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going "Off Book"


pogo97

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I have a few hundred songs store in wetware I learned in my 20s and 30s but they're no longer necessarily songs I prefer to perform.

 

I also have some hundreds of songs that I can easily play with the lyrics in front of me and some hundreds more (more complex old pop songs, mostly) that I need both lyrics and chords for even though I've played them many many times. I never had much of a memory and at 57 it's not improving.

 

To my knowledge, there is no disadvantage to being able to perform songs WITHOUT memory aids and many disadvantages to NEEDING the damned books/sheets--like being unable to simply sit down at a piano and play something.

 

Anyone with memory problems who has successfully used some technique to memorise songs?

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I still need a book. Forunately i still have real good eyesight so I use A real small book attached directly to the mic stand. I think I stopped memorizing as easily because you can get the song off the internet so quick, where you used to have to either buy the song or record it off your boom box~~ then actually WRITE OUT the lyrics!!

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I do not have a long song list but I have every one memorized, chords and all. I have about 70 songs and it works fine and I occasionally add another one if I like it. I play songs I like the way I like to play them. Usually the requests I get is to play a song on my list that they want to hear again. This is just me but I always thought a song book in front of the performer looked unprofessional but as I say that's just me.

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even Bruce Springsteen uses a teleprompter. i sure its fine to look at words as long as you dont use them 100% of the time. my ipad is setting on my keyboard just incase. during an average gig, i use it 3-4 songs. and i just glance down at it for a moment between verses to get the first line of the next verse.

 

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Charts. Always charts, and only charts. I'd rather spend the extra time learning a new song, or whatever. I tend to choose songs that aren't three chords; I pick more songs where someone in the room will think, "Wow, didn't expect to hear that song with solo guitar."

 

Perhaps if I gigged four times a week instead of four times a month, that'd be different. Maybe that'll happen after the day job is gone. Oar knot.

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Charts. Always charts, and only charts. I'd rather spend the extra time learning a new song, or whatever. I tend to choose songs that aren't three chords; I pick more songs where someone in the room will think, "Wow, didn't expect to hear that song with solo guitar."

 

 

Can you give an example? I cant think of any song for a solo act where you need to be reading charts.

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I use a book, and I hate myself for it.

 

I've gone for a while without the book before, and I had two issues. One, I never play the exact same setlist, so without the book I had no way to have a songlist right in front of me the whole night for song selection. Second, I found I would stick to the same 40-50 songs that I knew the best and would not really mingle in more of my setlist.

 

Lately I've had my book/music stand come crashing down at a couple of gigs. At one gig, the clutch on the music stand gave way and the book fell on the floor. At another gig, some drunk walked by too close and knocked the entire stand over (he didn't even notice - just kept walking). That's a bit embarrassing, and makes it very hard to ignore that I use a book.

 

I need to practice more and learn the songs all the way through. I guess my memory is not that great, because I can learn a song and play it just fine at gigs without the book. However, if I go a few months without playing it, I might not remember it.

 

Still, I don't know what to do about the setlist thing. I've tried to tape it to the floor, but then I am just staring at the floor trying to figure out what the next song will be??

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We have over 500 songs. I simply cannot memorize them all.

 

I have either words/chords or a chart on my second computer. New songs are read, as they get memorized I refer to the cheat sheet less often, finally memorized but if we haven't done them for a few months, a quick refresher is good (especially with backing tracks - just how many times before the solo?) or if I get distracted I need to be able to get back on focus (why do people come up and ask you questions while you are either singing or playing the saxophone?).

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Can you give an example? I cant think of any song for a solo act where you need to be reading charts.

