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Thread: How to combat memorization tendencies?

  1. #26
    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to combat memorization tendencies?

    A good question, 'how do you learn a new tune'?

    Posed from a beginner to more advanced players. It gives some insight into different methods, common methods and odd methods based on the personality of the player.

    There are skills not obvious, or seemingly not related to music like dealing with stress.

    Often the type of music has demands that focus your attention. For example Traditional Irish session music requires a lot of memorization because a large repertoire is needed. But it needs little in the way of transposition of keys to fit a singers range, or modulation in a jazz variation. Klezmer modes, (my favorite) don't follow the typical scale patterns and chord structures of 'western music' so that's a whole different set of skills needed in terms of finger patterns and 'listening for chord changes' (there are none...or are nothing like western typical 'chord changes').

    I memorized Irish tunes by using the abc program, for quick access, being able to slow the tempo to whatever I needed and the 'looping' feature. It was used hundreds of times until it got into my head and fingers. (And then I learned to deal with 'an audience' - yikes, another important skill.)


    And then that skill in memorization really helped with the klezmer band. My knowledge of dozens of tunes, helped when the others 'forgot' how the tune 'went'.

    I kind of suck at reading however. And the others, especially the clarinet soloist, could read at a very high level. They would play exactly what was written. And I went nuts trying to convince them that 'melodic' variations were 'a THING'. Oh well everyone has their specialty.

    Every time I get a little 'cocky' and think I'm cool, I recall how concert soloists memorize whole concertos and just 'kill it' at orchestra hall. Amazing 'super human' skills.

    There are whole worlds of music and abilities out there and one needs to focus on 'their little part'.
    Last edited by DougC; Apr-01-2024 at 10:41am.
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    Registered User tree's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to combat memorization tendencies?

    Personally, memorization is how I roll. I've never perceived it as a problem . . . although it has contributed to my not reading well. But as Doc once said, "not enough to bother my pickin'"
    Clark Beavans

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  5. #28
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    Default Re: How to combat memorization tendencies?

    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post
    I may be wrong, but didn't he have a follow-up along the lines of: If you hit a really bad note, be sure to play that the next time around to show that it wasn't a mistake but "artistic choice"!
    Thanks for this comment. I actually went back to see if I could find the follow-up quote. While I can't say that my short effort was successful, it did reveal many intriguing follow up comments from other musicians who played with Miles Davis and/or were inspired to add other insights from this famous quote, such as Herbie Hancock's remarks in adding his experience.

  6. #29
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to combat memorization tendencies?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    ... This is not something that a lot of beginning musicians will get early in their playing time. It comes with putting in the hours learning scales in each key, learning what note you're playing at every fret, getting familiar with first the standard progressions (I-IV-I-V, I-vi-IV-V for example - there's many more) and then some nonstandard ones ....
    I just started Matt Flinner's Swing Mandolin Basics class last night. He is talking about tying together some of these concepts. As a novice musician just starting to deviate purposefully from the basic melody at times, I'm already finding it very exciting. Lightbulbs are already starting to go on ....
    "To be obsessed with the destination is to remove the focus from where you are." Philip Toshio Sudo, Zen Guitar

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    Default Re: How to combat memorization tendencies?

    In terms of memorizing chord progressions of jazz standards – it's helpful to be aware of the "mini progressions" found within these structures. Within most any 8 measures of a standard tune you'll find a combinations of: 2-5...2-5-1...1-6-2-5...1, 1dom, 4, 4min...cycling dominates – things like that.

    If you have a sense of those mini progressions that exist within the larger form, then, instead of trying to "blindly memorize" the chords (which is to me, like trying to memorize digits of pi)...you can associate the section with some mini progressions -- meaning, 8 measures of a tune may consist of only 3 mini progressions. Being aware of 3 logical "harmonic units" is a lot simpler to me than trying to memorize 8 measures of...pi. Anyhow, that's how I go about internalizing progressions.

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    Default Re: How to combat memorization tendencies?

    Memory can be fickle.

    There is a phenomenon,known as 'Morphunawareness'.

    Many Scottish/Irish tunes are very similar and contain the same chord progressions and note patterns already mentioned.

    It is not unusual,at least for me, to start playing one tune,only to realise half way through
    that it has somehow morphed into another similar but different tune.

