curious about memorizing

curious about memorizing

memorizing music was mentioned in the day without dots discussion, and i’m curious.

if i try to learn from dots or abc’s or any visual representation of music, my brain does feel as if there’s an element of "memorization" involved.

but if i just listen to a tune over and over, til i can hum or diddle or sing it, it doesn’t feel as if "memorization" is involved at all, though some form of memory certainly is.

what’s with that?

Re: curious about memorizing

In the former you are trying to remember what you saw, in the latter what you heard.

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Re: curious about memorizing

In the former case, you’re trying to commit a set of facts to memory - each note is a separate thing. In the latter, you’re trying to get one complex entity into your head.
It’s the difference between memorizing vocabulary flash cards and learning a poem - you can learn one flash card a lot faster than you can learn a poem, but the poem has an internal structure that makes it easier to hold four verses than to hold an equivalent number of disconnected words.

If you want to learn from abc or dots, it’ll be easier if you put away your instrument and sing the tune, or play the tune in your head. That forces the information into the connected context.

Re: curious about memorizing

different parts of the brain are used.

Re: curious about memorizing

The structure is often easiest to learn from the notation. A repeat sign tells you’ve got something you’re playing twice, which may not be obvious on the first few hearings, particularly for something long with some repeats and some not-quite-repeats like a multi-part pipe march.

Using a mixture works best for me.

Re: curious about memorizing

Actually, I have discovered in my alterego musician life, that I learn things much more quickly if I start the process by ear.

The Beloved Liturginazi is coming to expect my request for a CD if she wants something totally unfamiliar.

THe learning goes very quickly after that. And then I am the one who has to put up with the Masters Degree in perfromance playing ‘..grab a note…" from the spots as she tries to sight read on the fly

Re: curious about memorizing

What was that lovely story I heard about a famous classical composer visiting Ireland? He had asked if anyone could sight-read, and after listening to a volunteer stumbling through the score, shouted, ‘I thought you said you said you could sight-read!’ And the volunteer replied, ‘Well sure I can, just not the first time.’

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Re: curious about memorizing

If I have to learn something new and the only source is a written tune, the quickest way for me is to record myself playing the tune from the music, and then listen to the recording. Trying to memorize music is very stressful, but learning a tune isn’t stressful at all.

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Re: curious about memorizing

sorry : I meant "the only source is written music"

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Re: curious about memorizing

This has always been a curious argument to me. I don’t mean to be flippant, but you don’t use your ears to learn colors, so why rely on your eyes to learn music?

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This is utterly off-the-wall, but when you have a culture with a language that has complex tonal structure (like Chinese), does that culture tend to produce musicians who are better at learning by ear?

Little kids don’t ‘memorize’ language, and Jon’s comment made me wonder about how that acquisition of language affects the other things that you learn.

Re: curious about memorizing

Tradition. Not this tradition, but that other tradition. At one point, there was no way of recording the sound of a piece of music, the best you could do was to take it down on paper as best you could. A player’s prestige in that tradtion depended on the ability to play the newest latest, so a successful player would have to be able to convert the written representation back into music without having heard it first. Even after sound recording technology developed, many people learning to play still learn by reading, and the idea that it might be better to try something else seems weird and foreign to many people.

Re: curious about memorizing

Michele - there has been some research on this, and as I recall speakers of tonal languages did show some of the effect you’re suggesting.
I don’t know if I still have those papers, but I’m sure our resident Archivist will have come up with some good links before I get home to check. 🙂

Re: curious about memorizing

"what’s up with that "is the difference between ‘knowing’ a tune or remembering a bunch of notes. If I ‘know’ a tune I can pretty much play it on whistle or banjo. It will take me a short while to ‘play’ it and then a time longer to get it up to speed(and that amount of time depends on the tune). Putting a tune on to the concertina will take longer for me because of the awkwardness of the instrument and my (still after two years) unfamiliarity with it. You need a certain amount of ability (not much) on your instrument and the rest is training your ear.

Re: curious about memorizing

There are strange things happen in your mind when you get involved in this stuff.

I’ve played from dots for decades, but have only comparatively recently started learning by ear. I’m now at the stage where I can pick up a tune by ear relatively quickly - certainly much, much faster than I could ever memorise it from the dots. But what I am finding now is that stuff I’ve previously memorised, and have played note perfect for years, I’m now fumbling and forgetting half way through. I think my brain has switched mode, and the old memorised stuff is no longer available.

Re: curious about memorizing

… not off-the-wall, Michele.
Pitch Processing In Brain
"These data reveal that melody of speech is processed in neither a single region nor a specific hemisphere, but engages multiple areas comprising large-scale networks that involve both hemispheres."
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080216114856.htm

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Re: curious about memorizing

@ Jusa Nutter Eejit - there might be a good analogy there. Learning a new tune from the dots for me is like painting by numbers. Once the whole thing is finished you see what it really should look like. When I have the whole image in memory, I don’t need the dots any more. Learning by ear is like seeing the original painting and copying it straight to canvas.

Or maybe it’s not so good. : ]

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Re: curious about memorizing

They are two different modes. But once you learn something
from dots, it should be a melody you can sing to yourself and
it ends up being the same thing as learning by ear in the long
run.

The problem is when you play it on your instrument over and
over from dots. Then you have muscle memory, but you are
not playing by ear. You have to change gears after a while and
go into "playing by ear" mode to get it into the other type of memory.

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There are different ways people learn to read music. IMHO, regarding notation, it’s best to learn sight singing. Surprising how many music readers never try that.

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If you’re truly immersed in the music, you’re not memorizing, you’re not reading, it’s just, simply, in you, and it comes out your fingers or your mouth. Magic.

If you have to read it or memorize it, it is not yet in you.

Re: curious about memorizing

yes, I have to agree Sara. But sometimes, for one reason or
another, you have to push things along and try to squish that
tune in your head a little quicker. There might be a gig coming
up or you promised somebody you’d learn it before the next session ….

Re: curious about memorizing

thank you all, i have enjoyed the various angles that people have come at this from…much food for thought.


not too much mustard sauce for it either…should i feel slighted?