 

 

Here's some of the more involved tunes

 

Steely Dan: Black Cow, Deacon Blues, Don't Take Me Alive, Haitian Divorce, Kid Charlemagne, My Old School, Everything You Did

Supertramp: Logical Song, Long Way Home (chords on that one repeat, but lots of lyrics)

Sqeeze: Tempted

The Police: Synchronicity II

Billy Joel: Zanzibar, She's Got A Way

Counting Crows: Round Here, Mr. Jones (Chords on these are easy, but lyrics are long)

Stevie WOnder: Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing

Who: Behind Blue Eyes (It's kinda two songs wrapped into one)

Joni Mitchel: Be Cool

Dave Matthews: Ants Marching

 

And then there's tunes with bridges. Goddamn bridges. I always forget the bridge:

Maroon 5: Must Get Out, This Love,

Steely Dan: King of the World

Joe Jackson: Is She Really Going Out With Him

 

Godalmighty I hate remembering bridges. You know, I guess I could remember all this stuff 'cause I can do anything. I just don't want it that bad.

 

Peace

Paul K

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iPad running forScore.

 

 

As for remembering songs/words. I just keep practicing, I can learn maybe 3 or 4 a month depending on the song although I'm only at around 40 or so right now.

I have to keep practicing them though or I forget them, dam brain cells keep dying!

Getting old(ish) (58) sucks!

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even Bruce Springsteen uses a teleprompter. i sure its fine to look at words as long as you dont use them 100% of the time. my ipad is setting on my keyboard just incase.

 

 

I think reading lyrics, or anything else, is fine. I think LOOKING like you're doing so is a general no-no. Especially for a rock situation like Bruce's. His teleprompter is inconspicuous from in front of the stage. If he had a music stand in front of him and he was flipping pages in a book on it, or if he was constantly looking down at the ground to read his telepromter, that would probably be a major detraction from the show he's putting on and his ability to connect with the audience.

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Can you give an example? I cant think of any song for a solo act where you need to be reading charts.

 

Just jumping in here.... I only play Rikki Don't Lose That Number a couple of times a year, if that. I'd sure like a peek at the bridge before I started :) And even though it's easy, if I'm singing and playing I sometimes fumble through the bridge of Have Yourself a Merry Little Xmas for the same reason. I only play it once or twice a year.

 

But generally yes, solo stuff tends to be farily straight forward.

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My solo/duo stuff tends to look like this :

 

chart_sample.gif

 

Rote memorization of many songs like this is beyond my powers. What I need is to better understand what's going on--which chords are essential and which chords are passing. I need to tease out the structure of the song and to understand where the essential progression stands in relation to the norms of composition at the time. And once I'm there I need to retain that understanding with confidence while performing.

 

There's a very interesting site where the author has posted "the vanilla chords" to many old pop songs. This strikes me as a good place to start, but there are still many hurdles. And then there's the lyrics.

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Mine look strikingly similar to Pogo97's chart, right down to the red ink on the changes. I do, however, write in a couple bar lines here and there. And I mark the A and B sections with a big sharpie or highlighter so that I can look away from the chart and still be able to find where I need to be in a hurry.

 

To The Bruce analogy: If'n I was Bruce, I'd not really need charts either; those songs are his babies, don'cha'know. I'd have them for reference and to be able to drive the band during rehearsal, but the teleprompter thing would be just a bonus.

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I'm 66. Had PTSD & long term depression since Nam. Both conditions effect memory. I don't have much. I use a book that contains a couple of hundred songs. I've never had anybody tell me that their listening experience was diminished by my use of prompts.

Um..what were we talking about?

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...what were we talking about?

 

 

Odd you should mention that. The original post asked for strategies to aid memorization. No one, so far, has addressed that. Just ways to get around failure to memorize.

 

I have nothing against using notes onstage--I do it myself. But I'm looking for a way to deal with the underlying problem, which is difficulty remembering song lyrics and (sometimes) chords.

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I never use a book. I have always been good at memorizing tunes and I practice when I don't know something until I get it down, which usually doesn't take too long. The only time I use a book onstage is if I am subbing with no rehearsal and literally reading the show. To me, repetition is what is needed. Play/sing the tune until you have it. I am surrounded by 'book people' but it just doesn't work for me. If I don't know the tunes, I don't feel I give a good performance and I don't like asking people to come watch me rehearse, which is how using a stand feels. I really don't know any other way to do it than practice my stuff until I know it. YMMV.

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