How can I finally learn how to play by heart

DonnaLele

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since I have to take a break with my challenge at the moment (I have to lie still and cannot sit or stand), I am preparing the next songs. Today I asked myself again how I can finally play one or the other piece by heart. If I have no lyrics with chords, I cannot play the songs that are simple and that I have played countless times ...
Does anyone have an idea for me?
 

kypfer

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First learn the words so's you can sing the song without a crib sheet. Once you can sing the song through no problem, all you have to do is concentrate on the chords.
Assuming you know which key you're playing in, you should have a good idea of which three or four chords you're going to need ;)
Practice.
Practice.
Practice.
Practice.

YMMV - :music:
 

SailingUke

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I like to learn the chord progression. And listen to the chord changes. Hum the melody and strum, change when you hear the change.
Pick an easy two or three chord song.
I find that when I can play the chords without thinking the words come easy.
I believe the words are buried in us and when we put the playing on auto-pilot, the words flow.
Try something like "you are my sunshine". Trust me it gets easier with each song you learn.
It was not long ago that I could not play without then paper. I can now play many, many songs, some easy some complicated without paper.
I am also a better jammer as I can hear the chords.
 

John Colter

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Memorising lyrics is just a matter of repetition. When committing a chord sequence to memory, I don't think about the names of the chords, except perhaps for the starting position. I am learning a series of movements with the fretting hand. It is more like learning a dance - a dance for the fingers. At first, my mind is directing my fingers where to go next and it can be a slow, laborious process. With practice, my mind becomes much less involved, until I reach the stage where the fingers seem to know where to go next.

I've discussed this with others who say they have to learn by remembering the names of the chords. I can't imagine how you would do that. Whatever works best for you.

John Colter
 

acmespaceship

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Look through your song collection and pick one that you love to play. Not too long, not too many chords, not too many verses. If there's a song you mostly remember the lyrics for when you sing along with the radio, that's a good start. Choose a song with a repetitive chord pattern, where you play the same chords in the same sequence over and over again. Folk music is good for this.

Since the first few songs are the hardest ones to memorize, it makes sense to start with the easiest songs you can find. "Stand By Me" is a great song. The chords are C - Am - F - G7. Repeat until the song is over. The lyrics for the chorus go: "Stand by me, oh stand by me, oh stand, stand by me, stand by me."

"The Lion Sleeps Tonight" chords are C - F - C - G7. Repeat. When you blank on the lyrics, sing "wimoweh" :)

My first step for memorizing a song is to study how it's organized. How many verses? Is there a chorus? Does the chorus have the same melody and chords as the verse (Goodnight, Irene) or is the chorus different (Me and Bobby McGee)? Is there a bridge? Where are the repeating chord patterns, and where do the chords do something else? Songs are not a disorganized flood of chords and lyrics -- though it can sure seem like it -- there's an underlying structure and once you understand it, it becomes more manageable.

If there's a chorus, I start there. Play it from the tab. Then close your eyes and play it again. You'll have to open your eyes and peek sometimes. That's ok. Play it again. If there's one particular line that's giving you trouble, play that one line over and over. Take a break before you go nuts and do it again tomorrow. Do it every day. Remember, successful practice does not mean play until you get it right once; it means play until you can't get it wrong. Eventually you'll get bored with the chorus and you can start learning the verses.

An actor's trick for learning lines: start at the end. Learn the lyrics for the last verse, first. This will pay off later when you sing the entire song feeling more confident with every verse. Another trick is to mentally connect the last word in one verse with the first word of the next. I have the darndest time getting the verses of "Buckets of Rain" in the right order. I had to build a word association between "if you want me, honey baby I'll be here" and "I like your smile and your fingertips..." by muttering "here-like, here-like, here-like..." endlessly until I was pretty much incapable of singing "here" without the word "like" popping into my head where it needs to be.

The next verse I think of "misery" and the irony of following that up with a happy "little red wagon." Do whatever it takes. And if a song really isn't working out, try a different one.

Good luck and please post back here to let us know how you're doing.
 