    This phenomenon is not apparent in jazz music and helps to explain to the uninitiated,the thinking behind jazz variations.
    Especially Klezmer modes.
    D MAC S

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    Default Re: How to combat memorization tendencies?

    Most of the time, I avoid tunes that are quite similar. It is better to have a well defined melody that offers space for ornamentation or melodic variation / improvisation.

    Having a good 'structure' to build on really helps. Someone said recently that these are 'sturdy' tunes. A great way of saying it.
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    Default Re: How to combat memorization tendencies?

    Wow, there is a lot of great stuff here!

    I’m sorry if someone already mentioned something along these lines …

    Watch some live videos of some of your favorite players, there are more “clams” in some of the playing than you may think if you aren’t paying attention for them. The difference for a lot of the “advanced” players is they just keep on going. It may bother them, it may not, but that really is the best way to learn. .Ive been super lucky in the past two years to be able to jam with a bunch of my heroes, from Sam and Ronnie to Sierra and Jolliff and I can tell you there were no “perfect” passes during these jams. Everyone just seems to be enjoying the music.

    One of my biggest stumbling blocks was worrying about being perfect. Once I finally realized all of these great players aren’t too worried especially in jam situation, I loosened up and jumped that mental hurdle.

    Enjoy the jams and the clams! lol. Make a mental note of things you feel you need to work on, then work on those things for your next jam! Even the best in the world are working at playing better every chance they get, we are all in the same journey!

    Cheers, Daniel

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  13. #34

    Default Re: How to combat memorization tendencies?

    Quote Originally Posted by tree View Post
    Personally, memorization is how I roll. I've never perceived it as a problem . . . although it has contributed to my not reading well. But as Doc once said, "not enough to bother my pickin'"
    Not to nitpick too much I heard that attributed to Chet Atkins. I do not believe Doc read music at all unless it is Braille notation. Not that I would put much past Doc. He was a rather amazing person who did not let much stop him.

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    Default Re: How to combat memorization tendencies?

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    Not to nitpick too much I heard that attributed to Chet Atkins. I do not believe Doc read music at all unless it is Braille notation. Not that I would put much past Doc. He was a rather amazing person who did not let much stop him.
    Or Louis Armstrong (who was an excellent reader) or several others.

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    Default Re: How to combat memorization tendencies?

    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post
    A good question, 'how do you learn a new tune'?



    Ans a good answer, but really, I was asking the TS - would be much easier to give productive advice if we knew his answer ...

  17. #37

    Default Re: How to combat memorization tendencies?

    Quote Originally Posted by aaronweinstein View Post
    in terms of memorizing chord progressions of jazz standards – it's helpful to be aware of the "mini progressions" found within these structures. Within most any 8 measures of a standard tune you'll find a combinations of: 2-5...2-5-1...1-6-2-5...1, 1dom, 4, 4min...cycling dominates – things like that.

    If you have a sense of those mini progressions that exist within the larger form, then, instead of trying to "blindly memorize" the chords (which is to me, like trying to memorize digits of pi)...you can associate the section with some mini progressions -- meaning, 8 measures of a tune may consist of only 3 mini progressions. Being aware of 3 logical "harmonic units" is a lot simpler to me than trying to memorize 8 measures of...pi. Anyhow, that's how i go about internalizing progressions.
    sigh................

  18. #38

    Default Re: How to combat memorization tendencies?

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    Ans a good answer, but really, I was asking the TS - would be much easier to give productive advice if we knew his answer ...
    Usually learn majority of fiddle tunes via the YouTube route if a video exists. Ive tried the slowing songs down if theres no tab/instructional video but can’t say I’m overly skilled in that process so far
    Last edited by bmfsfan615; Apr-03-2024 at 6:57pm.

  19. #39

    Default Re: How to combat memorization tendencies?

    Quote Originally Posted by AaronWeinstein View Post
    In terms of memorizing chord progressions of jazz standards – it's helpful to be aware of the "mini progressions" found within these structures. Within most any 8 measures of a standard tune you'll find a combinations of: 2-5...2-5-1...1-6-2-5...1, 1dom, 4, 4min...cycling dominates – things like that.

