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Tips for Memorizing Songs

Hyla 04 Apr 01 - 12:49 PM
Mrrzy 04 Apr 01 - 12:55 PM
Margo 04 Apr 01 - 01:02 PM
MMario 04 Apr 01 - 01:25 PM
Lyrical Lady 04 Apr 01 - 02:11 PM
Noreen 04 Apr 01 - 02:28 PM
Maryrrf 04 Apr 01 - 02:58 PM
Blackcatter 04 Apr 01 - 03:15 PM
Keith A of Hertford 04 Apr 01 - 03:55 PM
nutty 04 Apr 01 - 03:57 PM
Bernard 04 Apr 01 - 03:59 PM
BobP 04 Apr 01 - 04:38 PM
Hyla 04 Apr 01 - 06:45 PM
Lyrical Lady 05 Apr 01 - 02:36 AM
GUEST,deni 05 Apr 01 - 04:38 AM
Dave the Gnome 05 Apr 01 - 06:04 AM
KingBrilliant 05 Apr 01 - 06:08 AM
Noreen 05 Apr 01 - 06:37 AM
GUEST,Roger the skiffler 05 Apr 01 - 10:43 AM
A Wandering Minstrel 05 Apr 01 - 10:47 AM
KingBrilliant 05 Apr 01 - 10:58 AM
GUEST,UB Dan 05 Apr 01 - 11:01 AM
GUEST,ZenBuck2 05 Apr 01 - 01:37 PM
KingBrilliant 05 Apr 01 - 01:38 PM
Mr Red 05 Apr 01 - 01:43 PM
Morticia 05 Apr 01 - 01:44 PM
Luke 05 Apr 01 - 02:16 PM
Noreen 05 Apr 01 - 02:43 PM
Hyla 06 Apr 01 - 09:55 PM
GUEST,psycodelek 07 Apr 01 - 08:44 AM
John J 07 Apr 01 - 09:02 AM
GUEST,James Stanley 07 Apr 01 - 02:29 PM
Alice 07 Apr 01 - 07:56 PM
Big Mick 07 Apr 01 - 08:10 PM
Hyla 07 Apr 01 - 09:16 PM
GUEST,willie-o 07 Apr 01 - 09:32 PM
Kaleea 07 Apr 01 - 11:46 PM
Deckman 08 Apr 01 - 12:20 AM
Murrey 08 Apr 01 - 09:34 PM
McGrath of Harlow 08 Apr 01 - 09:35 PM
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Subject: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Hyla
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 12:49 PM

This may sound like a dumb question, but I was wondering if anyone could give me any tips on the process you use to memorize new songs? I rely way too much on lyric sheets and chord notations when I play and I want to learn more songs by heart. Any ideas?

- Jeff


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Mrrzy
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 12:55 PM

I have a trick for memorizing lyrics, but that doesn't seem to be what you asked... but here it is:

First hear the song over and over till you know SOME of the lyrics. Then write what you know down, and listen again. Then write the WHOLE THING down over again, adding in any new lyrics you now remember. This only works if you always start all over, just writing the new words won't teach you where they fall in the flow.


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Margo
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 01:02 PM

For Lyrics:

To begin with, I print up the lyrics and have them with me when I do laundry and other chores, so I can sing while I work, referring to the sheet (lyric sheet, you wise guys).

When I come to a place where I forget lyrics consistently, I do that part in successtion several times: If I keep forgetting how the next verse starts, I say the first few words of the first verse, the first few words of the next verse, and so on. I also employ visual images. If I forget a line, I'll sing the part immediately before it, sing through it, and what comes after.

For instrumental:

I generally don't have trouble memorizing music for guitar or banjo, but when I do have trouble spots, I concentrate on that place, playing what comes before it, through it, and after it. If you play what comes before and after the trouble spot, you get a consistency.

I wonder who else does it this way?

Lots of success to you! Margo


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: MMario
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 01:25 PM

cassette tapes in the car - I record it while reading from a lyric sheet - then use it as my trip tape until I have learned it.

how to remember chords - I wouldn't know- ...*grin* no instrument has ever learned how to be played by me.


