Memory is a funny thing. Most people can quickly recall the lyrics & melodies from hundreds of thousands of songs just from memory. Yet, the same people cannot remember their academic studies or a few items from their grocery lists.
Well that sucks. Or does it?
In this article, I will explain why memorizing song lyrics is easier than other things and how we can use this knowledge to our advantage for the improvement of our memory skills without training.
Why We Remember Song Lyrics
Oral ballads and songs have been around for centuries, maybe longer. Before the widespread use of writing, these were the main ways of passing stories and of course knowledge.
To make the stories memorable, people had to appeal to the minds of those listening in such a way that they could retain the knowledge and pass it on without compromising its meaning.
They used 5 ways to achieve this.
1. RepetitionListening to the radio, you hear the same songs played over and over again, or perhaps you listen to the same album repeatedly. Either way, you listen to the song multiple times.
The more you listen, the better you can remember the lyrics.
The brain thrives on repetition, and music in this age and ages long past is repeated many times to ensure you remember it well. In fact, there is much repetition within the same song.
2. ConnectionsWhen you listen to a song’s lyrics, it is not just the lyrics you remember.
Your brain makes connections by remembering the music the lyrics are set to, the cadence of the words spoken, where you hear the song, who you are with, and a host of other factors.
The more factors the brain remembers, the more likely it is that you will remember the lyrics.
3. Rhyme and PatternYour brain is a machine and, as a machine, it works best if the same pattern is repeated.
Songs follow a repetitive pattern both within the single song and within the genre that makes it easier to memorize the lyrics. Not only that, but rhyming leaves less room for error.
If the second line ends with “twins,” then the fourth line has to end with something that rhymes with twins, such as “grins” or “wins.”
The brain is more able to handle memory of rhymes because of this lessening of possible word choices.
4. Children & MemoryLearning song lyrics and jingles is much easier when you are a child than when you are an adult.
Studies have shown that this is possibly because a larger amount of a chemical called “NR2B” in children’s brains. As you age, the level of NR2B decreases, as does your ability to memorize things.
5. EnjoymentPeople remember songs better if they are enjoyable.
Maybe they tell a story that the audience finds a connection to, or perhaps the people listening just enjoy the type of song that is being sung.
Either way, enjoyment makes a big difference in the way you remember song lyrics because you tend to ignore the songs that you are not interested in.
How To Use This To Your Advantage
1. RepetitionThe saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.” This goes for memorization, too, in two simple ways.
First, repeating the information frequently in the same order will lead to the mind keeping the information on hand more quickly. You should repeat something at least eight times before expecting to be able to remember it.
Second, practicing effective study techniques for your daily memorization needs will help you memorize things for school or work.
The brain will soon see a pattern of memorization and you will only have to plug in the details and repeat them.
2. ConnectionsAs mentioned earlier, When you hear a song you remember the lyrics better partly because of the context around it.
You can make these connections for your daily needs or studies by studying in the same place each time and playing the same music in the background. You could also study with the same people each time, and remember something simply because Lily or Marshall said it.
Here’s an example of this method in use. Let’s say you go to the refrigerator in the morning, you open the door, reach for some blueberries, and say in an English accent, “Oh noooo, all of my blueberries have been eaten. I shall get some from the market on the morrow.”
The next day when you’re at the grocery store and you want to recall what item you need, all you have to do is visualize opening the refrigerator door and speaking in your English accent. You will be flooded with the feeling of disappointment over not having anymore blueberries available.
The purpose of speaking in an accent is to exaggerate the situation. The more exaggerated the experience, the easier it is to remember.
3. Rhyme and PatternAnother way your brain remembers song lyrics is through rhyme and pattern. To use this device for your daily needs or studies, make a rhyme or song out of the information you need to remember.
For example, let’s say the items you need to buy before you go home are some almonds to snack on, one of those core stability exercise balls, and some shoes from the mall. You could make up a simple rhyme like the following. “I need nuts and balls / And to go to the mall.”
If you say that with enthusiasm 8 times, you won’t forget it. The phrase states exactly what you need and it rhymes in such a way that if you just remember the first line, it will not take long at all before you remember the second.
We’ve created plenty of songs to help toddlers and preschoolers get a head start on academics.
College students are known for making their own raps and songs for this purpose. In fact, some professors assign students to create songs or poems out of their studies for this very reason.
Take, for example, the following Biology rap. It formats all the information in such a way that it’s easy to remember. This is because it is a song with lots of rhyming. And if there are any Wiz Khalifa fans, the rhythm should already be familiar.
4. Brain PowerYou remember things better when you are younger. Unfortunately, you cannot go back in time to study what you need to know now, but you can still use this concept to your advantage.
One of the reasons children and teenagers remember better is because they are forced to use their brains more frequently through constant learning opportunities both in school and life.
Therefore, you can increase your brain power by increasing your brain use or by continuing to challenge yourself.
This can be done by playing fun word games or even trying to outsmart your way to the top of your chosen field. Your brain, being used more frequently, will fire more synapses (scientific term to make me sound smart), which in turn will lead to more brain power.
Definitionsynapse: the place where a signal passes from one nerve cell to another
5. EnjoymentStop and think about some songs from your favorite artists.
You can quickly recall those melodies even though they vary from song to song. Enjoyment is the keyword here and you can use this factor to your advantage.
If the thing you have to remember is something you don’t enjoy, try connecting that thing with happiness in your mind for better memory. Once that connection is made, a stronger bond is formed in your mind that you will be able to recall more easily.
Another way to take advantage of this is to find songs that are already made with the info you need. So if you are a biology student, just listen to the video above and you may not have to spend your off time studying.
We actually specialize in enhancing memory for young kids. We’ve created awesome educational music for young children to easily learn the basics like the alphabet, how to count, spelling, and more. Parents are constantly amazed at how quickly their children are learning this.
Songs are so easy to remember because of five categories of memorization techniques that are easily found in songs. Those five categories of memorization techniques are:
- Rhyme and pattern
- Age of the brain
Hopefully, you will use the ideas in this article for your daily memory needs or for studying for school or work. Next time you sing along to your favorite song, make note in your mind how you remember the lyrics.
Additional Memory Resources and Tips
Dominic O’Brien, 7-time world memory champion, shares his ultimate tools for developing the perfect memory in this audiobook.
I haven’t finished listening to it, but I will tell you that what I heard really works well. The best part is that O’Brien says that these are just beginning techniques. I haven’t even gotten to the advanced stuff.
And if you want to learn more in video form, check out How We Make Memories by CrashCourse.
The last thing I want you to remember though, and this is really really important. Remember to share this post. Did you remember?