This is the fastest way to learn and memorize a song!
I used to struggle to learn and remember song lyrics… music was easy but I’d choke and forget lyrics. I’ve forgotten lyrics to songs enough times that I’d start to expect it… that was a downward spiral that I had to solve. I’ve even forgotten lyrics to songs I’ve written. Not exactly the best way to make an impression when you’re premiering a new song!
If you’ve ever had trouble remembering lyrics, especially if you’re performing it, this is for you!
You don’t have to write it out a hundred times or draw pictures or carve it into your arm. You just have to learn how to transcribe it holistically.
In the video I describe the process, hen show you how I do it in real time so you can watch how it’s done. I use the song “Dig that Hole” by Ian Sherwood from his album Bring the Light. He graciously gave me permission to use the song in this video.
After the video there’s a transcription so you can read the process and the lyrics are written out below that.
You can get a printable PDF version of the process so you can follow through and learn how to do it for yourself… no more forgotten lyrics or wasted time learning songs. This was a game changer for me once I figured it out!
Below the video is a complete transcript and links to further articles to help you analyze songs and improve your songwriting craft…
Begin Video Transcript
If you’ve ever struggled to memorize song lyrics, keep watching… I’ll show you the fastest way to memorize any song you want to perform. If you’re a songwriter, you can also transcribe the lyrics to analyze a song and learn how it’s put together so you can improve your songwriting craft. You can also use this process to memorize your own songs quickly.
Hi. I’m Trevor Dimoff, I’m a songwriter and I teach songwriting at epicsongwriting.com where I transform musicians into songwriters. If you learn from this YouTube video, click subscribe below and click the little bell (point down) so you know when I post new videos. Watch the video all the way through, then click the description link where you can read a transcription of this video. You can also enter your email address. I’ll send you a printable version of it to help you use this process on your own.
There are 3 main ways to learn the lyrics of a song.
1. Google it…
This will get you a version of the lyrics, but no matter how many times you hit your head against your guitar or keyboard it won’t help you memorize them. Simply reading the lyrics isn’t to memorize them. You have to do more. The lyrics you find might not even be accurate unless you’re on the artist’s or band’s official website.
2. Brute Force…
You listen and write or sing each line, rewinding it until you have the lyrics figured out and written down… and then the next line and the next line. This takes forever and you only memorize bits and pieces. It’s not dependable. As a performer who’s forgotten lyrics in front of an audience, including words to songs I’ve written… trust me this is not the best way to memorize a song.
What I recommend instead is to
3. Learn the song holistically…
Listen to the entire song several times without stopping it. I’ll do this live on video in a moment so you can see the process.
I picked the song “Dig That Hole” by Ian Sherwood because
1. I love it, it’s my favourite track on his album Bring the Light.
2. It’s relatively short so it works well for a demonstration
3. Ian Sherwood is an excellent songwriter and a friend. He gave me permission to use it in this video.
To learn this transcribing process yourself… do it!
Pick a song…
1. That you love and want to learn
2. With clear, understandable lyrics
3. That’s easy and relatively short. When you’re used to this process it’s okay to get more ambitious.
Here’s what to do!
1. Buy the song… support the artist you love, they earn more from a purchase than Spotify streams or YouTube views, but I’m not going to judge you… do your thing.
2. Write it out by hand, you’ll learn it faster. Save typing for the final copy when you’re done.
3. Listen to the whole song, write as you go, catch what you can, leave space for what you miss this time through and get it on the next listen.
4. Take a moment at the end to add any words you remember, then go back and listen again until you’ve got the song written out.
The Holistic Transcribing Process
The first time through the song, catch the timings for the start of each section and the first few words of each line, use a dot or an X to mark the start of a line if you miss the lyrics.
Then, try figuring things out usually in this order:
- Label sections… chorus, verse, pre-chorus, bridge, introduction, solos, transitions and ending
- Write in the start of the rest of the lines
- Catch rhymes (ends of lines)
- Then start filling in the gaps
- While you’re writing and listening: Start singing in your head, then out loud. Sing what you remember, hum first if it’s easier and sing more each time.
