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Have you ever wondered how so many musicians remember their songs? How could their brain possibly retain so much information? And aren’t they worried they might mess up? Playing a full setlist on stage is pretty impressive. The artist must remember and perform more than 20 songs flawlessly while balancing other tasks like playing an instrument, dancing, or just chit-chatting with the audience for a little while. But how do they do it? And can anyone do it? The answer is yes, anyone can do it, and we’ll show you how to do it shortly.
Memorizing lyrics can be simple for some people and challenging for others. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to improve your memory. If you’re struggling to learn new songs, remember that memory strength is just like muscular strength, it gets stronger the more you use it. And the 10 tips we have for you today are guaranteed to give your brain the much-needed exercise to help you quickly and smoothly retain as many lyrics as needed. There are plenty of tips and tricks to help you memorize song lyrics, but we’ve found that these ten are the best and most likely the only ones you will ever need. So let’s check them out!
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Quick 10 ways to memorize song lyrics:
1. Put your song(s) on repeat.
Listen to your song whenever and wherever you can. In your car, in your bedroom, in your kitchen, while preparing dinner, in the shower, and sing along with the artist as often as you can. After a while, you’ll find yourself unconsciously singing along without giving the lyrics a second thought. By doing so, you will be mentally engraving the music and words into your brain.
2. Write the lyrics down.
Even if you have the lyrics printed out on a piece of paper, copy the lyrics by hand onto a separate piece of paper. Research has shown that note-taking is an effective memory and learning aid, and writing on physical paper leads to more brain activity when remembering the information later on.
When you’re writing down the lyrics, you’re focusing on each word, which takes more mental work than just reading the words off a piece of paper. As you’re doing that, you’re giving your brain a little boost that’ll help you successfully load that information into your memory.
3. Focus on the lyrics and the meaning of the song.
When trying to memorize the lyrics, don’t just read the words as if it’s your job to read and remember random words. Most songs have a deeper meaning to them. The most popular topic artists sing about is love. Whether the song is about a past relationship, having feelings for someone new, getting your heart broken, etc. So pay attention to what the musician is saying and try to connect with the song. Maybe it’s something you’ve experienced too in the past or are currently experiencing. Once you really listen to the message the artist is trying to convey, it’ll become more of a storyline than a song to which you can relate, which will undoubtedly help you memorize the lyrics faster.
4. Associate the lyrics with images.
If you feel like you can’t relate to what the artist is singing about or don’t find yourself emotionally invested in the song, try to associate the lyrics with images as if you’re imagining scenes from a movie or a music video. Create a fake short film in your mind that goes hand in hand with the song’s lyrics. By doing so, your brain will immediately start playing the movie or music video you created the moment you start hearing the song, helping you remember the lyrics that go alongside it.
5. Don’t read the lyrics without music.
It’s better for your memory if your brain associates the lyrics with the song’s melody. Take the alphabet song that we all learned as kids as an example. Mixing the alphabet with rhythm and melody and turning it into a song not only makes learning the alphabet a fun experience but also helps kids memorize the alphabet much faster. Well, it’s the same thing for adults too. Remembering lyrics is easier when music is involved because it forces your brain to associate the lyrics with the music. So when you hear the music, it automatically triggers the lyrics in your memory.
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6. Repeat sections of the song.
If you feel like memorizing an entire song is a bit overwhelming for you, try to memorize it in sections. Divide the song into verses, chorus, and bridge. Sing the first verse five or six times, or as many times as necessary, to thoroughly memorize the entire section, then repeat the process with the chorus until you eventually reach the bridge. Once you’ve hit it, that means that you have mastered the entire song.
You need to give yourself a break every few hours. Sometimes repeating the lyrics over and over again can make you hate the song! Which is not something you want if you’re going to perform it anytime soon. Give your brain some rest and time it needs to process and memorize the lyrics. Go grab lunch somewhere, take a walk or watch an episode of your favorite show on Netflix. Whatever it is, just forget about learning the lyrics for a while and go rest.
8. Cover and live versions.
If you’re tired of repeatedly listening to the same song and starting to get sick of it, listen to live versions of the song or different covers by different artists. That way, you will still be listening and memorizing the lyrics of the song you want, but it’ll be less boring and monotonous, more refreshing, and something new for your brain.
9. Record yourself.
Once you’ve almost mastered the song, record yourself singing it on your phone or computer, then play the recording back. Listening to yourself singing the song will help your brain memorize the lyrics since it’s already in your voice.
10. Give Yourself Time.
Any song you want to learn can be memorized using the 10 tips we just mentioned. However, to completely absorb the lyrics, you must be patient and give your brain some time. You also need to take frequent breaks and give your brain the rest it needs. Sometimes you will practice a song for hours on end and think you have it down perfectly; then, when you sing it back one of those times, you’ll either mess up your chorus or start with the first verse instead of the second one. That mostly happens when you overload your brain with information without giving it enough rest or time to process it. So try our techniques, practice hard, but also take breaks and have fun while doing it.
Extra Tip: Practice before Going to Bed
Research has shown that sleep is linked with better memory, and we’ll explain why. There are three phases of memory formation; acquisition, consolidation, and recall. “Acquisition” is the process of introducing your brain to new information, or in this case, new lyrics. “Consolidation” happens when we’re sleeping. During this phase, our brain creates the neurological connections that allow us to remember what we learned in the first phase. The unique brainwave activity that occurs during sleep is vital to consolidation and leads to better memory. The 3rd and final phase, “Recall,” refers to the ability to access the information or “remembering.”
Since sleep plays a huge part in remembering the info we acquired in the first stage, it’s best to squeeze in a couple of rehearsing sessions before going to bed and help your brain stabilize your memories.
- Sing the song as you’re falling asleep: having the song be the last thing on your mind before going to sleep will help carve the words into your subconscious and will definitely be the first thing you think about when you wake up.
- Repeat the words one line at a time: Read the lyrics slowly, starting with the first line. Depending on what works best for you, you can either read the lyrics aloud or sing them. And repeat the line as many times as needed until you’ve fully memorized it. Use the same method to learn the second line after you get the first one down. Once you’ve mastered the second line, combine the first and second lines before moving on to the third. Continue with this process until you’ve finished memorizing all the lyrics.
- Find an instrumental version of the song: After you’ve tried all the tips we just mentioned, try to find an instrumental version of the song (karaoke version, aka a version without the artist’s voice) and sing along with the melody. By now, you should be able to flawlessly perform the song without missing any word or cue.
There’s no such thing as a magic solution to memorize lyrics quickly or to any problem, for that matter. Everything takes time and practice. Be patient and consistent. Try out our ten methods; you might find that you prefer some to others, which is totally acceptable. You will find that your memory is improving over time as you use our techniques and give your brain these memory exercises.
You will also notice this progress in numerous aspects of your daily life, not just in remembering song lyrics. (Like remembering you and your partner’s anniversary that you always seem to forget? maybe?) Our methods will surely help you deliver an excellent and flawless performance without having to worry about forgetting any lyrics. And if you happen to be on stage and forget a line or two of your song, just point your microphone at the audience and pretend you’re waiting for them to sing back your lyrics to you! It always works!