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How to Memorize More Effectively

By Bennett Sullivan on Jun 2, 2018


These 3 tips will share some insight on how you can memorize the music you’re learning faster and deeper so you can jam and improvise better.

Playing music isn’t about learning as many tunes as possible. Yes, knowing more tunes will give you a better idea of the vocabulary and construction of the repertoire but if you learn too fast, you run the risk of not becoming a flexible musician.

A flexible musician is one that can make subtle changes to their song arrangement based on who they’re playing with and how they feel in a specific moment. These musicians are the ones we all admire at the jam session. You can tell their ears are always turned on and this is because they’ve focused on how they practice and not what they practice.

Getting off the tab is an issue most of us struggle with but after implementing a few of these tricks, you’ll have a path for learning that will help you improve faster and become the flexible musician you’ve dreamed of being.

  1. Slow, slow, slow - most students don’t realize actually how slow you need to practice to internalize music at the level to become a good musician and they rush through the song they’re learning. You should be able to fully visualize and hear what is coming next in the song before you play it and if you can’t, then you’re going too fast. 80 bpm at 2 notes per click with the metronome is a great speed to start with and you may even need to slow that down. Trust me, going slower is a game changer.
  2. Bit by bit - trying to play through a song over and over again and just assuming the messiness will get clean with repetition is a waste of your valuable time! It may be fun to bang it out but just think about how satisfying it will be to play the melody cleanly all the way through. Instead of playing through multiple times, try going measure by measure, or even 2 measures at a time. You have to break the melody down to small enough chunks so your mind can grab ahold of what’s going on. An entire melody is way too much for most to remember in one go. Remember #1 and practice slowly to tell your muscles what to play and when.
  3. Sing it! - It’s so easy to get wrapped into looking at the tab that we forget to engage our ears. Tab ain’t so bad if you’re using it in small doses and you’re using good ear training practices with it. When you sing what you’re playing, you’re telling your mind “this is the sound of the melody I want to memorize” and the tab reinforces “this is what the melody looks like.” By practicing this, you’re learning both muscle memory and mental ear memory. You may sound like a crazy person at times, but it’s an essential piece to becoming a flexible musician.

Try out just one of these tricks the next time you practice and see how it feels. At first, it may seem you’re progressing slower than normal but in the case of music (and learning most skills), you must go slow to go fast. Eventually, you will find a rhythm in your routine and the memorization will get faster and faster.

We recommend trying this out for 30 days to really see change in your playing. Let us know in the comments if you accept the challenge and what your routine will look like after implementing these tips!

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06/29/2018, 11:21 AM

Okay, two of the comments hit on the same question I have - singing the melody. I'm taking this to mean you are doing a "la la la" or "dum dum dum" or whatever noise you want to "sing" with and change the notes up and down with the music - not literally singing the words of the song. Right? Or am I completely lost????

Ed Emrich

06/06/2018, 19:51 PM

I do practice slow but I try to keep it at the same place throughout the new piece and I do practice the licks/ phrases individually until muscle memory starts to kick in. Singing it is somewhat a problem as I don't know many of the tunes. Great piece. Very helpful. Regards, Ed in Fanning Springs FL


06/06/2018, 19:08 PM

Most music lessons online and by book do not have vocals or even the words to songs. It is difficult to play and sing but even harder when you don't know the words.

Scott Seaman

06/06/2018, 18:23 PM

Angeline the Baker, here I come. It’s been elusive to me for reasons I don’t understand, but i look forward to making this seemingly simple melody more approachable. Thanks for the nudge.

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