    If you have a sense of those mini progressions that exist within the larger form, then, instead of trying to "blindly memorize" the chords (which is to me, like trying to memorize digits of pi)...you can associate the section with some mini progressions -- meaning, 8 measures of a tune may consist of only 3 mini progressions. Being aware of 3 logical "harmonic units" is a lot simpler to me than trying to memorize 8 measures of...pi. Anyhow, that's how I go about internalizing progressions.
    Thanks this makes sense - what are most common as it pertains to bluegrass other than I IV V?

  20. #40

    Default Re: How to combat memorization tendencies?

    Quote Originally Posted by bmfsfan615 View Post
    Thanks this makes sense - what are most common as it pertains to bluegrass other than I IV V?
    Rollin My Sweet Babies Arms, the first change goes to the 5, so I,V, IV. Pete Wernick (dr. Banjo)has printable sheets of 2 and 3 chord Bluegrass & Folky tune titles.

    The solution is to test the tune. Strum along until you think the chord should change. Test the 4 chord. Then the 5. What sounds better? Can't hear the first change? The tune may stay on the 1 chord for most of the tune., only a quick 5 (or4) and back, towards the end. Start out with tunes you already know the changes, to familiarize your ears.

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  22. #41
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    Default Re: How to combat memorization tendencies?

    Why "sigh"?
    Quote Originally Posted by LKN2MYIS View Post
    sigh................

  23. #42
    Registered User Cheryl Watson's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to combat memorization tendencies?

    Quote Originally Posted by bmfsfan615 View Post
    Hello All,

    I’m still a beginner (embarrassingly after about 1.5-2 yrs of learning) and wondered if anyone has faced a similar issue with relying on too much memorization. As an example, I will learn a fiddle tune by heart and then when at a jam if I miss a note that I memorized, I almost freeze up and cant get back to / lose the melody.

    This also happens when I try to introduce a small amount of improv to a melody I think that I finally know well enough to venture off slightly from. I basically just go into playing random arpeggio notes (with a terrible sounding break) and getting lost without being able to revert back to melody.

    Anyone else ran into similar issues and/or am I a lost cause?

    Thanks!
    I teach mandolin and I will tell you (the short version) of what I do with my students and what I figured out to do when I was a beginner bridging into intermediate level.

    You have not been playing very long, so what you are going through is absolutely normal and actually, expected. It is typical to memorize (this includes muscle memory) the standard melody that you might learn by ear or with either standard or tab notation. If just one note in a line of eighth notes is missed, it is common to "crash and burn." It's the number one reason why so many people avoid jamming. I encourage my students to start to attend beginner or intermediate jams and just play low volume rhythm at first to get comfortable and feel part of the group, to get the structure of tunes to be innate, and the whole culture of jamming. Then you add one tune you can call out when it is your turn, in the round. It has to be a tune that you are very comfortable with, even below your level of tune complexity. Forgive yourself if you mess up. You build from there, your skill and confidence. Definitely don't jam with others who are critical of you, that will set you back. You will need to choose jams with people who will lift you up, not give you dirty looks. It might be best to just jam one-on-one with a patient friend who is a little more advanced than you are. With a two person jam (as I do with my students) you can alternate between starting a part over again and just going through the whole tune without stopping, pushing through your mistakes no matter what. Sometimes a mistake can sound good and you learn from making mistakes in general.

    I know you did not mention jamming, so I did not elaborate much on that, but I thought I would get something in there. Improvising: There are some good sources for how to improvise, but this is, in short, how I teach it. There are two types of improvisation (as far as I am concerned). I don't teach college level theory, I teach in a very practical manner. Those two types of improvisation are 1. Planned and 2: Off the cuff. I teach planned improvisation first. I'm not going to go into off the cuff improvising because I truly think that planned improvisation needs to be learned first. Believe me, there are top players who usually only play planned breaks. What seems to be an on the spot, off the cuff alternative break for a tune or song is actually very planned out--every single note that is practiced that way. When I played the festival circuits in bands I only played planned breaks that varied from the standard because it was what I excelled at and felt comfortable with.

