Reply to Thread Bookmark Thread
Posts 1 to 28 of 28
  1. #1

    User Info Menu

    It is embarrassing to me how long it takes me to learn a simple melody, and how few pitches I seem capable of holding in my mind's ear at any time.

    Does anyone else suffer from the same problem, and have they been able to work on pitch memory? If so how?

    I'm not talking about pitch recognition or interval training etc here - just the ability to hold a tune in your head, for example a standards melody.

    Thanks in anticipation :-)

  2.  

    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

    User Info Menu

    Ugh, I hear you. I always try to sing a head, first, if it's singable...Depends on the tune, I suppose...or the section. I was trying to learn "Like Someone In Love" and for the life of me, could not sing the right pitches in the second half of the B section.

    It really helps me if there's words. Sometimes I make up words. I couldn't learn the beginning of "Spain" until I listened to Al Jarreau, but that was a rhythm problem, not pitch. But words, I can remember a phrase of words tied to pitches better than just a phrase of pitches. And it helps if you make the words really dirty.

    Certain instruments are much easier for me to hear too. Tenor sax always screws me up, especially players who use a "wet" tone.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  4. #3

    User Info Menu

    Yeah. I just play random melodies by ear when having a 10 minute break at work. The ones I've never played before. Same thing on 3 or more places on the neck. Always minding the scale pattern. I started doing that just to get to know my patterns better but this does help in general also. Can't say I'm completely happy but at least not too worried anymore:P

  5. #4

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    Ugh, I hear you. I always try to sing a head, first, if it's singable...Depends on the tune, I suppose...or the section. I was trying to learn "Like Someone In Love" and for the life of me, could not sing the right pitches in the second half of the B section.

    It really helps me if there's words. Sometimes I make up words. I couldn't learn the beginning of "Spain" until I listened to Al Jarreau, but that was a rhythm problem, not pitch. But words, I can remember a phrase of words tied to pitches better than just a phrase of pitches. And it helps if you make the words really dirty.

    Certain instruments are much easier for me to hear too. Tenor sax always screws me up, especially players who use a "wet" tone.
    So much here!
    Funny about saxophones---Peggy Lee said they made her sing an interval off. She tended to avoid saxophones for that reason. (Loved the oboe, harp, and French horn.) Benny's clarinet didn't seem to bother her. (But it drove Helen Forest crazy---she couldn't stand to hear him "noodling" while she sang and it's why she quit his band. That's how Peggy got the gig.)

    As for "dirty lyrics", Lorenz Hart was known for writing "dummy lyrics" filled with s*ck and f*ck. He would listen to a tune (-by Richard Rodgers, a new tune, a tune for a show they were working on), write a series of lines on a piece of paper---a line, or dash, for each syllable---then walk around the block making up dirty rhymes until the tune was firmly in his head / ear.

    In one sense, learning tunes makes learning other tunes easier. (You've done it before, you know how to do it, your ear is somewhat developed.) Yet each tune is its own. Think of memorizing poems. (Or song lyrics.) Some come easy and some come hard. As soon as we stop telling ourselves, "I should have this down already---what's wrong with me?" we can actually do the learning. Slow down, get it right, go note by note if need be, and make daily progress. (Here we're assuming you aren't trying to learn something hopelessly beyond you: if you struggle to play "Happy Birthday," don't work on "Donna Lee" next. Work on a Christmas carol or "Take Me Out To The Ballgame.")

    I have trouble with "A-Train" ("To go to Sugar Hill way up in Harlem"). The way the line goes is not quite the way I expect it to and if I'm not careful, I'll botch it. And in a predictable way. It's frustrating.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  6. #5

    User Info Menu

    Do you have a keyboard or piano you can work with? Guitar and guitarists work with a system that is distinctly non linear and the way melodies are approached tends to be more rote muscle memory rather than the linear and visual layout of the piano.
    I found that when I felt the pressure of "memorizing" a tune, say for a job or a class, it was much more difficult than when I approached it indirectly, while focused on a visual or just listening for pleasure. It has to do with the side of the brain that is called upon to process in a pressure situation.
    Studies have shown that assimilation of information is a complex process and not only the right amount of pressure is necessary, but how it's presented.
    Someone tells me to learn this piece for next lesson, I'd have a lot of trouble feeling like I hit a wall every time I work at it. I see a movie where a piece of music is used and I can remember it in one exposure. Weird.

