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Old 01-16-2014, 09:51 PM   #1
JakeFrmStatFarm
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How Do You Memorize Songs?

Hey!

I'm trying to learn House Carpenter by Hurt. In the world of music, it's super simple, but it's just enough to give me a slight challenge playing wise. (Never really needed to do hammer ons and pull offs before. Didn't realize how sloppy my technique was). My biggest problem is memorizing it. I can't even get the intro down, which is just three patterns repeating! I can memorize each pattern, but not how many times to go through 'em. Not to even mention the rest of the damn song...

Anyways, how do you guys memorize songs?

The song in question. http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/h/h...er_ver2_tab.htm
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Old 01-16-2014, 10:00 PM   #2
cdgraves
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1) Do as much by ear as you can. The repeated listening and playing will drive the tune into your memory.

2) Use your aural memory as much as you can. Listen to a short passage, try to play it or hum it, and then see if you can figure out the notes. Go really slowly, and don't listen to the song again until you're just completely at a loss for the next note.

3) Outside of classical music (or something you have to learn in a real hurry), try to use written music only as a reference or last resort. It'll always be there if you absolutely need it.

4) Once you've got multiple parts figured out, try to play the song without the recording. It's easy to play something with all the cues from the drums and vocals, but you need to be able to keep the rhythm and structure on your own, too.

I play in a professional cover band, so I have to memorize new songs nearly every week! 99% by ear (I looked up a Van Halen solo once), so I know it's possible and is definitely the best path. Used to take me forever to learn something new, but now I can work out most pop/rock tunes in under 10 minutes and play them the next day at rehearsal.

Using your ears pays off big time, no question.

Last edited by cdgraves : 01-16-2014 at 10:05 PM.
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Old 01-17-2014, 05:23 AM   #3
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^^^ That is golden advice! ^^^

I also play in a few cover bands and learning by ear is your friend. It will also get to a point where you can feel the change coming on. Although you want to get to a point (and the quicker the better!) where you know the song backwards and forwards, learning to pick out when the change is coming and being able to react will get you through a lot of songs, especially the simpler ones.

Just wanted to add: Repetition! I usually work out songs pretty quickly (a few times during practice when a new song was suggested) but what really drills them into my head is playing them start to finish over and over. Don't stop playing and start over if you mess up, either. This only makes you more confused when it comes time to play the whole thing. If you flub it, keep playing. 9 times out of 10, you'll remember exactly where you screwed the pooch last time and you won't make that mistake again. Also, playing a song all the way through will further reinforce the feel of the entire tune and will give you a great sense of intuition of when the next part is coming up. The biggest question is always "How many times do I repeat that?" The answer comes by playing it enough times.

Good luck and keep rockin!

Last edited by mjones1992 : 01-17-2014 at 05:25 AM.
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Old 01-17-2014, 09:07 AM   #4
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By their name!!!!!

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Old 01-17-2014, 09:10 AM   #5
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I'm gonna agree in particular with the using your ear part. I find if i look at a tab and just play along with the tab for instance it will take me significantly longer to remember than just perhaps taking a quick glance at a tab to see what it sounds like, then putting the tab away and using my ear to remember it.
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Old 01-17-2014, 09:21 AM   #6
steven seagull
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First thing you need to do is just that, memorise the song. Forget the guitar even, you need to be able to recall the song from memory if you ever want to learn to play it properly. You need to know every single sound needed to to play that song the to have any hope of truly learning it.

Think about it - if you were a singer you wouldn't dream of trying to stand there and sing a song before you'd memorised all the lyrics and pitches, would you?
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Old 01-18-2014, 12:03 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mjones1992

Don't stop playing and start over if you mess up, either. This only makes you more confused when it comes time to play the whole thing. If you flub it, keep playing. 9 times out of 10, you'll remember exactly where you screwed the pooch last time and you won't make that mistake again. Also, playing a song all the way through will further reinforce the feel of the entire tune and will give you a great sense of intuition of when the next part is coming up.