- Last time through, sing along to check it.
- Optional, add bar lines to the lyrics
- Once you’re done, check a dependable version of the lyrics or Google the lyrics to double check if you need to….
Remember: while you’re listening to the entire song, you learn the whole song instead of bits and pieces. Don’t stop the recording, catch the words you miss the next time.
Over the next few days, sing along with the track, without looking at the lyrics… this will solidify it in your mind so you don’t forget it. The more often you practice this approach the faster it works for you.
You can sing along with bass lines, riffs, lead lines, and solos to learn them too.
To learn an instrumental solo, learn to sing the entire solo before touching your instrument. If you can sing it without the recording it’s much faster to slow it down and learn every note. Start with something relatively easy. As you get better at it, you can choose harder material to transcribe.
To learn the chord progressions, follow the bass line and sing the roots of the chords to start figuring out the chords.
Now, I’ll show you the process live on video… I’ve listened to “Dig That Hole” a total of three times a week ago. I’ve intentionally not listened to it for a week to be sure I don’t know the words. So you can hear the song better, I’ll overdub the song on the video afterwards. The first time through the song will be in real time, then I’ll speed up the video so you can watch how I fill in the words.
Click the description link to epicsongwriting.com to read a transcript of this video. If you enter your email address there, I’ll send you a printable PDF version of this process to help you follow through and learn to do it effectively.
There’s also a link in the video description if you want to support Ian Sherwood and buy this song or the whole album.
Live Transcription of “Dig That Hole” by Ian Sherwood, used with permission
Memorizing Songs: Conclusions
I transcribed “Dig That Hole” on video, the next day I went back and proofread my lyrics. I found a couple of wrong words and I relabled the 2 lines “Back then he didn’t even know” and “There were demons looking for him in that hole” as the Pre-Chorus. Because Ian hasn’t posted the lyrics to the song online, I emailed him to double check my work and he pointed out a few mistakes I missed. It’s always a good idea to double check your work when you’re done!
After one listening session, I have the song 90% memorized. To consolidate it in my mind I’ll need to practice it and listen to it again for a few days. The next step is figuring out the chords so I can play it too.
Now you know the fastest way to memorize a song, by listening holistically to the entire track several times. Don’t try to learn bits and pieces, it won’t stick in your head and you’ll wind up forgetting some of the lyrics when you’re under pressure to perform.
In the video description, click the link to epicsongwriting.com to enter your email address and I’ll send you a PDF of The Fastest Way to Memorize Songs to help you practice this process. The more you use it the easier it gets.
If you liked the song, there’s also a link in the description where you can purchase the song or the entire album to support Ian. He’d appreciate it!
You can leave a comment after the transcribed lyrics at the end of this article or on YouTube
Connect with Ian Sherwood
Purchase “Dig That Hole”
Dig That Hole – Lyrics
From Bring the Light by Ian Sherwood
When he was a young man all he did was laugh.
When he left his home he never looked back.
He made a lot of money getting dirt on his brow.
But he wouldn’t have dug so deep knowing what he knows now
Back then he didn’t even know, back then he didn’t even know,
There were demons looking for him in that hole…
You gotta know how deep to dig that hole.
You gotta know where to dig to find that gold.
Now you gotta know you’re going in young and coming out old.
This fast life’s a one way track, don’t slow down and don’t look back
There’s only one out, you gotta dig that hole.
If he was hungry he wouldn’t slow down.
There’s a dirty old devil right behind him now.
He’ll grind him down to dust and stone, picking his teeth with one of his bones
But he had fever, couldn’t leave it alone.
You’ve got a lovely smile
You’ve got a lovely laugh
Keep it in the sunshine
‘Cus the money, the money never lasts…
I gotta know how deep to dig that hole
I gotta know where to dig to find that gold
Now I gotta know you’re going in young and coming out old
This fast life’s a one way track don’t slow down and don’t look back
There’s only one out, you gotta dig that hole.