A lot has happened since last I wrote. I'll see what I can do about getting caught up on this blog. The latest and greatest happening is that my duo, Godfrey and Guy, landed a regular gig at Noosh Persian Bistro. It's a wonderful gig! We play at this lovely place every Friday from 7-10 (more about Noosh in another article).
One of the nicest things about a steady gig is the luxury of playing through your repertoire on a regular basis. We have been rehearsing weekly for 2.5 years. Without a regular gig, we spent a lot of time reviewing songs we had already learned. Now, we can review our songs at the gig, and we can spend our weekly rehearsal time learning new songs or shoring up our weaker numbers.
For the past couple months, I've been spending a lot of time memorizing Godfrey and Guy songs. We have more than 100 songs in the book, and we add a handful of new ones each month. That's a lot of music to memorize. My goal is to memorize them all. I estimate that we burn through at least 40 songs each Friday. Someday, I hope to play a gig at Noosh without cracking open our book.
There are two main reasons I am memorizing our music. First, it's easier to gain rapport with an audience if you don't have the music in front of you. Instead of staring at the music stand, you can make eye contact with the audience. Second, when I've memorized a song, I feel a deeper connection with it. If a song is memorized, I play it with more presence and command.
The weekly repetition helps me keep these songs in my head. We can't play through all of our music in one night, but there are few songs we play every week. I also find that challenging my memory is like exercising a muscle. The more time I spend memorizing, the easier it becomes.
Finally, there is so much music to memorize that it could easily become overwhelming. I've found that the best approach is to memorize 1-2 songs each week, cycle through the other songs I've already memorized, and then challenge myself to play those songs from memory on the gig. Like anything else worth doing, it's a gradual process.
- Tom Godfrey
- Atlanta, GA, United States
- When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995, served as Director of Music at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation from 2011 to 2017, and currently serve as Contemporary Band Director at the same congregation.