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Old 09-22-2016, 12:00 PM   #1
cfiffpm
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Default Practice tips for memorization

To be competent to march in parades with my local pipe band I need to know their 15 or so parade standard tunes.
I'm only at that level for about half of them, and my studying and practice hasn't been helping. My biggest problem is MEMORIZATION. I can play well with sheet music, but with so much similar music I often play incorrect embellishments, lose track, or switch to a completely different tune halfway through!

My question is:
With this many tunes, what is the proper way to practice?
Would you just work on one until it is perfected, or cover two or three of them in a sitting for variety? How do you avoid losing proficiency in the tunes you already know if you don't throw a few of them into the practice session too?
Thanks for any general tips!
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Old 09-22-2016, 12:10 PM   #2
Andrew Lenz
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Default Re: Practice tips for memorization

I'd ask the band for recordings (even informal ones from practice) of the tunes they'd like you to play. Then burn a CD for your car—does anyone do that anymore?—or set up a digital playlist to listen to on your earbuds. When I was competing, I'd listen to top performances of the tunes I was going to play . . . over and over and over and over.

15 tunes may seem like a lot, but it's not really all that many. If you can't play them all in one sitting, then play what you can. Each person is different on how they learn. Personally, I'd likely tackle all 15 at once and work them up together . . . unless I know one is a bread and butter tune, then I might work on that one more. If you work on them one at a time until competency, then the ones you work on last are going to be the weakest—unless, of course, it takes soooo long that you've forgotten the first ones!

Unfortunately, I've forgotten more tunes than I know at this point! Though sometimes I'll surprise myself since tunes have a way of staying in the fingers even if your brain doesn't remember them!

Andrew
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Old 09-22-2016, 12:25 PM   #3
bob864
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Default Re: Practice tips for memorization

Quote:
Originally Posted by cfiffpm View Post

My question is:
With this many tunes, what is the proper way to practice?
I faced this when I joined a new band a couple years ago. Memorizing tunes isn't easy for me. I frequently use recordings to listen to when I'm driving. If you can learn to hum the tunes you can usually play them -- at least the big notes. Memorizing the embellishments is important too. Sometimes I make verbal mental notes "doubling on the first E, g-gracenote on the 2nd".


Quote:
Would you just work on one until it is perfected, or cover two or three of them in a sitting for variety?
I usually have about an hour to practice. Spending a whole hour on one, or even two tunes will probably be an inefficient use of the time. I generally spend some time examining the structure of the tunes -- especially finding the bits that repeat. Then I'll start memorizing two bar phrases, and combining the phrases. Eventually combining the tunes into the parade sets.

Mnemonics can help. So for example we have a set that starts with Scotland the Brave. Flett from Flotta is second. My mnemonic is "F is for Flett" because the first note of Flett is an F-pickup. As I get near the end of STB I'll remind myself "F is for Flett" and then I nail the break without hesitation and everything is easy after that. The next break "E is before F" because Battle of Waterloo starts on an E and Flett starts on an F. It doesn't make sense, but it doesn't have to make sense -- it just has to help you remember what to play.

Quote:

How do you avoid losing proficiency in the tunes you already know if you don't throw a few of them into the practice session too?
Every once in a while (maybe once every other week during the season) plus several times in the weeks prior to a gig, I will play through all the sets. If I have difficulty with any spots (usually transitions) I will get the music out and review.

I heard an interview with a cellist on the radio. She said that three was her limit. If she didn't get something within three tries she moved on to the next thing. Since I've adopted that strategy (work on many things in a practice session instead of dwelling on only one thing) I've made really good progress. I think it's a more efficient use of time because of diminishing returns. I.e., you get the most learning from the first time you try something in a session. After you've worked on it a few times you probably won't get much out of any subsequent attempts.

The exception is if there is a tune for a gig and I'm running short on practice sessions. Then I'll spend all the time trying to figure out ways to remember it.
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Old 09-22-2016, 12:28 PM   #4
bob864
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Default Re: Practice tips for memorization

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Lenz View Post
I'd ask the band for recordings (even informal ones from practice) of the tunes they'd like you to play. Then burn a CD for your car—does anyone do that anymore?
That's a great idea. My band has a lot of recordings on the band website. Sometimes there is a new tune and there is no recording. Once I can play it from the music I turn on the metronome and make my own recording to listen to in the car.

When my wife started teaching general music she needed to memorize the chorus songs. I told her about making a CD for her car. It took a year or two before she actually tried it, but once she did she was amazed at how much it helped her. Then I got to experience learning chorus songs on trips. Doh!
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Old 09-22-2016, 12:50 PM   #5
el gaitero
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Default Re: Practice tips for memorization

..as per others...listening to recordings ad nauseam in your car will help reinforce the bands' melody, phrasing and embellishments if recorded slowly and clearly enough.

