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Do you memorize or read music at gigs?
I memorize all my songs
46%
 46%  [ 35 ]
I have to use cheat sheets sometimes
34%
 34%  [ 26 ]
I use a music stand on stage and need it often
16%
 16%  [ 12 ]
I read music on my phone or ipad at gigs
2%
 2%  [ 2 ]
Total Votes : 75

Author Topic:  Memorization VS Music Stand
Dom Franco


From:
Beaverton, OR, 97007
Post  Posted 7 Jun 2020 5:31 am    
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I played in many bands where we never used music stands, we practiced and memorized all of our songs. I always thought it looked unprofessional to have singers and musicians performing on stage reading lyrics and music with a big ugly music stand in front of them.

Did Elvis or the Beatles perform with music stands?
How about Hank Williams or Merle Haggard? I don't remember any of my favorite singers (or steel guitarists) reading music on stage.

Thru the years I took many gigs with semi-pro groups that relied on fake books, chord sheets, etc. but I never liked the way it looked to the audience.

In more recent years I have noticed that many musicians are using their smart phones or i pads for music. They are smaller and not as obtrusive visually.

Now for the last 10 years or so I have been doing a solo act with my steel guitar and vocals, with backing trax. I memorized most of my songs, but when audience members at my steady gigs began requesting certain songs I needed to read lyrics occasionally.

I then made some "cheat sheet" notes on my MP3 player which worked great, because I was using the Player as my backup band anyway.
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Tom Campbell

 

From:
Houston, Texas, USA
Post  Posted 7 Jun 2020 6:27 am    
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I play in a church setting. Most songs are not repeated for weeks...or changes are made at the last minute. This scenario makes it difficult to memorize all the songs...so i-pads/smart phones and stands are necessary. For the front-line singers, floor monitors are used.
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Rich Upright


From:
Florida, USA
Post  Posted 7 Jun 2020 1:25 pm    
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They tell me the key, I play the song.
If I don't know the song, I fake it.
Only time I don't like to fake is when I'm on bass.
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Dom Franco


From:
Beaverton, OR, 97007
Post  Posted 7 Jun 2020 1:33 pm    
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Rich Upright, You got that RIGHT! On bass you have to be there on the RIGHT note at the RIGHT time...

I can fake most songs on the steel guitar because I don't have to land on the downbeat. I can wait till the chord is established and slide in with a nice lick or transition to the next phrase.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 7 Jun 2020 2:02 pm    
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I have all the charts on a tablet clipped to the front leg of my guitar. I don't look at them because I have learnt to memorise, which has taken time as I'm from a reading background but I found I couldn't follow a chart and look at the guitar simultaneously.

But I'd freeze if they weren't there! All in the mind, I guess Smile

The singer and guitarist unashamedly use a ring-binder and an iPad respectively. They work with other bands and can't remember everything. The drummer and bass player are walking encyclopaedias who know the lot. I don't think the audience care one way or the other as long as it comes out right. I don't think it can ever look cool to mess up...
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Larry Dering

 

From:
Missouri, USA
Post  Posted 7 Jun 2020 2:33 pm    
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Our singer uses a tablet. Keyboard player is blind and an encyclopedia of music. I ask for the key and have to fake it on ones I don't know. They refuse to use a set list like the old days.
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scott murray


From:
Asheville, NC
Post  Posted 7 Jun 2020 3:51 pm    
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depends on the gig. if I'm playing mostly original music with someone on a regular basis, I try to commit the changes to memory. if it's a one-off with more than 3 or 4 chords per song, I'll probably need cheat sheets.

I do a number of tribute gigs per year and usually require charts for those since they only come around once per year. I also lead a country karaoke band... we have charts for maybe 5% of the material, so I'm throwing a lot of numbers at the bass player on any given night.
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Kevin Fix

 

From:
Michigan, USA
Post  Posted 7 Jun 2020 3:53 pm    
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Mostly I know the song keys right off by memory. I am a play by ear player. If the song is thrown in at the last moment, I can usually pick out the melody before the second verse. Makes things real interesting. I am almost 70 and I still like a challenge.
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Paul Sutherland

 

From:
Placerville, California
Post  Posted 7 Jun 2020 4:25 pm    
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Smart-phones and tablets on stage can be serving another purpose; controlling the mix in your monitor. I use one and it's very convenient to be able to adjust what I'm hearing. My set list, with keys is on the floor by my steel leg. Only rarely do I use a music stand on stage.
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Jim Cohen


From:
Philadelphia, PA
Post  Posted 7 Jun 2020 5:21 pm    
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Rich Upright wrote:
...
Only time I don't like to fake is when I'm on bass.

