Do you need help with how to memorize something? Memorizing to a song or rhythm is effective and engaging because music has structure of melody and rhythm to make it a powerful mnemonic device.
Tips on How to Memorize Something Aurally Using a Song
Let’s use “America the Beautiful” as an example.
1. Listen to the whole song.
Think about where the natural breaks are in the song – these will be short sections of words or a natural phrase in the music.
2. Starting with the first section of the song, listen to the melody and words of that first phrase. Pause the recording and sing back what you heard.
(Note: Do not try to memorize too long of a section at once.) We will start with “O beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain.” (This even could be divided into two phrases if the tune is unfamiliar or the words tricky.) After singing back what you heard, go back to the beginning of the recording and again listen to the first phrase then pause the recording and sing it.
3. Sing the phrase over and over at least seven times.
Make sure you sing it accurately and the same speed each time so your brain can develop a pathway of memory.
4. Repeat the same process in 2. and 3. (listen and sing back) with the second section of music.
The second phrase in “America the Beautiful” is “For purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain.” Listen to the melody and words of this phrase, sing it back, listen again, then sing seven times.
You will follow this process for each phrase – listen, sing the phrase, listen again to make sure you got it right, sing the phrase repeatedly (seven times).
5. Put these first two sections together and sing the first two phrases together five to seven times.
Make sure the children are singing at the same speed each time and holding out the notes that are longer – don’t let them rush from “grain” into “for”. It is important to sing the song correctly and the same way each repetition when learning it to let the neurons of the brain form these new connections and patterns. This way the children will be able to recall what they have memorized, for neurons that fire together wire together.
6. Now go through the process of listening, singing back, listening again, singing seven times for the third phrase.
“America, America, God shed his grace on thee.”
7. Add this to the first two sections and sing all three phrases together five to seven times.
8. Repeat the process of listening, singing back, listening again, singing seven times with the fourth section of music.
“And crowned thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.”
9. Add the fourth phrase to the third phrase and practice these two phrases over and over.
10. Sing through all four phrases together.
11. Continue learning each section separately, then add to the previous sections until you know the whole song.
“America the Beautiful” has only four phrases the way we divided it, but it could be divided further into eight phrases if you find the phrases are too long to learn easily.
Note: If a song has more than four sections, you may only want to learn four sections in one day, especially if you are new to memorizing to songs or the words or music are new or difficult. Then, the next day, review the first four phrases and add more sections.
For example, extremely long songs – like a timeline song with over 150 events – or songs with unfamiliar tunes or older language – like hymns or the Westminster Shorter Catechism – will take longer to absorb. It is better to break up the memory sessions to allow the brain to develop neural pathways so you do not just “cram and forget.” We want to truly exercise the memory to eventually be able to store the words and melody in long-term memory.
Now you know how easy it is to memorize something using a song. Simply listen to a phrase, sing back the phrase, listen again to make sure you got it right, then sing the phrase repeatedly (seven times). However you break up the phrases, the important thing is to repeat a lot, especially as you add the phrases together. Then, review, review, review!
Have fun learning!
Other Articles by Jus’ Classical
Resources for Memory Songs
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*Note: I have not personally used or listened to all of these recommendations, but I wanted to show you what kinds of items are out there for memorizing to music, and these have high ratings.