How in the heck do you remember.........?

Discussion in 'Technical Side of Things' started by sh4rkbyt3, May 13, 2019.

  1. Dennison

    Dennison Country Gent

    Jul 17, 2011
    Kent, UK
    I can remember every word/chord of every song my old band used to play back in the 60s -- and most of my old records too. But I can't even remember what I had for lunch yesterday! I guess my 'blotting paper' memory bank was filled up years ago.
    sh4rkbyt3 and radd like this.
  2. I have never been a fan of having words and chords in front of me at a gig, so i dont do it. In my head, if you need the chords and lyrics, then the song is not gig ready. But that’s me, and I’m uptight. However, when we are playing for fun(which playing should always be}, i will have my iPad out there, opened up to ultimate chords app. Can look up any of the requests that come out of my wife’s mouth. I have given up telling people that the song they want to try is not one that can be easily figured out on the spot. She is like a drummer in a sense. Drummers will say “lets try the blah blah blah song, it sounds like this”, then they smash drums to a beat and expect you to pull the chords and melody out of the air for a song you never heard. What drives me more nuts, is when someone shows me their cellphone, with a video of a song, and says this it it, lets play it now. That has happened countless times at open mikes i ran. Some people just dont get that not everyone is tommy Emanuel, and can figure out an entire complex arrangement just by smelling the album cover. I digress.

    The original question was how do you remember all the songs. It’s like many here have said. Repetition. Play it enough times and it sinks in. It helps if you want to learn it. I know that i can learn almost anything musically, i just have to get my stubborn Brian to agree. Not as easily done as said.
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  3. lp_bruce

    lp_bruce Gretschie

    Apr 28, 2019
    Metro Detroit
    Some good comments here. Most songs follow some pattern or another and the more songs you learn the easier it comes to hear and learn the pattern. And from there, it's practice/repetition. At least that's how it works for me. I agree with those who say relying on cheats can slow down the learning process. They can become a crutch

    I think this depends a lot on the context. For a rock band, originals or covers, I never use cheats (tablet or otherwise). If I'm not ready to play a song without it, I don't consider myself ready to play the song. Especially for an originals band because it's not a good look to have tablets/cheats on stage at those shows (IMO).

    But I also play acoustic shows solo, as part of a duo, and as part of a trio. And for those gigs, playing requests is pretty common and I always have a tablet and we pretty regularly end up playing a song not committed to memory. For example, my trio plays traditional Irish shows. I know all the songs we regularly put in our setlist from memory (and then some). Probably 75 songs or so. But there are tons of Irish songs and we will inevitably get requests for songs which aren't regulars. Fortunately we have several hundred in our tablets and we've run through another 100 or so at least once so we know how it generally goes and get do a credible version with cheat. So we're better able to serve our audience.

    As I said: context.
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  4. DannyB

    DannyB Gretschie

    Apr 26, 2019
    PDogga that is an excellent response and speaks to the fact that there are different types of memory. When I have begun playing songs again that I have not played in years i remember how to play them, i.e. the chords, riffs, etc., but I have no memory of any times I actually played the song, which shows I think that our brains have different cognitive functions and types of memory.
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  5. Aaron1061

    Aaron1061 Gretschie

    May 23, 2016
    learning and knowing the nashville number system helps alot. patterns are easy to remember. and the system breaks it down into patterns. All you have to know is your root chord.
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  6. johnny g

    johnny g Country Gent

    Sep 2, 2017
    union, ms
    I don't. If I am playing a gig I make copies of the songs and chords/notes and practice them with my band mates. The rest of the time I use song books. Too many songs in my head to remember all of them by heart.
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  7. stevo

    stevo Friend of Fred

    May 1, 2012
    You play them often and they stay in memory. You play enough songs and they all start to slot into some very similar categories - IE, every song in B has the following chords, so you don't have to remember much more than the differences. But me? I don't remember songs very well. I know people who can pull out every song they know by heart. I just don't have that kind of memory.

