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Thread: Playing and Singing 'Off The Book'?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
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    East Midlands UK
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    Default Playing and Singing 'Off The Book'?

    This came up at one of our groups last meetings before Lockdown. I often start to play/sing a song from our group 'songbook' without reference to the songsheet. I know the song, I like the song and we have played it as a group, many, many times.
    One of our group was astounded and asked 'How did you know that?' I pointed out all of the reasons I have given above. He was amazed that I 'knew' the song. I explained that as a younger man, like most folk, if I liked a song, I sang along to the record, and the song was lodged into my memory, lyrically; later, as I learned the chords, the whole thing was there in memory for me to access.
    He asked how many of our 200 plus songs I could do this with; I replied in all honesty, that I had never counted, but certainly the majority of our songs, if not actually all of them.
    The idea of playing/singing 'Off the book' really seemed to freak him out, as though I were doing something magical. I asked if he assumed that live performers always used a songsheet (aside from Classical players who of course, generally do!) He pondered this and decided that he could maybe play half a dozen songs 'from memory'.
    I said that it was something most players could do, simply love a song and learn it for future use; he was still sceptical and I think he believes I have a pact with the Devil or something!
    So offhand, am I right, that most of you can play a good number of your favourites 'off the book'? It's something I just take for granted!
    All power and respect to you Concert,Tenor and Baritone players, but Soprano is what does it for me every time! (And my beautiful Sopranino!)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
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    Pickering, ON, Canada
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    I have a number of songs memorized which I can play at a whim. The trick is to continually play them, if I don’t play something for six months to one year there is a good chance I might forget some part. Reputation is the key, as school children that is how we learned everything from the alphabet to spelling to counting to adding, subtracting, multiplying etc. You have to put in the work though, of course if you love the song it doesn’t feel like work does it?
    Currently enjoying these ukuleles : *LdfM tenor, *LfdM 19" super tenor. *LfdM baritone, *I'iwi tenor , *Koolau tenor, *Webber tenor, *Kimo tenor, *Kimo super concert, *Mya Moe baritone, *Kamaka baritone, *Gianinni baritone, *Fred Shields walnut pineapple super soprano, *Kala super soprano, *Loprinzi super soprano, *Black bear ULO concert , *Enya X1 concert, *Enya X1 pineapple soprano, *Enya Nova *Gretsch tenor, *Korala plastic concert

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
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    East Midlands UK
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    Absolutely correct! I was a guitarist in a 'former life', and when I fell for the ukulele, many of my favourites transferred across with me; the chords I already knew, and the lyrics of course. Just an adjustment to the chord shapes on uke as opposed to the chord shapes on guitar. And yes, I agree that the songs I play most often, come easier to mind! I just take it as read, that any player who plays for the love of the instrument or his music, will automatically pick up some stuff along the way. I think that the chap who was 'amazed' at my ability to learn a song, was strictly a 'by the book' type. Give him a song sheet and he will play it; remove the sheet and he flounders. I think this is because some folk rely too much on having everything laid out in front of them.
    All power and respect to you Concert,Tenor and Baritone players, but Soprano is what does it for me every time! (And my beautiful Sopranino!)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    New England, USA
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    Yes, some people are amazed by this, but after playing/singing some of the same songs for years, it just gets burned into memory. Just don't ask me to transpose on the fly, or learn a new song instantly, that's a whole different story.
    John

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    MN metro area
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    I'm song sheet dependant. I don't think I could play any song by memory but in all the years I've played uke, I've never tried to memorize a song which might seem kind of weird. I also like variety so there aren't a lot of songs that I play over and over. I guess when I play I'm in the moment and when I'm done, I move on to the next song. I suppose I'd be able to play songs by memory if I put in the effort but as of yet, I haven't felt the need. It's not something that would happen with me naturally, I would have to put the effort into it.
    Last edited by mikelz777; 07-10-2020 at 04:33 AM.
    Money can't buy happiness but it can buy a uke which is basically the same thing.

    Ukes are a lot like potato chips. It's hard to stop with just one!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
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    I play guitar a bit and the best advice I got was develop a repertoire. If you are having a sing along with a guitar around the campfire you best know at least 20 songs off by heart.

