How do we remember the words? To Thread - Forum Home

The Mudcat Café TM
https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=149338
26 messages

How do we remember the words?

31 Jan 13 - 03:04 PM (#3473967)
Subject: How do we remember the words?
From: Uncle Tone

Probably the greatest aid to memory is rhyme. Try learning the lyrics as a poem first.

Difficult ones I tend to do visually, but then I have a 'visual' mind.

Take Martin Graebe's Harry the Hawker is Dead for example. (Reminders in brackets.)

Old Harry the Hawker is dead
No more he'll bring his boot hooks and laces (start at the foot)
And fancy goods from foreign places
Old Harry the Hawker is dead   (Knife cutting a bootlace)

Old Harry the Hawker is dead
No more he'll bring his knives and forks
The finest Sheffield cutlers works
Old Harry the Hawker is dead (Knife cutting a candle in half)

Knives and forks, boots hooks and laces
And fancy goods from foreign places
Old Harry the Hawker is dead. (pins sticking in a candle)

Old Harry the Hawker is dead
No more he'll bring his lamps and candles
In holders of brass and graven handles
Old Harry the Hawker is dead.

Lamps and candles, knives and forks, etc.

Old Harry the Hawker is dead
No more he'll bring his needles and pins
In penny boxes and tupenny tins
Old Harry the Hawker is dead (Needles sewing a sash)

Needles and pins, lamps and candles, etc.

Old Harry the Hawker is dead
No more he'll bring his ribbons and sashes
To brighten our hearts with their colourful splashes
Old Harry the Hawker is dead (snatches almost a rhyme with sashes)

Ribbons and sashes, needles and pins, etc.

Old Harry the Hawker is dead
No more he'll bring his songs and snatches   
His frisky jigs and cheerful catches
Old Harry the Hawker is dead (me in a ribbon. What a joke!)

Songs and snatches, ribbons and sashes, etc.

Old Harry the Hawker is dead
No more he'll bring his jokes and smiles
Collected from England's many fair miles
Old Harry the Hawker is dead

Jokes and smiles. songs and snatches, etc.

Harry the Hawker, written by Martin Graebe.

(In the reverse)
Songs and snatches, (snatch a ribbon out)
Ribbons and sashes, (needles in a sash)
Needles and pins (pins in a candle)
Lamps and candles (knife cutting candle)
Knives and forks (knives cutting laces)
Boot hooks and laces
And fancy goods from foreign places (rhyme)
Poor old 'arry

Tone
(well into short-term thingy loss)


31 Jan 13 - 03:14 PM (#3473974)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: Ebbie

By far, the easiest for me to memorize are the songs that tell a story that develops verse by verse.

Songs where verses are interchangeable, that can be stuck in anywhere are much more difficult. In 'Give Me the Roses', for instance, there are two verses that basically say the same thing. To this day I often almost forget one or the other of them.

I use rhyme as an editing tool, not necessarily while I'm learning the song. In other words, if a couple of lines try to intrude into the wrong verse but don't rhyme...


31 Jan 13 - 03:38 PM (#3473993)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: Phil Edwards

I just do, I'm afraid. I think I've got an auditory memory more than anything. When I listen to a song and then learn it, it feels more like bringing back a memory than learning something new - as if there's a word-for-word recording in there somewhere, and I just need to bring it to the surface of my mind.

For shorter songs I have a very strong sense of what verse goes second, what comes last and so on - once I've learnt them they're really nailed into place. (Not necessarily the places they were in when I learned them!) For longer songs, the story is everything. I don't see pictures, but I am very conscious of a voice telling a story and making one thing come after another - so after Lord Allenwater's had his nosebleed the horse has to stumble on a stone, and after the little footpage has swum the wide water he's got to come to the green wood.

Songs with interchangeable lines are a sod. A while ago I learned Noel Coward's "There are bad times just around the corner", which is basically nothing but; the rhymes help you avoid getting the lines mixed up, but entire sections can float from one verse into another if you're not careful. For songs like that, you just have to rely on the three Rs - Repetition, Repetition, Repetition.


31 Jan 13 - 03:57 PM (#3474007)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: Artful Codger

I learn words and music together, since the music helps "contextualize" the lyrics, providing additional memory cues, and I use a slew of other mnemonic techniques besides. The topic of how to memorize lyrics has been discussed quite a few times before, so I'd suggest searching for those threads. A sampling:

Tips for memorizing songs
Learning songs by heart
How do you learn/memorize songs?
Memorizing songs and performance quality

And if you can filter out the heated blather:
Is it OK to sing from a song book?

