April 17, 2005

#102: Memorization tips

Jam camper and "jam hero" Bob, from New Jersey, writes:

If you have tips on memorization they would be much appreciated.

Bob,

Some real help in this area might take a longer conversation, but I can give a few (perhaps obvious) ideas. For help, it might be a good idea to google "memory help" or something like that. There would be gazillions of entries, I'm sure.

What has worked for me with song lyrics is to try to keep a clear head. Don't try to learn lyrics while playing guitar. Give the lyrics your full concentration. Learn a little at a time until it's down pat. Look at paper as little as possible. When you have something down clean without looking, go for the next piece the same way. Third step is to combine the two parts, still no looking unless you're stumped.

Keep working it like that. Take a break at some point, and then see if you can call everything back. You may get stumped and need to look. Practice the hard part some more, till it's fluent. Then another break, and test yourself again. Don't move on until each segment passes the test.

The next day (or practice time), review what you memorized. Did you get it the first time? If not, go back for more review. Use the original source as needed, but reestablish your ability to do it fluently without any help. Then take a break, and check to see if you still have it.

Keep reviewing and building this way. The process gets easier as your mind gets used to the task. It's a great mind exercise, and of course it's a practical matter for someone who wants to sing songs.

If you have any sort of regular commute, that’s a great time to work on this. A lot of people learn foreign languages while commuting!

Enjoy it, Bob, and stay in touch.