#1 in my book. Also, practice until you get it and keep practicing it. With me, practice never ends.
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Old 01-20-2014, 04:56 AM   #8
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I totally agree with cdgraves that aural memory is the best.... But I wanted to understand something here.... when you say listen to the song and try to figure it out by ear.... I find it really difficult to identify the licks, the bends, the slides, etc of the fast solos like Sweet Child of mine...where there are many instruments playing together... (the drum, the rhythm guitar, the lead guitar, and whatever other instruments)... and when the song is buzzing through at that speed how do figure stuff out by ear? I'm a bit new to soloing... So some help required here please...
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Old 01-20-2014, 06:29 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mjones1992
^^^ That is golden advice! ^^^

I also play in a few cover bands and learning by ear is your friend. It will also get to a point where you can feel the change coming on. Although you want to get to a point (and the quicker the better!) where you know the song backwards and forwards, learning to pick out when the change is coming and being able to react will get you through a lot of songs, especially the simpler ones.

Just wanted to add: Repetition! I usually work out songs pretty quickly (a few times during practice when a new song was suggested) but what really drills them into my head is playing them start to finish over and over. Don't stop playing and start over if you mess up, either. This only makes you more confused when it comes time to play the whole thing. If you flub it, keep playing. 9 times out of 10, you'll remember exactly where you screwed the pooch last time and you won't make that mistake again. Also, playing a song all the way through will further reinforce the feel of the entire tune and will give you a great sense of intuition of when the next part is coming up. The biggest question is always "How many times do I repeat that?" The answer comes by playing it enough times.

Good luck and keep rockin!

The bit in bold is terrible advice, if you don't go back and correct your mistakes when learning a song all you're doing is training yourself to repeat that mistake. The whole point of learning a song is to do just that, learn a song. And if you're not playing it correctly then you haven't yet learned it, have you? Mistakes don't magically fall out in the wash, you have to take the time and effort to identify them and eventually eliminate them.
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Old 01-20-2014, 03:50 PM   #10
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Just my opinion but I agree with not stopping when you make a mistake. Go to the end then start over. That way you reinforce the stuff you remember easily and it acts as a cue to the upcoming parts you still struggle through. Yes, you need to be able to play it in the first place so you identify the parts you need to work out and do it before you start really practicing it. I think he was referring to the overall practice portion of getting a song down once you have the parts all worked out. I don't think you should just stop when you make a mistke and start again part of practice is learning how to get by if something doesn't work exactly as you like. If this happens in a real playing situation you can't stop the band and start over so get use to moving on and working through it. Then take a few minutes to work out what you missed or didn't play well, start from the top and go to the end again. Very few people play everything perfectly (at least the players I know) but the best players play with confidence because they can cover a mistake. You won't get that ability by constantly stopping. Knowing how to get past a mistake or missed part is a part of the learning process. IMO
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Old 01-20-2014, 04:01 PM   #11
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When it comes to memorizing a song , you have to ask yourself "which way do i learn best?".
It is always important to be able to hear a song in your head without having it play and this happens obviously by putting in that listening time. For beginners i always say simplify the song so you can play bass notes in time (or as close as in time as you can get) so you can have a full memorization of your melody and timing, once this happens you shoudl find it alot easier to remember those licks inbetween but really there is no MISTAKES unless you are really trying to learn it note for note.
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Old 01-21-2014, 12:02 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steven seagull
The bit in bold is terrible advice, if you don't go back and correct your mistakes when learning a song all you're doing is training yourself to repeat that mistake. The whole point of learning a song is to do just that, learn a song. And if you're not playing it correctly then you haven't yet learned it, have you? Mistakes don't magically fall out in the wash, you have to take the time and effort to identify them and eventually eliminate them.


You can go back and correct on the next take. You don't have the luxury of a mulligan on stage, so you have to practice playing through even when you butcher the song.

Of course, if you don't actually know what you're trying to play, then it's useless. There's a difference between not knowing the song and knowing it, but having trouble putting the pieces together. If the only problem is consistent execution, then doing through-takes is a great way make each attempt matter, so to speak.

When I learn new stuff and have to work out mistakes or obscure parts, I'll listen to one little part over and over til I get it correct, then zoom out to catch the transitions in/out, and then do the whole song.

