Learning tunes -- how do *you* do it?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Aaron Saunders, Jul 8, 2005.

  1. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    This isn't an "I want to learn how to memorize songs, so how do I do it?" but rather, how do you personally do it.

    I've head a lot of methods -- singing the melody, learning it on piano so you have the chords and melody in your head, etc. etc.

    For the past half hour or so I've been working on Nature Boy. I've known the melody for a couple months and play it on DB as a warm-up and as intonation practice (I play it in Dm most of the time, so I play it up by the heel of the [Eb] neck). It's on the setlist for a possible gig (my first one on DB) and I've found that knowing the melody and "playing" it in my head while constructing basslines helps really keep the changes right there in my mind. This is also helping in another way because I'm practicing improvising walking lines (something I'm still inexperienced with.)

    PS: I'm not sure if this a technique topic, so shuffle it off where it needs to be. I have noticed the DB side is a lot more laid back about this kind of thing, though. I'm still adjusting to the more relaxed DB side of TB, and the fact that technique here isn't just straight physical technique -- "is my wrist position correct?" kind of stuff.
  2. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I do exactly what you do for the most part. Play the bass line while singing the head, play the head while singing a bass line.

    My #1 problem is building up repertoire fast enough, I'm still almost 100% dependent on playing from charts which really sucks. It just takes so long to get a new song really memorized, though each one I learn makes the next one easier. My goal is getting 100 tunes memorized in the next year (only 2 a week), we'll see.

    Coming from the BG I think my brain is still wired up for repetitive lines, I find it a lot easier to learn "modern" tunes...soul jazz, modal, etc. than standards. I just keep chipping away at it and sweat a lot on the gig :D
  3. We've had many threads on this, as you'd imagine.
    Do A search.
    Fuqua, Ray Parker, myself, as well as some other aged pros come across with many ideas. One of which is learning the lyrics. Learning the important and most popular and obvious tune forms...AABA...ABA....etc.
  4. Learn the last measure or section first and the work your way back to the begining. This reinforces what you've already worked on and adds gradually to what you still are learning. I've used this method to memorize word passages and music, although with music I'll do a measure at a time,starting at the last measure, learning that and then learn the one before, etc. It goes quick that way, at least that's been my experience.
  5. I sure gotta say, I don't understand this......
    Do us and you a favor and fill in your profile.
  6. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    I've use this technique to memorize classical pieces. For me, memorizing from 1st measure to last makes the beginning solid and the ending less so. When I started with the last measure and kept adding until I got to the 1st measure memorization became easy. Not everyone needs to learn this way but I sure do.
  7. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    I'm definitely going to try this. I've had that kind of thing where the beginning is strong and ending less so when learning melodies to tunes lately...hmm. Neat suggestion!
  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I'm too technically inept at this point to simply post an image within this post, but Here's the practice method I'm using these days, which is pretty much all about learning new repertoire. It's also (obviously) the study method I prescribe for students at the U. Here's the first page of the worksheet I use to keep track of what I have and haven't done.

    Yeah, I'm anal retentive. :D But so far, I seem to be getting good results from this method, and having to make the recordings before moving on has been a real kick in the seat of the pants - really makes me have to come to terms with what is an "acceptable level" of learning before moving on. HTH!
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Wow, I seem to have killed this thread. :D Let me simplify and say that I try to sing everything before I play it. Don't stop because of me...I was looking forward to the replies of others!
  10. I guess you've been forced to euthanize so many threads as of late, folks just see you've posted and assume another one bites the dust. :)

    The key for me to learn a new tune of any variety is the play it sloooow method.
  11. It took you a long time to figure this out Durrl...
    I hate to finally say this. You're a MOD!
    I mean, WHO wants to post knowing there's a moderator involved? Now that Sam isn't quite so active as a poster, and Pac doesn't post much, well.....there you have it.
    I'm sorry to finally be the one to tell you. Oh well, that's OK, i am older. Feel free to PM me or an email....we'll talk. :bawl:
  12. Ooh, a link. I'll click that.