    David

  7. #6

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    Ugh, I hear you. I always try to sing a head, first, if it's singable...Depends on the tune, I suppose...or the section. I was trying to learn "Like Someone In Love" and for the life of me, could not sing the right pitches in the second half of the B section.

    It really helps me if there's words. Sometimes I make up words. I couldn't learn the beginning of "Spain" until I listened to Al Jarreau, but that was a rhythm problem, not pitch. But words, I can remember a phrase of words tied to pitches better than just a phrase of pitches. And it helps if you make the words really dirty.

    Certain instruments are much easier for me to hear too. Tenor sax always screws me up, especially players who use a "wet" tone.
    I'm learning Spain at the no ...

    Strangely I've found an All jarreau / Steve gadd version on YouTube I'm using too
    Great minds ?

    I'm OK with the intro lick , but the main lick
    is proving way tough for me , the notes are
    Ok its that the rhythms just won't stick in my stupid head !

    I'll nail it eventually
    I find lots and lots repetition is best for me

    Its a weird process , my learning something
    that's not natural for me to sing straight away ....
    First I teach my fingers to play it
    (by mindless repetition)
    Then my finger memory teaches my ears back
    again ....
    Then I've got it

  8. #7

    User Info Menu

    I was having this conversation not long ago with a friend who has been a professional guitar player for decades. He was curious about my relatively recent foray into Jazz.

    I told him one of the biggest initial hurdles for me was that I did not know the songs that make up the repertoire. I mean, sure, I've heard them watching old movies with my mom. But I didn't know them.

    It has been absolutely humbling trying to learn these melodies. It is exhausting, and I can't seem to retain them. 8 bars of an A part, and 8 of a B? And learn a top 10? 25? How?

    My friend said that 30 years as a pro and he has no memorized melodies. He can lay down a rocking rhythm grove or take a shredding solo. But faithfully play 32 bars of a melody? He didn't think he could.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  9. #8

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by pingu View Post
    I'm learning Spain at the no ...

    Strangely I've found an All jarreau / Steve gadd version on YouTube I'm using too
    Great minds ?

    I'm OK with the intro lick , but the main lick
    is proving way tough for me , the notes are
    Ok its that the rhythms just won't stick in my stupid head !

    I'll nail it eventually
    I find lots and lots repetition is best for me

    Its a weird process , my learning something
    that's not natural for me to sing straight away ....
    First I teach my fingers to play it
    (by mindless repetition)
    Then my finger memory teaches my ears back
    again ....
    Then I've got it
    I don't know if you intended it...but the way you wrote your post...I want to fit it to the melody of Spain!
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  10. #9

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by TruthHertz View Post
    Do you have a keyboard or piano you can work with? Guitar and guitarists work with a system that is distinctly non linear and the way melodies are approached tends to be more rote muscle memory rather than the linear and visual layout of the piano.
    I found that when I felt the pressure of "memorizing" a tune, say for a job or a class, it was much more difficult than when I approached it indirectly, while focused on a visual or just listening for pleasure. It has to do with the side of the brain that is called upon to process in a pressure situation.
    Studies have shown that assimilation of information is a complex process and not only the right amount of pressure is necessary, but how it's presented.
    Someone tells me to learn this piece for next lesson, I'd have a lot of trouble feeling like I hit a wall every time I work at it. I see a movie where a piece of music is used and I can remember it in one exposure. Weird.

    David
    That did occur to me actually - that's a different form of memory. For example, if you get to the point with pitch recognition where you can visualise the melody on the piano or on a score, you could use your visual memory to remember it. It gives you somewhere to hang your hat.

    In terms of writing music straight to score, not so much of a problem for me ATM. I could see myself getting to the point where I just visualise the music in my head when I hear a melody. Not quite there yet though,.

    But - I can't help but feel that's sidestepping the problem a little by employing a different part of the brain...

  11. #10

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    It is embarrassing to me how long it takes me to learn a simple melody, and how few pitches I seem capable of holding in my mind's ear at any time.

    Does anyone else suffer from the same problem, and have they been able to work on pitch memory? If so how?

