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Earbrass

How do you remember / think of / visualize tunes?

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I can think of three distinct ways in which people conceptualize, remember, learn or visualize tunes:

a) patterns on the fretboard / keyboard etc: often favoured by those who do not read music. On some instruments (like bass) this can facilitate transposition as the same pattern played higher or lower gives the same tune in different keys (exluding open strings), though not so much on others (like piano). It is, however, generally no help when moving between different instruments (except where the instruments are closely related, eg piano/organ, mandolin/mandola/bazouki etc.)

b ) by note names, or patterns on the stave: often preferred by strong readers and those with a classical background. Completely transferable between different instruments, but of limited help when transposing between keys.

c) I tend to think of tunes in terms of degrees of the scale and intervals. This has the advantage of being fully transferable between completely different instruments and also makes transposition very simple, although it is of less use when playing music like modern classical music or some far-out jazz where there is no clear tonal centre.

When I'm playing with the morris band, I am often the one who has to learn a new tune, sometimes from a recording or video, and then share the knowledge with the other players. My fellow melodeonist wants to know which buttons to play, as she is a non-reader, whereas the recorder player, who has a strong background in classical piano and other instruments as well as a good ear, wants to know what note it starts on. The mandolin player needs to be told all the chords.

I'm also involved in an embryonic project with a smallpipes player, in which I play the nyckelharpa. For this I am often transcribing fairly simple diatonic or modal tunes from recordings. Because of the limits of the pipes, I often need to transpose from the key on the recording. I tend to work out the tune on the keyboard, as, having played the piano since I was about 5, this comes easiest to me, and then transfer the tune to the 'harpa. Because I hear the tunes in terms of degrees of the scale and intervals, this is quite easy, as I tend to just jot down the tune in terms of these degrees (root, 5th, min 3rd etc) and can then play this straight away on a different instrument and in a different key, and also write the parts out in the required key for the piper without much effort or thought.

Interestingly, there are notations in common use for methods a) and b ) - tab and conventional notation respectively, but not for method c).

Any thoughts?

Edited by Earbrass

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It all depends on the song and band. I do a combination of all 3 though, sometimes it's based off the patterns on a stave, sometimes it's the shapes and patterns used in genres, and sometimes it's intervals.

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Another for all 3 although I guess mostly patterns. However, there isn't that much of an issue going from a pattern on a bass to a piano, I use both often and they transfer easily

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I've been learning a set for a couple of dep gigs recently, what I found to work best for me was to work out the bass part and key and then write out the chord numbers for wach section.

This helped me remember it and gave me an easy aide memoire when playing, whether it was in the original key or not.

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I have no idea how I remember songs. In fact during a song that is new to me or I haven't done in a while I sometimes have no idea what comes next then suddenly my fingers are in the right place.

I can't remember the last time I read a piece of music, tab looks wrong to me and I have no idea what scales are.

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Notes and also the chords. If you know the chords the you can always improvise a part.

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Guest bassman7755

[quote name='Earbrass' timestamp='1457865412' post='3002389']
Interestingly, there are notations in common use for methods a) and b ) - tab and conventional notation respectively, but not for method c).
[/quote]

There is an intervallic notation something along these lines called Figured Bass although I wouldnt say it was in common use .. also there is the "Nashville numbering" system.

Edited by bassman7755

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Figured bass I am aware of - common in boroque scores for the continuo parts, but the Nashville system is a new one on me. I imagine jazzers must think largely in terms of intervals and harmonic patterns, at least the ones who can play a large repertoire in pretty much any key at the drop of a hat. Not so much required by the classical brigade, who are unlikely to have a conductor step up to the podium and demand a symphony in an unfamiliar key with no warning.

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I play through the chords on a 6 string and learn the sequences. I write tricky bits down because I can recall a picture of what I've written much of the time. The rest is mainly patterns on the fretboard to get the left hand position right.

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I've always relied on shapes on fretboard but lately I've been playing jazzier tunes, soloing, improvising and I don't have as much free time as I used to, so I find learning the chords and their function much more useful.

Now I can transpose more easily, including improvisations, and for rock tunes instead of learning the exact bass fills I can rely much more on improvisation to cope with the lack of spare time to practise at home. It is also a great way of finally get to learn all the notes on the fretboard (still working on it after 15 years).

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The biggest aid for me is the lyrics. I learn my parts, intro, verse, chorus, any variations, etc, then I learn the song as if I was a singer and take my cues from that... god knows what I'd do for an instrumental!

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+1 for lyrics or melodies & hooklines (for instrumentals).

As I started life on keys, I see every scaled instrument as a keyboard. Even having played bass for over 30 years, I still see it the same.
I suppose it makes things simpler to transpose

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[quote name='Delberthot' timestamp='1457867281' post='3002422']
I have no idea how I remember songs. In fact during a song that is new to me or I haven't done in a while I sometimes have no idea what comes next then suddenly my fingers are in the right place.

[/quote]

^^^^
This. Our drummist refers to this as muscle memory.

When learning I guess its mainly patterns.

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[quote name='NickD' timestamp='1458047260' post='3004164']
The biggest aid for me is the lyrics. I learn my parts, intro, verse, chorus, any variations, etc, then I learn the song as if I was a singer and take my cues from that... god knows what I'd do for an instrumental!
[/quote]

^^this

but as the band tend to follow my lead quite alot it just seems to happen,

when i'm learning a song i use a combination of tab and play by ear, i cant read music at all and have zero training geuss i'm winging it :rolleyes:

Edited by lowhand_mike

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What works for me it to take a look at the chord structure which gives a good idea about scales/intervals. Then I just play the thing until it is (almost) note perfect. Then i take a break and before i go to sleep imagine myself playing it. Couple of times like this and its pretty much imprinted on the memory. Sometimes if its a song we aint played for ages there is a moment where the brain seems to stop but as soon as i'm due to play it just happens. The time taken to learn a song will depend on the complexity. Anything by Jamerson or Nate Watts, for example, tends to take a little while longer than more repetitive lines within the material we do.

Writing stuff down seems to make me rely on the paper copy all the time. It never sticks if i have to read it all the time. Never take cue from the singer cos she screws up sometimes or we might be working with a different vocalist. Really don't want to rely on someone else cos it means a double screw up if the other person gets it wrong.

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