Lesson on Memorizing Songs Using Games

There is a lot of time we’re away from our instruments. Valuable time we wish we could be practicing. Who says we can’t practice when we don’t have our instruments though?

I get some of my mot valuable practice time when I don’t have my instrument in my hands. This is partly due to the fact I really have to concentrate to see the instrument in my mind.

When a guitar is in your hands it’s too easy to space out and think about other things. Ideally, you would see the guitar in your head as you play. The intention is to keep your mind from wandering. More in this later…

In My Room

If you asked a guitarist to name some of the most valuable skills for their instrument it is unlikely you wouldn’t hear the words “memorization”.

Often guitarists get caught in the world of scales, bends, picking and pull offs. I’m not saying these skills are not important because they are.

In order to move from bedroom guitarists to gigging guitarist, your memory skills are going to need a workout.

Remembering song arrangements is an extremely important element to making music. Often this skill is not worked on until a guitarist starts playing with other musicians. This is waiting to long. You can’t really begin to understand music until you understand arrangements. Learning one riff to a song is the equivalent to tasting only the sauce that comes with BBQ ribs. It’s only one piece of the puzzle.


There is the belief that just playing a song over and over again is the best approach to memorization. This is referred to as rote memorization.

I find this to be a in-efficient method. It’s not effective for good long term memory.

Instead, I like to use a Story Board based system. It’s basically like creating a story from start to finish that follows the arrangement of the song. It includes visuals that relate to each specific song.

This creates a much deeper connection to the song. You can find out more about my memorization techniques for music in my book.

How does one practice building these skills aside from learning new songs? I have found a few apps for the ipad and iphone that will assist in developing a strong  memory.

Memory Matches 2

I use the app Memory Matches 2. It’s a memory card game. You’re presented with 16 cards. You flipcards over and have to remember them until you find a match.

Many are familiar with this game. How does one tie this in with music though? We’re going to create stories in a similar fashion as we would for song arrangement.

I’ll walk you though it. Let’s create a story.

Card 1:

music memory games 2


One of the Villaige People

Card 2:

music memory games 3


Is subbing for Santa Claus

Card 3:

music memory games 4


but doesn’t know how to fly the sleigh fast

Card 4:

music memory games 6


So he asks NASA to borrow a rocket

Card 5:

music memory games 7


But he doesn’t know how to fly that fast either

Card 6:

music memory games 8


So the construction worker shakes the glitter off his hat

Card 7:

music memory games 9


and throws the santa suit in the recycling cans

Car 8:

music memory games 10


in front of Chef Boyardee cafe that.

Card 9:

music memory games 11


Uses a solar panel to power a grill

Card 10:

music memory games 12


to make a 3 ft hotdog

Card 11:

music memory games 13


Chef walk out front to recycling cans

Card 12:

music memory games 14


pulls santa suit out

Card 13:

music memory games 15


has idea to use power cable from the solar panel

Card 14:

music memory games 16


Charges rocket and delivers gifts

Card 15:

music memory games 17


eats a hotdog while flying it to show off (what a jerk)

Card 16

music memory games 5


Chef is now revered as a genius despite his cooking (not the best chef).

Without looking back, how much of this story can you remember? I bet more then you realized. Much more then if yo were to just remember verse, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus, outro.

Now, imagine if you could tie this with songs? The stories you make up don’t have to be directly related to the song. You can make up your own wacky tale.

Tip: the more ridiculous it is, the eager to remember. Let your twisted, perverted minds have a field day.

Tip 2: Keep the stories to yourself. You don’t want people to know what you really think.

Use Your Imagination 

This is a creative way to memorize songs. Good thing that musicians are creative types.

I suggest using this Matches 2 app on a daily basis, even if it’s only for 5 minutes each session. You will consistently build on this new skill.

Don’t worry about the timer. How fast you create and remember the story isn’t important. It’s only important that you create a good enough visual story to stick.

Play 1 game. Then put your iDevice down. Walk away. Get a glass of water. Do you still remember the story in 10 minutes? How about in an hour?

Over time, your skill at creating powerful images and speed will increase.

Most importantly, you’ll be able to remember songs without a cheat sheet onstage.

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Guitarist Mark Marshall located at 51 Macdougal St #264 , New York, NY . Reviewed by 11 customers rated: 4.9 / 5
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