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memorizing tunes

Discussion in 'Music [DB]' started by Michael Case, Sep 12, 2003.

  1. Does anybody here have a "system" to aid in internalizing changes? I have memorized a few tunes, but it always seems like a long hard process that could be made easier. I've been working on "Stella By Starlight" for quite some time and even in the practice room I still can't retain all the changes. Many times I let my ear help me, but sometimes I play something that seems completly unrelated to the changes and get flustered and screw up what I know too.
    Does anybody have some wisdom to offer?
  2. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    No wisdom, but some practical points:

    a) Play along with records. It's pretty hard to internalize a tune in a vaccuum.

    b) Learn the heads -- that way, you're internalizing the entire composition. Many would advise you to learn the lyrics.

    c) I often work without a stand; I put the music on the floor. That makes it harder for me to read and easier for me to get my head up and ears open.

    Hope this helps. It will come, Mike.
  3. I second learning the heads. If it's something nutty that you just can't play on bass learn to sing it or work it out on the piano, just get it in your head. When I start learning a tune I go through the changes just playing the downbeat of each chord change to get the target notes in my head before trying to connect them.
  4. Thanks guys, I know Stella's melody by heart, but those changes just throw me. Especially at the 2-5 in Ab that ends up going to FMaj. I know where it goes when I think about it, but when I paly it my hands want to resolve it. In school the other day I was jamming with someone and we were playing Laura (a tune we need to memorize for repetoire class) I put the chart away and hit most of it letting my ears guide me when I wasn't sure. Afterwards I looked at the chart and saw that I only missed about 2 changes, that felt cool.
    Thanks for the help,
    P.S. Can anybody here play the head for confirmation? I'm trying to learn for my rep. class too. From what I have seen it really isn't a melody written for the DB at all.
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    My favorite method for learning tunes is to sing the melody (with words if I have them) while playing the bass line. It's not the easiest thing to do, and it often sounds pretty funny because of my questionable vocal skills, but it does seem to burn tunes into the old noggin pretty quickly.
  6. Learn the tune on the piano and try to remember harmonic chunks, not chord by chord.
  7. pericles


    Sep 8, 2003
    What I found to be very helpfull is to do some harmonic ear training while you're listening to a tune you're not familiar with. You'll probably figure out what some of the changes are just by listening to it,then stop the cd or the record when you're not sure what the harmony is and figure it out by ear or playing the bass or the piano.

    That way , the sound of that harmony will stick to your mind and if you hear it again in another tune you have a better chance of recognising what it is.Then you'll be able to learn tunes much easier because you'll be more familiar with the harmonic material that is presented in each tune. Hope this helps:)
  8. That's a thought, my keyboard skills aren't the best, but they are getting better.
  9. Aren


    Jul 18, 2003
    Fort Wayne, Indiana
    I have yet to figure out how this brain of mine works but what Ive noticed is this- If I play a tune by looking at the music, chances are I wont learn it (goes in my eyes and out my fingers)even if the band I play it with plays the darn thing over and over. Whereas if I learn a song by ear I retain alot more. I know that this is not much help but just my 2 cents.
  10. Perplexer


    Sep 2, 2003
    I think It's helpfull find the root chords and the turnarounds that lead up to them, which is what I think David meant by "harmonic chunks".

    you know you got an Ebmaj7 chord on the 3rd bar, then you probably could get to it with a ii V7 so it's a matter of remembering if it's in one bar or two bars to get there. if it's one then the first chord is F-7, the second Bb7. It might sound more confusing and tedious at first, but once you get used to the patterns, you'll find yourself remembering the tunes on the third chorus of your first time through a tune...eventually

    Think Giant steps is rough? break it down to the 3 tonal centers, and do ii V's to get there. now you only have to remember where each maj7 chord lies on the chart.
  11. mmmmmm, very interesting thoughts. I like it.
    I've been learning tunes by chord function lately and just going through the tunes in different keys with a guitar player friend of mine. It's fun and really helps devlop listening skills, cause when all you have is a chart with roman numerals on it and a key in your head there really isn't much to lean on except your ear.
  12. Try and take notice of any patterns that have some repitition throughout the song (ie. the obligatory ii-v-i!!!). Memorize the form. Is it AABA, ABAA, etc. See if any of these sections are the same thing as the other ones (just for example; often times A sections will or will not be different from eachother.)

    Try and take notice of similarities throughout the song. Try and keep forms more simple when first memorizing them. Leave the turnarounds out at first.

    I'm still in the same crisis. I really NEED to memorize my tunes. Might be easier to memorize these tunes instead of making extra stuff to carry top gigs (music stands, and my real books):oops:...

    Common rule: if you can't sing the melody in your head, it's going to make it harder to figure it out. Try and hear the chord changes and know what they sound like before trying to memorize it, therefor when you're in a position to jam on stuff you won't be stuck in a rut, and you'll be able to hear those chord patterns.

    Hope this helps, I should take my own advice though:rolleyes:
  13. MysteryKay


    Jan 20, 2005
    You should check out "How to Learn Tunes" by David Baker. Its part of the Aebersold Catalog.
  14. tzadik


    Jan 6, 2005
    Just keep working on it. It DOES get better! Make yourself try to memorize everything. Even if it's totoally impossible, try to get your brain to memorize (for example) the first 4 chords (or whatever) every time you sit down with a tune/every time you pick up the bass.

    I have also found learning piano extremely helpful. The Jazz Piano Book by Mark Levine is the best one around, by far. Just start working through it a little bit each day/week. You don't have to be Keith Jarrett.

    For about a year, I struggled to memorize all sorts of simple stuff, but then one day it all began to "click". Now for some reason I can memorize stuff much more quickly. I think it's just because I got myself into the habit. I have a terrible memory in general, so trust me - if I can do it, you can do it. Just keep chargin', as Vic would say.
  15. I've been looking at the book less and less on the stand, if it's a tune I've played several times I wont break out the chart. If it's a slightly unfimilar tune I look at the chart for the first 2 maybe 3 choruses then I'll just stop looking, this of course has varying degrees of success. I've been just playing tune alone without reading, going free on them, all types of s**t, and I must say things are getting better. Plus I've been practicing with the Abersold turnarounds CD without reading the changes. It's been good for ear training and really helps when I just have no clue what's happening I can hear where things are going a bit. Once again, with varying degrees of success. :D

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