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Nov 19, 2019 - 7:26:35 PM
20 posts since 2/7/2017

I'm learning a new song from Eddie Collins, called Banjos and Gourds. Using the tabs no problem, but not using the tabs and playing from memory is another ball game. I'm sure everyone has gone through this, when playing,what is a good way to practice?

Nov 19, 2019 - 8:04 PM
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chuckv97

Canada

44784 posts since 10/5/2013

My way is probably not the best,, but I just play through the tune over and over until I’ve got it memorized. A better method is to play one measure at a time over and over til it’s memorized, then the next measure, same thing. Then play both those measures back to back,, then onto the next measure, and so on.

Nov 19, 2019 - 8:11:21 PM
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3833 posts since 10/18/2007

Well, to start with, are you able to sing or hum the notes of the tune without looking at the tab--every note in the tab or even just the main melody notes? It's a whole lot harder to learn a tune if you don't know where it's going.

Nov 20, 2019 - 1:12:48 AM
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collegiate

England

80 posts since 3/3/2011

I agree. It seems to me that a lot of Blue Grass numbers either seem to have tunes that are hard to identify or no song associated with them and therefore make it hard to learn other than with tablature.
Another related issue is that popular opinion is that 95% of Blue Grass banjo is back up so why do we and the banjo teaching world spend so much time and money learning 'solo' from tablature books ?

Nov 20, 2019 - 3:50:15 AM
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3234 posts since 7/12/2006

you just gotta play it ad nauseum. and listen to it ad nauseum . no shortcuts here at least thats what i do.

Nov 20, 2019 - 4:41:52 AM

2507 posts since 4/19/2008

That particular song has 2 roll patterns

part A: 32151231
part B: 42151241

Nov 20, 2019 - 4:53:48 AM
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Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

23479 posts since 8/3/2003

I don't know if it would help you or not, but as said above, listening to the song over and over until you have the melody in your head usually makes it much easier to memorize the tab. At that point, then start working on the tab and see if you can get the melody in the correct spot. If you can do that, the filler notes will follow.

The more songs you learn, the more experience you have, the more you practice, the easier it gets to recognize musical phrases and licks, rolls and partial rolls. At that point, it becomes much easier to memorize a new tab because you will recognize patterns you've already played. Takes time, effort and practice, practice, practice.

I don't think there's a magic bullet for memorizing. Each person has to figure out for themselves what works best.

Nov 20, 2019 - 5:07:30 AM
Players Union Member

pickn5

USA

1380 posts since 8/8/2012

Listen to the tune over and over and get the melody in your head. Learn one or two measures at a time, playing them over and over including playing them along with the lesson track. Continue on that way until the entire tune is learned. Play the whole tune over and over along with the lesson track smoothing out any rough spots and building muscle memory. If a particular measure or measures are causing you a problem, isolate them, and play them over and over to smooth them out. Then start again playing the whole tune. I use VLC Media Player and Audacity to slow down lesson tracks and Audacity to isolate sections of a tune that give me problems. I'm an anti gifted musician so take my advice for what you think its worth. Keep picking.

Nov 20, 2019 - 6:47:20 AM

kjcole

USA

1194 posts since 4/21/2003

Amen to Sherry's advice.

Nov 20, 2019 - 7:12:25 AM
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3289 posts since 3/28/2008

I'd amend some of the above suggestions to say, don't learn it measure by measure; learn it phrase by phrase. The phrase--usually two or four measures--is the smallest meaningful musical unit. Think about it: Do you memorize a poem word by word, or sentence by sentence?

But in order to do that, you have to listen to the tune a lot first (as others have suggested), so you can identify and understand what those phrases are.

Nov 20, 2019 - 8:00:44 AM

1359 posts since 2/10/2013

I keep trying to improve the way I learn. Over time I have noticed some things. First of all, listen to a tune several times before you start practicing it. And, start out just learning a few measures at a time. Start at the very beginning and play everything up to and including the few measures you are currently memorizing. Over time, you will learn the complete tune. When learning, rely on your memory as often as possible.

If you are using tab , "hilite" the common parts. Some tabs will have up to 16 measures for one part of a tune, and there are 6 or 7 identical measures in each part of the tune. Be aware of this before you start learning a tune. I realize that this statement sound ridiculous, but don't practice for a while before realizing this.