    I'm not talking about pitch recognition or interval training etc here - just the ability to hold a tune in your head, for example a standards melody.

    Thanks in anticipation :-)

    I've had that problem my whole musical life and still do, takes me forever to memorize a melody. Then unless I play the song all the time they fade fast. Same with licks so when I play it pretty much is all improv.
    No, I'm not going to give you the answer to your question. I don't want to deny you the pleasure you'll receive when you figure it out yourself. -- Bill Evans talking to his brother.

  12. #11

    User Info Menu

    I know all the lyrics to hundreds of songs to sing along to by my favorite rock artists. However, I can only recall them once I start to hear them. It just takes a spark, but without that spark I have nothing.

  13. #12

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by rlrhett View Post

    My friend said that 30 years as a pro and he has no memorized melodies. He can lay down a rocking rhythm grove or take a shredding solo. But faithfully play 32 bars of a melody? He didn't think he could.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Because it's not a guitarist job to do it usually. And even if it is, the horns or violin can do it better anyway.

  14. #13

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    Because it's not a guitarist job to do it usually. And even if it is, the horns or violin can do it better anyway.
    True dat

    My missus can play bop heads in any key along the length of a string which is hilarious to watch (she's a cellist and her relative pitch for melodies ROCKS) but finds it hard to hear chord progressions...

    But I want better melodic ears dammit :-)

  15. #14

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    That did occur to me actually - that's a different form of memory. For example, if you get to the point with pitch recognition where you can visualise the melody on the piano or on a score, you could use your visual memory to remember it. It gives you somewhere to hang your hat.

    In terms of writing music straight to score, not so much of a problem for me ATM. I could see myself getting to the point where I just visualise the music in my head when I hear a melody. Not quite there yet though,.

    But - I can't help but feel that's sidestepping the problem a little by employing a different part of the brain...
    There's a vocalist I know, does incredibly instrumental and complex scat lines. She's always using hand movement to "feel" the contour of a line, to establish spacial presence to the music. It's important for an improvising musician to be able to sense and control space because you're composing in aural landscape. Musicians who read a pre-composed piece don't have to deal with that so it's not even an issue they can recognize.

    ' friend who teaches at the highest level, guitarists who have a really good grounding on the instrument, acknowledges that many students have talent but are not so good with contextual space. Good chops but the ordering needs attention.
    He teaches drawing as an integral part of learning music, as a way to get to the right brain, and as a way of learning to see music, create music in a spacial way that artists take for granted.

    I don't know how much this is relevant to your issue here, but it is a part of the larger picture.
    There's a reason why I ask really good ear improvisors if they played piano when they were younger. No big surprise anymore, they overwhelmingly answer yes.

    Fluency and ease of working with composition is also really helpful. You become aware of just how far and what the intervallic personality of a piece is. I've heard really good singers who can sing all sorts of stuff that's in their comfort zone. Ask them to improvise, or work with a vocabulary, different from their ear/muscle memory, and some can't. Have them work in the compositional realm, and identify by interval and the compositional/improvisational abilities take on a whole new dimension.
    David

  16. #15

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by TruthHertz View Post
    There's a vocalist I know, does incredibly instrumental and complex scat lines. She's always using hand movement to "feel" the contour of a line, to establish spacial presence to the music. It's important for an improvising musician to be able to sense and control space because you're composing in aural landscape. Musicians who read a pre-composed piece don't have to deal with that so it's not even an issue they can recognize.

    ' friend who teaches at the highest level, guitarists who have a really good grounding on the instrument, acknowledges that many students have talent but are not so good with contextual space. Good chops but the ordering needs attention.
    He teaches drawing as an integral part of learning music, as a way to get to the right brain, and as a way of learning to see music, create music in a spacial way that artists take for granted.

    I don't know how much this is relevant to your issue here, but it is a part of the larger picture.
    There's a reason why I ask really good ear improvisors if they played piano when they were younger. No big surprise anymore, they overwhelmingly answer yes.