    Read study method, print for later reference.

    Ahh! A bio, I'll just read that then get back to the thread.

    Ramblings. Must be some good stuff in there! Oh, and some articles.

    Well, it'd be rude not to listen to the clips. I wonder what gear he uses.

    OK back to that thread... Is that the time? I'll reply tommorow.
  13. Thanks for explaining it in less words that I could.

    As for my profile how do I fill it out? moderator?
  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    But, but...mods are posters too! I just wanna play like the other kids... :bawl:
  15. You're not like other kids, Durrl. :eyebrow:
  16. bdj, our Moderator is busy crying right now.
    Just click on your name, then click on My Talkbass then click on edit profile.
    Oops, I see you figured it out on your own.
  17. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    There are some great tips in this thread. Quite a bit to practice with. Reading Chris's stuff made me wonder if I should have stayed in music school longer.

    I'd like to add that I listen to music all the time. In the house, in the car, at the shop, it's rarely quiet where I am. Between all the thousands of records and CD's and the radio, music burns into my subconscious. Although I listen to all kinds of music I tend to play pop music or Jazz derived from pop music on the DB.

    When I am trying to remember a tune I usually start from a recording, listen a bunch, chart it, listen some more, play the chart with and without the recording and it burns itself into my brain somewhere so I can forget it and just play it. I like to remember bits of the lyric, know the melody and it's relationship to the bassline. The tunes I know best I can sing and play at the same time.

    I've never been much for starting from the Real book or a chart and moving out from there. I'm slow to learn the song that way. For me music is sound and feel across time. It's an interaction with others. I've never closed the gap on the written line and the sound in the air. When I play chart gigs I sound stiff or uninspired on the tunes I don't know well. I get through it ok but generally feel like a whore. I'm not sure I'm wired to hear the music from the written page. Somedays I wish I could do that better.

    When learning original compositions I read the chart or listen to the demo or sit down with the composer long enough to understand the specifics and then work out the line. That process can move very quickly if the composition is straightforward. Sometimes not and I have to chart it for myself. The act of writing it out somehow makes it easier to be clear on the little details. I discard the chart pretty quickly thereafter because the act of reading disturbs my playing.
  18. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Backwards? I guess you could learn to memorize a book that way, but it doesn't really do anything towards getting to the meaning of what you're memorizing. If you read it forward and think about what you're reading and read it enough that you can quote great lengths of it and what you are quoting has meaning to you, THEN you get to a point that you can extrapolate your own ideas on what you feel the direction and meaning of what you have read is all about.

    LEARN THE MELODY - sing the melody, hear it with enough clarity (by listening to it a lot) so that you are singing clear easily definable pitches. Pick up your bass and play the melody that you are singing. If you are wandering or getting lost, then you aren't hearing the melody clear enough. Stop and get the melody clear.
    LEARN THE WORDS - ABSOLUTELY NOTHING is more helpful for getting the phrasing and rhythmic flow of the melody than learning the lyric that goes with it.

    Once you've learned the melody and have that ingrained (any key, any tempo), then you can harmonise it almost any way you want to. I generally try to put together a chord line (which I've described too many times to want to retype it all here), which helps get the composer's changes in my ear. That way I have the melody, I have the changes and then I can hear when somebody is indicating another harmonic pathway/ alternate set of changes (SEARCH September in The Rain).

    Ultimately, it's not about "memorizing" songs, it's about being able to hear harmony.
  19. Yes, Ed, it has to be ultimately understood in context of the total result. This "backwards" method is but a first step, almost mechanical in nature, to freeing up your mind. Then you don't have to think of finger placement in addition to all the other things you beautifully listed.
    Sometimes memorization is but a byproduct of learning a piece, it just happens as we "get into it."
  20. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I don't "think" of finger placement, I just try to hear the melody and then play what I hear. Issues of fingering and position and shift will make themselves known, but basically if I have to play it on one string to get it out, that's what happens. I still think that "backwards" learning is adding an uneccesary AND unmusical step.