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Learning/Remembering New songs

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Prominent Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 848

Man.... I tell you.. Im not a very good player...and it takes me AGES to learn eaven a simple song.... the good news with that, is it takes so long, and Ive muddled around with it so much, that by the time I can play it....I know it!!!

Paul B

Trusted Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 60

What I do is occasionally play the riff or "main part" of the song during practice or whenever. That way, you remember it easily. It is kind of hard to list all the songs you know. I remember most of them that way, the names that I forget get lost and are never played again unless something jogs my memory.

When we started the band, it was because we were waiting for a sound that never happened. We got tired of waiting, and we decided to just do it ourselves. - Mike Shinoda

Trusted Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 48

I started listening to music after the first set of tubes in my ears back around 1970 or so. I heard music and muffled singing. I got into the bad habit of listening to the melody, not the song. The ears had more work on them and eventually was left to higher powers just how long a cold was going to take ab ear out - or both - and revert. Long story short, I heard the main choruses and such, but never the whole songs. Playing music is making remember the whole song, which is a whoel different challenge right now. I'm a cheat sheet man, but getting better and better at it.

As far as the ear, my ear surgeon now-a-days up at UNC-Chapel Hill is gifted. I can hear the words with clarity and ease now, but I've spent the first four decades of music listening just picking out the melodies and not the lyrics. Tough habit to break. To me, the song is the melody. It's very much reflected in my playing style and what I enjoy.

Sometimes I read songbooks to learn how to play songs and sometimes I'll just read the lyrics for whatver poetic value they may contain. Heck, many times these are songs I've heard a hundred times and am getting my first cover to cover introduction the that song's lyrics. I do ths mostly at night as I fall asleep. I've had my 6 dose of medication by that time of day and find notes I've written for myself. This morning's note was the White Pages Acoustic Book and I told myself that "Take Me Home country Roads" in a key I never tried. My note was to try it. do I did it, and it workd great for me. I fixed my song sheet and whallah. Worked great for me, and now it might be in my repetoire for the old folks homes gig(s) if the doc can ever get my head stable enough. (next vist - 28th) In the mean time, practice when it doesn't hurt too badly to sing and play into the mic. Getting better, and I'm getting more and more comfortable with knowing most of the 30 songs well enough to recver decently if I lose my place.

That's my story, FWIW.

Oh, and others write that they learn a song by sussing it out for themselves. It's a learned or aquired skill. I've read somewhere - maybe in this thread - that learning the chord changes and the lyrics at them may trigger memory. Maybe someday.

I'll tell you, I'm the same way. When I hear songs, I almost don't hear the lyrics. I just hear melody and harmony and the vibe that I get from the combination of that melody, over that chord progression. I don't necessarily think that's a BAD thing either. The Beatles were quite melody focused and it turned out already for those dudes. :-)

My writings on playing guitar => No B.S. Guitar

Trusted Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 48

I write a list of tasks weekly and I include songs that already know in that list to maintain them in memory. So, I play each song every X weeks. I am doing it in the last few months and it seems it works.

Also, if the song is more or less complex (many jazz standards) I try to analyze the chords looking for relationships and chord sequences. It also helps to memorize. Usually I have no problems with melodies and solos. In fact, I keep playing many etudes of BYCU and I was studying that book 5 years ago.
That's similar to what I do. I actually have a spreadsheet that I use to keep track of things a little better so that I know EXACTLY where I am with everything and whether I need to review the song or not.

Something like this spreadsheet here (scroll to the bottom)

My writings on playing guitar => No B.S. Guitar

Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 98
Topic starter  

i find it's easier to remember a song if i learn the song by ear.

I have recently started trying to transcribe songs and develop my ear a little bit. It is frustrating sometimes but the few songs I have worked on seem to stick in my head better than the ones I just found the chords/Tab for online. I generally keep a couple of binders full of all the songs I have learned over they years so I can relearn them when I feel the need.

My family suggested I make a songbook for those evenings at the cottage that they can make a couple of copies of so we can all sing along. Most of these songs I think should be the "Leaving on a Jet Plane" variety which everyone seems to know subconsciously for the most part. I think it is a good Idea and would be a good set of songs to work on aquiring as a repetoir.

I am glad to know I don't have a particularly deficiend memory. Don't get me started on lyrics though!

Reputable Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 424

I tell you I used to have the same exact problem. There was a time for a while where I don't think I could play a single song without having at least the lyrics and chords printed out in front of me.

This was a real problem for me at this folk festival I go to every year. We spend a lot of time in the campground wandering from camp to camp with our giutars and joining in on various song cirecles. There it seemed that everyone had a preety extensive repertiore of songs they knoew off the top of thier head. One good friend of mine there could play literally hundreds that way. In that setting, it's a real hassle to have to lug a three ring binder around and find a place to set it up so you can see it while you're playing.

So, I made a special effort to learn at leasta few songs, starting out with a half dozen or a dozen, that I would play over and over with the music until I didn't need a cheat sheet anymore. For my first ones, I stuck to songs where I already knoew the leyrics well and had simple, often repeating, chord progressions that were easy to remember. It was easy to come up with maybe five or twn of those and that was all I needed to survive the song circles.

Now, when called upon, I can probably play about 30-40 songs without any sheet music, and I am learning new ones all the time. It gets easier as you go along, it seems. So I'd say just start with a few easy songs where you already know the lyrics and that have simple chord progressions. Ones that repeat over and over through the whole song work very well. "Wagon Wheel" is a good example,a nd one of the first I learned. It has a G-D-Em-G-D-C progression that just repeats over and over through the entire song. You almost don't have to think aboout it! Another is "Una Mas Cerveza" by Tommy Alverson. It's just G-Am_C-D over and over, verses and chorus. "Knockin on Heavens's Door" is also like that. There are thousands.



"Growing Older But Not UP!"

New Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 2

I don't know if I could even play one other artist's song, haha. I've never been much on learning other people's songs, and it's always kinda come harder for me. From the day I picked up a guitar, I wanted to make my own music, so spending time learning other people's songs just kind of seemed like a waste; Although I do occasionally learn other artist's songs if I want to learn a new technique or if I'm just a big fan of the song. But I usually just don't remember the song more than a few days.

But, like they say, practice makes perfect. Keep at it, and practice the songs front-to-back every day and you'll remember them.

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