    Fluency and ease of working with composition is also really helpful. You become aware of just how far and what the intervallic personality of a piece is. I've heard really good singers who can sing all sorts of stuff that's in their comfort zone. Ask them to improvise, or work with a vocabulary, different from their ear/muscle memory, and some can't. Have them work in the compositional realm, and identify by interval and the compositional/improvisational abilities take on a whole new dimension.
    David
    That's an interesting perspective... And one I can certainly relate to my own experience. I know many horn players and singerss have said to me they visualise the piano keyboard when they improvise. OK then, let's go with that.

    So are you kind of suggesting that in fact the idea of having an aural imagination divorced from the piano is perhaps a non-starter? That's an interesting idea and one I'm willing to entertain.

    Well I suppose most composers in the Western tradition played keyboards (excepting Berlioz and maybe some others I can't think of.)

    This raises interesting points about non Western traditions as well...

    But then there are also solfege systems - Western and non-Western, which all relates to an Aimee Nolte video I watched not long ago where she said she couldn't see the point of solfege at college because she already knew the notes on the piano... Pianists don't need solfege perhaps, because keys are their own visual solfege. Anyhoo. Food for thought.

    Interesting stuff for sure. Turn the aural into the visual.

  17. #16

    User Info Menu

    Furthermore the legendary missus says that she sees the piano keyboard but doesn't think of playing it - but it's always in C - everything is relative to a moveable do.

    That's also why she plays bop heads by ear along the length of one string. It's like a keyboard or a number line (she teaches maths.)

  18. #17

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by TruthHertz View Post
    There's a vocalist I know,...She's always using hand movement to "feel" the contour of a line, to establish spacial presence to the music...
    I am going to sound cruel, I know. But, I can't stand when vocalists do that a la Maria Carey. I don't think that it is particularly classy to sing with your hands making shadow puppets that aren't actually shadow puppets. Give me Joe Cocker and I am good though.

    Quote Originally Posted by TruthHertz View Post
    ...He teaches drawing as an integral part of learning music, as a way to get to the right brain, and as a way of learning to see music, create music in a spacial way that artists take for granted...
    I think drawing can help in a lot of ways, even if it is just diagramming. I am an architect and have been drawing all my life. None of my other siblings took up a creative profession and none of them play an instrument anymore. I have four sisters and two brothers.

    Quote Originally Posted by TruthHertz View Post
    ...There's a reason why I ask really good ear improvisors if they played piano when they were younger. No big surprise anymore, they overwhelmingly answer yes...
    I had 5 years on the piano as a kid. Some day I will get to posting some of my guitar playing. I welcome input on all aspects of it, including the improvisations.

  19. #18
    I'm really lazy with all of this. It needs a lot of work. I wonder about the value of learning tunes with syllables by rote. The ONE jazz tune I ever did learn with solfeggio was Stella. Spent a couple weeks with it and then got distracted with other things... shiny object disorder...

    Anyway, in that very short time, I found that spending some time with the melody and actually putting a NAME to scale degrees - relative to key center - you really start to connect them to lots of other tunes and melodic fragments. My thoughts at the time were that basically i don't hear "place" melodically as well as I should, simply because I don't have a name for it or at least don't use it most of the time.

    It's really cool when you use syllables to learn a melody... after a while you start to hear relationships on multiple levels at once. You can hear pure melodic relationships , like straight intervals, and you can also hear the different chords that are used over those intervals in other tunes, even though the one in your current tune is completely different quality or whatever. It's kind of cool. I'll have to get back to this one of these days.

    My last thought on this : I personally believe we spend way too much time being overly cerebral with syllables, working on the transcription and of things. Certainly, ear training and figuring things out should be a pretty big part of using syllables etc., but we need to work the other end as well . I think it would benefit most of us to simply record a basic version of the melody with syllables by rote, from a sheet , syllables written above, whatever hack we need , and then just MEMORIZING it as if they're lyrics. No judgment for lack of ability . No figuring it out . Just record a read-down version and playback in the car daily. You'd learn so much about melodic " place " and other relationships Which would seemingly make all of the "real" your training stuff easier as well.
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 05-15-2017 at 05:47 PM.

  20. #19

    User Info Menu

    Solfege syllables are hard though and I'm not very good at pronouncing things fast. I'm think visual (piano keys) might work better for me.

