Looking for tips on how to memorize music? It is possible to play without sheet music. Here are my own challenges and triumphs.
A group of musicians were asked to play for an outdoor event in an amphitheater by the ocean. The morning started with a heavy downpour and we were frantically drying wet sheet music with a hair dryer. Needless to say, it was quite challenging. What did I personally learn from the experience? Memorize your music! Yes, you can insert sheet music into plastic sleeves and that would be one way to be successful. However, it’s fun to just go to Guitar Center and play some memorized tunes in front of anyone who wants to listen.
1. So why memorize music?
Playing without sheet music is very liberating.
Of course, there is no need to memorize music if you don’t want to. As a musician, I choose to memorize to avoid awkward situations like music falling off my stand when playing outdoors. Especially performing a night concert and the light bulb on your stand goes out, surrounded by total darkness in the orchestra pit.
If you have been doing your homework during your practice sessions and are familiar with the music ensemble then you are not bound to just read the musical notes and have to turn the pages as well.
You’ll soon discover new ways to make the music flow, as you’re eager to play without music.
2. Steps to help you memorize music.
If you’re playing boogie blues or rock and roll, learn the various left-hand patterns in 12-bar blues form. Look at a couple of sentences and see if the second sentence answers the first.
When I’m reviewing a song, let’s say it’s a ballad, I first determine the key note and play around and find the melody in that particular key.
If you are given a main sheet, remembering the chord progressions is the key to memorizing the song which is based on remembering the theory you understand. Analyze the structure of the piece.
Now memorizing note for note is another ball game. Honestly, it can be more difficult for others than a young person playing a memorized piece at a recital. In my opinion, the key to memorizing sheet music is repetition. Also, try to remember if your hands are going in opposite directions or if they play separately. Also note the complicated fingering.
I suggest taking small sections of music and repeatedly going over a few lines. We call this chunking and chaining. Please, be patient. You may find that recording or using flash cards to self-assess helps build confidence in playing licks to some extent.
Establishing a rhythm pattern, programming the drums, jamming in a garage band, or simply using a metronome for a classical piece can keep you on track with song recall skills. In fact, listening to a phrase of music works the brain for short-term memory. Keep it daily. At first, I would open my music, then close it and try to play what I imagined.
3. Why these steps will help.
Practice, repetition and patience, a win-win formula, but there really is no magic pill for memorizing music. Playing with other musicians for years and having that experience helps to know how to play certain songs well without sheet music. I’m thinking that the most important factor of all is choosing to memorize a song that you know and love will make it that much easier for you to learn. You are on your way!