How to Memorize


As I’ve gotten older, I’m finding it more difficult to memorize music. And I need to memorize the music, because my eyes don’t work like they used to … and it slows me down when I'm trying to read the music. So I began to search online for techniques that would help me memorize music more quickly and easily. Here are some suggestions I found.

  • Stop telling yourself you can’t memorize music. Our brains are an incredible machine that have the equivalent of 2.5 million gigabytes of digital memory. I need to use it or loose it.

  • Break it down into bite size pieces. Instead of attacking a new tune in its entirety, playing through it over and over, break it down. Then memorize each segment individually before moving on to the next. This technique is known as “chunking.”

  • Identify patterns. Most of the tunes we play at jam sessions repeat patterns. Sometimes we see the same pattern in several lines, but moved up or down a tab.

  • Visualize. Create mental images or stories to associate with specific parts of the music. Connect the music with your personal experiences.  

  • Develop muscle memory. Muscle memory has carried the day more times than I can count, when my mind went blank. Practice until a tune becomes second nature, and you’re able to move your hands along correctly without conscious effort.

  • Mix it up. I have sat down at the grand Steinway piano on stage and froze, forgetting even where to put my hands to start the first note. Maybe if I had practiced starting in different places, changing up the dynamics or rhythm, or played in front of a few friends first – just by shaking things up at home, I could have remembered what to do in public.

  • Practice mentally. Sometimes I put myself to sleep practicing tunes mentally on my hammered dulcimer. I imagine which hammer I would use to strike on each string, and include the dynamics in my imagination. This reinforces the neural connections related to memorization.

Remember, memorizing music takes time and patience. Consistent and focused practice, along with these strategies, will help you build a strong musical memory and improve your overall performance. Enjoy the process and celebrate your progress along the way.

Happy dulcimering,



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