Most of the advice, of course, is of a general and fairly intuitive nature, but occasionally people have made more helpful and specific suggestions, particularly in the first thread. Such tips, extracted, would form a handy PermaThread, considering how often people would like help memorizing things.


31 Jan 13 - 03:59 PM (#3474008)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: Joybell

Begin before you learn to read is the best way. Too late for most people now with the availability of song-books. In the 1950s I reversed the learning process with reading when I was given a small song-book of Christmas Carols. I was about four years old and already sang hundreds of songs learned by ear. I taught myself to read using that book and the Stephen Foster song-book my father had.
Songs I learn from books remain a visual memory of written words. Songs learned by ear are tied to images within the song. I try not to write a song down until I know it by ear.
Joy


31 Jan 13 - 04:03 PM (#3474011)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: GUEST,Blandiver

Repetition! Too right! Trouble us, my memory's getting so bad these days I usually get bored with a song long before I've learned it...

We've repetition in the music and we'er never gonna lose it (ah)


31 Jan 13 - 05:02 PM (#3474031)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: GUEST,JHW

i am now finding a problem in learning new songs. Can't get them to stick.
I certainly would learn words and melody together and if I had a possible verse for a new song I would hang it temporarily on a familiar tune (and vice versa). As above a ballad is much easier than a set of verses with no link or progression. For the life of me I couldn't learn Snows They Melt the Soonest until I had the idea to transpose the middle two verses which gave a link and so a cue and no bother ever since.


31 Jan 13 - 05:29 PM (#3474048)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: Steve Gardham

Ballads no problem, you're simply following the story, but I found a neat way with Lady Franklin's Lament which doesn't have a strong thread.
I use key tag words in the last line of one verse repeated in the first line of the next verse.


31 Jan 13 - 05:58 PM (#3474064)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: Commander Crabbe

I sing the song I'm trying to learn while I walk the dogs. It bores the dogs to death but it gets the words into my memory.

CC


31 Jan 13 - 06:12 PM (#3474069)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: Artful Codger

The amount of repetition required can be greatly reduced by coupling it with various other mnemonic techniques, and by focussing the repetition on just the troublesome bits rather than repeating whole verses or the entire song. It also helps to slow down so that you have time to remember/practice things flawlessly rather than repeating (and conditioning in) mistakes and lapses.


31 Jan 13 - 07:24 PM (#3474101)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: RTim

I am amazed what I can remember - once the first line is found!!
That is why my song book is just first lines.
I too find as age comes, so does the ability to learn quickly.
Like "Blandiver" - once I have learnt the song by repetition - I'm bored with it!!

It also doesn't help if you try and know too many songs.......

Tim Radford


31 Jan 13 - 10:43 PM (#3474193)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: Uncle Tone

"It also doesn't help if you try and know too many songs......."

That is an excellent point. In my folder (which never gets to a folk club) I have about 200 songs. I know this is not a huge repertoire in the scheme of things, but I have sung all of them, some many times, others just now and again.

What I tend to do is pick about 20. Concentrate on those. When I start to get tired of some of them, I'll then feed in five or six others. That way I don't get bored, and neither do the audience.

Any singer worth his salt should be able to remember about 20 songs, that s/he has chosen because s/he likes them, I would have thought. And as has been pointed out, practising them until they are second nature, getting the instruments in tune before you go on, and I might add, not waffling, help the performance. If you have something to say, then rehearse that too unless you are a natural raconteur with stand-up potential.

In one singaround club I attend I didn't repeat a song for two years. But then they started asking me to repeat certain songs, so now I work out what I'm going to do on the basis of giving them new stuff, and also repeating some of the old stuff that they are familiar enough with to join in the chorusses.

What I don't do is read the same few songs out of a book every club meeting. I respect the audience too much (mostly performers themselves) to do that. And I think that respecting the audience is the MAIN reason for not reading out of a book.

(Sorry. I think I've cross-threaded.)

Tone


01 Feb 13 - 03:03 AM (#3474232)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: Nigel Parsons

An interesting example of how you remember the song by visualising it.
A shame it only allowed you to remember 3 lines of verse 3!