DonnaLele

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Hello, dear all,

I am so impressed and grateful about your wonderful support, thank you so much.
When I red some of them I thought, why I didn’t realised that before. :p

Since I was a 5 years old I sang in an professional children’s choir, from 6 to 14 years I was a member in the children’s ensemble of the Opera Frankfurt. Because at first I couldn’t read yet and later we never used music sheets I automatically I sang everything by heart. Later, as vocalist in a few cover bands I also most songs I sang by heart, I think there where nearly 200 songs. As soon as the music starts, the lyrics came out automatically. But without music - no chance...

Six years ago, at the age of 52, I decided to teach me for the first time an instrument, because I wanted to accompany my singing. It took me nearly 4 years to learn chords before I could manage singing and playing together. With my 365 days challenge I wanted to push me up to next level, so that I have to work and practice regularly, also to stand to control me with a video and stand to show my playing in public. I am really proud, that it worked so well up to my stupid accident.

But now I have some time to try out you very good tips, especially these with the „logic of accord progression“ and the logic in the songs. I have to solve my problem that my brain „waits“ to hear the chords, before I remember the words. My hole life it was the other way around, now I have to remember the chords first :D

Once again thank you all, as soon as I can go back to my challenge I will sing especially to you the wonderful song „That’s what friends are for“

Hugs and kisses from Germany
 
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YorkSteve

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I was interested to see the tip from acmespaceship about learning the last verse first - that's a great idea.

The other thing I have found is that it is easier for me to learn a song if I can "see" the song in my head - if it tells a story, or has very visual things going on. "Down in a tube station at midnight" is an example - as I sing that, I can visualise every scene, which seems to help me remember what's coming next.

For the chords, it is a case of repeat, repeat, repeat...
 

Uncle Rod Higuchi

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I believe there are 4 steps to 'playing by heart' and that these steps apply
to gaining mastery over any kind of activity.

1. Unconscious Incompetence - Don't know how to do/accomplish something
(No Clue at all, but perhaps the beginning of a desire to learn how) We don't
know What to do.

2. Conscious Incompetence - beginning to learn and knowing that we don't know
how to do it. But we're in the process of starting with what we have.

3. Conscious Competence - after much conscious practice, we begin to know what
to do and how to get it done. Spaced Repetition is the key here. Intermittent Practice
versus even long practice sessions. Just keep working at it. This is the 'Practice,
Practice, Practice' part of the process.

4. Unconscious Competence - or 'playing by heart' :) It takes some of us longer than
others. It is what it is. Some will 'catch on' more quickly than you will but don't
give up. Just keep at it, especially if you're in step 3. The next step... in time, will be
Step 4 - playing by heart.

By virtue of your stated concern and intended goal, you are already on the way to where
you want to be. Just keep at it. You have a good, clear idea of what you want to be
able to do and you probably have a path marked out to get you there. It will involve a
lot of repetition - that's true for all of us. Everything you do 'unconsciously' that you had
to learn is an illustration of the above 4 steps.

You started out with just an idea, put things together, and if accomplishing it motivated
you, you kept at it until you could do it. After learning how, it you continued, it got easier
and more natural (by heart).

I hope this is encouraging to you. Once you start you're on the way. It takes time and
repetition. It does for all of us :)

keep uke'in',
 

bunnyf

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Check out tips in other thread “getting off the BOOK”. Some more good info
 

Ms Bean

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Has anybody mentioned practice and repetition?

I find I'm getting somewhat better at finding out chords in some popular songs. Still not great, but better than my uke buddies who didn't play an instrument as a child.

For me my previous experience as a flute player helped with:
playing melody lines, getting into chord melody, finger dexterity (both fretting and strumming hand), transposing ...

My chordal knowledge was not great (basically limited to major, minor and seventh chords). Becoming more aware of the chord notes has made it easier to find the right chord for strumming simple songs I know the melody to.
So, I would suggest to learn the notes that make up the major, minor and 7th chords. Then you can fit the melody (note) in your chords more easily.
 

clear

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since I have to take a break with my challenge at the moment (I have to lie still and cannot sit or stand), I am preparing the next songs. Today I asked myself again how I can finally play one or the other piece by heart. If I have no lyrics with chords, I cannot play the songs that are simple and that I have played countless times ...
Does anyone have an idea for me?

