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Memorising songs

southcoastsounds 04 Apr 12 - 02:48 AM
Jim Carroll 04 Apr 12 - 03:47 AM
MartinRyan 04 Apr 12 - 03:55 AM
Will Fly 04 Apr 12 - 05:14 AM
Musket 04 Apr 12 - 05:53 AM
GUEST,leeneia 04 Apr 12 - 09:38 AM
Jack Campin 04 Apr 12 - 10:38 AM
Jim Carroll 04 Apr 12 - 10:39 AM
Paul Reade 04 Apr 12 - 11:36 AM
nutty 04 Apr 12 - 12:14 PM
Joe Offer 04 Apr 12 - 12:56 PM
MGM·Lion 04 Apr 12 - 01:17 PM
Marje 04 Apr 12 - 01:23 PM
MGM·Lion 04 Apr 12 - 02:21 PM
Artful Codger 04 Apr 12 - 07:08 PM
Phil Edwards 04 Apr 12 - 07:44 PM
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Subject: Memorising songs
From: southcoastsounds
Date: 04 Apr 12 - 02:48 AM

I manage the website for Seaford Folk Club (East Sussex), and recently asked the resident singers for advice about song memorisation. I got some great responses and have compiled them together here

song memorisation


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Subject: RE: Memorising songs
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Apr 12 - 03:47 AM

Over tha last half year I have returned to singing regularly-ish after thirty years absence - interesting.
I find myself remembering songs fairly quickly, sometimes with a little effort, but when I check with the original texts (kept most of them on file) I find I have made changes which have established themselves without altering the sense of the songs.
I watched McColl regularly towards the end of his life and I noticed his memory beginning to go slightly, yet he never dried up or hesitated - not while I was there anyway - he always managed to put something in which fitted perfectly; you wouldn't know if you weren't very familiar with his repertoire. I reckon this was because he was so steeped in the poetical form of the songs that he could re-create when necessary - he was singing the story, not just the words.
I've come to the conclusion that this is the secret of all (certainly narrative) singing.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Memorising songs
From: MartinRyan
Date: 04 Apr 12 - 03:55 AM

Jim

Good point re narrative songs, alright. Done well, people are listening to the story, not to the words. And for that matter, of course, the singer is telling the story - not repeating the words.

Regards


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Subject: RE: Memorising songs
From: Will Fly
Date: 04 Apr 12 - 05:14 AM

Good advice from some good friends at Seaford!

I've heard Roger Resch sing many, many times - and he's never stumbled (to my knowledge) while singing his way through a large and varied repertoire. His advice about memorising songs rings true - repeat them, over and over again, constantly, in the shower, in the kitchen, in the car, while making love - whoops, sorry about the last one...

When the song - or the instrumental tune you're playing - becomes second nature, then you'll feel confident performing it in any environment, and that only really comes with constant practice and repetition. I'm fairly lucky in that I have a good sense of visual recall. If I physically write song words down by hand - i.e. with a pen - I can "see" those words in front of me on the paper. Not quite a photographic memory but the next best thing - and a handy aid if the memory thief strikes.


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Subject: RE: Memorising songs
From: Musket
Date: 04 Apr 12 - 05:53 AM

I am word perfect with songs I wrote or learned 35 years ago, and must have over a hundred with instant recall, as well as some rather long monologues, Marriot Edgar etc.

yet these days I try to learn a new song and can I? Can I buggery... Still a teenager, so it isn't age. I must have been more committed to wanting to sing then I suppose...

Ah well.


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Subject: RE: Memorising songs
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 04 Apr 12 - 09:38 AM

I was just reading about that, Ian. Author said all people remember the songs of their teens and twenties especially well. The theory was that in those years we are forging our identities, and the music we listen to is part of that identity.

When I want to memorize a song, I print the lyrics and tape them to a kitchen cupboard. As I cook or clean, I sing the song, referring to the sheet when necessary.