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Lyrical Lady
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 02:11 PM

I just keep writing and re-writing the lyrics 'til I can do it from memory. Then I speak the lyrics on to a tape .. record the song on to the same tape and listen to it while I'm working around the house. There is something about the eye to hand and back to the brain thing that works very well for me. LL


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Noreen
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 02:28 PM

I find the best way is to write lyrics out, too- so even if the lyrics of a song are available in a printable form in the DT or elsewhere, I prefer to write them out myself from a recording if I have one. Then I carry them round with me, as Margo has said, and try to sing it through, referring to the words as little as possible.

I also listen to tapes of the song in the car, then turn it off and try to sing it unaided, winding back as often as needed.

This process takes a lot longer than it used to- words tended to slip into my memory as if by osmosis when I was younger, while it's far more of an active process now.

Good luck, Jeff, and let us know what helps you.

Noreen


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Maryrrf
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 02:58 PM

Writing the words down from the song - going over and over till you get them all, then listening to the song (especially while driving) is what does it for me. Then just practice it. I never rely on lyric sheets when I have a performance - if I don't know it cold, I won't do it. I do carry around a sheet of titles with the key written down. If I get the least bit nervous or distracted, I've been known to start a song in the wrong key and have really made an ass of myself on a few occasions! And I've found that if I do forget lyrics during a performance mid song I usually can smooth over it in some way - thankfully at pubs people arent' really listening that closely anyway. Also even people who sing along often assume that you know the lyrics better than they do and that they are the ones that messed up. Once I forgot the lyrics during a sad song and people though I was so moved that I choked up and was fighting back tears. They were very impressed that I was so into the song!


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Blackcatter
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 03:15 PM

I just sing them over and over, but I still rely on lead sheets. I have a terrible habit of dropping a verse occasionally. Since I use the lead sheets only if I get in trouble, I only refer to them once in awhile and I doubt that anyone thinks that I really need them.

I also usually sing without and instrumentation, and I find that when I DO sing with someone else playing fiddle or whatever, it is easer, because I don't have to rely on the soundtrack in my mind.

pax yall


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 03:55 PM

The in car cassette method is much less of a drag than writing! I enjoy singing along even when it's just me on the tape. I record on the start of the tape, change tracks and record again so I don't have to rewind between playings.


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: nutty
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 03:57 PM

I have a friend who is extremely clever at making up any words that she can't remember and then singing them with such conviction that everyone else thinks that they have the wrong words

It's called the "oral tradition"


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Bernard
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 03:59 PM

Write them down last thing before going to sleep.

Write down what you can remember when you wake up.

Play the tape in the car, and sing along as loud as you can (or dare!).

Try writing them down from memory every opportunity you get.

Constant dripping wears away a stone - a little, and often, is much better than a lot infrequently.


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: BobP
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 04:38 PM

I think Judy Garland said, "If you can't remember the lyrics, you need to study the words, and get into the head of the composer, focusing on his/her motivation to write the words in the first place.

She also said, which I used in a Shakespeare class, that if you break up something into small chunks, then go to different parts of the house (admitting it's easier in a very large house with lots of rooms) and picture in your mind, THE ROOM and a KEY WORD in the first line.

Actually in acting, it would be a key word in the lead-in line.

When singing, then, you'd mentally move from room to room, or place to place, singing one verse in each space.

I did it with MacBeth (that wonderful speech when he's told the queen is dead) and it helped. I recall it like yesterday, the lead-in, "The Queen, me lord, is dead". To which the ol' guy replies, "She should have died hereafter. . .(ol' Willy Wigglestick wrote great stuff).


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Hyla
Date: 04 Apr 01 - 06:45 PM

Wow, thanks everyone for the great tips! I do practice in the car a lot and love the puzzled looks people give me from other cars! I have never tried writing the lyrics down over and over again though, but I bet that will help me. Yeah, I think I have given myself a complex that I am just no good at memorizing songs. I also have to overcome my fear of forgetting the words. It is great to learn how others go about the joyful task of learning new songs!