Cheers
Nigel


01 Feb 13 - 03:59 AM (#3474248)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: GUEST,Blandiver

Bulk Learning is good too. I always try and have a batch of songs on the go at any one time and it works a treat. Out of every five, invariably three get through.

Motivational factors are crucial too. For me learning a song because I like it is no longer enough. We take an annual spring break in Norfolk & last year I was serenading my wife around Fakenham Morrisons with as much as I could remember of Fakenham Fair. I don't much like Fakenham Fair; indeed many have argued that it's not even a proper Folk Song, and I agree, but not without qualification (see HERE for the discussion). Nevertheless, I determined to learn it (from the singing of Peter Bellamy - I'd like to say Jim Eldon, but whilst it's reported to be in his repertoire I've never heard him sing it) just so the next time we're shopping in Fakenham Morrisons I can sing it all. Meantime, I'll sing it as a souvenir of my beloved Norfolk along with Harry Cox's Cod Fish and Sam Larner's Butter and Cheese and All.


01 Feb 13 - 08:58 AM (#3474370)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: Uncle Tone

"An interesting example of how you remember the song by visualising it.
A shame it only allowed you to remember 3 lines of verse 3!"

In trying to be too clever and picky, Nigel, I think you have confused verse three with the 'chorus' line. Do you know the song?

Tone


01 Feb 13 - 09:37 AM (#3474391)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: MikeL2

hi

I learn by repetition. Just keep listening until I know it well. I used to record the words on to tape and play in my car when driving. I find once I've learned it, it sticks.

I learned to speak Spanish that way too.

Works for me

You just have to find a way that suits you and stick with it.

Could never remember song titles though. Had a crib sheet on the side of my guitar.

Cheers

MikeL2


01 Feb 13 - 05:27 PM (#3474608)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: Joybell

I can't remember titles either. I have to sing a song through until I find it. I like the ones that give it early -- "The first time ever I saw your face...".
I can never remember songwords I write myself. Probably because I pin them down on paper after exploring many possibilities. I write parodies for the local children as part of musical plays and they're on their own once we go into rehearsal. They are very good at it which is a good thing. One of the youngest children is a very poor reader but is some kind of musical prodigy. He has the songs down after singing them through once.
Last year all of the children sang a three verse-song in Russian after learning it by ear. Some songs are sung in parts and some with solos and dancing.
Joy


01 Feb 13 - 05:42 PM (#3474612)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: McGrath of Harlow

Start with the last verse, and work backwards isn't a bad idea. That way as you go forward you are more likely to be heading into more familiar territory.

And it helps to be quick at making up a replafment for a line on the spot. Call it a variant... Well, that's how variants come into being, and often enough the later versions are better. That especially goes for your own songs, you rub off the rough edges that way.


01 Feb 13 - 05:50 PM (#3474615)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: Paul Davenport

Which all goes to prove a rather strange thing about memory. The more you have to learn the easier it is. The tune supports the words and vice versa, the use of imagery, mnemonic ideas such as starting and finishing rhymes also help. The fact is, narrative song is also easier to memorise than plainly lyrical stuff.
Another oddity is a thing called, 'working memory' there's a finite limit to what you can hold in memory in one session. There's a passage of time required in order to transfer material from 'working memory' to 'long term' memory. Its still a case of 'nothing in excess'.


01 Feb 13 - 06:21 PM (#3474631)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: DebC

You have to use what works for YOU. Mike Waterson once told me that he would memorise a song by reading it over before he went to sleep and without fail would know it in the morning. Didn't work for me.

I am very slow to memorise and use repetition. I do a lot of memorising in the car while I am driving. If I have a recording of the song, I'll play a verse and then repeat that verse only without the recording. I try to build on each verse or line.

I once had a seven hour drive from Maine through New Brunswick on my way to Nova Scotia. I was memorising "The Rose In June" (maritime ballad) and had it down by the time I got to Moncton.

Unfortunately, I'd haven't sung it since and I need to do some brushing up on that one 'cuz it's a good one.

