remembering a tune

Hi all.

My question is not about remembering the drum part or tempo of a song.
It is about remembering the main melody. More precisely, associating the title of the song with the melody.

If a tune has lyrics, or if I hear the first couple of notes or chords, there is no problem at all in remembering the complete melody.

But if the title of the song is the only information (e.g. during a jam session somebody calls "let's play Oleo" and counts in), I sometimes have difficulties in remembering the melody. Once somebody starts to play the melody, then it comes of course. But imagine I have to start (or count in) the tune...

Does anyone have similar problems? (What) do you do (anything) about it?
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Haven't had that happen, at least not lately. Once you've played or heard a song over a period of time, it becomes ingrained in your DNA. That's why we often clearly remember a song from our childhood by its title, but may have trouble putting a title with a song we learned just last week. It's all about how long the song has been in your head. I remember songs - parts, tempos, melodies, lyrics - from 10 or 20 or 50 years ago much more readily than something that's fresh to me.

Bermuda
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Put all of the songs you need to learn on your iPod or phone and listen to them in a continuous loop all day long.


.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Start memorizing them as they come up-- in a few months you'll know everything your local people are playing. It's probably not that many tunes.

It's not a big deal-- if you've played a tune before, you'll know what it is in the first measure. If they want you to count it off or play an intro, just ask them how fast they want it. The only trouble you could get into is if there are pick ups, and a normal count off would be confusing-- like on Pent Up House.

I'm bad with titles, and I've never worried about it-- I have to play without hearing the title all the time. I can't remember getting in any kind of jam I couldn't fix in the first measure of the tune.
 

WallyY

Platinum Member
It happens to me all the time.

Our songwriter throws out a new song almost weekly, and it gets hard to know what the song's melody is when we've only played it a couple of times.

If we record the song, or play it enough times, it becomes memorized, but none of her songs are titled with the chorus and I often have to ask for a little reminder.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
cemguvener, I'm a little confused by your question.

If your band calls out a song and you know, as you say, the tempo and the drum part, why do you need to know the melody?

If I need to remember the whole song, the tempo and the groove, I have notes I can look at. Sometimes I write down a few words from the lyrics of the song. Or I write down a song title of a different song with the same tempo and groove. These things help me recall what i am about to play.

But still, why do you need to remember the melody before the song starts?


.
 

gdmoore28

Gold Member
Hi all.

My question is not about remembering the drum part or tempo of a song.
It is about remembering the main melody. More precisely, associating the title of the song with the melody.

Does anyone have similar problems? (What) do you do (anything) about it?
Even after over fifty years of playing in bands, I still get blanks sometimes on songs I've played a hundred times. Just happens.

What to do about it? I ask one of my bandmates to play me a quiet line to jog the memory. Comes back to me in an instant, and off we go.

Don't worry about it. Some of us simply have weird memories.

GeeDeeEmm
 

Roadydad

Senior Member
I'll listen to a new song a couple of times, then sit at the kit and play along with rods, stop and repeat trouble areas, and repeat and repeat some more.
When it comes to learning, we're all so different.

To pick up on what Bermuda mentioned, I heard a snippet of cellist Yo Yo Ma in an interview. He mentions to his students that whatever pieces they've learned before the age of 21, they will be able to play without sheet music, as its stamped their brains.
After 21, they'll likely need the sheet music.
The rock, blues, jazz, whatever music we all listened to in our teens, is in there for good.
 

moxman

Silver Member
I can see why the OP wants to call up the melody line; for one... it makes it easy to dial up the right tempo when you think of how the lyric sounds in your head.
Guitar players dial up the right tempos effortlessly.. I think it's part muscle memory (the strumming) and part memory of the song in their head (lyrics and rythmn)
Ideally you should be able to call up the right tempo within a few seconds.. I usually can by quickly thinking of a key vocal line in the song... but sometimes if you just finish a tune and have an adrenaline rush it can be hard to clear your mind and think of the next one..
If memory fails - a great backup is an iTouch or phone app (like Frozen Ape) with a setlist of meters.. By using it consistently in practice it also helps burn the correct meter into your memory bank. The other thing is.. it's not just the numbers.. you have to count in and nail the pulse or groove right off the top.. which is why it's good to be able to quickly dial up the tune in your head.
 
