Tell me if this sounds familiar...
I used to dread that moment at parties when someone would see me and say
"Hey! You play music? Go on! Play us something!"
I knew a few songs, but had to have the sheet music in front of me to play them.
And the one song I did have memorized? I didn't really like playing it, and always stumbled in this one part.
The problem with relying on sheet music...
Sheet music is great for learning complex classical pieces.
It's great for playing in a symphony or a big-band, when you have to play a part just so.
But are you playing in symphonies, or complex classical pieces?
Neither am I.
And I think we shouldn't be relying so heavily on sheet music.
The solution involves learning and memorizing a song correctly. And correctly means not relying so heavily on sheet music.
Doing so leads to knowing a song. And when you know something, you can recall it, and play it whenever and wherever you are. You get to express the song through yourself, not just play the notes of the song.
Think of yourself as a great movie actor.
To truly deliver your lines convincingly, you need to not only have the lines committed to memory, but for them to be a part of you.
Be more like Brando instead of a news anchor.
I'm here to show you how to do that.
Step By Step: How to Memorize a Song
In the videos below I explain my methodology for knowing a song. I explain the steps necessary to learn and memorize the song.
Watch the video, and read the steps below the video.
Step by Step:
Put away the accordion
Listen to the song on repeat until you "know" it.
Knowing a song means being able to hum it or sing it. This may take you a few minutes, a few hours, or likely a few days.
Without first knowing the song, there is no way to play the song from memory.
Play the song's melody
Using a playback exercise (the type I provide on Accordion Love) or sheet music, play the song's melody. You should know the melody from the previous steps. In this step you are finally playing the melody with your fingers.
It's at this stage that you are paying close attention to fingering, difficult passages, phrasing, etc.
Begin memorizing lines
Only now, in step 4, do you begin to memorize the melody, line-by-line. Play a few notes from playback or from sheet music, and then play them back again without the sheet music.
Repeat this exercise for an entire line.
Don't attempt to digest the entire song. You are just committing to memory a single line or phrase of music.
Pause, digest, repeat
Time and patience are your friends. Trust that your body is learning by you giving it time to digest the music you just gave it.
After memorizing a line, go for a walk. Have a nap. Sleep. Then, come back to the lines you memorized.
Can you still hum the melody?
Do your fingers play the line smoothly? If not, where are you stumbling, and what can you do to correct that passage?
If everything worked fine, memorize the next line.
Example: How to Memorize Ode To Joy
Have a look at the video below to memorize the song Ode To Joy.
Ode To Joy Sheet Music
Looking for more effective ways of learning songs?
I have an entire section of song learning tips and tricks over on the Lessons side of the site. Sign up for a free 3-day trial, or Login now, to access them.