Work on learning one new tune at a time.

Before working hard on a tune, look for musical phrases that you will have difficulty playing. Before playing the parts of the tune you are currently memorizing, play all of these potentially difficult phrases very slowly, and play them at least a half dozen tunes. That way they will be less likely to be "stumbling blocks" when you are memorizing and playing.

I think there is merit in the idea that it is better to have more frequent short practice sessions that having just one longer session spent on working on a new tune. Concentration and striving to memorize is the key. I think that a person will have better concentration and memorizing with the more frequent shorter periods working on a new tune.

Don't set a timetable for learning a tune, Some tunes are harder to learn than others. As I mentioned earlier, just work on a small part of the tune and don't "move on" until you have memorized that part of the tune.

Listen to the tune often. If a person is using a tab to learn a tune, listen to a recording that matches the tab. That is not always possible, but listening to a tune and memorizing the melody always helps someone learn and play a tune.

Nov 20, 2019 - 8:07:11 AM
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150 posts since 9/27/2011

I like to learn a song by tab and then use the tab a lot to get used to it.
Then try to keep playing while my wife is talking to me and I have to look her in the eye and see if I can keep the tune going. Then I like to see if I can get back to the tab but then knock it on the floor and see if I can keep playing while I flip the paper over with my feet.
Then play till the wife interrupts me again and somehow manages to knock the paper off a stand again and keep playing even while she keeps bumping into me knocking other things down until she gets frustrated and I try to pick it up with my feet again.
Then I try to play without the sheet entirely.

Edited by - groundhogcow on 11/20/2019 08:08:49

Nov 20, 2019 - 10:19:07 AM

3833 posts since 10/18/2007

I clearly remember starting out with a tab book. I recognized some song titles but the tab didn't make sense. When I found a teacher I told him I couldn't understand what all these extra notes had to do with the melody. Ah, the good ole days.

Nov 20, 2019 - 7:37:24 PM
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12 posts since 12/9/2008

I've just been thinking about this a lot lately. I took some time off banjo (a few years) and recently picked it back up. I learned about 10 tunes from tab, got tired of flipping pages around and needing the tab crutch so decided I would start working on memorizing some. Once I began actually trying to memorize it I was surprised at how fast it actually went, even the newer ones I just learned how to play from the tab with more complicated fingerings. I thought I would spend a week on each one or so, but I got 3 done the first week.

You can memorize by just playing a song a lot of times, but that is going to take forever (at least it takes me forever). If you actively decide to memorize, it goes much faster. Learn the song, make sure you get the tune in your head. Work your way phrase by phrase through the song. I find the beginning of the song is usually the hardest, once I get going it starts moving much faster. If your schedule allows do more shorter sessions rather than fewer longer sessions, you can make progress in just 10-15 min a few times a day.

I find it very rewarding for my playing.

Nov 20, 2019 - 8:07:07 PM

119 posts since 4/25/2016

Huh, I just play on repeat for a while. I may need to adopt some of these methods for the tabs I'm following on Moonlight Sonata.

Nov 21, 2019 - 6:44:02 AM
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chief3

Canada

1095 posts since 10/26/2003

The core of the problem could be that when you are practicing you are focusing on "reading" from the tab and using your eyes when you should be focused on listening and where your fingers are going to get the sounds. When the tab is gone, your ears and fingers can't remember where to go on the fingerboard. One technique I use is to read the tab, close my eyes, or look at the fingerboard and play what I just read. Do this one measure at a time and work up to 2, 3, .... measures at a time. This lessens the focus on reading and more on listening and finger location on the fingerboard which is the only thing that actually needs to be remembered.

Nov 21, 2019 - 9:21:46 AM
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534 posts since 6/8/2005
Online Now

People take in information by three general categories:

1.) Visual
2.) Auditory
3. Kinesthetic (feeling)

1.) Visually, your attention should be on the left hand when you actually take the information from the tab. If you have videos of your favorite player, look at their left hand to get an idea of how they think as they play. You should practice while looking at your left hand. Do not look at your right hand. The movements of the left hand are the visual memorization that occurs as it is tied to the sound. That takes care of the visual aspect.

