A question for music teachers

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by Charlie Bernstein, Sep 25, 2020.

  1. Charlie Bernstein

    Charlie Bernstein Poster Extraordinaire

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    After years of playing guitar and writing songs as a hobby, retirement has given me the chance to gig. Before the Coronapocalypse, I had two pub gigs a month plus a couple of summer festivals every year. The Coronocaust has put the kibosh on that, but I still hope to get back to gigging someday.

    While I'm laying low waiting for the pandem(ic)onium to blow over, I've been focusing on learning some of the songs I've written over the years.

    My problem is that I'm a terrible memorizer. So here's what I'm doing:

    I picked 43 of 'em (about a third or so of what I have on paper) and started going through the list. My idea is to learn a bunch, then add more to work on. I'd like to have between fifty and a hundred that I know well enough to perform.

    So I've been going through the list over and over. Each title is on a flash card. I keep playing each until I get it right, then move to the next card. If I get one right on the first try, it gets a check mark.

    If I get it right the first time three times in a row, I call it more-or-less learned and set it aside. So far I think I have 32 with three checks in a row. I've gone through the deck seven or eight times.

    So: Keeping in mind that I'm not great at memorizing, can you suggest any ways to improve how I'm going about this? Or does it sound like a sensible approach?

    Thanks!
     
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  2. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    How long did it take ya to get 32 of them memorized?
     
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  3. Peegoo

    Peegoo Friend of Leo's

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    I'm not a music teacher, but I was a language instructor for years.

    If it's working for you, it's a sensible approach because we all learn things differently from one another. Some tunes will stick in your brain and you'll have them forever. Others--you need to occasionally revisit to keep them working. Bands that tour heavily need to rehearse only new material that gets added to their list because all the other 'mainstay' material gets practiced every night onstage.

    Your flash cards are a great idea because it adds the element of random selection and prevents you from associating songs to each other based on the order you play them. It reinforces learning.
     
  4. T Prior

    T Prior Poster Extraordinaire

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    There is no right or wrong, but there are options. Playing an instrument has many variables, memorization is one, and associating familiar and similar chord structures is another, which is probably much easier. IF we are just learning songs by the chords , that's not a bad thing, but we should also be learning by the structure. The familiar chords, sounds, phrases etc...after all if we learn 25 songs in C, they are probably all using C , F and G and maybe a D chord ( 2 chord ) now and then.

    Check Berry wrote dozens of songs , learn one, you learned them all. ASSOCIATE them.

    I dare say that many of us struggled with this same dilemma over the years, I don't recall taking notes or using flash cards,. I am not dissing that please don't take it the wrong way. Its not a bad way to get started. But at some point we have to make the connection to the music, we can hear the changes in our head and identify the structure. Otherwise you may be carrying around chord charts for the next 20 years . Is this song a 1-4-5 , a 1-2-4-5 , a 1-6-2-5 ? How do the chords follow the lyrics ? we as guitar players, even though we may not be singers, need to identify the melody structure to the chord structure, its not a guessing game. This doesn't mean that there aren't different key phrases, there are, but those come with TIME and repetition.

    There is no right or wrong but I will say, if we are trying to ONLY memorize songs without associating what the structures are, as well as HEARING the changes and associating them to what we are studying, ( instrument not songs) also called learning, it may take us a bit longer to sort it all out.

    Its no secret I am also a Pedal Steel Player, its the same in that world, exactly the same. One of the best players/teachers in the world, Doug Journigan says, learn 12 to 15 chords and how to associate them to each other and you can play any Jazz song on the planet. He didn't say learn the songs, he said, learn the instrument , identify the similar structures.

    Do it all ! In 20 years you will have a couple of hundred songs under your belt, I doubt you will be carrying around flash cards, you will be too busy paying the music !
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2020
  5. Charlie Bernstein

    Charlie Bernstein Poster Extraordinaire

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    Forever!

    Keep in mind that I've been playing some of them for years. So I'm not starting cold.

    Gigging with other people, it doesn't really matter if you forget a line or a verse. It's easy to sail through the mistakes. But I want to (a) get 'em right, (b) be able to play 'em solo, and (c) have a bigger repertoire.

    So to answer your question: With my Swiss cheese brain, it takes me maybe a few months to learn a song. I usually have to play it over fifty times just to get be able to play without looking at the lyrics. More complicated sogs take longer.

    And I can blank on lines I've sung hundreds of times. The Swiss Cheese Factor strikes again!
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2020
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  6. Charlie Bernstein

    Charlie Bernstein Poster Extraordinaire

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    Thanks! Good to know I'm on the right track.

    A friend of a friend got invited to tour with the Alman Brothers Band. Two weeks before the tour started, the manager handed the guy thirty CDs and said, "Learn these."

    He did.
     
  7. Charlie Bernstein

    Charlie Bernstein Poster Extraordinaire

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    It's great advice — especially the "any jazz song on the planet" part.

    My hard place isn't so much chords and arrangements. It's lyrics.

    I read Dylan's autobiography. He said that in his Village days he'd write a song in the morning and pereform it at his show that night.

    Never in a million years . . . .
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2020
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  8. T Prior

    T Prior Poster Extraordinaire

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    another excellent method of learning which also assists in RECALL or MEMORIZE, is listening. If we have a set list of 25, 30 or more songs and some are causing us question, put them on a CD and listen to them all the time. We should be listening to what we are expecting to play. ITS about RECALL.

    Don't listen to straight ahead Jazz all day when we are supposed to be playing Beatles all night. Don't listen to Louie Louie when we are preparing for Misty. :) Many times just by listening the song associations are made, without even picking up an instrument.

    I put 8 songs on a CD this morning, I kinda know them. I'll be in the car on and off today so I will listen to them a few times. We will probably play those 8 songs tonight and I will be pretty close. I'll know them enough to avoid the train wreck. :) ( I hope) :eek:
     
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