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How long can you remember how to play a song?

dpeterson

Axe-Master
Update: I'm 51 (yesterday was my birthday). Yesterday I ran through most of the songs on our last setlist, that I haven't played in over a year, and I remembered about 95% including the harmony vocals. Even went through some deep cuts, and it was all there. Really surprised me.
 

BaronVonGrim

Power User
Its gets so bad you wonder why you even bother learning.
And songs I wrote when I was twenty, I had forgotten most at 40.
You you can record your stuff and store it. That would be nice. But then you just can never find it anyways.
I don't even ever hardly play the same thing twice, there's always something I'm doing differently.
 

Tremonti

Fractal Fanatic
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.
This. Muscle memory and getting my dumb brain out of the way! Good point, that I have thought of before, but never heard anyone else say. If I start thinking ahead to much, I start to panic, then it really gets thrown off. There's always the Roy Clark method for "thinking".....just scratch up and down the strings until you get your bearings straight....lol.
 
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lauke-lux

Fractal Fanatic
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.
Totally when you're only rehearsing like with this covid crisis. Whenever I have played a song live, once or twice for some reason it seems like that song remains in memory as if it were graved on stone; for at least a year or two.
 
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plexi59

Guest
Update: I'm 51 (yesterday was my birthday). Yesterday I ran through most of the songs on our last setlist, that I haven't played in over a year, and I remembered about 95% including the harmony vocals. Even went through some deep cuts, and it was all there. Really surprised me.
Use it or lose it, just like with anything else. I wonder how much mental decline in seniors can be attributed to them just not exercising their brain. Probably most of it. Whenever I'm on vacation, I can feel I'm getting dumber, and that's like 7 days to 2 weeks max. Imagine not doing anything for a year or two - I'm pretty sure Mother Nature will re-allocate those resources from the brain to something more useful in prehistoric times, such as belly fat.
 

pauly

Fractal Fanatic
Sadly, about 25 minutes. 🤪

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.
 

JacobCooper

New Member
When I devoted most of my free time to playing music, 3-5 days for me was enough to remember a song but provided that I'm playing it several times a day. However, it depends on the difficulty of a song, a person's abilities, and many other factors. I'm young enough; perhaps, it helps me learn to remember how to play songs faster than older people. Remember that regularity is a key to success.
 

Stratman68

Axe-Master
For me, I think your "role" in the song has some bearing. I have been the singer in every duo, trio and band I have been in - EDIT: Sometimes shared lead with others in bands. Which is many.
Also a long solo act. So paying guitar and being the singer, has made it easier to remember. For me it's more about remembering the words.
When I remember the words the chords and structure come right along with it.
But yes, without a doubt, my song memory dwindles each passing day............
 
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maxdown

Fractal Fanatic
It all comes back under pressure .... about a bar behind everyone else though.

Only regular gigging just keeps our band on the mark ..... but drop a song for more than 4 or 5 weeks and it's asking for disaster. Let's face it we might have a week to learn about 3 new songs sometimes before next rehearsal - so in reality that's a couple of hours at home for each one if lucky and a couple of run throughs at quiet rehearsal 2 days before the gig. Quick in ... quick out unless played ad nauseum at gigs for a month or 2.

We'd normally rehearse any comebacks or at least give ourselves a week's warning to allow personal revision and do it as a soundcheck.

It's strange but when we drop a song from the set it's usually because everyone is sick to death playing it - yet when it's re-introduced we have forgotten chunks and after revision normally say 'Why did we stop playing that one? It's great'. So in our case while a lot can perhaps be attributed to age related issues it seems there's also stupidity to factor in!

There are the odd jams at things live if asked to do it ... but they are rare .... and usually horrible
 
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plexi59

Guest
Makes me wonder if truly phenomenal musicians just have better memory for this kind of stuff. I’ve met plenty of scientists who have amazing memory both in terms of capacity, fast recall, and durability. A couple of dudes in college could read pages upon pages of gnarly formulas and reproduce them next day or next week or next month, no problem. Exams were a non-event for those folks. I, on the other hand, had to work hard for my grades and now I hardly remember any of it. I just know where to look, but that takes time. OTOH neither of the dudes ended up working in their profession. One is a banker and the other is dead: choked on his vomit while drunk.
 

brianv4

Fractal Fanatic
Really depends on how much or often I played the song. Songs I learned early on and played a lot seem to stay with me. Now, I play with several different acts with different styles or genres. Those shows are less frequent so I'll have to refresh those before the next touring season. Fortunately I write good charts so they come back pretty quickly.
 

Muad'zin

Fractal Fanatic
If you ask me when are your family members birthdays I can't remember them. I misplace and lose things all the time. Ask me however to do an old choreo or an old song that I used to do fairly regular, give me a couple of plays to freshen things up and I can probably still play it. And I never play with sheet music or some clues written about each song. To be honest, when I still played with pedals I had more difficulty remembering which pedals to prime or tap to which settings then playing the actual song. Muscle memory is a great thing!
 

Daveis

Inspired
I’ve noticed there’s musicians that can play anything from reading sheet music. And there’s the kind that only play from muscle memory. I can’t play guitar and think at the same time. My guitar teacher would tell me to stop thinking. Or say I can tell your overthinking this. Just relax and play it. It makes me wonder if songs are stored in the brain or in the nervous system. For instance what is tremolo picking? The movements are too fast to think about. You just do it.
 

Cooper Carter

Fractal Fanatic
Vendor
Stuff I learned pre 25 I'm not sure I'll ever forget. I'm stunned at the random things I can pull out almost note for note that I haven't played in years. Anything I've learned in the last seven years? A bit less recall on those 😂
 
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