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A Guide to Memorizing Tunes

Q: Do you have any tips on how to memorize tunes? I have the hardest time remembering tunes!

A: I’ve been there. But a few years ago, I discovered the key: repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition…

For years, I’ve always been a chart reader on gigs. I never understood how people could memorize so much music. Then one day I got a gig and was forced to memorize a large number of difficult arrangements. Forced into it, I had to find a way.

Two weeks before the first date, I simply ran through the set over and over again. I made charts, used them for days on end and eventually those parts sank in. I then swapped out the charts with cheat sheets to remind me about the song structure. Slowly but surely, I whittled down the amount of visual information I was relying on until I had the tunes under my belt.

Another trick: take the music with you. So even when you don’t have the bass in hand, you can get really familiar with the songs and their structure. Listen while you’re driving, walking around, doing the dishes… any chance you get.

I realized that my problem with learning standards in college was simply the amount of time I devoted to it in conjunction with the fact that I was not listening to jazz in my down time, so I was not internalizing th sound and feel of the music. You really just need to fully absorb yourself in the process and the music.

Like everything with music, there are no short cuts, just hard work and time. Be patient, be diligent and you’ll find success.

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