- Jeff


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Lyrical Lady
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 02:36 AM

I went to see Sylvia Tyson's 'Quartet' last month and I was so disappointed to see that Sylvia did not know the lyrics to some of the songs and had to read them off a sheet of tattered paper. I could of forgiven a music stand but to see her singing into a piece of paper after I had paid my $20.00 was a tad tacky ... I thought. Memorizing lyrics is a tough but neseccesary part of the job.
LL


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: GUEST,deni
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 04:38 AM

Write them down, and take them down yourself definitely, but what about the subliminal method.

Play the cassett with you singing it, or whoever else, while you are asleep, or just gettingto sleep and again when you first wake up. It's magic!

i'm not really a guest, i've lost my cookie!


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 06:04 AM

Don't understand all the fuss. I never forget the erm... umm... ahhh... thingies.

DtG


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: KingBrilliant
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 06:08 AM

I just last night had a big breakthrough on this. Up until now I've always had the paper in front of me & was convinced I couldn't do without. However its been bugging me more & more, so over the last week I've been working up to doing without. I went down to the pub session last night with 4 songs prepared & without even 'taking the sheets just in case'.
It went way better than I expected & it was so much more fun to sing that way, much easier to put expression into the singing & sing to the audience. There were a lot less musicians than usual so I got to do 3 more songs as well, which I did from memory but without guitar - and that went OK as well (especially as I had some clever geezers doing ad-hoc guitar accompaniment with me).
I think its a really big hurdle to overcome, but I was SO chuffed with myself. (I am forgiving myself for the extra 'bugger bugger bugger' line I put into Banks of the Roses... oops).
I think the Judy Garland thing that BobP mentioned is very important. Knowing the songs really well meant that I was fairly confident of being able to fill in the gap if I did forget the actual exact words (& would be less likely to forget them in the 1st place).
I had been singing the songs in the car all week on the way to & from work, but not with tape because the tape thing is nackered. That most definitely helped, because you can't have the words available & therefor have to go crutchless (so to speak).
I'm going to try the writing down technique & the visualising different rooms sequencing thingy as well, and see how that goes.
So anyway - having rambled on - I don't have any new technique to contribute, but I just wanted to say that I totally relate to the getting a complex about it & the fear of forgetting thing - because that's exactly what I was feeling. So, I'd advise preparing a couple until you can do them easily from memory in private - then just go for it & don't even take the paper with you. I hedged my bets a bit by explaining that I was trying to ditch the crib-sheet, so the audience would be on my side when I did forget a line. That worked - and the bit where I forgot was very painless & not embarrassing at all. I just smiled nicely, swore a bit (I ended up singing 'I was just a young girl when I hear my mother say ... bugger bugger bugger) & then restarted the verse.
I am so glad I did it - so go on, give it a try.... If I'd waited til I was SURE I could do it then I'd probably not have done it at all.
Of course it helps to be trying it out on a forgiving kind of audience at a session.
Kris


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Noreen
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 06:37 AM

Great, Kris- what you say is very true, you have to push yourself a bit further each time. If you always have the sheet with you for Justin (Case), you never give your memory the chance to actually do some work!

Noreen


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: GUEST,Roger the skiffler
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 10:43 AM

I'm another singalong to tapes in the car nutcase, tho' this time of year I switch to Greek language tapes.
Tomorrow afternoon, herself and I will be travelling into the Welsh Marches to a cottage for a few days and will be murdering a few songs along the way. Mr Donegan will be amongst the CD's & tapes we'll take, for a blessed escape from tv, telephone and FMD (though the latter has meant our walks will be urban rather than the planned country ones).
Since coming to the Mudcat I now describe my misremembered lyrics as the folk process rather than as a senior moment!
RtS


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: A Wandering Minstrel
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 10:47 AM

Now all you have to do is add that famous song

"Oh S$%£! I've forgotten the words"

to your repertoire Kris. :D


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: KingBrilliant
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 10:58 AM

Yes, Wandering Minst, but I'd probably get that wrong as well.

Kris Actually - I think I will learn that one. Brill idea!


