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Bob Elliott
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Bob Elliott

1/8/2018 3:35:29 PM

About 50 Songs
So I put my notes for about 50 songs on a clipboard, and I'm committing words and music to memory. I don't have gigs, so it is unusual for me to do that, but I want to be able to play a ton of material off the top of my head. Fifty is not maybe so much (Johnny Cash carried about 500 in his head) except that most of these are standards and other types of songs with rather involved difficult chord sequences or tricky fingerpicking. I made all the arrangements to fit me, and they are rarely in the original key, but are instead right where I can sing them best.

But you also gotta know all the words. So it's real good for the memory, I think, and it is a state I decided I want to always live in: ready to play for a couple hours (3?) with no notes at any time.

A lot of memorizing the lyrics I do while working on stuff at my house. Just as I do whatever job I'm on I see if I can go through all the lyric in my head, and I have the notes nearby if I get stuck. It takes a little mental prodding to stay on that task as your mind drifts, but after awhile I start to know the lyrics well.

Often I play through the songs without singing, like maybe when I'm playing Scrabble with my wife. I find practicing chords and words separately still gets it all in the head.

Some of the material is my own, too. Actually, part of the real goal is to get where I know all of my own songs as acoustic versions (not even close right now on my own songs).

After I get all these memorized, the plan is just to add more without the others leaking out my brain.

I just thought out what would I really like in life, and this was one very clear thing I've wanted for a long time, so now I got organized and ready to work on it during all different parts of the day.

While watching TV
on breaks at work
few minutes here and there
extended times in the evening

Having it all alphabetical on the clipboard is really the extra focus that is helping me, because I've worked on songs for years, but this board keeps focusing my attention and repeating.

Here's the list at present (imagine the power of knowing all this by heart):

Alfie
All Along the Watchtower
Angeles (Though I can't remember how I play this yet)
The Best Is Yet to Come (hardest tune I ever learned)
Close to You
Could It Be I'm Falling in Love?
Doctor My Eyes
Don't Think Twice It's Alright
Foolish Fool
Fly Me to the Moon
Gimme Shelter
Girl of the North Country
The Good Life
If I Ruled the World
If You Go Away
I Shot the Sheriff
I Wanna Be Around
Jive Talkin'
Julia (But I can't remember how to play this)
Let's Get It On
Little District
A Man and a Woman
Mercy, Mercy Me
Misty Morning
Moon River
My Funny Valentine
Naive Melody
On a Clear Day
Passionfruit
People
Police and Thieves
Roots, Rock, Reggae
Satisfy My Soul
I Saw Red
Song for You
Speak Softly Love
Steppin' Razor
Take Me to the River
That's the Way of the World
Them Belly Full
Tumblin' Dice
Until You Come Back to Me
Valerie
We've Only Just Begun
What's Going On?
What Kind of Fool Am I?
Where Do I Begin?
Where Is Love?
Who Can I Turn To?
Who the Cap Fit
You Are the Sunshine of My Life
Your Song


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Larree

1/8/2018 3:45:57 PM


Excellent list! Great idea. Always good to be ready.


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Scott

1/8/2018 6:03:25 PM


Pretty impressive Bob, although there are a couple crooner songs on there that I would use to take a bathroom break. :D


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The Rhythm Kings

1/10/2018 10:17:47 AM


Tumblin Dice and Doctor My Eyes... Two all time Favs!

Bruce


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Stoneman

1/10/2018 2:39:03 PM


Way to go man, great set list!


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Steve Ison

1/10/2018 4:39:02 PM


Woh..Very impressed Bob..So many different styles/eras -sooo many great songs..I admire your patience n dedication doing this - def something i don't have..The only time i "practice" solo is if i've got an original songs gig coming up & there's chords i've gotta remember fully..

Worked out how to play Michelle, Girl, Benefit Of Mr Kite n some other cool beatles ones properly a few months back from enthusiasm -but have since totally forgot the chords :(


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Hop On Pop

1/10/2018 9:11:24 PM


Impressive as hell, Bob!


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Bob Elliott

1/11/2018 7:11:28 PM ---- Updated 1/11/2018 7:25:42 PM


Well, it’ll be impressive if I actually do memorize them. There are others, too, like ‘Lovesong’ by The Cure and really a bunch of things I’ve played before. At least 5 Hank Williams things. Many more Stones things and some Beatles things, some I already have down, plus I wanna know all my own. It’ll be more than 50tunes inside me and it will grow.

Not very hard to remember the stuff that’s rock or country, but those standards are intense and so is some of the soul like Stevie or ‘Until You Come Back to Me’. ‘The Best is Yet to Come’ is beyond the pale. Probably 30 different chords held about a second each most of them tricky.

But it is because of thinking about who do I want to be.What I really want to be is someone who can just play songs off the top of my head, and I’d like that to be a permanent state. I don’t even have any gigs, but like say I visit my mom or dad, and I’m sitting around playing some stuff. I don’t want notes. I just want to play them some standards. Or we go out to San Fran to visit our kids that live there and we hang out with people at Golden Gate Park. I don’t want notes, I just want to be able to pull up song after song and relax with the people. Or a fire pit at our house family and friends, I wanna. be able to play in the dark no prob.

But maybe primarily I long for the changes it makes in me as a musician to live in that state, ready to play. I become a music creature through and through. Makes me play sing and write better.

Anyway , I’m getting there. It’s a two sided thing. There’s the chords, and then there’s all those lyrics. However, if you play these songs off your note fairly often as I have been, you are not that far from knowing them, but you will stay in that state for years if you don’t work on taking away the notes.

There’s a lot of standards in there, but I find those really make me better at everything musical.
But you gotta fit time in while still having your job and your life with loved ones AND trying to make your own classic album of your new material. I think in the long run getting to this state will make me quicker at achieving my own albums, though.

A lot of words here just to describe what is really less a rationalized plan than it is a physical urge to contain the songs i love inside me. I only have this one life and when I step back and feel what I actually want to be, it’s someone who contains the music in his hands and voice ready to play.

Always seemed so wrong to put so much of my soul into music, and yet get in a little situation where people are sitting around and would like some tunes, and I can’t really get through hardly any without notes. That always feels like bad dream, like my true self didn’t show up.


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Bob Elliott

1/11/2018 7:21:30 PM


“Doctor My Eyes” was so fun last night.


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Shoe City Sound

1/12/2018 12:43:27 PM


Bob, I admire you so much for learning the 50 songs. I always felt the same exact way about being the person that just sits down (it's piano in my case) and plays without sheet music. All the things you say here are so true and giving me lots to think about. I'm the one that never memorizes a thing. I'm not so happy with that status, I guess.

Dolores


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