I d suggest take 3 tunes max.... for a ,say,60 min or longer pc session...work the very precise hell out of each individually....do this ,say, 3 good daily sessions in a row. by the 3 rd session you'll appreciate how much more of each is starting to stick in the cranium and fingers. By the 4th..even more so.

Then start another 3 tunes ...same drill. Totally ignore the first 3 until a week or so later.

keep doing this with all the tunes. If like me, I think you'll find the 'ignored' tunes will come along not perfect ...but pretty well 'on their own' when you start them up again days or weeks later ...and without the music sheet;..even those few tricky bits or ornaments you couldn't barely do initially. better with a little more review.

when you've got them all on pc...ready up for the switch to pipes challenge. Maybe after 6-8 of them solid on pc.

Remember.... learning and playing Pipes is a marathon...not a sprint.

But its up to only you... as to how you well you do in the race.
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Old 09-22-2016, 04:44 PM   #6
Scratcher
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Default Re: Practice tips for memorization

And when you are listening to tunes in the car, sing along to them. Nobody can hear you and the tunes sink in twice as fast.
That's why the old teachers used to teach pupils to sing a tune before they picked up a practice chanter.
Cheers
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Old 09-22-2016, 05:36 PM   #7
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Default Re: Practice tips for memorization

I have to memorize pipe tunes to play and opera arias and Lieder to sing (add languages I'm not fluent in to the mix for a wee bit more complexity).

If it's a tune I've written or arranged, I play it into my computer and mix it down to an .mp3 file, or download a sound file from iTunes or whatever. The mp3s go onto my old iPod, or onto a thumb drive or I burn them onto a CD, all of which will play in my car. I used to use Cassettes, but that's no longer an option

Any chance you get, listen, sing, play, play, play until you internalize the tunes. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
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Old 09-22-2016, 05:47 PM   #8
CalumII
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Default Re: Practice tips for memorization

It might sound overly simplistic, but once you've battered a tune into your brain, play it three times over without music. Do it again the next day and the day after. A week of that sort of routine will see it pretty solid.

There is also simply learning to deal with everything else that goes on while playing. That comes with experience and learning to focus on what you're playing and not hey what is that thing on the wall over there.
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Old 09-23-2016, 02:21 AM   #9
Neill Mulvie
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Default Re: Practice tips for memorization

As the original poster said the issue is memorisation not the melody.

I have found this approach useful:
  • Firstly analyse the phrase structure - in most but not all it is likely to be two bar phrases A,B,A, C. Phrase C is likely to be repeated in each part.
  • Note any anomolies.
  • Learn each phrase one at a time. Thus for example learning phrase C means you will have memorised 25% of the tune
  • To learn a phrase play over half a dozen times and then COVER THE MUSIC AND PLAY IT FROM MEMORY - this is the critically important action. Don't worry about making a mistake you can check the music to correct it (Productive Failure is what Educational Psychologists call it) then cover the music and play the phrase from memory
  • Repeat this process with each phrase. Then put all the phrases in a part together and try to play the part from memory (CRITICALLY IMPORTANT TO DO SO WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE MUSIC). Probably you will make mistakes so check the music and then try playing from memory again.
    • Once memorised go over the tune again from memory the next day (and ff) only looking at the music to correct mistakes


I have found using this approach that it is possible to memorise a 4 parted tune in around 20 minutes. I say memorise not learn because learning to my mind involves much more than playing the notes in the right order. To learn a tune one has to deal with issues such as phrasing, the linkage of one phrase to another, pulsing/emphasis etc.

Last edited by Neill Mulvie; 09-23-2016 at 02:55 AM.
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Old 09-23-2016, 07:56 AM   #10
major_panic
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Default Re: Practice tips for memorization

Quote:
Originally Posted by Neill Mulvie View Post
As the original poster said the issue is memorisation not the melody.

I have found this approach useful:
  • Firstly analyse the phrase structure - in most but not all it is likely to be two bar phrases A,B,A, C. Phrase C is likely to be repeated in each part.
  • Note any anomolies.
  • Learn each phrase one at a time. Thus for example learning phrase C means you will have memorised 25% of the tune
  • To learn a phrase play over half a dozen times and then COVER THE MUSIC AND PLAY IT FROM MEMORY - this is the critically important action. Don't worry about making a mistake you can check the music to correct it (Productive Failure is what Educational Psychologists call it) then cover the music and play the phrase from memory
  • Repeat this process with each phrase. Then put all the phrases in a part together and try to play the part from memory (CRITICALLY IMPORTANT TO DO SO WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE MUSIC). Probably you will make mistakes so check the music and then try playing from memory again.
    • Once memorised go over the tune again from memory the next day (and ff) only looking at the music to correct mistakes


I have found using this approach that it is possible to memorise a 4 parted tune in around 20 minutes. I say memorise not learn because learning to my mind involves much more than playing the notes in the right order. To learn a tune one has to deal with issues such as phrasing, the linkage of one phrase to another, pulsing/emphasis etc.

This. This is how I was taught to play, and have always learned new things, and it works.
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