Memorizing music

Many of our students ask how to memorize music. I am not an expert in this area. Once I produced a disc with jazz songs I wrote, but this is the closest I got to working with music. So I made a short research into what other people suggest. As everybody else I suggest to combine visual memory of the sheet notes, the audio experience of actually hearing the music and the muscle memory of playing/singing the music. Below are some musical memory aspects I find more interesting.

Synestesia

Many top level musicians have synestesia and see some part of music as colors. What they see instead of chords and timbre is some color dynamics. It is easy to remember color dynamics, and one can train himself partial synaesthesia. There are many projects where students are expected to color-code notes, and even color piano projects.

Muscle memory

The traditional way of learning music, typically includes a piano or a guitar. A student exercises so much, that each note and many combinations of note generate muscle memory cues. So many musicians when reading sheet music may feel phantom muscle reflexes as if they are playing their instrument of choice.

Patterns and waveforms

Since a lot of the music these days is electronic, some people develop memory of the particular waveforms corresponding to the music. So when they see sheet music they generate waveform cues of it. Alternatively, classical musicians have names for commonly repeating note patterns and can generate them. Moreover, many people can hear phantom noises when they read music sheets and their brain is playing the music.

Combining all methods

There are simple strategies and tips and more tips for professional musicians to memorize music. Unlike memorizing text, music has more levels of complexity and more working methods. I heard stories about musicians hearing ultra-low sounds in their abdomen and other superhuman deeds, but I also heard of surprising errors in blind tests and other similar fiascos.

It is very hard to separate myth from from facts when dealing with music, and maybe we should accept both.
For further learning you are encouraged to read Bob Snyder, Music and memory

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