    As a ukulele player how many times have you been asked “hey play Over the Rainbow for me”
    Currently enjoying these ukuleles : *LdfM tenor, *LfdM 19" super tenor. *LfdM baritone, *I'iwi tenor , *Koolau tenor, *Webber tenor, *Kimo tenor, *Kimo super concert, *Mya Moe baritone, *Kamaka baritone, *Gianinni baritone, *Fred Shields walnut pineapple super soprano, *Kala super soprano, *Loprinzi super soprano, *Black bear ULO concert , *Enya X1 concert, *Enya X1 pineapple soprano, *Enya Nova *Gretsch tenor, *Korala plastic concert

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Ames, Iowa
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    I memorized my first song on the ukulele as I learned to play it. I thought that's what you do. It didn't dawn on me that one would go around with a pull cart full of music everywhere they went. People tell me that they can't memorize songs all the time. The first songs that I memorized were really tough. I'm an old guy and I wasn't used to memorizing. But after a while it got easier. Another thing, I think that memorizing songs helps one pick up on something they hear and play it. I hear more since I started memorizing songs. You get in tune and recognize similarities. It makes those songs easier to memorize because you realize you already memorized parts of it.

    I don't know if I have some sort of mental formula or routine that I've developed or what. Nothing that I'm aware of. But I pick them up pretty quickly now. Both singing and memorizing. I don't know why people expect to practice an hour a day for who knows how long to learn to play the ukulele, but think that if they can't sing a song or memorize one right off the bat they can't do it and don't even make an effort. It takes practice. The more you do it the better you get at it. Old folks can memorize songs if they try.
    Last edited by Rllink; 07-10-2020 at 11:36 AM.
    I don't want to live in a world that is linear.

    I just want everyone to understand that I am not a ukulele expert, even though it may look at times like I'm pretending to be.

    https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_n...tective+Agency

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
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    People tell themselves they can't memorise chords and lyrics, so they don't try. I was like that until an embarrassing happening made me decide to commit one song to memory. Once I'd done that (it was "Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea") I thought, "Why not memorise a couple more?" So I did. Before I knew it I had about a dozen in my memory bank.

    Once memorised, they have to be played fairly regularly, or they start to fade. For me, that was the limiting factor. At one time I had as many as thirty songs I could play from memory, but keeping them all fresh took too much effort. I was about sixty-five when I started playing from memory. Now I'm eighty-two. I don't perform much nowadays, so I've only got about a dozen songs of which I could be confident.

    A few are only three or four chord songs, but most are much more challenging. You can do it, you just have to apply yourself. It's not difficult.

    John Colter
    Last edited by ukantor; 07-10-2020 at 12:55 PM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Chicago
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    I used to be amazed at people who don't even try to memorize songs. If I always needed tab, I would give up ukulele. Where's the fun in it? How can you sing a song from the heart if you don't know it by heart? But. If folks are happy then who am I to complain? Chacon au son gout. To each his own.

    I do stick to my guns in one respect. Whenever someone asks me how to become a better player/singer I always tell them step one is to memorize the damn song. It never fails to make a big improvement. You have to practice more, which obviously helps. But mainly it frees you to pay attention to other things besides the tab: what you sound like, and what the words mean, and if anybody's listening how are they reacting?

    Memorizing songs is a skill you develop over time. It don't come easy and it takes practice. Just like learning how to play ukulele. Too many people say "I can't memorize songs" when they've never made a serious effort. You tried? How many hours a day? How many weeks? It might take a month to memorize a song. The first one is the hardest. Pro tip: start with a song that has 3 chords instead of 17. How many people say "I can't play ukulele" because they gave up?

    But, again, if you're happy playing from tab and you don't want to put in the time and effort to memorize, more power to you. Last I checked, this was still a hobby for most of us, and the Ukulele Police have limited jurisdiction.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Location
    Ellisville, MO
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    142

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    I have a few that are memorized. Mostly ear worms or just popular songs that most anyone would like.

    Lately some have been falling off but those are mostly from my Ukulele Jazz book. And that one does a great job of keeping all the songs on two pages so you can just open and play. Something that other books don't do and I really have come to appreciate it.

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