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: GUEST,UB Dan
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 11:01 AM

The story is the most important part...then the rhyme...then the rest

I've always found that remembering a song is like remembering a joke...You need to know the basic story and the order it is told and then you learn the hook words (instead of a punch line)...these are the first words to each verse, the basic rhyming scheme/words, and any phrases that really grab you...the rest fills itself in with time, but in the meanwhile if O'Dougherty screams or any other 4 syllable named person it is not critical to singing "Back Home in Derry"


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: GUEST,ZenBuck2
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 01:37 PM

I usually take it a verse at a time

I listen to the song over and over and think about the words.

Then, I put the lyrics in front of me and sing it through a bunch of times reading.

Then, one verse at a time, I look away from the paper and try to sing the verse without looking. A verse at a time, or even a line at a time.

Eventually, the whole thing is in my head.

Every singer, even pros, occassionally gets stuck on a line....you just pick up where you can you play "instrumental" until you remember it and go with it next verse around, if your band is savy enough, they'll be with you and adjust.

Good luck!

ZenBuck2


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: KingBrilliant
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 01:38 PM

That sounds about right Dan.
Succinctly put.

Kris


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Mr Red
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 01:43 PM

the writing down suggestion works by providing another memory mechanism - motor actions.
I find after composing a song you still have to remember it!
because composing is a divergent process and learning very much a convergent one.
good luck


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Morticia
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 01:44 PM

Someone here gave me a really useful tip which was to try and learn the song backwards, that way if you have CRS ( can't remember shit) in one verse it doesn't cause a domino effect in the other verses because you didn't learn them in that order . I used to particularly stick on the first line second or third verse but when I wasn't reliant on the last line feeding the next verse, it helped a lot.


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Luke
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 02:16 PM

sometimes when trying to remember a script, I will take a piece of paper that I can't see through and place it on what I'm trying to memorize a line at a time slowly dropping it as I'm able to recite the next line. That way I am able to look when I need to but I cannot glance at it while I go which makes my feeble old brain engage somewhat more than it would if I could cheat. Context and motivation are the best keys to success here I think. If one knows the story one can sometimes fudge the words and it still comes out allright. Key verbs and the ever popular favorite turns of phrase are very helpful. One must not, except in cases of extreme informality take the paper to the stage. Bad form!! We must relate the story to the folks as if it were the first time we had the chance to tell it. There is much to be learned from the performers(singers) face. We must see it. Abject fear is often what the audience sees and they love it. There is certain empathy there. Empathy is much better than sympathy which is what the audiance feels when they see the paper. Even though we've been practicing for days, it's the first time for them and I think there's a certain ease that that fact can give you as you prepare for the telling. The audience is ready to be taken on a journey or they would have stayed home. Know your stuff and take them there. It's the highest honor. Man, am I full of shit or what?

Luke


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Noreen
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 02:43 PM

Sounds good to me, Luke.

Saw Martin Carthy perform last Sunday, and guess what- he forgot his words! Forgot the beginning of the next verse- looked around at Norma, then played a verse on guitar while it came back to him. Asked us at the end of the song if we spotted the deliberate mistake... So the moral is, don't panic!


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Hyla
Date: 06 Apr 01 - 09:55 PM

Thank you everynbody maybe there is hope for I guy with a bad case of CRS, what did that mean again?????

Jeff


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: GUEST,psycodelek
Date: 07 Apr 01 - 08:44 AM

i worked with a bass player who did that oral tradition stuff-we all wanted to kill him in a short period of time


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: John J
Date: 07 Apr 01 - 09:02 AM

I learn the story, then learn Verse 1, then 1 & 2, then 1 & 2 & 3 etc.I try to sing (often in my head) at every opportunity; at work, when cycling or running, any time when my brain is in neutral. It can't be a good method though; I frequently forget my words! Bernard's night-time & morning method works well for me too. Good luck. John PS Hiya Noreen.


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: GUEST,James Stanley
Date: 07 Apr 01 - 02:29 PM

I connect and associate the words or syllables which have stressed beats in the song. Know-door-open-path-walk would be the key words in the first line of "Gentle on my mind" extended to It's knowing that your door is always open and your path is free to walk. This does not always work easily, but it is kind of a game. You can challenge yourself to make an association between the words. I can usually remember chords by making a chord chart for the verse and one for the chorus and instead of using a specific key; I use the Roman numbering system. It makes it a lot easier to transpose the chords if you need to change the chords to your vocal range. A lot of folk songs use only the I IV V chord structure along with vi and ii. If you hum the chords while looking at your chart you can automatically hear the changes in your head and you usually can remember them as soon as you replay the song. Works for me anyway...


