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Tune Memory is such a funny thing . . .

Posted by bj on Monday, August 2, 2010

Last Wednesday I learned a tune from listening to the Ether Frolic Mob recording it at the Jalopy Theater in Brooklyn. The tune was Old Jawbone (or Jawbone or Old Joe Bone or Walk Jawbone.) I had most of it down, was playing it afterwards from my memory of it as we sat outside playing and waiting for rush hour to be over before leaving NYC,, and I had all but a couple notes of it right, then when I got home I couldn't find a recording of it handy, or at least not one that sounded like what I think I was playing, since somehow on the long drive home from NY it just . . . frolicked away into the ether. Hopefully Jane or someone comes up with a source recording for me.

** Update! **  Bosco came through for me! As I was writing this blogpost two source files landed in my email box, Carter Brothers and Pope's Arkansas Mountaineers. Dōmo arigatō, Bosco-San! He's also uploaded his own version into our media archive here, and it's lotsa fun!

A few months ago I had started playing Eadle Alley, a Melvin Wine tune. But every time I went to a jam, no one else knew it and I couldn't bring it to memory well enough to kick it off, so it just kind of got put aside as the tune name without a tune. The other day I just started playing it, when it floated into my brain from nowhere. Now I seem to be able to snag onto it whenever I think of the name. Hopefully it'll stay there long enough for me to kick off at a jam. Once I do it once, it's usually there to stay.

I love the tune Dubuque. Can't ever kick it off but I love that tune. Trouble is it's another tune no one else seems capable of kicking off. Someday it'll come to me.

Ever since I learned Lowery's Quadrille I cannot play Whiskey Before Breakfast. The first five notes are the same in both tunes. When I come to the fork in the tune road, my playing jalopy will only go one way.

Last night a few of us played at the 1st Presbyterian Church Pig Roast, part of our payment for using their church basement as our jamming venue. We played for an hour and a half, tune after tune. One of the folks asked us how we could remember so many tunes. I just laughed!

But in truth, I can now kick off over a hundred tunes. I can't play them all well, but I can play them well enough for people to recognize them and follow along. There's probably another sixty or so that I can play if someone else kicks 'em off. Those are the ones I know I've played at one time or another. But I'm finding now that I can play most things I hear. Not everything. But most things.

I gotta wonder if there will come a time when the new tunes going in will push older tunes out . . .

7 comments on “Tune Memory is such a funny thing . . .”

Ozarkian DL Says:
Monday, August 2, 2010 @8:14:15 PM

With meself, I call it human nano-technology. Tha old brain neurons jus do'nt function like the'z us'ta.....or maybe I'm losin my battery power. I'll often be sawin on a tune and get on another without even realising it.

Humbled by this instrument Says:
Monday, August 2, 2010 @10:18:27 PM

Ozarkian, I been losin' my battery power a while now.... Bj, I'll play "Whiskey befer Breakfast," thinking I know it, only to have some hot shot ten year old take a break on it next to me sounding like Mark O' Connor, so I have to re-tool, retrofit my neurons, such as they are, and re-learn the tune a bit. So therein lies the beauty of Oldt Timey style. Wish there were a venue for that around here, not that I don't enjoy my BG, but I do like just PLAYING the tune, getting into the rhythym and groove of the tunes, etc. Oh--and accenting the one and three!

UsuallyPickin Says:
Tuesday, August 3, 2010 @2:19:02 AM

There are so many tunes with measures so close as to be confusing. We won't even mention tunes played in a different key having most of the same notes and a different title. THen there's the " Well I'll add this lick here... where the #$%@ was I. Yeah if I can remember the kickoff and the first measure I can play the tune. And ten to twelve year olds have generally been playing as long as I have, don't pay the rent or pick up groceries so I let them have at it. We won't mention arthritis. As long as I love what I'm doing I've got the tiger by the tail....... or the fiddle by the bow hairs.... R/

Cyndy Says:
Tuesday, August 3, 2010 @5:26:15 AM

Yes, the fiddle and the brain have such a funny relationship. There are times when I can't, for the life of me, think of a tune, and then I'll find it floating around in my mind in all completeness when I'm not trying to think of it so I know it's there. And I can always remember tunes better than tune names. With some tunes, I come upon retrieval clues automatically and with some I have to consciously figure out what it is that will help me pull it up reliably. It's fascinating watching myself learn sometimes. All part of the fun.

carlb Says:
Tuesday, August 3, 2010 @9:21:57 AM

Yes, there will come a time when new tunes push older tunes out, but you'll still remember how to play them if someone else starts the tune.

bj Says:
Tuesday, August 3, 2010 @10:03:53 AM

Oz, I think the info is still there, but it's an information retrieval problem. Your diskette needs a serious defrag.

Humbled, you're always welcome at our jam. ;-)

Cynthia, I can always think of a tune, I just can't always pull up the tune I'm wanting to!

UsuallyPickin' bowhairs are LONG hairs . . .

Geez, Carl, you've become quite a sparkplug, haven't you? LOL!

janepaints Says:
Tuesday, August 3, 2010 @6:53:16 PM

there's usually just a handful of tunes i recall at any one busking session, even though i know many i decided to make a tune list to keep in my fiddle case...then i promptly forgot that i HAD such a list in my i'm back to playing the 15 or so tunes that float up into the inner ear on any given day. i attribute this state of affairs to the (blessing) of gittin-up-thar-in-years mindset, aka "aw to hell with it."

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