The linked article didn't mention something I find helpful - concentrate on the rhymes.


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Subject: RE: Memorising songs
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Apr 12 - 10:38 AM

repeat them, over and over again, constantly, in the shower, in the kitchen, in the car, while making love - whoops, sorry about the last one...

I can see "Heave away, haul away" fitting in... there is now one part of the female anatomy that will forever be South Australia.


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Subject: RE: Memorising songs
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Apr 12 - 10:39 AM

"Can I buggery...."
Join the club - have come across a superb - quite long version of Banks of Newfoundland - a song I always intended to learn.
Can I get it to stick.... not a chance
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Memorising songs
From: Paul Reade
Date: 04 Apr 12 - 11:36 AM

Looks like quite a few of us have the same problem.

Someone asked me recently how I managed to learn and remember some of the songs I do that have lots of words, such as "The Rocky Road to Dublin" or Ewan MacColl's "Ballad of Accounting". The answer is that I don't know - I learned them about 40 years ago.

No, the problem is remembering the songs I tried to learn last week. I recently heard a beautiful song that really caught my attention "Carrying Nelson Home", but I knew I'd never remember all those words, and I've been trying to learn "The Bantry Girls' Lament" for a couple of years now, but I still haven't sung it in public.

Perhaps it's time for those who object to having the words in front of you when you sing to relax the rules a little!


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Subject: RE: Memorising songs
From: nutty
Date: 04 Apr 12 - 12:14 PM

I have similar memory problems to Ian and Jim so penned this song, which is proving popular wherever I sing it.

BLACK HOLES

THEY SAY THAT BLACK HOLES EXIST ONLY IN SPACE
BUT I KNOW THAT JUST ISN'T TRUE
FOR I FIND BLACK HOLES ARE ALL OVER THE PLACE
AND I'M SURE THAT OTHERS DO TO
FOR JUST WHEN I'M COMFORTABLY SINGING MY SONG
WHEN EVERYTHING SEEMS ON A ROLL
WHEN EVERYONE'S HAPPILY SINGING ALONG
THE WORDS FALL INTO A BLACK HOLE - BLACK HOLE
THE WORDS FALL INTO A BLACK HOLE

A GREAT BIG HOLE, A GIGANTIC HOLE
A HOLE THAT'S ENORMOUS AND BLACK
IT FEELS LIKE MY BRAIN
HAS BEEN FLUSHED DOWN THE DRAIN
AND I'M NEVER GETTING IT BACK – IT BACK
AND I'M NEVER GETTING IT BACK

SOMETIMES IT'S A WORD OR A LINE THAT WILL HIDE
SOMETIMES A WHOLE VERSE DISAPPEARS
SO I'M STANDING THERE WITH MY MOUTH OPEN WIDE
AND FRESH AIR BETWEEN MY TWO EARS
THEY SAY THAT THE MEMORY DECREASES WITH AGE
AND AT THESE TIMES I FEEL NINETY-THREE
COS WHEN IT WON'T PASS – I FEEL SUCH AN ASS
OH, WHY DOES IT HAPPEN TO ME - TO ME
OH, WHY DOES IT HAPPEN TO ME

NOW SOME PEOPLE SAY I SHOULD REALLY MAKE SURE
OF THE WORDS – BUT I'D LIKE THEM TO NOTE
IT HAPPENS WITH SONGS I'VE BEEN SINGING FOR YEARS
AS WELL AS WITH THOSE I'VE JUST WROTE
SO NOW HERE I STAND WITH MY BOOK IN MY HAND
TO MAKE SURE THAT NO WORDS GO ASTRAY
FOR IT GIVES ME THE CHANCE – TO HAVE A QUICK GLANCE
AND KEEP ALL THOSE BLACK HOLES AT BAY - AT BAY
AND KEEP ALL THOSE BLACK HOLES AT BAY