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Alice
Date: 07 Apr 01 - 07:56 PM

(more here at previous thread)How do you learn songs?

Alice


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Big Mick
Date: 07 Apr 01 - 08:10 PM

Thanks for that link, Alice. Ever since that thread the simple act of taking a shower has been forever altered for me..........LOL. The mental imagery that passes through my mind is funny as it gets. But damned if I don't learn the lyrics.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Hyla
Date: 07 Apr 01 - 09:16 PM

Thanks Alice, more great tips on learning songs on that thread. Learning songs in the shower....hmmmm sounds like fun to me, especially when practicing harmonies with somebody you love :-)


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: GUEST,willie-o
Date: 07 Apr 01 - 09:32 PM

ain't no time in the shower if you are a water conserver. Learning a song takes a lot longer than five minutes.

My brief points, mostly made previously:

  1. type out the lyrics. save a file. you'll need to print it more than once.
  2. avoid mind altering substances.
  3. be about fifteen years younger than I am now.
  4. understand the plot of the song.
  5. if necessary, memorize keywords for each line--this helps if the song is not linear in nature.
  6. give yourself plenty of time to learn it.
  7. remember the part about mind-altering substances when its time to perform...
  8. if you need a cheat sheat performing, write out the key words in big markerletters, put the sheet on the floor unless its a music-stand kind of scene...a lyric sheet is OK if you're not clutching it or squinting at it...
willie-o


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Kaleea
Date: 07 Apr 01 - 11:46 PM

If you play & sing at the same time, then you need to memorize that way! The act or motion of playing certain chords (such as on guitar) will be associated in your brain with the lyrics. Therefore do it in this manner: Play & sing the 1st line plus one more word simultaneously until you have that memorized. Then play & sing the 1st & 2nd line plus one word and so on until you have the entire song memorized. ALWAYS go one more word (or note) so that you will never practice stopping at a bar line-get it? You must always go across that bar line or you will always stop in that spot. As ye practice, so shall ye perform, therefore practice slowly enough to get it correct before speeding up the tempo. Do NOT speed up & slow down because you will get used to playing it that way. If need be, find a vocal coach or other music instructor to assist you.


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Deckman
Date: 08 Apr 01 - 12:20 AM

I think this is a really good question. At the age of 63, or is it 163, I think I've forgotten more songs than I remember! But, to answer your question. To say it's a mental thing sounds trite, but it's not at all trite. For ME, it's just a question of total CONCENTRATION. I have many songs, that I've always sorta half memorized, running thru my mind, all the time. So, when I REALLY WANT TO LEARN THEM, it's a simple matter of focus. I shut myself in a private space, stop ALL DISTRACTIONS. Then I read the words once, sing it once with guitar, and again, totally focusing mentally on the story line. That's all it really takes for me. i. a total committment to finally learn this song. 2. total concentration. 3. sing it, remembering that I'M IN CHARGE of my responsibilty to perform this song well. Thanks for the good question. CHEERS, Bob (deckman) Nelson


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: Murrey
Date: 08 Apr 01 - 09:34 PM

Write down lyrics and read them ( or sing them in your head ) before you go to sleep,It's surprising how they stick in your brain. Also,I find if I put the emphasis on the first line of each verse the rest will follow.Hope this is of some help !


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Subject: RE: BS: Tips for Memorizing Songs
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 08 Apr 01 - 09:35 PM

You only know a song when you can sing it without remembering it, just listen to it coming out of your mouth, and matching with the thoughts going through your head.

And you have to be able to sing it to yourself without playing any kind of instrument, even if you are never going to sing it to anybody else without an instrument - which is where singing while you're driving is such a handy part of it.

If there's a plot type story, that makes it a lot easier getting the verses and the lines in the same order each time. If there isn't, you can still try to get some kind of emotional sequence in your head that functions as a plot.


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