How to Learn a Troubadour Song/How to Memorize a Song


How to Learn a Troubadour Song
1 You hear a song you want to learn. [What? You see a song you want to learn and haven't heard it? Extra credit!]
2 Troubadour song? Find it in H van der Werf's The Extant Troubadour Melodies.
3 Different versions? Great, now look at them and compare. You can make your own version.
4 Find the text somewhere, preferably also in multiple versions. Decide which verses you like, and in which order. When we have multiple versions of a poem, they are not all the same. What do you want to say?
5 Is there a singable translation? If not, get as many different translations as you can to help you make your own. Or modify what's already been done to improve it, or maybe don't sing it in English.
6 Decide what rhythm - the words will help you with this. Maybe you want to find other transcriptions of the melody, you know, ones with rhythm. But feel free to change it - those scholars were just making up a rhythm! Don't feel bound to repeat what's already been done, but do let the words guide you.
7 Extra credit: find the manuscript versions - actually look at the music there - how does it look? Does that change how you want to perform it?
8 Put it all together and practice. Don't do too many verses! 
How to Memorize a Song
1 Is the song in a foreign language? Then get a translation or 2 (or 3). You need to know what you are saying. Can you figure out which words mean what? Look them up.
2 Write out your version with your translation.
3 Practice. Break it up into smaller parts - use the rhyme scheme to help you. Don't try to memorize multiple verses all at once. Depending on how long each verse is, you may even split them up to start with.
4. Add some gestures that help you - match the words. Examples: if you say the word "heart" put your hand there; if you talk of birds gesture up towards the sky or trees. Got a sword in your poem? Pretend to hold one, or use it as described.
5 Practice some more. The gestures should help you remember the words.
6 Once you've got each verse down (or sections of a verse), try to put them together. Transitions can be tough. Practice them.
7 Don't do this all at once! Do some for a bit, then work on something else, then come back to it. After working on it for several days, take several days off, then come back to it. Some people say learning 2 different pieces at the same time is good; you alternate between them.
8 Think you've got it down? Try recording yourself, or performing it for a family member or friend. Nervousness will make you screw up - i'ts okay. It's part of the process. Is it in great shape? Awesome! Now don't do it for a week. Still remember it? Repeat ad nauseum.