    I start with changing up the pick-up notes and the endings of parts of tunes first. Those are much easier to learn than changing a section in the middle somewhere because of timing. If you have good melody sense, even if you really don't sing, and you can hum, that helps. I hum out alternative improvised parts quite often. Learning your scales helps to get your fingers in the right place, but we also need to learn to play over chords and you mentioned arpeggios over chords which are a necessity to learn. You might be able to hum out (or just work it out with the notes on your instrument that work in that key) a bit different ending. Just a few notes difference is good to start with. It must work musically (sounds musical) and fall under your fingers easily. Switch it up, back and forth from the standard to your alternative ending when you practice. Then, I introduce just one measure somewhere in the tune. I add a trill or other change up, but it must be very doable with a little practice. It also has to fit the timing of the measure. Just one too many notes or holding a note too long will throw you off time and that also leads to losing your place and getting confused. Add alternative measures, one at a time, until you get to where you have a planned improvisation section. And you do not need to change every measure. Try to keep the tune at least somewhat recognizable. I have my students play it the standard way and then when (s)he comes back around to that part, say Part A, you switch out for the improvisation part. Practice this with a metronome slowly (ideally with a chord backup track recording) and gradually increase the tempo. Always remember that technique and timing come first, then speed, then volume. I also teach my students, over time, how to do this themselves because my ultimate goal for them is independence from me.

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  25. #43
    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to combat memorization tendencies?

    This is the 'short version'?

    Sigh....
    There is so much to learn.

    Cheryl addressed the details that we did not care to explain. There is just too much to put into print. Thanks Cheryl. You're great!
    Decipit exemplar vitiis imitabile

  26. #44

    Default Re: How to combat memorization tendencies?

    Quote Originally Posted by bmfsfan615 View Post
    Thanks this makes sense - what are most common as it pertains to bluegrass other than I IV V?
    Secondary dominants (II-V-I) are very common. The chorus of Uncloudy Day and the usual way of playing Further Along have them. Learning to hear the II-V-I is important because it comes up quite a bit in vocal songs. The Dillards Old Home Place has II-V-I in the chorus and goes to a III chord in the verse.

    VI-II-V-I (E-A-D-G) is the Salty Dog progression. It is also I Know What It Means to be Lonesome and Don't Let Your Deal Go Down. These songs have nothing but that progression repeated. Alabama Jubilee had VI-II-V-I for most of the song.

    Scruggs Dear Old Dixie illustrates what Aaron was talking about really well. It can be broken down into several mini progressions including II-V-I, I-III-IV and VI-II-V-I. Kentucky Waltz also has a structure that can be broken down like that but not quite as elaborate, ending in a VI-II-V-I. Rag fiddle tunes such as the Beaumont Rag and Pig Ankle Strut commonly end with a VI-II-V-I. They also can be played with a diminished chord leading into the ending. East Tennessee Blues has II-V-I in it, not to be confused with East Virginia Blues.

    Getting closer to the edges of bluegrass, Jimmy Rogers non blue yodel stuff, like Waiting for a Train, In the Jailhouse Now, Any Old Time and Peach Picking Time in Georgia is all made up of ragtime progressions like the II-V-I and VI-II-V-I and can be broken down the way Aaron described.

    Quite a few bluegrass and old time songs have all or part of them with mixolydian progressions. These involve a I to a flat VII (G to F or D to C). Big Mon and Wheel Hoss are classics. Del McCoury's version of Cold Rain and Snow does this though Rowan and Rice's doesn't. High On a Mountain, Little Maggie and I Have Seen the Rock of Ages all do this for part of the song. Ralph Stanley referred to that as "mountain modal". This can also be heard in more modern versions of Dark Hollow particularly by Muleskinner and the Kentucky Colonels. Many fiddle tunes have this also. Old Joe Clark, Salt Creek and Red Haired Boy are the most common.

    Finally knowing the good ol' 12 bar blues and its variants will serve you. Bluegrass Stomp and Foggy Mountain Special (not Breakdown) are stomp blues. Doc does Milk Cow Blues among others and half of Jimmy Rogers' repertoire is blues. Monroe was heavily influenced by blues in his phrasing from the playing of guitarist Arnold Schultz with Monroe's Uncle Pen.

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited by CarlM; Apr-05-2024 at 2:14pm.

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  28. #45

    Default Re: How to combat memorization tendencies?

    Try the ii, V, I, also. (Minor 2)

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