  21. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Solfege syllables are hard though and I'm not very good at pronouncing things fast. I'm think visual (piano keys) might work better for me.
    Are you talking about bop heads? :-)

    Anyway, I've got the software on my phone which speeds up/slows down audio as well. So, I guess I could cheat if I had to. :-)

  22. #21

    User Info Menu

    Funny, I find it easier to memorize melodies than chords. I found this book useful:

    Search the web for pdf "Fundamentals of Piano Practice" by Chuan C. Chang, and read the part about memory, around page 104, especially "mental play".

  23. #22

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher View Post
    Are you talking about bop heads? :-)

    Anyway, I've got the software on my phone which speeds up/slows down audio as well. So, I guess I could cheat if I had to. :-)
    FWIW Ear Training Charlie Banacos style is very much - don't sing.

  24. #23

    User Info Menu

    How many did go through music dictation routine? A teacher plays a melody, let's say, 3 times, and you gotta write it down on paper. Mind you, I did that in college a bunch, and it was a nightmare at first. Especially when the difficulty started to increase from a single voice to double voice or harmony with contrary motion and all that good stuff... Not only you had to memorize a melody quick, you had to figure out the proper notes and the rhythms. And that was my big problem!

    Also my teacher banned all the singing and even humming. Use your inner ear she'd say. To mock those who, like me, didn't have a good musical memory, she'd say ''Ok, I played it 3 times already, but for those 'specially gifted' students, I play it one more time.''

  25. #24

    User Info Menu

    I had a 40 min bus ride to school and when there was a test coming in solf, I imagined the treble staff, picked a key and played some things in my mind on this. Silently, just in the mind. Chords, intervals and a tune or two. That helped so much later with the test. It wasn't just noticeable, the good grades came easy then.

  26. #25

    User Info Menu

    Thanks for the posts everyone.

    So - the secret seems to be that you need to use a visual reference (music score, piano keyboard) to abstract the musical line and make it easier to remember. I'll play around with this for a little while and let you know if I find it helps.

  27. #26

    User Info Menu

    Christian, if I could play guitar like you I would be a very happy man! If it takes you long, it takes many people longer. I thought I was ok with melody but actually I find that if I really listen rather than just casually listen, there are bits that are totally different to how I initially thought they sounded. However my real problem is chords. I can't recognise the sounds of chords very well. Straight major, minor and 7th perhaps, and some very recognisable ones like 7#9, or 7b5 or diminished I often get, but even minor 7ths I can't always recognise. I would love to play harminy by ear, but it seems an impossible task!

  28. #27

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by plasticpigeon View Post
    However my real problem is chords. I can't recognise the sounds of chords very well. Straight major, minor and 7th perhaps, and some very recognisable ones like 7#9, or 7b5 or diminished I often get, but even minor 7ths I can't always recognise. I would love to play harminy by ear, but it seems an impossible task!
    Plasticpigeon, I know you're addressing your comment to Christian, but I've been where you are in terms of harmonic ambiguity.
    It comes with use and practice. Truly. When you use them, integrate them into your hands and ears over time, you perceive them as distinct entities. If you are a tourist looking at a herd of zebras, you might see them as impossibly indistinguishable but if you were a zebra naturalist, you'd learn to recognize the things that make them distinct. If you were to become a zebra, think, act and see like one, they're not zebras, but personalities you interact with.
    Chords and harmonies are that way. Limit your chord vocabulary and expand your lexicon one chord at a time. You will find that when someone plays a dominant chord with the 7th in the bass, you'll hear that because you know that.
    We grow up in the family of melody, it's familiar. Altered harmony, not the family we're usually born into, but the one we choose. They become unmistakable with use.

    David

  29. #28

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    That's also why she plays bop heads by ear along the length of one string. It's like a keyboard or a number line (she teaches maths.)
    I learnt piano and guitar from the same age (around 8 years old) - classically-trained as a pianist but self-taught on guitar - and did the same thing initially. Played with one or two fingers along a single string. Pat Martino's comment that he sees the strings on a guitar fretboard as six little pianos made a lot of sense to me when I first came across it as did Mick Goodrick's advice to spend a lot of time working along each string individually (the 'unitar').

    Linear nature of the keyboard aside, one big advantage of the piano for visualising intervals and melodies is its repetitive irregularity. The distinct collection of black & white notes on a piano is a much stronger reference point than the dots on a guitar neck.