Deb Cowan


01 Feb 13 - 07:24 PM (#3474647)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: Tattie Bogle

I have a very much better memory for tunes than words, possibly because of early involvement in music. (can't always remember tune titles mind you. When I've HAD to learn words, e.g. for a stage production, then it was the tape in the car stereo: I used to record myself reading scripts but leaving out my own lines which I then had to fill in. For musical productions I would have my own part (alto) with NO words for tune learning, and the full works (with words) for singing words plus my part against the melody. Unfortunately usually as soon as the show was finished, the slate would be rapidly wiped clean to allow my ageing brain to store whatever else came its way!
For folk songs, I try and learn by singing along with a CD in the car: repeated reading of words just doesn't work for me: then it's "use it or lose it", i.e. keep singing it till it's well bedded in, or it just gets deleted off the hard drive. However there are some songs that are very seasonal, so I would perhaps put words in front of me and just try to get away with looking at them now and then, rather than having my nose buried in them. (Seems a lot of professionals now have the big music stand and do just that these days, especially those of us whose hard drives are getting overloaded or tired.
As fr my own songs, yes, have the words somewhere visible as unless your friends are really big fans, no-one can help you out if you forget!


01 Feb 13 - 08:41 PM (#3474681)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: The Sandman

I do not remember


02 Feb 13 - 11:42 AM (#3474868)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: PHJim

Like MikeL2, I learn many songs while driving. I'll stop the CD after the first stanza and sing it a few times, then play the second stanza and sing both a few times. As some have stated, a story song is always easier than a song that can be sung with the verses in any order, like "Life Gets Teejus, Don't it".
Once I learn a song, it seems I have to sing it without thinking too much about it. A song like "I'm My Own Grandpa", I have to sing without thinking about what comes next or I'll mess it up.


02 Feb 13 - 03:06 PM (#3474938)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: YorkshireYankee

When I did a lot more driving than I do now, I also did what PHJim, MikeL2, Deb Cowan, Tattie Bogle, etc "talk" about. Perhaps I should mention that, by the time I'd start practicing in the car, I already knew the tune.

When I do need to learn tune as well as words, I just play the song constantly while I'm doing other stuff, until I know the tune without having to worry about it. Knowing the tune helps me later remember the words - because they need to fit the tune.

As for learning the words, what is extremely effective for me is to write them down. (Once used to pretty much do it when I was younger; now two or three times might be needed.) If I've written down the words first, it usually cuts the time I take for memorizing by at least half.

Since I don't spend much time in the car these days, the place I currently find time to memorize/refresh words to new/old songs (mentally, not out loud; practicing the song/figuring out what key to sing in/working on how it sounds in my voice is a different kind of practice) is while I'm lying in bed waiting to fall asleep... as good as counting sheep (and more useful!).


03 Feb 13 - 08:01 AM (#3475212)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: Howard Jones

If I'm learning a song from a CD I find transcribing the words helps. I've probably already listened to it a lot in the car, but I won't consciously try to learn it, although quite a bit usually sticks.

I start by writing down the first few words of each line as the song plays. I then go back and try to fill in the gaps from memory. Then another play-through to fill in more gaps and correct any errors. Repeat until it's right. By this time I'll listened in a focussed manner several times and concentrated on the words, all of which helps to fix them in my mind.

If I'm going to accompany it I'll then work on the arrangement, but I'll also just sing it a lot, again often in the car. A lot of repetition is required, and there's a danger that by the time the song is ready to perform you're already sick of it.

Finally, I'm not too bothered about getting a few words "wrong", in the sense of being different from my source. Provided they're not crucial to the story, or have a particular lyrical quality which is important to the feel of the song, a few "ands" and "buts" in the wrong place are not important, in my opinion.


03 Feb 13 - 11:50 PM (#3475488)
Subject: RE: How do we remember the words?
From: open mike

When i need to remember the 3 verses to the Carter Family song
Give Me The Roses While I Live
I just think of "WhiFfen Poof" (it works for me)

as verse one begins with "W" in Wonderful,
verse 2 starts with "F" for Folks and
the last verse starts with "P" for Praises

1.Wonderful things of folks are said, when they have passed away.
                              
Flowers adorn the narrow bed, and over the sleeping lay.

CHORUS:
                  
Give me the roses while I live, trying to cheer me on,
         
Useless the flowers that you give, after the soul is gone.

                           
2. Folks are forgiven when folks lie, cold in the narrow bed.
                           
Let us forgive them ere they die, now should the words be said.

CHORUS

                              
3. Praises are heard not by the dead, roses they cannot see.
                              
Let us not wait till souls have fled, tenderest friends to be.

CHORUS, REPEAT CHORUS