2.) I like what Sherry said about repeated listening because ultimately, it's the sound that is the goal. Listening to the song at least 100 times is good. Put the song into your portable device and have it loop ten times a day and in 10 days, you will not only be sick of it, you will have started the real process of aural memorization. If you can find a way of slowing down the song, even better as you go to learn it. That takes care of the auditory aspect.

3.) Thirdly, the left hand leads and the right hand follows by feeling. You should be able to "feel" the right hand and not have to look at it as you play. Looking at the right hand really doesn't give you any real information anyway - it's a parallax view in terms of the angle. The feeling of where the strings are surpasses rolls as the goal of learning how to train the right hand and play the song. I liken it to the "touch typing" I learned in junior high school. You are taught to keep your eyes on the page you are copying and feel the keys on the typewriter.  (Kinesthetic)

Everyone is a combination of these three categories of learning and everyone is different. I used to think that raw repetition was the way to learn. But I've come to believe that it is a little more involved than that. You will still have "speed bumps" in the song that occur. Simply repeating these obstacles means you are practicing them into your playing along with the tension the precedes the difficult areas that the song presents to you. Real practice is learning where you tense, stopping at the exact point where you are having problems, acknowledging the problem and systematically playing through it by checking it against the song's original recording - not the tab. If you can't hear how it's suppose to sound and compare it to what you are doing, you will continue to practice the tension and mistakes into your playing.

The bottom line is:  If you have to look at the tab, your right hand, your left hand and hope it will sound like the recording, it will take you a long, long time to learn a song and it will be very frustrating. After all, you are not learning to be a good tab reader - you're learning how to play the banjo. You should never have to look at tab for any song ever again.

The sound is the goal!

Pat-

Edited by - banjola1 on 11/21/2019 09:36:23

Nov 21, 2019 - 9:39:04 AM
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1954 posts since 5/2/2012

I'll share my experience. When I picked up the banjo, I started with clawhammer. Played for a number of months with tab, and was pretty dependent. That fall I switched over to 2 finger thumb lead. I made a promise to myself to memorize that first tune. I learned one measure, then another, put those 2 together, then a 3rd measure, then the 3 together, and so on. I took me a whole month to memorize that tune. The second tune came a bit easier, the third even easier, although what I learned in one tune didn't seem to carry over too much. I played that first song almost every day for the next year, without tab, but one part never sounded "right", like on the recording. Then one day it just fell beneath my hand. When I switched over to Scruggs style, I had an understanding of what I needed to do in order to learn a tune. There is a "language" in BG music, picking patterns and licks you can look for, measures or phrases that are repeated, etc. Once I stumbled onto that, it made learning tunes that much easier. There are some little nuances in timing and emphasis on notes that don't translate well into tab, so that repeated listening of the tune, as others have suggested, is an integral part of learning.

Nov 21, 2019 - 2:19:21 PM

205 posts since 7/28/2019

It's like sh*t. It just happens.

Nov 21, 2019 - 2:37:01 PM
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6363 posts since 8/30/2004

Hi Pat,
I like your well intentioned/intended post but I don't think it will make much sense to a "rank" scared to death beginner. Your suggestions seem to be based on where you are now in banjo experience time. Most rank beginners don't know how to even move the right hand fingers and also know nothing about the left hand chords and maneuvers. Here in NYC people would walk out the door if left to their ears and without any written example of the song or excercise they are learning. smiley. Thank you for your very generous post Pat...I love your playing and have for a very long time...Jack

Originally posted by banjola1

 

Edited by - Jack Baker on 11/21/2019 14:47:43

Nov 21, 2019 - 2:41:31 PM

534 posts since 6/8/2005
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by Jack Baker
Hi Pat,
I like your well intentioned/intended post but I don't think it will make much sense to a "rank" scared to death beginner. Your suggestions seem to be based on where you are now in banjo experience time. Most rank beginners don't know how to even move the right hand fingers and also know nothing about the left hand chords and maneuvers. Here in NYC people would walk out the door if left to their ears. smiley. Thank you for your very generous post Pat...I love your playing and have for a very long time...Jack

Originally posted by banjola1

People take in information by three general categories:

1.) Visual
2.) Auditory
3. Kinesthetic (feeling)

1.) Visually, your attention should be on the left hand when you actually take the information from the tab. If you have videos of your favorite player, look at their left hand to get an idea of how they think as they play. You should practice while looking at your left hand. Do not look at your right hand. The movements of the left hand are the visual memorization that occurs as it is tied to the sound. That takes care of the visual aspect.