Last edited by cdgraves : 01-21-2014 at 12:04 AM.
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Old 01-21-2014, 03:18 AM   #13
ywloverock
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cdgraves
1) Do as much by ear as you can. The repeated listening and playing will drive the tune into your memory.

2) Use your aural memory as much as you can. Listen to a short passage, try to play it or hum it, and then see if you can figure out the notes. Go really slowly, and don't listen to the song again until you're just completely at a loss for the next note.

3) Outside of classical music (or something you have to learn in a real hurry), try to use written music only as a reference or last resort. It'll always be there if you absolutely need it.

4) Once you've got multiple parts figured out, try to play the song without the recording. It's easy to play something with all the cues from the drums and vocals, but you need to be able to keep the rhythm and structure on your own, too.

I play in a professional cover band, so I have to memorize new songs nearly every week! 99% by ear (I looked up a Van Halen solo once), so I know it's possible and is definitely the best path. Used to take me forever to learn something new, but now I can work out most pop/rock tunes in under 10 minutes and play them the next day at rehearsal.

Using your ears pays off big time, no question.

I'm gonna follow your advice. I have a bad memory too.
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Old 01-22-2014, 01:33 PM   #14
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Most guitarists in cover bands will only memorize the main riffs/licks and then improvise all the solos and leads. This is where knowing scales comes in handy. When you're playing 100 songs its impossible to remember every note of every solo.
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Old 01-22-2014, 02:15 PM   #15
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I think there's a compromise solution if you mess up a part of the song. First, finish the song if you were starting from the beginning with the intention of finishing. This will teach you what you would need to do if you were playing to an audience and you flubbed a section, and perhaps skills you need to refocus and not let that error distract you and make you do further errors.

Once you get to the end of the song, go back to the section you flubbed, figure out why you made the error, if it's a memorization area or a weak technique, or you cannot do the technique at tempo or what. Whatever it is, you now just play the phrase the RIGHT way, very slowly, slow enough you can do it without error. Don't play the whole song, but as little as you need to, to play the rough part. Do it till you can repeat it at least 10 times without error, then speed up a bit. When you can play it at the right speed 10 times in a row without error, you are probably fine with that section. Then you go back and play the whole song again and that part will likely be fine for you.

In this way, you never stop a performance mid-stream due to an unexpected error, but you also are practicing at addressing your weak spots in the most efficient way. It is highly inefficient to try to fix a problem you are having with a single phrase in a song by just playing the whole song over and over and over and over, as you are spending most of your time playing stuff you already do fine.

The more efficient you are with practice, the faster you'll improve.

As for memorizing a song, I'd start with making sure you have the lyrics down even if you are not singing them, as that's one of the easiest markers for what you need to be playing. After you have the lyrics down cold, I'd next focus on the gaps between lyrics... The intro, the outro, if there's silence between verse and chorus, between phrases in the verse itself, or between phrases in the chorus itself, an instrumental solo/interlude/break. Once you learn where those silent gaps are, and how long they are, and you also know the lyrics, you now fundamentally know the overall length and timing of the song from start to finish, in context. You should now be able to "sing" the song back (or just hear it in your head) taking up the exact amount of time as the real song, hearing the silence, too. This now is the "skeleton" on which you hang your own playing. Generally, the more you can view anything in context, the easier it is to memorize. It is really tough to memorize 10 random numbers, but significantly easier to memorize a phone number with area code even though it's the same number of digits.

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Last edited by krm27 : 01-22-2014 at 02:18 PM.
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Old 01-25-2014, 11:14 PM   #16
JakeFrmStatFarm
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Would you recommend playing with the song? Should I do that once I can play the whole song perfectly at tempo, and use it just for the more finesse things? It seems like playing with the song, so you have vocal cues and such, would be a good way to help memorize it.

Thanks for the help!
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Old 01-26-2014, 05:53 AM   #17
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You need to memorise the song before worrying too much about playing it - do you actually know the song, if you listen to it do you know all the sounds that are coming, can you recall it from memory?
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