[Harp-L] Subject: How to easily memorize Songs/Licks?

Emily Keene esalisburykeene@xxxxx
Thu Oct 13 02:33:20 EDT 2016

Message: 4
Date: Wed, 12 Oct 2016 10:40:44 -0400
From: "Leonard Schwartzberg" <leonard1 at xxxxx>
To: "HARP Club" <harp-l at xxxxx>
Subject: [Harp-L] How to easily memorize Songs/Licks?
Message-ID: <007801d22496$9d5196f0$d7f4c4d0$@net>
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Good morning fellow HARPERS:

Thanks so very much for all your comments, tips, directions, hints, and
corrections to my "sticking keys" query.    As you know, I'm a
beginner/intermediate Harper and practice a lot.   I'm 64 years old, and aim
to play the Blues, primarily tongue blocking.   Harping is a super enjoyable

No matter how often I practice a song, I don't seem to be able to memorize
it.  Although I'm a smart guy, I always seem to need to "cheat" and look at
the TAB.   What tricks, suggestions, tools, do you use to remember the songs
or licks?  Can you play on-stage with a "cheat sheet" or the full song in
front of you?   Is it merely a matter of me playing the song/lick many more
times?   Occasionally, I will totally remember a song/lick and then play
something different for a few days, then when I come back to the original
song/lick that I've remembered, I realize I've forgotten it.   Look forward
to your help.

Thanks, Leonard

Right now there are probably thirty doctoral candidates writing papers on
how we memorize things, and probably a few more writing about where musical
memories are stored in our brain. I work with the elderly, and from what
I've read and learned about memory, a physical change happens in the brain
when something is learned. Most of what we think of as learning and
memories takes place in the hippocampus (which is what gets damaged most
noticeably in Alzheimers), although there seem to be some types of
 learning that take place outside of and are stored outside of the
hippocampus, and I've read anecdotal evidence that music can be one of
those (although I supposed it would depend on how you learn it-there are
definitely "head players" and "gut players"). When I was twenty, I could
learn a tune after only a couple of hearings-now that I'm in my sixties, it
can take weeks. But, as they say, "Old age and treachery will always
overcome youth and skill". Repetition is really important-I'll try and
listen to something as often as possible-especially when I'm away from my
instrument. The more you repeat something, the more you literally reinforce
a brain pathway. I've heard some great players say that they do some of
their best practicing mentally-away from their instrument. Building
associations is also very important in being able to retrieve
memories-sometimes certain parts of a tune are similar to another tune or
you can remember that it starts with a certain interval jump (I still
remember from sight-singing class forty-five years ago that "Bali Hai" from
"South Pacific" starts with an octave jump that resolves to a major
seventh). "Chunking", or organizing the material into smaller bits is also
a good technique (they say we can't really hold more than seven items in
our "working memory" at a time). This may be behind the good idea another
writer suggested (learning the tune in sections from the end, working
toward the beginning) because instead of being overwhelmed by the whole by
being caught up in the tune, you're forced to focus on one section at a
time. Don't despair if it doesn't come as easily to you as you wish it
did-by continuing to challenge our brain we are improving its overall
health and functioning-even away from the harmonica. Cheers, emily

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