Saxophone Forum

by sjsmith93
(5 posts)
6 years ago

Memorizing Tunes

Here are some things I do to memorize tunes; feel free to add your expertise!
**talking about memorizing the chords not the melody**
Go through and analyze the chord progression, just figuring out where it's going harmonically, labeling ii-V7-I's, and anything else that is worth noting (ex in All The Things, the C7#5 is the only chord of that quality in the song so that's something to take note of. WHOLE TONE CITY!)

Arpeggiate the chords in 4 or 8 bar sections, and loop them. Then look away from the music and do the same thing. Ok so after a section is memorized, I go onto the next 8 bar section and memorize that. Then I put the two sections together and see if I can recall all of it. I incorporate bebop scales over all the chords after the arpeggios. 

then that's basically the end of it. I have to do it for at least an hour a day and it takes a while to get it really ingrained but once it's there, I never forget it!!

Please feel free to add on your practice regime and what you do to memorize tunes! 

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  1. by Zaxman
    (31 posts)

    6 years ago

    Re: Memorizing Tunes

    Thanks for the great information, do you have any words of wisdom when it comes to retaining things you have memorized.  I feel like I have re-learned some tunes half a dozen times over the years.  

    Reply To Post Yahoo!

    1. by sjsmith93
      (5 posts)

      6 years ago

      Re: Memorizing Tunes

      I find when I don't keep them in my everyday playing I definitely can forget them. I liked to have a list of tunes to work on every week and I recycle lists so I keep all the songs I know/learning in a rotation.

      Lists I use:

      Songs I want to learn, songs I kind of know, and songs I REALLY know 

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  2. by madmajor
    (12 posts)

    5 years ago

    Re: Memorizing Tunes

    Great approach and for a long time I had real difficulty in playing anything by memory.

    however, I have found that if I force my ears and not my eyes to guide me I pick up tunes easier, and quicker.

    i discovered this when I wanted to play a tune on my tenor but only had the backing tracks and dots for alto.  Now this is my process (and I can learn to play a tune basically in a single session, and improve on it in subsequent sessions.)

    step 1

    learn the motif
    go over it and over it at least 10 - 20 times in the first session. (If it has a complicated bridge I might add that in further sessions).  Most songs seem to have repeat sections and it helps my mind to label them

    A.    B.      A.        C.

    (As appropriate)

    step 2

    make it part of your daily practice and don't try and learn next song until this one has covered all steps.

    i normally do this for at least two weeks daily.  So after long tones, scales, technical licks I will play 3 - 5 times on the bounce this song

    step 3

    to keep remembering all my repertoire I play through minimum of 5 songs from my list and at the end replay the new song.  I note which song I finish with so when I am playing tomorrow I start with the next song on the list.  It means that every week I will have played my whole repertoire and kept everything current.

    step 4

    when I am comfortable in playing the new strong straight (after at least a week) I will then start to ornament any repeated section.  So start as it was written (motif) jazz up a little but still follow the tune, then back to the motif to finish.  Most songs seem to play through three times (some repeat more times) for the backing tracks I have.

    step 5

    ornament the ornaments, use pentatonic, (or any other favourite scales) patterns to put in a fill in a section.  not too much at once you are still developing a feel for where you are in the tune.  Your ears will automatically by this time lock you into a key sequence in the harmony (such as the start of a bridge)

    step 6

    keep all your ornamentation as similar as you have developed it.  Place in your scale patterns. Now try and fit in a favourite lick.
    you are now improvising.  You have not had to analyse chords, but you have let your ears guide you as to what works.  You have used a building block method (not tried to run before you can walk) and now the song is in your full time repertoire.  You are ready to tackle the next song.  However make sure that you practice newly acquired songs in each session that you rotate your list.

    i now have an hour and a half of songs that I can play and improvise over that are of gig quality.  I use to really struggle to learn song.  Trying to Learn someone else's solo or  analyse the chord progressions.  I still listen to other people soloing over songs I am developing, so that I can gain ideas from their solos and try and mimicked what they are doing.

    i qualify all this with saying I have only been improvising since living on my boat in the Caribbean for the last 4 yrs.  I do not think there is any easy way to learn a song.  My method might work for some of you...... But time spent on learning and then developing your own version of a song is seldom wasted!

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