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Leisurely Learning Lyrics

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Jerry Rasmussen 18 Sep 05 - 06:05 PM
jacqui.c 18 Sep 05 - 06:31 PM
Les B 18 Sep 05 - 09:33 PM
Bev and Jerry 18 Sep 05 - 11:12 PM
Peace 18 Sep 05 - 11:20 PM
Ebbie 19 Sep 05 - 01:47 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 19 Sep 05 - 09:50 AM
Ebbie 19 Sep 05 - 10:57 AM
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Subject: Leisurely Learning Lyrics
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 18 Sep 05 - 06:05 PM

This topic has come up so emotionally in the Folk Singers wise up thread that I thought it was worth its own thread. Not to get emotional, or nothing... For those who have trouble learning lyrics, I thought it would be helpful for us to give some little tricks that we use, in hopes that they would be of help. I dealt with this issue the last couple of days, and I thought it might be worthwhile to say how I approached the task.

A couple of days ago, I received a call from the Pastor of a church where my gospel quartet was scheduled to sing. The Pastor requested that we do What A Friend We Have In Jesus. That's a song I've known most of for most of my life. On ocassion, I've taken the time to learn all the words, but because I don't sing the song often, the words slip away. Because I only had a couple of days to commit the song back to memory, and I didn't want to use a lyric sheet (which would have been fine, as the congregation was singing from a hymnal) I approached the process in much the way that I do when I learn a new song.

Some things that work for me:

Type out the words: because I am a visual person, the process of typing out the words is a helpful first step in learning them. Seeing the words on paper somehow burns them into my brain. Once I've typed them out, I attack the song a verse at a time. I try singing as much of it as I can remember without looking at the words, and then I go back and see where I messed up. I spend more time looking at (and reading out loud) the lines of the verse and then go back to try it again. Reading the lines out loud helps me to get a feel for the rhythm of the words. Many lines in songs become permanently burned into my head, just because of the rhythm and interplay of the words. How could anyone ever forget "Old Mother Flipper-Flopper jumped out of bed?" Reading the lines out loud also helps me to not only hear the words, but hear what they're saying.
As an example, take the line "Trouble in my way, I have to cry some time, (repeat) I lie awake at night, but that's all right." I can identify strongly with those lines. They speak to me because they are true, and something I've experienced. Singing is far more than remembering words. Remembering the words is very important, but if they don't have any meaning to you, you might as well sing the phone book.

As I was working on What A Friend We Have In Jesus, I kept messing up in two or three places. I kept singing "We should never get discouraged," when the line is "We should never be discouraged." I resolved that problem by visualizing a big capital B in bold type face and underlined. I was also singing "Who will all our burdens share" when the line is "All our sorrows share." That was easy to correct because I exagerated the "s" sound of "sorrows" and "share" several times, and I wore a new little groove in the corner of my brain.

Today, I sang the song without a lyric sheet. And I sang "we should never B discouraged" without a hitch, and "Who will all our Sorrows Share" without the need to exagerate the "s"s ridiculously.

So c'mon, Catters... lend a hand to the learning impaired. They are us.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Leisurely Learning Lyrics
From: jacqui.c
Date: 18 Sep 05 - 06:31 PM

I use very much the same process. Writing the song out and then having a copy on the kitchen counter to sing from when I'm working in there. I learn a verse at a time until I have it committed to memory and then go on to the next verse.

I once was told that, whilst we remember the first and last parts of any song more easily, the middle part is always the one that is hardest. I keep that in mind and spend more time memorising the middle verses, particularly the penultimate verse, which is always the one I have most difficulty with.

I think that it helps immensely to know your own weaknesses in the learning process so that you can deliberately target those areas and give more attention.


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Subject: RE: Leisurely Learning Lyrics
From: Les B
Date: 18 Sep 05 - 09:33 PM

Whenever possible, when trying to learn a melody or song words, I try and listen to the piece ten times in a row without noodling with any instrument - just active listening.   

Then, if it's a song, I either type it out or write it out long hand.

A good place for me to work on memorizing words is in the shower, for some reason that seems to be a place I can focus well. I have read that some studies show actors memorize words best while lying down (?)


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Subject: RE: Leisurely Learning Lyrics
From: Bev and Jerry
Date: 18 Sep 05 - 11:12 PM

We learn songs differently. Bev learns by repitition. We sing the song enough times and she's got it. Jerry can sing it a hundred times and not learn it until he goes away by himself and concentrates on learning the words. Mainly he learns them when he's walking along the beach singing as he goes. He gets some strange looks but he doesn't mind much.

Bev and Jerry


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Subject: RE: Leisurely Learning Lyrics
From: Peace
Date: 18 Sep 05 - 11:20 PM

I learn words and melodies very quickly. But, I have to really like the song and want to sing it. The few that have given me difficulties--mostly longer songs that have lotsa stanzas--I have never learned completely. I know the stanzas after the first line. When that's the problem I simply tape all the first lines on the up side of my guitar. If I forget which stanza comes next, I look down for the line. Did that with Memphis Blues Again and Hard Rain. Even had to do that with one of my own. That isn't much help to anyone, Jerry, but it's something that worked for me.


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Subject: RE: Leisurely Learning Lyrics
From: Ebbie
Date: 19 Sep 05 - 01:47 AM

I use a good many of the same techniques as given by several above. After I actually know the song but get sloppy about it is when I do what I call 'bringing it up to my face", in other words, visualizing the sheet that I typed up and singing from it. Seemingly I can literally read it- I even "see" the key scrawled in the corner. It is an active process- at that point I'm not trying to remember the words. Often I'll see the whole problem verse and need to "look" only once.


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Subject: RE: Leisurely Learning Lyrics
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 19 Sep 05 - 09:50 AM

Oddly some of the songs I've had the most trouble learning are Carter Family Songs. You wouldn't think that would be the case because so many of them are simple. But, there are a few of their songs where the lines are so oddly constructed that they seem like someone threw the words in a hat and pulled them out and pasted them together at random. I ended up writing a chorus to a song that has that confused, weird Carter Family stgructure to it... probably because of the trouble I've had with some of their songs..

   He was just an old fiddler come back to the homestead
   As old as the cabin that stood in the woods
   Almost forgotten from times hard-remembered
   Of nights by the fire with friends gone for good.

"Amost forgotten from times hard remember, of nights by the fire with friends gone for good?" Sheesh!!! What a sentence!!!

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Leisurely Learning Lyrics
From: Ebbie
Date: 19 Sep 05 - 10:57 AM

I sing a lot of Carter family, Jerry, but I know what you mean, for sure. In addition, a number of them have verses that could be plugged in just about anywhere so one doesn't have a sequential assist and many of the phrases from many of the songs are almost identical. On the other hand, I love 'em.

I think of Carter Family songs as being a default kind of thing, a baseline thing. To me A.P.'s value is in having gathered those hundreds of songs, which we can then assimilate and make our own.


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