Sorry to hear. I've been following your 365 songs in 365 days for a while; very interesting and you sing great.

If it is just needing the music, then maybe projecting the music onto the ceiling?
Or maybe a bedside tray with an articulated tablet holder?
https://www.amazon.com/Roscoe-Medical-Non-Tilt-Overbed-Table/dp/B00DE613WQ

As for memorizing the songs, just take it 1 phrase at a time. You'll remember it quicker than you think.
Wish you a fast recovery.
 

Jerryc41

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First learn the words so's you can sing the song without a crib sheet. Once you can sing the song through no problem, all you have to do is concentrate on the chords.
Assuming you know which key you're playing in, you should have a good idea of which three or four chords you're going to need ;)
Practice.
Practice.
Practice.
Practice.

YMMV - :music:

Right! Repetition is what has done it for me.
 

redpaul1

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I went to a very interesting workshop on this very topic hosted by Opera-lele duo George Bartlett & Mandi Harkett.

Their tip - and own practice & one which I follow myself - is to learn the chord progression and the lyrics separately.

Begin with the chord progression. It's very easy with a uke, as you can just have it tucked under your arm, and be practicing as you're attending to other duties.

So for example, "Stand By Me" (mentioned by acmespaceship above), is 8 bars: C*2, Am*2, F*1, G7*1, C*2 (i.e., I*2 VI*2 IV*1 V7*1 I*2) round & round. So you'd just keep practicing that while you're attending to other matters, until you were able play it with Uncle Rod's 'Conscious Incompetence'.

Then learn the lyrics, but learn them separately. Once you've learnt them, your 'Conscious Incompetence' at playing the chords will mean that their delivery will be all you'll need to concentrate on when performing.

Lots of good tips here for memorising lyrics, but one thing not mentioned is the 'visualisation and association' memory trick.

A while ago, I had to perform 'Strawberry Fields Forever', live and solo. Memorising the lyrics to the chorus was easy enough, but the verses...!

"Let me take you down, 'cos I'm going to..."

Strawberry_Field_gates-754243.jpg


Code:
Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see
It's getting hard to be someone
But it all works out
It doesn't matter much to me.

By all accounts, this was a very personal song for John. So using 'visualisation and association', I'm thinking of someone that 1960's John might have run up against.

42-26195124_1024x1024.jpeg


Code:
No one I think is in my tree
I mean it must be high or low
That is you can't, you know, tune in
But it's all right
That is, I think, it's not too bad.

focused_180812706-stock-photo-little-boy-sitting-tree-forest.jpg

In my mind's eye, this is a young JL sitting in a tree in Strawberry Fields, with a transistor radio glued to his ear.

Code:
Always know, sometimes think it's me
But you know I know when it's a dream
I think a 'No', will mean a 'Yes',
But it's all wrong
That is I think I disagree.

I read somewhere that this verse was inspired by John's experience of board meetings with 'suits', so...
690822_tittenhurst_park_60.jpg


Obviously, these aren't the exact images I conjured up in my own mind's eye, but you get the idea. And it worked!
 

Jerryc41

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I've found that after five years, I can often "fake it" and play along with a group if I don't have the music, especially if it's a simple C, G, Am, F type of song.

I think it's more important to play with heart than by heart.
 

anthonyg

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I have a repertoire of over 90 songs in my head. Do I have a secret technique for you to make this easy?

No I don't. It just takes work. And time.

It might take me a couple of days at least to learn a simple song and commit it to memory. Learning a new song in a single day would be freakishly fast.
I've spent literally months learning some complicated songs and months more to be proficient with them (John Mayer's, Stop this Train, literally took me 3 months to memorise and over a year to truly master)

You just have to put in the effort and keep going until you get there.

EDIT: OK, I should clarify something. I don't put in a solid 8 hour day working on a song. I might put in an hour long session on a particular song. Have lunch and work on it again for another hour. Maybe break it down into sections and noodle over the intro for a while. Sleep on it and try again the next day. Our brains have a remarkable ability to work on things overnight and then remember things a little better the next day but you still need to keep working things until they become unconscious muscle memory.
 
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