Do you remember learning your ABCs? It was with a song! While some may view memorization as a painful chore, it can be fun and easy if you memorize everything to a song! In fact, the best way to memorize something is to a song.
Here are five reasons to memorizing everything to a song or rhythmic chant is the best way to memorize something:
1. Music is a powerful mnemonic device.
The patterns of melody and rhythm in a song stimulate neural pathways in the brain and help develop memory. For example, if I ask you about the order of the alphabet, I bet a certain tune comes to mind instantly, and if you were to say your ABCs – not sing – I bet you unconsciously pause after G, P, S, V, X, and Z because of the rhythm of the song with which you learned it. (By the way, you may have noticed it is the same tune as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”.) Since music aids the memory, why not learn everything to a song?
2. Music provides structure for the brain because of the predictable pattern of rhythms and placement of words.
Did you know that those who struggle with stuttering do not stutter when they sing? This is because the structure within the music gives the brain a timed placement of words. Just as language has patterns of letters, words, phrases, and sentences, so does music, and music also imitates conversation: phrases include questions and answers, silence, listening, and response. Thus, music is a natural language which will help reinforce memorization of words, for the timing and sequencing of songs helps one memorize easily.
3. Singing works more than one part of the brain.
While the speech areas of the brain are more typically on the left side and in Broca’s Area, singing involves the right side of the brain too. Since singing requires oral, aural and physical engagement, more neural pathways form as one sings or chants than in simply saying memory work over and over. To engage even more parts of the brain and recruit more pegs for retaining the memory work, you can add visual cues, such as the words of what you want to memorize written out on a whiteboard and pictures of key words. You can also add actions for a kinesthetic element.
4. Learning with music is effective.
It is easy to forget a list of facts a few days after memorizing it, and it is not motivating to review a list. But if a student has a tune as a hook to the memory work, it is easier to remember. Having taught and tested a number of students in memory work over the years, I will attest that the ones who memorized everything or most things to a song or chant were able to effectively achieve mastery of the memory work (i.e. become Memory Masters in Classical Conversations) and retain that information in long-term memory over the years.
5. Memorizing to a song is engaging and enjoyable.
Music easily elicits emotions, so instead of expecting the drudgery of memorizing a list of facts or dates by rote repetition, memorizing with a song can improve mood and be fun. And instead of being a chore, reviewing is pleasant as you and your child sing through a bunch of songs together.
There are objections to the idea of memorizing everything using songs.
First, you might protest, “If you forget the tune, you won’t remember the facts.”
That can happen, but if you repeat the song with the facts often enough and then practice saying the material without the song also, you eventually won’t need the song anymore.
Next, you might object, “You should use all kinds of modes for teaching memory work, not just songs. There are different kinds of learners: visual, aural, and kinesthetic, so we need to meet the needs of those learners.”
Actually, teaching a song can incorporate all of these, especially if you teach actions in conjunction with the song. The actions will meet the needs of the kinesthetic and visual learners. But for the extra help for visual learning, having the words written up on a white board will ensure the words are clear (and it helps in avoiding misunderstandings and mispronunciations.)
Also, you might suggest, “I don’t learn using songs. It makes it harder for me because I have to learn both the tune and the words.”
While this may be true for adults who didn’t participate in a lot of music or memorizing to music as children, this is not true for children. Remember, young children are sponges soaking up information, melody and rhythm. They can become skilled at anything and are very attracted to learning with songs. Also, even if a child doesn’t accurately pick up the whole tune, the rhythm of the song will still aid in memorizing. Chants and rap work too! (There is a whole generation of young people who memorized all the words to one of the first rap songs, Rapper’s Delight, which is over six minutes of text to rhythm!)
Finally, you might dispute, “Not everyone can make up their own song for memory work.”
It is true we are not all composers, but certainly we can all turn words into a chant to rhythm without a tune, and often we can fit the facts we want to memorize to a simple folk song, nursery rhyme, hymn, or popular song we already know or at the very least, put it to rhythm in a chant. Also, there are lots of resources available of facts put to music, and many of them are free. Check out YouTube if you are looking for something specific or our other suggestions below. Here are Jus’ Classical songs for English grammar, the order of the U.S. Presidents, music concepts, math facts, and the Westminster Shorter Catechism.
The Best Way to Memorize Something is to a Song
Have I convinced you yet? Our children do need to memorize facts, but why learn in drudgery? Memorization doesn’t have to be painful! We at Jus’ Classical are here to help you and your student memorize facts with creative songs and engaging videos that will bring back the fun to your class.
Other Articles by Jus’ Classical
Articles on Using Music to Aid in Memorization
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.