Wait a minute... you're sayin' you play Upright bass? Oh, that's Rich! Wink

p.s. You've heard that one before, no doubt... Wink

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Darvin Willhoite


From:
Roxton, Tx. USA
Post  Posted 7 Jun 2020 7:45 pm    
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I played in the praise band in a large church for several years, we always memorized all of our music and had no music stands on stage. We rehearsed every Thursday night and also before church on Sunday mornings. There was an occasional clinker, but for the most part it worked really well.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post  Posted 8 Jun 2020 12:59 am    
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This conversation comes up many times. OF course many of us play without a music stand or an Ipad, etc...But the scenario is not the same for each gig or each player . Its too easy to say it is.

Some say they memorize, memorize what ? What if you are sitting in , they send a set list the night before , do you learn 40 new songs for one gig or do you chart a few songs you are not familiar with ? You are the only lead player, maybe the only guitar player. Its a 3 piece band, nobody to fall back on or say " you take it " while we fake it. There is no faking it. I too have faked it many times, but I was able to because others were prepared, I was able to float because someone else knew the material ! The truth to the matter is , if we are faking it, we don't actually know the song and maybe we should have a chart in front of us.


I chart a few songs now and then that I am not familiar with, I am not talking about 1-4-5 or 1-2-4-5 songs.

Stands are used for many OTHER things, set lists, notes, etc..

I do however totally agree that if we are in a band performing mostly the same material each gig, music stands with charts and lyrics becomes a crutch. Its too easy to NOT study and prepare.

We see many stage shows where "A TEAM " players have music stands, on a show with maybe 15 different artists. Are we implying that they can't memorize a song ? Of course not.

IF a stand assists in a good performance then so be it. IF it causes us to become lazy, thats a different story.

Someone above asks "Did Elvis use a music stand " ? No of course not, but there is plenty of video evidence of Elvis forgetting the words. Touring shows repeat the same set lists over and over for each show, for months on end. They prepare for the tour well in advance , they prepare the set list well in advance. Its not the same as playing the Legion next Friday night.

Next Fri night we may all play "For the Good Times " , no chart or stand needed, we've all played it 10,000 times. But what if someone calls the Eagles tune, "New Kid In Town" , now what ?

Part of being a player, any category, any skill level, is preparation. Maybe bringing 4 or 5 charts and a music stand or Ipad IS the preparation given time constraints.
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Bob Hoffnar


From:
Austin, Tx
Post  Posted 9 Jun 2020 6:47 am    
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I try to get off the page as best I can. But I'm weak at memorization and often find myself playing hours worth of tunes I have never heard before and will not play again so I rely on charts pretty often. I like working without charts if I am able. I wish more bands would use charts. I think it is more important for everybody to be playing the same arrangement than worry about looking professional
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Barry Blackwood


Post  Posted 9 Jun 2020 7:48 am    
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In the last ten years of my so-called career, music stands and the like seemed to proliferate exponentially. Maybe it was a desire to please "all the people all the time" I'm not sure, but it never looked very good, (and I never saw any of the pros use one.) Oh Well
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Bill Terry


From:
Bastrop, TX
Post  Posted 9 Jun 2020 8:14 am    
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Bob wrote:
I think it is more important for everybody to be playing the same arrangement
..AND in the same key Laughing..
Quote:
than worry about looking professional


I assume Bob is referring to the 'hired gun' mentality that pervades Austin, especially for steel players. I have a couple of guys that I work with where I know all the arrangements and songs, but if I get a call for a gig that requires a lot of material new to me (which I actually enjoy in a kind of perverse way) I try to chart the stuff I know will be tricky. I guess that's what Tony is describing above as well..
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Dom Franco


From:
Beaverton, OR, 97007
Post  Posted 9 Jun 2020 9:15 am    
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What we may be discussing is more about entertainment than just playing music. If I paid good money to see a concert, I would expect to see a professional well rehearsed show. And perhaps club gigs where people are dancing and drinking the appearance of the band is less important, music stands don't matter and the music is just background?
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Dave Hopping


From:
Colorado, USA
Post  Posted 9 Jun 2020 9:50 am    
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The big bands always used music stands because they played the arrangements exactly as written. The rock and roll and country bands didn't need stands partly beacause they were all gigging so often they knew the (admittedly 1,4,5) arrangements by heart.Now,of course, very few folks gig often enough to learn their setlist that well,so music stands proliferate like the coronavirus.Just shows most bands don't know their material.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post  Posted 9 Jun 2020 12:12 pm    
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Barry Blackwood wrote:
I never saw any of the pros use one. Oh Well



Well let this be the first time ! Very Happy

Heres Brent Mason on stage at the G Jones 50 years celebration show ! Now more than than likely it was for the set list and specific arrangements as this was I think a 2 hour show with multiple artists. I doubt it was for C,F and G ! Laughing But it IS a Music stand and it appeared that every musician had one .,




I'm not sure what the purpose or premise of this topic is, its a tool, if we need it we should use it, if we don't then don't use it.

