Tips to, like... remember stuff?

This seems like a bit of an odd discussion topic, but I thought I’d see if y’all had any thoughts.

I’ve found myself hitting a bit of a wall trying to learn songs, even ones I’m familiar with and like a lot.

For songs like Feel Good, 7 Nation Army, Paranoid (which I learned by ear, very excited about that), it’s not too tough… they don’t have too many different patterns throughout.

But looking at the tab for something like You Give Love a Bad Name, it’s just… so much to keep track of and remember. Like, all of the notes are definitely within my grasp, it’s just how the heck do people remember so many different patterns that change so frequently?

I finished the course a little while ago and still pick up my bass and play every day, but really want to make sure I don’t get discouraged and feel my progress stall. I WILL be as good as Geddy one day… in a few decades… but I’m hoping I don’t lose a sense of direction after finishing the course.


Sometimes I’ll just learn the main riff of a song and then I’ll just play it like that for a while. Then I’ll fill in the changes one at a time. So I’ll just add the first change and just play it a bunch then add another.


I can’t remember where I put my car keys half the time but I’m pretty good at memorizing songs, for me though, I think it comes from brute force. Playing over the recording day after day when I’m learning it and making sure to revisit things I don’t want to forget after I’ve learned them. If you play it enough, its kind of like when you punch your pin number into an ATM or something, your fingers remember what to do.

Now for stuff that varies a lot, I’m thinking of a cover I did recently RHCP “Otherside”, I kind of come up with my own shorthand for the variations and write it down. For example in that song there’s a repeating 4 chord progression but every time he plays the G chord part he does something new and cool because he’s Flea. I gave all these variations a name, like one of them I called the “stretchy” part, one was “walkdown”, etc. Then I wrote these words out in order in a notebook, and that one “stretchy” word captured like 4 measures for me. I know I’m rambling here, not sure if its helpful but this somehow burned it into my brain.


I think repetition and re-writing the tabs while humming the song help me memorize the songs better. I have a few books I’m transcribing to GP8 to have it digital. After that, I play the song a few times to make sure it sounds right. It works for me

Thanks fellas!

I bet there are a lot of songs that you know where you can sing/hum them very well note for note…

If it’s a song you don’t know well, I’d start by listening to it over and over until you have a good idea of what the song sounds like.

Then, you could look at the music, identify the key, the song structure and the chord progressions.

When you work on memorizing the song, don’t think of the individual notes, think of the musical phrases, the intervals and the rhythm; if you were memorizing a presentation you wouldn’t memorize the letters individually. Break the song down into smaller manageable pieces and learn those, like the joke goes about how you eat an elephant.

Finally, unless you’re playing something for a cover band where your audience expects the song to be correct note for note, it’s ok to write/improvise your own version. Change up the rhythm, throw in some of your own fills, make it yours :slight_smile:

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Nothing to worry about.

Songs like “You Give Love a Bad Name” you mentioned are practised, changed a bit and then practised by original members like dozens, if not hundreds of times.

At the point when song is released, its played and practised by the band so numerous times that you simply cant do the same in a couple of days. They do it for living and can practise it for weeks without distractions. You have to do pretty much more there.

For the last gig we did, we chose only simple songs because we all have our daily works etc. And we still had to practise for 5 weeks to get the gig done.

And dont worry if you play wrong in some gig. We all do, mostly no one notices :wink:

You can also try sight reading (looking at the tabs/sheet music while playing)