Being able to memorize music is incredibly important. There are several reasons for this, and to a certain extent, it depends on the genre you are playing. To become a master at it, you will need some Tips for Memorizing Music. It just doesn’t happen by itself; it is a skill you have to learn.
What Does the Music Demand?
In some cases, it isn’t necessary to memorize the music. Jazz is an example. It relies on its improvisations. You can’t memorize that as it will be different each time it is played.
And any other genre that similarly relies on lengthy improvisation would be the same. This doesn’t apply to all instruments necessarily. There could be a case where the bass holds steady in a repetitive pattern. Well, someone has to hold it all together while everyone else is doing their thing.
You will often find if there is a lead instrument for a piece, it has been memorized. The rest of the orchestra seemingly read their parts. That isn’t the case some of the time. Most of those musicians know their parts and are just glancing over what is written.
The Studio is Different from the Stage
The studio is a vastly different scenario. There, musicians can put their heads down and craft their pieces. They will have probably learned it already and will sit either reading it or playing what they have memorized.
The stage is a different animal in terms of modern music. There you are, putting on a performance as well as playing the music. Does showmanship count? Of course. You only have to look around at some very average musicians. Those whose stage show and endless effects pedals blind the audience to their own inadequacies.
And that can work in reverse. I was working in Manchester in the UK in the early 70s. The band I was in had the opportunity to stand in the wings and watch Blood Sweat and Tears. It was their first UK mini-tour. I remember thinking at the time that David Clayton-Thomas was built more like a lumberjack than a rock singer.
Mesmerizing, but some said boring
They went on, and the drummer and I watched as they went through their set. Bobby Colomby on drums. Jimmy Fielder on Bass. We were both mesmerized. They were just brilliant individually and as a rhythm section. This was something else.
The band largely played from their sheet music, turning their own pages. Barely a flicker of emotion except for said lumberjack.
Polite applause. They had come to see a show, not to hear one. The negatives of not memorizing music? You could say that, I suppose. But then they were not the sort of characters that were likely to roll over the floor or wear silly hats.
They were all too busy fighting each other. But it did show how memorizing music improves performance, gives you freedom, and is an asset in front of an audience.
It’s a Skill
As we said earlier, it is a skill that must be mastered. You can be given tips on how to memorize music, but it works differently for everyone. It has to be right for you. You need to be able to develop a system of effective recall. Things that trigger the memory.
Let’s go through some basic and commonly applied tactics for memory recall. When we get to the end, I’ll tell you how I did it if you promise not to laugh.
Styles of music and offer differences
Furthermore, if you are learning a classical piece, the process has a different structure than if you are learning Chuck Berry. I don’t have to tell which one is likely to be easier. For this article, we will try and find ways to do both.
Three Types of Memory
Each one has its place, and someone will favor one over the other. The three types of memory are auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. Visual in music is not applicable unless you are learning from sheet music. You can learn by hearing (auditory) for most modern music. Or by doing, playing, as in kinesthetic. You will know what is best for you.
Don’t Bite off more than you can chew
You have to start gradually. You won’t be able to memorize a whole song or piece straight off. Learn one part first. If you are playing a piece that has multiple choruses and verses, are they all the same? If so, you’re lucky. But there are usually some variations built-in.
Start with learning a few bars, a chorus, or a verse. Once you have got, and I mean really got it, then you can move onto the next parts.
Be aware of not only the notes you are playing
There are other elements involved, not just notes. How about expressions and dynamics? How about phrasing? What about the rhythm and the tempo? If you are playing the bass, that last one is critical.
However, if you are memorizing sheet music, most of those elements will be written in. On the other hand, if you are learning audibly, then you need to listen. Really listen.
That was said to me once. Become one with your instrument. Don’t just play it; understand it and feel it. Once you have learned a part, then let it flow, and it will happen.
If you are trying to learn, don’t fight the music or your instrument. Relax and let it do its job. Of all the tips for memorizing music, this is one of the most essential.
Used a lot by those learning from sheet music. The experienced memorizers will take a snapshot of the page of music and keep it stored away. They become adept at being able to bring it out when they need it. But that’s called practice, lots of it. Some are not able to master that, so don’t let it frustrate you if you struggle.
Be aware of what you are doing. Some can use kinetics to remember where they should be at any given part of a song or piece of music. They do this by repeating it and repeating it.
You’ve heard the expression “until you can do it in your sleep.” They will instantly know where they are by the position of the hands and what they are doing at any given time.
Don’t be afraid to ask
Most musicians are decent people. If you ask for some help, they will offer advice. Maybe give you a few pointers on how they mastered it. Nothing wrong with asking for help as you learn. Maybe someday someone will ask you, and you can help them.
So, what did I do? I can hear you asking?
I used to sing it. And if you had heard me sing, you would understand why I did it under my breath. If it was an instrumental part, I would hum it. For vocal sections, I would sing along and be aware of what I should be playing at any point. If I had a break to play, then I would even sing to myself what I was playing.
Even during drum or other breaks, I would be playing in my head what they were playing. I found it easier to commit it to memory that way. And used that as a start to link in what I should be doing. After a while, my hands and fingers just did it automatically triggered by what I was ‘singing.’
If you would like to read about other people’s ideas on this, here are some great options…
- How To Memorize Music: Your Step-By-Step Guide To Memorizing Music
- Thinking and Playing Music
- Strategies for Learning and Memorising New Tunes
Need More Great Music Tips and Advice?
We can help you develop your musical skills and knowledge. Check out our detailed guides on How to Tune a 12-String Guitar, How to Play Drums, How To Clean Your Piano Keys, Easy Songs to Learn on the Electric Guitar for Beginners, Easy Songs to Learn on Bass, and the Best Guitar Games to Help You Learn Guitar for more helpful tips and hints.
Also, take a look at our in-depth articles on What is Considered a String Instrument, Types of Vocal Timbre, Exercises and Tips For Better Finger Dexterity, Odd Time Signatures, Everything You Need to Know About Guitar Sizes, Easiest Musical Instruments for Adults to Learn, and Different Types of Guitars You Should Know for more useful information.
Tips for Memorizing Music – Final Thoughts
Depending on your circumstances learning how to memorize music could be a great asset. If not for the performance aspect, it will allow you to feel relaxed and in control, as you play. But as Ringo might say, “It Don’t Come Easy.”
Until next time, may music always make you merry.