THOSE GREAT BIG HOLES, THOSE GIGANTIC HOLES
THOSE HOLES SO ENORMOUS AND BLACK
IT FEELS LIKE MY BRAIN
HAS BEEN FLUSHED DOWN THE DRAIN
AND I'M NEVER GETTING IT BACK – IT BACK
AND I'M NEVER GETTING IT BACK


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Subject: RE: Memorising songs
From: Joe Offer
Date: 04 Apr 12 - 12:56 PM

Ian Mather says: I am word perfect with songs I wrote or learned 35 years ago, and must have over a hundred with instant recall

I'm the same way, but the songs I learned 35 years ago are camp songs. You can sing "The Hole in the Bottom of the Sea" only so often....

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Memorising songs
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 04 Apr 12 - 01:17 PM

I have generally been lucky in this particular. Nobody's perfect ~ I once prompted Ewan MacColl at the Princess Louise when he kept starting The Blantyre Explosion "As I walked out", then stopping because he knew that wasn't right but momentarily couldn't recall the correct first line & Peggy didn't know it; till I could stand it no more & called out "By Clyde's bonny banks", whereupon he said with a grateful smile in my direction, "That's it", & continued. I rarely dry, but it can happen: you will find a counter-example if you log into the MudcatCD-launch site that Bradfordian posted* & find me making a cock-up the beginning of verse 2 of Skillet Pot; so I just paused and started the line again ~ what else can one do? But I am happy to say that rarely happens, & I even have a knack of usually being able to find an appropriate rhyme if I have ended a line with a wrong word as has sometimes happened.

~M~

* http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qW0AC-_lX9c


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Subject: RE: Memorising songs
From: Marje
Date: 04 Apr 12 - 01:23 PM

I find the same thing - I can remember all the words to Guide camp songs, school hymns and carols, advertising jingles, and all sorts of rubbish that I heard on the radio in my youth. I never even attempted to learn all this, it's just there. And many of the songs I deliberately learned maybe 20 years ago are reliably embedded in my brain now, while those I've learned more recently seem to drift away unless I make an effort to revise them and tug them back into my memory.

I have this theory that the hard drive in my brain is getting full, and if I want to save new stuff, ideally I would delete some of the things I no longer need, like the frame number of my first bicycle, my childhood best-friend's birthday, or the words to "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind" or "You're a pink toothbrush, I'm a blue toothbrush". But I don't seem to be able to do that. I suppose I could just sing what I can remember, but I don't think either of the songs mentioned would go down very well at the pub singaround I'm going to tonight. Best get out my song file and remind myself of the words of something else.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Memorising songs
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 04 Apr 12 - 02:21 PM

It wasn't Skillet Pot ~~ it was Friar in the Well ~

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yht1lH7KayI

I must bed getting old...


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Subject: RE: Memorising songs
From: Artful Codger
Date: 04 Apr 12 - 07:08 PM

I feel a parody coming on: Friar in the Skillet.

There are lots of good techniques for learning and retaining lyrics--we've covered many of them in previous threads, for example:
Learning and remembering the words
How do you go about learning a new song?
Memorising songs and performance quality

The hardest part is to keep singing a song even after you've ostensibly learned it, till it's truly unforgettable. I'm continually learning a slew of new songs, so the songs I've learned just a couple weeks ago are always in danger of falling out of persistent memory. I maintain a working notebook divided into three parts: Learning, Shaky and Review. Now, if I only had the discipline to use it as intended, more songs would stick long-term.


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Subject: RE: Memorising songs
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 04 Apr 12 - 07:44 PM

I was running through a song in my head this evening, feeling quite anxious about how many verses there were & whether I'd remember them all in the right order. Then I thought "or I could do Bill Brown"; I felt totally confident about that, despite not being able to think of a single line of it beyond the first verse - I knew that once I got started the rest would come. (I didn't do either of them in the end.)

Learning songs is a complete mystery to me - with the right song I can go from reading the lines off a sheet of paper to knowing it inside out in two or three repetitions. I just hope it doesn't desert me any time soon.


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