    My memory seems to be oriented around randomly useless facts that no one else seems to know, but rarely around useful things that I need to know.
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  8. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Admin Post
    That’s along the lines of how I do it. When you break it down that way, most songs become very simple and even complex songs become comprehensible. I think of it as memorizing the formula for a song, as opposed to memorizing the song.

    Suppose you were going to bake a cake. You could memorize quantities of ingredients, basically everything on the recipe card. OTOH, if you were to think of the recipe in terms of proportions, that might be a lot simpler. One pound of flour, 3/4 pound of shortening per pound of flour, one egg per pound of flower, 2 ounces of cocoa powder per pound of flour, 5 grams of baking powder per pound of flour, etc. Personally, I would find the second way much easier to visualize and remember than memorizing the recipe card.

    So, if I were going to memorize a song, f’rinstance, Johnny Rivers Poor Side of Town, I’d start by thinking of the first two chords, not as E Maj 7 and F# min, but as the I chord as a Maj 7 and the II chord as a solid minor (not a minor 7th). Actually, all I’d really have to remember is the I and II chord of a Major key. My ear would quickly remind me that this was a Maj 7 and a solid minor chord.

    On the “back 8” of the verse, the chord is an A Major, which I would think of as the IV chord of a Major key, followed by G# minor (III chord of a Major key), F# minor (II chord), A Major (IV chord), E Maj 7 (I chord) A Major (IV chord) and back to E Maj 7 for the last two measures.

    The bridge changes tone centers to G Major, or in formulaic terms, it goes up a minor 3rd. It starts on a D Major (V chord of the G Major tone center), then goes to a G Major chord (I chord), then steps right up the scale tone chords to Am (II chord), Bm (III chord) C Maj (IV chord), Bm (III chord), then steps up, Bm, C Maj, D Maj (V chord), C Maj, G Maj then B, Maj, which is the V chord of the E Major tone center, which leads us to the third verse.

    Now, at this point, some of you are thinking I should be involuntary committed so as not to be a danger to myself or others :) but this actually works and works well. It’s rare, extremely rare, to see me with a chord chart once I’ve played through a song even twice, because instead of memorizing the chords, I memorize the relationship between the chords.

    But there’s another benefit to this approach, and it’s a Duesie. When you learn to think of chord changes as relational, you begin to hear examples of them in songs, even without seeing a chord chart. Chord changes tend to move in a predictable fashion. There are step-wise changes; G Maj, Am, Bm, C Maj, D Maj, for example. Intervalic changes; C Maj, E7, A7, D7, G7, C Maj, or; Em7, Am7, Dm7, G7. There are parallisms; C Maj, C min, Bb Maj, Bb min, Ab Maj, G7, C Maj or; C Maj, F Maj, F min, or even C Maj, Eb Maj/C, D Maj/C, Db Maj/C, C Major. (Those are the opening changes to Green Dolphin Street, BTW.) One other common chord progression is ascending 5ths. C Maj, C Aug, C Maj 6, C Dom 7, F Maj, F min, C Maj.

    If you can’t rain yourself to hear these elements in songs you listen to, coupled with the variations of I, IV, V changes common to much of Western music, you can decipher just about any song out there. In minor keys, there are a similar handful of common progressions and if you can master all of these, rare will be the song that you can’t figure out just by hearing it. I won’t say that I can never be stumped, but the preponderance of music out there uses recognizable patterns along these lines and I would venture to say that over 80% of the songs any of us are ever likely to play will utilize one or more common patterns from a very small group of chord change patterns.

    OK, that should be enough to put me away for a very long time. :) All kidding aside, this is an abbreviated explanation of how I view songs. If you aren’t familiar with the concepts, it may seem very complicated, but it’s actually very simple, once you know the ropes (so to speak). One thing that is foundational to this understanding, however, will require me to use that most vile of all words: scales. :) In order for this to truly make sense, you have to know your scales, both Major and minor.
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  9. toddfan

    toddfan Synchromatic

    Mar 12, 2012
    Kansas eyes just glazed over.....

