Need to learn how to memorise song lyrics? It takes work and repetition. Here are some strategies that may help. Try the strategies listed below then select and combine the ones that suit your learning style.
1. LISTENING: Listen to the song while doing something else e.g. cleaning, cooking or, my favourite, walking in the park. Put it on repeat. Eventually, you’ll be singing most of the lyrics without realising.
2. READ ALOUD: Read the words aloud one phrase or section at a time, pronounce and articulate each word clearly and slowly. This will help develop muscle memory. Raise your pitch slightly and avoid vocal fry, this will help later when you sing it.
3. WRITE IT OUT: Write the lyrics and SAY them as you write,
thinking about the meaning as you do so. Others may prefer to type out the lyrics. I find the physical act of writing more effective. This step also helps with comprehension of meaning.
4. SPEED WRITING: Write out the lyrics as fast as you can without thinking for 20 minutes. Have a printed copy in front of you as you do this. After 20 minutes just stop and do something else. Then repeat later. This is an effective way of memorising essays, combined with Step 5 below.
5. WRITE, REDUCE, REPEAT: This method is very effective in the final stages. Write and reduce, remove non-essential words, reduce further till you're down to a word per phrase. Often it is one word that will trigger other words.
6. FORM & STRUCTURE: Draw a diagram of the song structure to help you visualise it. e.g Verse, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus. Write out the different sections in different colours.
7. FIND PATTERNS: Find order, alphabetical, rhymes, mnemonics: it’s in our nature to look for predictable patterns, use this to aid your memory.
8. ANALYSE IT: What is the song about? Research the meaning, composer, history i.e. the story behind it. This generates interest and adds meaning to your interpretation. Translate that to an experience you can relate to, e.g. what feeling do the lyrics evoke for you? It doesn't have to be the same as the composer.
9. IMAGERY & VISUALISATION: Associate a visual image with words to create a journey through the song, like a short movie. Associating physical movements with the lyrics can also help provide imagery especially for kinaesthetic learners.
10. SING TO SLEEP: Sing or say the lyrics quietly to yourself in bed before falling asleep. Sleep is the time when your brain organises what you’ve done and learnt throughout the day. You are more likely to retain the lyrics. See sleep consolidation.
11. FINAL TEST: Recite the lyrics from memory as if you’re reading from a book, not in rhythm and not in the song phrasing. It is more difficult than expected and it's fun. I did this in a class at university and nobody in the class could do it. It's an effective way to test whether you actually know the lyrics.
REVIEW IN SPACED INTERVALS: Once you have learnt a song, review it often to keep it fresh and reinforce the memory. For example, review the lyrics every day, then every second day, once a week, fortnightly, then monthly, etc. This way the lyrics will be transferred to long-term memory and retained. Good Luck!
Here is an animation I created, it features some of the strategies listed above.
I’d love to hear from you, please leave a comment below with your thoughts!
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