The Melody of the Words

kbsitepicsession004I may have told you that I’ve been enjoying a session Tuesday nights in Fergus.  I usually leave the guitar at home and take my bass just to get in some extra time on the instrument.  Typical of such a session, most of the singers play guitar–and use their capo quite freely.  Which means that for two or three hours I get to play in all the difficult keys.  G and C are quite rare.  No, usually it’s C-sharp, E-flat, F-sharp, B… they show no mercy.  So I get two or three hours of practice in all the keys I might not choose to play in on my own.  It’s really quite kind of folks to let me play along.  I suppose it’s nice, too, that they won’t let me get away without singing on my turn.  Which means I often figure out whether or not I can even play a particular song on the bass right while I’m in the middle of singing it for them.  Yeah, they’re nice to let me keep coming.

Last week I got talking to one of the regulars about memorizing the words for a song.  I agree, it takes some work.  But I think it’s a good thing to do.  It allows you to get inside the meaning of a song in a way that’s difficult when you’re reading the words.  I know quite a few really fine singers that can’t do without their big book of words.  I think it becomes even more of a problem when we keep adding songs to that book.  It becomes a huge job to memorize all of the songs in a huge book.  So we don’t even try.  So whenever I’m talking to players who are just starting to collect a few songs that they can sing and play all the way through I try to convince them to start memorizing now, while it’s still early for them.  But the point I always stress is no matter how many songs are in the book–start with one.  It may take a week, or a month, but that song will be better played for it.  Once you’ve got one go on and do another one.  Just like everything else in music, you’ll get better at it with practice.

kbsitepicsession005Because I’ve made a lifelong habit of learning the words to songs and poems and such, I’m often asked if there’s some kind of trick involved.  No, just a significant amount of repetition.  The one thought I do pass along is that I don’t really memorize the words so much as I learn the sound the words make.  To my ear the words have their own melody.  And that melody is what I learn by heart.  I know it’s a tough concept for some folks to get, but that’s how it works for me.

The melody in the sound of the words…