  10. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Admin Post
    I know, it’s daunting. What’s really strange, is that I put all of the pieces together in a fairly short period of time and all of a sudden, things got very simple. I wish it for all of you.

    Of course, none of this works with Todd Rundgren’s music. :)
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  11. TV the Wired Turtle

    TV the Wired Turtle Gretschified

    Jul 25, 2009
    so cal
    Ipad is my memory bank and forScore is my app. I've got hundreds I've got to circle through. If I played in a band doing the same 15 songs over and over it wouldnt be an issue. :)
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  12. Gregor

    Gregor Gretschie

    Oct 17, 2018
    New Brunswick, Canada
    Yep, a barre at a time.
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  13. Gregor

    Gregor Gretschie

    Oct 17, 2018
    New Brunswick, Canada
    ....and how much easier they are to play after all that time and experience.
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  14. loudnlousy

    loudnlousy Friend of Fred

    Oct 18, 2015
    Nowadays we are doing quick projects for one-off shows. We chose a band and learn their core hits.
    There are usually 10 to 15 songs to prepare and 3-4 rehearsals in one months time.
    I put the songs on a cd and listen to them in my car on my way to work and back every day. I have nearly no time for exercising them at home. So listening to them permanently for a while is usually my only preparation.
    Works very good with me.
    Repetition is the key.
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  15. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Admin Post
    I’ve been known to do that, myself. I’ll make a playlist with just a few songs and blast them into my consciousness. While I find chord progressions fairly easy to deal with, details of arrangements are my Achilles Heel.
    sh4rkbyt3 likes this.
  16. speedicut

    speedicut Friend of Fred

    Jun 5, 2012
    Sadly, I sometimes forget a song ( or parts of it) if I haven't played it in a long while
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  17. Jelly Roll Horton

    Jelly Roll Horton Country Gent

    Nov 10, 2017
    Portland, OR
    I find one of the biggest obstacles to remembering a song I once knew but can’t recall is just remembering the first word or first few words. There is a clip of a live Dylan performance where he starts up the band and goes through about four measures, then says to the crowd, "Does anybody remember the first words here?". So it happens to everybody, I guess.
  18. sh4rkbyt3

    sh4rkbyt3 Gretschie

    Mar 8, 2019
    Elkton, MD
    WOW so much info and my brain is full here lol.
    I don't fully understand what you're desribing here Synchro but I will print it out and save because a friend of mine is having to go through all of that now. He wrote his own songs and I'm guessing likely started off with some covers but even he admitted and knew his limitations and has since started working on learning theory, modes, etc. So what you took the time to put down here will likely be very valuable to me after I get some of the basics figured out.
    Repetition appears to be the one comminality for a beginner so I'll stay with that for now until I start to progress. Unlike a lot of things I've had to figure out "how" to learn this is much more daunting and detailed but I'm stubborn and I like challenging myself so I have to figure out what really gets absorbed in the dull matter up top.
    These responses mean more to me than you could know, thank you.
  19. swivel

    swivel Country Gent

    May 13, 2018
    I don't know. I probably have 150 songs in my head and seem to mostly remember them too. I think it's that you pack them in your brain mostly 1 song at a time. As long as you play them every 6 months or so after that they seem to stay...
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  20. Flouswa

    Flouswa Country Gent

    Start out with something simple, with three or four chords. Better yet, something you are very familiar with the lyrics on. Then just keep practicing it. Then on to another, and another and another. I think you'll be surprised once you get started.

    Lately I've been playing open mic with a friend and she's been throwing a lot of songs at me that I'm not familiar with AT ALL, so for those, I'll play with a sheet for a little while, but I know eventually I won't need it. I actually have more trouble remembering lyrics in those situations than I do a chord progression.
    sh4rkbyt3 likes this.
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