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For me, one of the things to practice is memorizing a tune. Though this is not all of what should be memorized, memorizing the melody, the chord changes and form of the song, I think are the largest parts of the memorizing process.

For me, one of my goals is to get to a point where I can freely perform without having a lead sheet on a music stand all of the time in front or to the side of the instrument. For me right now, how I memorize a tune or song, and I am really focusing in on standards now, is of course, alot of repetition, practicing and listening. Listening to the recordings of others and of course myself. I see and feel patterns such as 8 bar phrases, 12-bar blues, etc. and feelings associated with songs and that, along with style and the context of where I am at, I say helps me in the memorization department. I am not one of those persons who has photographic memory or has a natural "perfect ear".

How do others memorize tunes?

Thank you for your help,


IndianaGlen Mon, 12/29/2014 - 15:29


I have this book and I can't say it's worked miracles, but it does provide some really good (and interesting) patterns and tips for remembering tunes. VOLUME 76 - DAVID BAKER - HOW TO LEARN TUNES

It was worth getting to help me understand the fact that there are a lot of similarities to tunes and seeing patterns can be very helpful. It also gave me some insight regarding music theory and jazz standards.

The old guys really get annoyed when people need books on gigs, especially for standards.

For me learning the melody and chords, are pretty brute force. Just go over and over until it gets in this thick skull of mine.


Babu Mon, 12/29/2014 - 17:48

Here my experience on guitar, if it can help...
First of all, play a lot (i mean A LOT) of tunes, of all levels and all tempos. Play in a lot of different conditions (as a leader, as a sideman, with all kind of singers, etc...). You'll be exposed to many situations, and that's where flawness playing comes from. A lot of things will become automatisms, you'll be "piloting ahead of the music", and you'll get the kind of practical musical memorization that just experience can give you.
Expose yourself to places where you cannot use sheet music. Sure, you will have some fails, but that's the only way I know : to be forced to play from memory.
When memorizing hundreds of tunes, things become way simpler : you just need to remember the discrepancies of each piece, that is, "this particular chord, this tricky line, this twist in the structure", or whatever makes the tune what it is. The rest is just "mainstream", and generally is 80% or plus of the tune.
And play the tunes often till getting a 'corporal memorization" - which is the key point.
When i have to play a tune i didn't play for a long time (can be several years), i'm in trouble till my hands recover the specific moves of the song. Evidently that works only if you once got the tune really down.
Hope that helps