Last edited:

Living Dead Drummer

Platinum Member
I'm really bad with names, and it often takes me a long time to learn the title of the song. Thus a setlist of nothing but song names doesn't help me. BUT there is a personal reason for this. I chart every new song I need to learn, and also play to a click. So in rehearsals, and at the first couple gigs, I'm just looking at the tempo to adjust my click, and then reading a chart. The name of the song doesn't matter. Typically after the first 2-3 gigs I don't need the charts anymore. Then I'm just looking at the tempos writing out on my setlist next to the song name. Eventually I learn the songs name, but all that really matters is the tempo.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
But if the title of the song is the only information (e.g. during a jam session somebody calls "let's play Oleo" and counts in), I sometimes have difficulties in remembering the melody.
This happened to me frequently. I began to memorize the part of the tune that hooked me (e.g., the intro, chorus, a memorable lyric, etc.). I did this with careful, repetitive listening, trying to understand what the writer's of the tune were going for. Now, when I look at the set list, I simply hum the part and I'm good to go.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
I'm good at memorizing, so never really had a problem with this. However, we had a guitar player that would occasionally announce the name of one song and play a different one. That was always fun, especially if the song came up later in the set. Do we play it again? Did anyone even notice? Will anyone remember we still need to play the skipped song?
 
...
But still, why do you need to remember the melody before the song starts?
.
It is of course not inevitably necessary. If you just roughly remember the tempo, time signature and the very basic feel of the groove, you will probably be fine. But I honestly believe that being able to "hear" the song (certainly the melody and even the harmony to some extent) clearly in your head is essential for playing musically. You may say "you will remember it anyway after the first couple of bars", but I would feel much more comfortable if I could remember it instantly when somebody calls the title of the song.


...
I can see why the OP wants to call up the melody line; for one... it makes it easy to dial up the right tempo when you think of how the lyric sounds in your head.
Partly true, it does help to dial up the right tempo. But the reason is not only that. It does help to play more musically if you can hear the song mentally even before starting to play.

...I ask one of my bandmates to play me a quiet line to jog the memory. Comes back to me in an instant, and off we go...
That's also what I do. But when playing a jam session with people you barely know, you feel less comfortable when you have to ask the bass player for more than one song "can you please silently remind me of the melody?" :)



...However, we had a guitar player that would occasionally announce the name of one song and play a different one..
Hahaha, I like this :)
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
All this is simply memory retention, a skill easily learned. There's already methods in place I know you know this stuff. Use it! The title itself might use a line in the song that can help jog the memory. You have to make a conscious effort to match a title (words) to the music (sounds). A connection needs to be formed for every song. They say the more outrageous the mental connection, the easier it is to recall.

I write this stuff down when I'm learning. What really helps me if I'm learning a song I never heard before....I write myself a little reminder note on my song chart...that this song title reminds me of (insert similar song here). Big help in jogging the memory. I am assuming there are songs that you can remember the title and music.

If you haven't done so, writing out cheat sheets for every one of your songs should correct any recall issues. Just the fact that I write it out...I usually never have to refer back to the chart. The writing it all out part puts it in my long term memory.

A conscious effort is needed to drill the titles in your head, and to also match them to the music in a way that works for you.

And lay off the weed :)
 
To the OP: Maybe you can find some approaches in these articles, even though they were not written specifically for drummers.

https://www.jazzadvice.com/the-jazz-musicians-most-important-tool-how-to-strengthen-your-musical-memory/
https://www.jazzadvice.com/never-forget-a-tune-again/


Do you have a Real Book at the sessions? If you're completely at a loss (and have time to browse the book), imagining the beginning melody or a special part based on the lead sheet could work at times.
If there is a version with lyrics, they may also help as a mnemonic to the melody. Or make up your own lyrics if they help to recall a tune faster.

If you like sample-based music, you might look at https://www.whosampled.com/ - maybe there's a track where a catchy part of the melody has been sampled.
 

mrfingers

Senior Member
As posted by moxman,”Guitar players dial up the right tempos effortlessly.. I think it's part muscle memory (the strumming) and part memory of the song in their head (lyrics and rythmn).”
Not always the case, especially if the intro is complicated. The bass is always yelling to it speed up. Usually happens with covers, not originals. Since i’m In 2 very different bands, it’s a bit annoying.
But back to the subject, I usually re-write the title with the first 2 lines of the vocals, if the titles to some songs are similar: “Runnin’ down a dream” or “Running out of days.”
 
Last edited:

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
On my song charts, I need to put down who starts the song. If I don't start it, I can name that song in 2 notes. So I don't need to memorize stuff that I don't start.

I REALLY like the suggestion that mrfingers said. (on your cheat sheet, write down the first vocal lines).

Anything to help you recall is fair game.
 

iCe

Senior Member
When i learn a new song (cover or own song) and struggle to remember what to play when/where, i make 'cheat sheets'. Just a piece of paper with notes. I don't work with notations, but i write it down i my own words.

Something like '4 x 4 hihat/tom groove' or
4 x 4 regular
4 x 4 double time hihat
triplet fill
verse

Sometimes i write down the name of the band/song it reminds me of. I know when i part comes up that i feel unsure about and look down and i remember what i need to play.
For example, i play a Rush medley with a guitar player and we start off with the intro of 'Xanadu' and there is a lot going on there, so i wrote down the description of each of the fills while listening to the song. Now i know them and how to play (still far from perfect), but the first 10 times or so i had the cheat sheet laying on the ground :)
 
Top