Memorizing Words & Music

My students had to memorize a piece on fairly short notice recently – for a concert tonight.

Of course, it’s easier this time of year. The group is cohesive, has developed concrete group ideas of musicality, and thus is achieving musicality way faster.

On the other hand, it’s harder when musical elements come so easily – because memorization isn’t something that develops along the same line as musicality. Quickly accessed musicality can actually obscure the slower achievement of memorization.

I asked my students for some strategies for memorizing words & music. Here’s some of what we came up with:

  • Write out/type out the lyrics.
  • Listen to a recording of the song before you sleep, or on repeat as you’re doing other things.
  • Just sing it a lot.
  • Practice with a friend.
  • Force yourself to sing from memory, so you can find your own problem spots.

The truth is, memorization is generally a simple result of repetition. I think most choirs achieve memorization through simple brute force: sufficient (or even plentiful) rehearsal time. Almost by osmosis, with no special effort, the piece becomes memorized.

To speed up this process, the only solution is to accelerate the repetitions. What strategy you use to achieve that is up to you, but only through repetition can you achieve memorization.