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What is the best method / trick / etc that people have come across for memorizing a tune ?

I normally spend an extraordinary amount of time trying to memorize tunes. Over time I find that i am faster when i try and memorize the key(s) it is in, then I look for certain progressions, etc and then go from there. But still, I spend a ton of time and I usually end up forgetting.

I used to be much better when I was more specifically strictly alto. Since adding tenor / sop on a regular basis I just can't seem to memorize much.
 

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It's a very good idea to learn a tune in terms of function and Roman Numeral analysis. For example:

Autumn Leaves would be ii|V7|I|IV in the relative major key. Then a minor ii-V7-i in the tonic minor key.

Learning it this way makes it easier to play it in different keys when needed. If you play alto AND tenor, it makes it easier to play on both horns. And if you play with singers, it's a MUST to be able to play in any key because they NEVER sing it in the original key.

If you memorize just the chords instead of their functions or root movement, it becomes much harder to transpose.
 

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stevesklar said:
good idea ... i was stuck in just what you said .. memorizing in the root movement.

i'll give it a try

EXCEPT .. you have singers that actually sing in, and stay in, a key ??
I know, it's rare. But they're out there. There's a bi-weekly jam session here run by a singer and her trio. Surprisingly, all the vocalists who were there were actually good.
 

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Hear the melody. Know what it sounds like. Be able to hum or whistle it. Remember it as music rather than as a sequence of notes and chord changes. Then play what you heard and what you remember.

This has become almost a cliche around here, but it bears repeating. Knowing the lyrics really helps you to know the tune.
 

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Try transcribing the song yourself from a recording (as if you did not already have the sheet music). The act of writing it down to sheet music will help commit the song to your memory.

This is similar to the concept of writing notes while listening to a class lecture in college or high school. It's not that you will necessarily come back and read what you have written - instead, it's that the act of paying enough attention to be able to write it down will help you remember it later.
 

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Almost every major standard just moves around a diatonic circle as far as the root motion is concerned (I IV VII III VI II V I) with changes in tonalities as you go. If you work this circle in all keys with some common alterations (major III for example) then you'll have this motion at your command for whatever tune happens to be on the menu.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
i think my most major problem is time. working a job about 12 hrs per day and some saturdays, 4 young kids, etc .. i think that is my most major problem.

today i was able to play something ive been trying to learn .. at least the main melody. i thought i didn't know it yet but i thought about it .. found that starting note in Ab (which usually is my problem) and i was able to play it. i was able to play what i could remember in my head which was a good step.

i just have to keep working at it trying to find the time and using your guys input too and hopefully i can memorize stuff faster.

Thanks
 

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The post above are great! I just keep playing it over and over or the band your playing with will get the same request over and over. Before you know it you learned the song. No more sheet music is needed:D
 

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harmonizerNJ said:
Try transcribing the song yourself from a recording (as if you did not already have the sheet music). The act of writing it down to sheet music will help commit the song to your memory.

This is similar to the concept of writing notes while listening to a class lecture in college or high school. It's not that you will necessarily come back and read what you have written - instead, it's that the act of paying enough attention to be able to write it down will help you remember it later.
This works for me too. Even if you don't transcribe it yourself, after you've memorized the song (from a song sheet), try writing the notes down from memory using your sax as guide. It's similar to transcribing but you already know the music. This way you can visualize the notes in your head helping in retention. It may take a lot of time depending on how well you've already memorized the song but worth it in the end.
 

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Al Stevens said:
This has become almost a cliche around here, but it bears repeating. Knowing the lyrics really helps you to know the tune.

I first heard about this in a story about Prez. He knew the lyrics to all the tunes he played. Of all the stories about him, I think this one is the most believeable.

So, get out those Sinatra records and Ella 'songbook' (okay, those aren't the only ones--but hell, Ella sings the VERSES:D).
 

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The trick to memorizing is recognizing the similarities between the phrases/sections.
 
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