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How long can you remember how to play a song?


So you learn a new song. You can play it completely from memory. A couple months goes by. You try to remember how to play the song but you realize you’ve already forgotten how it goes. Is this a normal thing in your 40’s or 50’s? I’m trying to figure out what’s normal as we age.


Power User
I feel your pain! We have about 100 songs in our repertoire. I will sometimes forget some parts/notes if we haven't played them for several months. Thankfully it comes back quickly. The biggest thing that helps me is to NOT think, but simply let muscle memory do it's thing.


Power User
I think it’ll be different for everyone.

It’s different for me week to week. If I have a ton of stuff going on at work, there’s no way I’m going to memorize anything. Maybe some ballpark points, but that’s about it. It also depends on how I learn it. If I learn it and then record it right away, even just a rough guitar track over a click track, it’ll usually cement it in my head. If not, I’ll usually forget it.

Crazy, I still remember every cover song I learned in high school but can’t remember stuff I learned 2 weeks ago. Then again, I sat in basements for 4 years through high school and played those songs over and over and over.


Power User
I'm in the same boat as RevDrucifer above. Some songs I never seem to forget and others escape me pretty quickly if I don't play them often enough. Live venues are slowly starting to open back up in my state and our band has its first bookings since last March, starting in May. The band has only played as a group once since last July, so we'll all be re-learning a lot of our setlist. (Our average age is somewhere around 60.)


It’s different for me. Some things I cannot forget, some it’s impossible to remember. I’ve been on stage before and the drummer is counting the intro 1,2,3... and I have no idea what the first chord is. I look over to see where the bassist is, and It just all magically comes back. Repetition is the key for me at least, especially if singing is involved.


I’m surprised that I can’t remember a single song from my regular acoustic gig that I used to have. I would play 2-3 shows per week with about 2.5 hours of material. That was 5 years ago. I couldn’t play a single one of those songs now to save my life.

Now I’m trying to memorize some jazz standards. It’s...difficult to say the least!


I find that if I really knew it all the way through and performed it, it's usually still in there somewhere. The question usually is how long does it take me to find it?

Joe Bfstplk

What songs did we even play? I don't remember enough of the song titles of our regular set to account for a 4 hour gig....


In my 50s here and starting to forget them just a wee bit faster than I used to. Fortunately, if I just take a quick look a sheet/tabs beforehand, it usually comes back to me,


I’m starting to keep a notebook of chord charts and lyrics. The muscle memory is usually buried somewhere to be found after few false starts. I think the idea of recording yourself playing sounds good. And the idea of trying harder and maybe over practice.


Glad to hear I'm not the only one. I'm in my 50s, and a strict amateur, but I'm finding I can devote weeks to learning something (last one was a Parker solo, the one before that was Little Dreamer) and if I don't play it regularly, it's gone. And learning one pretty much drives out the previous one.


The memory isn't what it used to be. New songs fade fast. As we play them more, they stick in my memory longer. Like Matt said, I end up spending a lot more time practicing and re-learning.


I’m 57, spent an hour last night learning a song for my weekend warrior bar band including the guitar solo (not a favorite song of mine - Bad Girl by Theory of a Deadman - singer promised to clean up the language, so I said okay).
I was able to play along with the song dead on a few times in that hour- but I’ll have to do that for a few nights in a row to get it in my head. Thankfully, it’s a very easy song.

If I don’t play it for a while, I’ll start to forget things like the solo and such, but the basic rhythm will stay with me for a while
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