Just me? Struggling to memorize songs

I’m struggling with song memorization. I end up playing a song over and over and over until I actually get sick of the song.

Sure, I know parts of the song repeat, and because I know the song I can mostly (sometimes) figure out where I need to be, but the change ups are killing me.

I’m guessing part of my problem stems from forgetting what the notes are that I’m playing - I’ve been playing for about a year and did complete the B2B course. However, the note names being the evil little ^%*^& things that they are just fly right out of my brain.

Another piece of the puzzle is I’m extremely critical of myself. Compounding that is my need to “win”.

So, aside from trying to chunk the songs, and memorizing the fret board what might I do to help me memorize songs?

This process has made me really appreciate the Pros who know hundreds of songs!

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What type of songs are you learning? Are the fast, metal / hard rock / punk, or are they slower pop and soft rock, classics, or funk, Jazz?

I play songs over and over and over and over, but I was picking songs that are really exciting, easy enough for me to do, but challenging enough to get excited about parts coming up in the song.

Also, do you practice the songs, small bits, or large sections at slower tempos?
There is something to be said for muscle memory, and repitition of correct placed notes, fretted correctly, can help your body remember sections of the songs, so you don’t have to think about the sections so much, you just keep time and be prepared for fills and change ups.

Practicing sections slowly, and correctly will help to build this muscle memory, and then you just need to know the order of the sections, and you can get queues from the song to let you know when to change.

Also, if you practice the song in sections, not necessarily in the order of the song, and at a different tempo, it helps to not get sick of the song when played in correct order at full speed.

This is kind of my approach, I am no expert, I am about 6-7 months on bass, after a 20 year gap playing guitar previously. This helps me, maybe some or all of it can help you.

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@T_dub I usually try to learn slower songs, although I love to hear someone like Geddy Lee run amok on the bass, I like to play songs like Tennessee Whiskey (not the type of song that is giving me problems), Take a Bow by Madonna, This is Amazing Grace.

I’m doing a lot of the things you suggested, but you may have hit on something - I used to pick up anything that required hand/eye coordination quickly. Maybe this is a symptom of thinking I “should” be able to do something and trying to get good too quickly.

Thanks for the response!!

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Hail @biohazz65!
I echo everything that @T_dub said above.
Take it slow, and set smaller goals that you can build on.
One section at a time.
When you crush that section and know it so well you’re singing it in your sleep, you’re ready to add the next section.

Good luck!

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[Disclaimer: I’m a beginner and have no intentions of playing on stage]

Another option is to not have memorization as a goal in the first place. I hate memorizing things, so my goal instead is to improve my sight reading skills to a point where I can just read the sheet music as I play, without having to rely on memorization. Of course I still end up memorizing the songs in the end, but I treat that as a side effect of repeated practice, and not a goal in itself.

Also, a bit of music theory helps as well. I’ve found it much easier to remember songs where I actually understand the roles of the notes I’m playing. (E.g. “play 1-3-5 on a 12-bar blues progression in C maj for 3 minutes” is much more concise and easier to remember than the same thing written down on 5 pages of sheet music.) When I don’t understand what I’m playing then it feels like memorizing complete sentences in a language that I don’t speak, without actually understanding the words that I’m saying.

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The older I get, the more I deal with this same thing… Funny thing is that there are many things that really don’t matter that I can fully remember without having to memorize, yet there are other things that I want to remember that I actually have trouble remembering… Remembering the notes to songs falls into the second category for me…

Wasn’t hard to remember anything when I was younger, but after almost 70 years of use, the grey matter appears to have reached it’s “Full” capacity… Apparently when I was 35 years old, I must have reached my “half-full” brain capacity. I suppose had I have realized this back then, I might have slowed down trying to cram as much crap into that grey matter over the last 35 years. Yup, should have slowed down a bit and tried to save what little space I had left up there so I could have more room to remember the notes to the last song I played just last week! Bummer…!

