, where most of my playing/singing is done outside of my sofa, we typically get 2-4 days notice to learn 6 or 7 new songs. With only one practice a half hour before the service, we all use sheets....

    If I have the luxury of time, I will listen to music when driving, or with my phone using headphones until I'm sick of the song. This is usually good for at least knowing the basic melody, where chord changes are, and learning the lyrics.

  16. 3-Chord-Genius

    3-Chord-Genius Friend of Leo's

    Apr 3, 2015
    Winchester, VA
    This is how I do it and it works every time. First off, don't even touch the guitar until step #4.

    1) Throw away all sheet music, chord charts, etc.
    2) Put the songs you need to memorize on your iPod, phone, or whatever.
    3) Listen to them constantly in headphones until you're about to puke.
    4) By now, you should be able to pick up the guitar and play them from memory.
    Dennyf and heltershelton like this.
  17. heltershelton

    heltershelton Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    Sep 14, 2016
    not houston
    this is what I do. I listen to the song(s) over and over until they are "uploaded" into my brain. if it aint in your brain, it wont be in your fingers. most of the time I can see how to play it without even picking up the guitar. if I have multiple songs to learn ill make a song list on youtube and listen to it repeatedly before picking up a guitar. in my opinion, listening and remembering is more important than trying to learn the song on the fretboard before its in your head.
    Rockerfeller likes this.
  18. Dennyf

    Dennyf Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 9, 2011
    Charlotte, NC
    Cheat sheets: no (except for pick-up gigs that have tunes you'll probably never do again). I did a gig for four years for which I relied on a book full of sheet music, and I never memorized those tunes in all that time.

    Listen to the music. A lot: Like others have said, you need the song in your head before you try to play it, i.e. you should be able to hear the song from beginning to end in your head just as though you were listening to it. After that, playing it is easy.

    Learn to play the parts vis-à-vis the arrangement: i.e., learn the verse, learn the bridge, learn the chorus, learn any signature licks. Then string it together according to the song playing in your head.

    The good news is after you've been playing for 20 or 30 years, you'll have played all the common song structures several hundred times. "New" tunes will just be one of the things you've already played a thousand times in hundreds of other songs, so you'll already know it.
    Rockerfeller likes this.
  19. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

    For original songs I record our band playing it live with my smartphone so I can listen to it when I need a refresher.

    I find I can run through a song in my head, imagining myself playing it. This mental visualization/simulation is almost like practicing and if I can’t run it all the way through then I know what I need to refresh on.
    Rockerfeller likes this.
  20. Overseer

    Overseer Tele-Meister

    Jul 29, 2009
    South West, UK
    I do the following, some of which mirrors what other people have said. but I'll add my reasoning as some of reasons will line up with people at differing levels , or for differing usage cases.

    I had lessons for a few years at a certain point my teacher suggested I kept a folder of songs that were my repertoire.

    Fast forward a bit..

    One sheet wonder (aka 1sw)

    This is something I picked up from an older guy I used to play with a few years ago.
    He'd had a stroke, so had occasional "memory farts" when performing.
    His method was to create a single cheat sheet with the chords lyrics, and he'd transpose for his own performance.
    He had years worth of folders full of cheat sheets, often transposed and simplified for his performance. (He was an ex-bluegrass band player, and was strictly acoustic)

    My goals are different, but its effectively the same as a cheat sheet.

    When creating my one sheet wonders I'm also effectively transcribing the song. Sometimes the source is a tab/chord book I own, other times it's finding the progression, watching videos etc.
    So the first step is transcribing. I guess just like the guys using sharpies etc by creating the sheet. I am placing the lyrics/changes in the right places
    I prefer to keep to the original key/structure.
    However, unlike those 1sw's you find in cheap chords books I will repeat chord symbols so three bars of Em would say... Em Em Em above the lyrics, where the chord books would have one Em,, or occasionally a slash used as a repeat.

    Also, I'll add the time signature (unless 4/4) and a strum pattern, which my older friend called "the doo-doo's" as the'd have the form "D D Dud D" (in 4/4 the capital is the count), for a bass strum style it'd be something like "B D Du D". Plus I'll give a hint for which chord voicing to use, say for "The Weight".. use barre chords not open chords for the right sound.

    This works best for chords, but not for excessive amount of lead/licks etc. often a tabbed intro, or recurrent phrase.

    I have ring-bound display books (in the UK 'The Range' sells good ones) full of my Repertoire of One Sheet Wonders
    (even though I call them one sheet wonders, two is ok across a double spread in one of these books.)

    When I'm learning them each song is a living thing. The master files live in a google drive I can access from my laptops or desktop, and mobile. In the one physical copy I keep near my guitars at home I make alterations/fixes (or requests for tab for licks etc) using mechanical pencils and then update the master file at a later point.

    At some point more play, less tweaking, less listening to the orignal leaves a complete 1sw and eventually, just a song in my head - with a pre-vetted refresher on file.

    I also try to listen to, and sing along (and whistle melodies for) songs in the repertoire on a playlist in the car. Obviously new songs might get some obsessive listening.

    Hope this helps
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2018
    Hammerdog likes this.
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