2.) I like what Sherry said about repeated listening because ultimately, it's the sound that is the goal. Listening to the song at least 100 times is good. Put the song into your portable device and have it loop ten times a day and in 10 days, you will not only be sick of it, you will have started the real process of aural memorization. If you can find a way of slowing down the song, even better as you go to learn it. That takes care of the auditory aspect.

3.) Thirdly, the left hand leads and the right hand follows by feeling. You should be able to "feel" the right hand and not have to look at it as you play. Looking at the right hand really doesn't give you any real information anyway - it's a parallax view in terms of the angle. The feeling of where the strings are surpasses rolls as the goal of learning how to train the right hand and play the song. I liken it to the "touch typing" I learned in junior high school. You are taught to keep your eyes on the page you are copying and feel the keys on the typewriter.  (Kinesthetic)

Everyone is a combination of these three categories of learning and everyone is different. I used to think that raw repetition was the way to learn. But I've come to believe that it is a little more involved than that. You will still have "speed bumps" in the song that occur. Simply repeating these obstacles means you are practicing them into your playing along with the tension the precedes the difficult areas that the song presents to you. Real practice is learning where you tense, stopping at the exact point where you are having problems, acknowledging the problem and systematically playing through it by checking it against the song's original recording - not the tab. If you can't hear how it's suppose to sound and compare it to what you are doing, you will continue to practice the tension and mistakes into your playing.

The bottom line is:  If you have to look at the tab, your right hand, your left hand and hope it will sound like the recording, it will take you a long, long time to learn a song and it will be very frustrating. After all, you are not learning to be a good tab reader - you're learning how to play the banjo. You should never have to look at tab for any song ever again.

The sound is the goal!

Pat-


 


Nov 21, 2019 - 2:49:35 PM

534 posts since 6/8/2005
Online Now

Jack,

Thanks Jack. I posted it and then wished I hadn't. When I started in 1964, I could't even read the tab in Pete Seeger's Red book and the Scruggs book was yet two years away. I learned by ruining two F&S records by slowing them down and dragging a needle. I don't want to come off as some kind of know-it-all. My apologies to the group and it won't happen again.

Pat-

Nov 21, 2019 - 2:53:09 PM

6363 posts since 8/30/2004

No, I didn't take it that way at all Pat. Just another teacher's viewpoint is all I meant to say. We're so glad to have you on BHO...Have a great Holiday...Jack  p.s. Wow, I sure remember slowing the needle part Ha....

Originally posted by banjola1

Jack,

Thanks Jack. I posted it and then wished I hadn't. When I started in 1964, I could't even read the tab in Pete Seeger's Red book and the Scruggs book was yet two years away. I learned by ruining two F&S records by slowing them down and dragging a needle. I don't want to come off as some kind of know-it-all. My apologies to the group and it won't happen again.

Pat-


Edited by - Jack Baker on 11/21/2019 14:55:09

Nov 21, 2019 - 3:00:51 PM
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933 posts since 11/17/2018

quote:
Originally posted by Jack Baker
Hi Pat,
I like your well intentioned/intended post but I don't think it will make much sense to a "rank" scared to death beginner. Your suggestions seem to be based on where you are now in banjo experience time. Most rank beginners don't know how to even move the right hand fingers and also know nothing about the left hand chords and maneuvers. Here in NYC people would walk out the door if left to their ears and without any written example of the song or excercise they are learning. smiley. Thank you for your very generous post Pat...I love your playing and have for a very long time...Jack

Originally posted by banjola1

 


I think Pat's advice is spot on.

"Rank beginners" need to be taught correctly when starting out.

Following this advice will get them there.

Nov 21, 2019 - 3:03:51 PM

6363 posts since 8/30/2004

Jim,
I couldn't agree with you more. Just another viewpoint is all...Jack

Originally posted by OldNavyGuy
 

Edited by - Jack Baker on 11/21/2019 15:04:13

Nov 21, 2019 - 7:34:10 PM

2507 posts since 4/19/2008

o.p. song

 

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