I suppose I could try and “clean out” a little extra space in the old “upstairs closet”, by removing anything that doesn’t make sense or appears useless to me, but then my wife would be on my ass for not remembering to “put the toilet seat down”, or “not putting my dishes in the sink”, or “not emptying the trash”… NOT an option…

Then again I suppose I could try removing any of the things that DO make sense to me like “how to make really good moonshine”, or “the proper and safe procedure for lighting a fart”, but then I’d loose the respect of my old Navy Submarine buddies and grandkids… Also NOT an option!

So, given the times we live in today I figured that by removing any and all memory of anything having to do with politics; pandemics; weather; world crisis; religion; or the Kardashians, that I’d have more than enough room to remember as many songs as I’d ever need to remember in this lifetime here on planet earth… however… once my wife realized that I had a little space cleared out upstairs, she took it all up by teaching me how to “LOAD THE GAHDAM DISHWASHER!”

So, take it from firsthand experience @biohazz65,… Wouldn’t you much rather spend what little time you have left here on planet earth getting a little tired of playing the same song over rather than… loading a gahdam dishwasher!

Oh, next bit of advise… if you’re hard of hearing like I am, don’t buy a hearing aid… but that’s another story…

Keep on Thumpin’!
Lanny

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@akos is correct in that knowing your music theory really helps. It helps to know all your chord tones so that whatever key the song is in, and whatever chord the bar or phrase is, you at least know what the root, third, fifth, and seventh are. This makes learning much easier as you really only need to know the chord progression. The rest comes naturally.

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@PamPurrs I suspect you may be right, I tinkered with finding the chord progression for This is Amazing Grace and then playing just the root notes and felt that I was close to what I was hearing on the song. Then I fell into a trap I think, the original artist plays the song one way, but I can’t really make out what he is playing. I then found a worship lesson on the song which sounds a bit different but is close to what I reasoned out from using the chord progression.
Maybe that is my next goal, get some MT under my belt and perhaps lessen the cognitive load a bit.
Thanks for the response!

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TalkingBass. com is good for this. You can purchase modules for
Scales Essentials
Chord Tone Essentials
Sight Reading

You get alot of theory from teh first two, and I suspect in the sight reading as well, but I have not started that one yet.
I did Scales Essentials, and am mid way thru Cord tones, and I am thinking of starting Sight Reading now and running those concurrent.

You can start with Chord Tones or Scalse essentials, they feed into each pretty good, what you learn in one of them carrys over into the other.
I did Scales first, as did Pam, and I think the Scales is a little bit more thourough, but I know others did Chord Tones first and were just fine.

I have the All Access pass, so I can bounce around courses at will, however, I don’t have option to download the lesson content, I can only look at it on screen (of course I can just take screen shots and put together a work book that way) and I can’t download the backing tracks, so I can only use them on the site, which is fine, except, at some point I will stop paying for the all access class, and at that time, I no longer have access to the courses or backing tracks.
So
if you purchse the courses, you get them for life, including the download content.

The all access pass is only available at certain times when he puts it on sale, it is $16 per month, so it is invaluable to me.
The course go on sale every so often, for about 30% off, so if you buy a few while they are on sale, you can save big and have lesson material for the next year or two.

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First, you gotta love/like the song,
Second, when you memorizing the song divide the section to remember it,
Third, you have to learn the bassline pattern and try to memorize bass scale (the popular one).
Hope this answer is helpful, cheers! :smiley:

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@suaryana Thanks for the reply! I hadn’t thought of learning the scale associated with the song! I’ll give it a try!

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My advice is to check the song structure so you know exactly when does the bridge come, when does the chorus come etc. And on top of that, when you see chord progression, it will all come much easier than learning everything “dry” and by heart.

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A game changer for me was to first “memorize” the notes with no rhythm, just as I was playing scales.
Then, when I could play the notes one after the other, I would sing the notes in my head in rhythm. Singing the tone in my head when playing is the main part here.
Then I could practice the music.
It made my process much quicker to memorise.

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Welcome @thiago.faria.oliveir

@thiago.faria.oliveir interesting idea! Will try that when I practice tonight!!

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Thats pretty much the only way I have ever done it. so yeah, + 1 to that idea.