Like Bob stated above , I've played plenty of gigs where I wished some of the other players actually had a chart and a music stand. I've also played plenty of gigs where I wish I had a chart and a stand ! Laughing
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Bill Cunningham


From:
Atlanta, Ga. USA
Post  Posted 9 Jun 2020 7:19 pm    
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A group of musicians who read charts can hit the stage without rehearsal and sound rehearsed and polished instead of sounding like a better than average VFW band. It is fine and looks professional IMO if it is a staff band, steel show, etc. situation. If it is a pro touring group behind an artist that is rehearsed the presentation is better without stands and charts. And the money to pay for show rehearsals is probably there along with weekly repetition.

What makes a tight sound is for the rhythm section to be exactly together, more so than lead instruments. Ever notice that Ray Price’s band the piano and bass read charts. The piano left hand and bass are doing the EXACT same thing most of the time.

JayDee Maness’s has Skip chart out all his tunes. The bass notes are written for “Heart Over Mind” so that the bass and piano are doing the same thing. It’s tight! Tommy Dodd, Jim Loessberg and Russ Hicks are similar. Having the opportunity to play bass with these guys taught me and made me a better musician with bigger ears.

I have played steel behind Opry stars who brought the charts used on the Opry for standards we all know. There is a reason the Opry staff band uses charts.

Finally, consider a tune we all know like Faded Love. A chart keeps (or leaves out) the 2m substitutions that have come popular over the years. The result is a more professional delivery.

Can you tell I am a fan of charts?
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Dom Franco


From:
Beaverton, OR, 97007
Post  Posted 9 Jun 2020 8:39 pm    
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I know that Music stands and charts have their place even in a professional setting... but I started this thread because I am not a fan of Large Music stands. For these reasons:

It takes away from the musicians and especially the leader or "frontman's" ability to maintain eye contact with the audience. People will feel disconnected from the song and singer if their head is buried in the sheet music.

A music stand limits the performers mobility on stage, he is in a sense "tied to the stand"

A music stand partially blocks the audience's view of the performers face (more or less depending upon the stage height and seat location} This looks bad to me, and seems to distance the musician from the listeners.

A player who is playing the song from memory looks more relaxed, and has the freedom to move, have fun, smile, even improvise a little bit more and also look at and interact with the other band members. (If you have ever played with other excellent musicians and begin to lock into the groove, listening and inspiring each other to reach for something new and better than you have ever played... then you know what I mean!)

(Now I realize that a Steel guitarist is already at a disadvantage by sitting down and having to look down at the fret markers while playing) But I have often fronted a band from my pedal steel or lap steel and I have learned to keep eye contact with the audience and remain engaged with them and the band. I don't think I could do that reading charts from a music stand.

A cheat sheet? for a song or two? a smart phone or tablet used without distracting from the performance? Sure.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post  Posted 9 Jun 2020 11:49 pm    
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Dom , I understood the premise. I do think a few among us have overlooked that there are many types of scenarios, one shoe does not fit all. of . Using a music stand does not define abilities or musicianship. It can however, in some situations, make us very lazy ! Very Happy
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 10 Jun 2020 1:18 am    
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Bob Hoffnar wrote:
I wish more bands would use charts.

I wish more bands could read and write. What Bill says about rhythm charts is true. If a band is large enough to distinguish the rhythm section from the front line, then if the guys at the back are organised you get a slicker product.

I've played bass in a multiple-act situation where some of the artists handed out charts, and some trusted us to know the songs. All of which was ok, but there's no doubt which sounded better.
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Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post  Posted 10 Jun 2020 7:19 am    
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My guitar slinging buddy and myself furnished all the music for a wedding a while back.
We started out with a bass player but after the 1st practice he bailed out.
He was a by the ear player and he couldn't find the chords fast enough. Whoa!
Erv
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Jack Hanson


From:
San Luis Valley, USA
Post  Posted 10 Jun 2020 7:57 am    
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Back in the day when I was playing out with some regularity, I would never even consider using a music stand. At the gig -- never. At rehearsals -- always.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 10 Jun 2020 2:33 pm    
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That sounds suspiciously like professionalism, Mr Hanson
Smile
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