If you say you have "learned" a song, what does that mean to you?

SailingUke

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I have never memorized a song. For me the key is listening to the song and hearing the chord progression.
After playing it many times over my fingers learn where to go without me thinking about it. I can plan many songs without music and can sit in on jams easily. My experience is too many folks believe they need the paper, I believe anyone can learn to play without the paper.
 

bigsciota

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I guess I'm in a minority here, but unless I can play it without looking at any kind of lead sheet/chords/music/lyrics/etc. I wouldn't say I've "learned" a song. And I think there's a massive gulf between, as the saying goes, "being able to play it right and not being able to play it wrong." Personally, the latter is where I feel like I've "learned" a song; when I can play it on autopilot and focus on actually performing it, rather than getting my fingers to where the notes/chords are.

I have never memorized a song. For me the key is listening to the song and hearing the chord progression.
After playing it many times over my fingers learn where to go without me thinking about it. I can plan many songs without music and can sit in on jams easily. My experience is too many folks believe they need the paper, I believe anyone can learn to play without the paper.

I'd say if you can play it without the music in front of you, you've memorized it! And I agree wholeheartedly on that last point; oftentimes you're not aware of what you're capable of until you try it.
 

Jim Yates

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I have never memorized a song. For me the key is listening to the song and hearing the chord progression.
After playing it many times over my fingers learn where to go without me thinking about it. I can plan many songs without music and can sit in on jams easily. My experience is too many folks believe they need the paper, I believe anyone can learn to play without the paper.

You begin by saying that you have never memorised a song, then you say that you have many songs that you can play without music (I assume you mean a written sheet.) If you can play many songs without a sheet or tablet, then you have memorised them. Doesn't having a song memorised mean being able to play it without reference?
 

SailingUke

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What I meant was I have never sat and intentionally memorized a song. I remember memorizing poems in school.
For me learning a song is not the same as trying to memorize it. I seem to learn them by osmosis.
 

plunker

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It think if you can play it through most of the time without mistakes. My song "learning' is such a hodgepodge its pathetic. I work on a song, hear something i like go on to that go back to song 1, go back to song 2 figure out the one i thought i wanted to play was over my head or something like that. I have about dozen I can play by memory, working on a few others like out of James Hill duet for one book. Those, some of them are do a ble challenges.
 

bigsciota

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Since this is in the beginners' forum I should also note that everything will seem like a slog at the start. Even getting one measly I-IV-V-I progression down with a simple set strumming pattern will take forever when you're just starting out. But eventually you'll learn that, and the next bit you try will be a little bit easier to learn. And the next one will be easier still, and so on and so forth until you can glance at a sheet of paper or even just hear the song and immediately know what to do. It's a tough process to start, but very rewarding once you're on your way!

One key is not to judge yourself against others, because you'll end up giving up. Even an intermediate player smoothly transitioning between chords and picking up simple songs on the fly can look like unattainable magic to a beginner. So just learn at your own pace and trust that you'll get there if you put the work in.
 

Peter Frary

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Musically confident, expressive and perfectly under my fingers
 

acmespaceship

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Since this is in the beginners' forum I should also note that everything will seem like a slog at the start. Even getting one measly I-IV-V-I progression down with a simple set strumming pattern will take forever when you're just starting out. But eventually you'll learn that, and the next bit you try will be a little bit easier to learn. And the next one will be easier still, and so on and so forth until you can glance at a sheet of paper or even just hear the song and immediately know what to do. It's a tough process to start, but very rewarding once you're on your way!

One key is not to judge yourself against others, because you'll end up giving up. Even an intermediate player smoothly transitioning between chords and picking up simple songs on the fly can look like unattainable magic to a beginner. So just learn at your own pace and trust that you'll get there if you put the work in.

+1

You can define "I have learned a song" in any way that is useful to you at this point in your musical journey. Maybe it means you can play/sing the song smoothly while looking at the tab. Maybe later it'll mean you've memorized it, or you're ready to perform. The important thing is to work toward the goals that you want to achieve.

I used to say I "learned" a song when I had it memorized. But now I play in groups that release a new set list every week. No way am I memorizing 20 new songs every week! Now I try to "learn" as many songs as possible well enough to play them off the chord/lyric sheet. Thus my definition of "learned" has devolved into having a pretty good idea of how the melody and timing go ;-) Like I said, whatever works for you in the moment.
 

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For me it means that I can play the song and sing it well enough that I can interact with the audience and do it with a minimum amount of reference to the crib sheet.
 

bunnyf

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I wouldn’t say I’ve “learned” a song unless I can reliably perform it w/o any assistance. I struggle with memorizing lyrics, so this is hard for me. I do have a bunch of songs that I truly do know and I try to keep expanding that list. Some songs are easier for me than others (songs with a story, songs that are repetitive, or songs that I have simply heard a million times).
 

rustydusty

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I somewhat learned to read music in high school, but not well enough to play a song I haven't heard by looking at the "dots". I play strictly by ear. With our band, the other members (using "Onsong" on an iPad) will have the music and chords, while I just have the list of songs we are playing with the keys they are in. Occasionally, with a new song, I will write a list of the chords as a reminder. Recently I found a laminated list of about 60 songs I used to choose from before the turn of the century (sounds cool saying "turn of the century") when "busking" on guitar and harmonica. Pretty much all learned and memorized, as I had only the key and no music. Now, that said, did I learn to play the song exactly as written? No, but I adapted it to fit the instruments I was playing. My goal was to have whoever was listening, would know what song I was playing.
 
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Late to the game, but,

Knowing a song means that I a, not a slave to the chord sheet.

I understand the chord progressions and can improvise when an if I want to.

I had a longer post, but it got deleted, despite “auto save”

Knowing a song is when you can play it and have fun with it rather than fretting over whether you are fretting properly.
 
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Jim Yates

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Rustydusty mentioned busking. It's been a number of years since I have done any intentional busking, but when I did, I found that the Autoharp would attract more attention and earn me more, even though I was a better guitar/banjo/mandolin player. Even though it's been 20 years since I've busked with the 'harp, it still has the song list taped to the back of it. This 'harp is semi-diatonic is set up for the keys of G and D. I only played instrumentals while I was busking, so the key is beside the title.
song list on harp.jpg AutoharpGD.jpg
 

robinboyd

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I would never claim to have "learned" a song. No matter how well I have learned it, I might stuff it up, and that would be embarrassing.
 

rustydusty

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Hey Jim, we have a lot of the same songs on our lists! One thing I learned about "busking" was that from the long list, only half a dozen songs were "money songs", and elicited a lot of tips. It didn't seem to matter that lots of the other songs were pretty or had a lot tricky changes. Eventually I just played those six, over and over as the listeners were constantly changing. On a good day, I could sometimes average $100 per hour...:music:
 

Uncle Rod Higuchi

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I admit I haven't read the entire thread, but my reply is this:

I feel I've learned a song when I feel comfortable enough to lead it in a group.
this means I feel I know the melody and have figured out the chording (for my
tastes), and can sing the lyrics from memory.

Mastering the song means being able to perform it at the drop of a hat, so to speak :)

RE: revisiting the song, it depends on my continuing interest in it and if it's on the
list for a gig.

I suppose it comes down to comfort 'leading' the song in a group. Comfort and confidence.

keep uke'in',