The Fastest Way to Memorize a Song
Have you ever had trouble learning songs?
Or had difficulty remembering all the lyrics, especially when you’re on stage?
As a performer who’s forgotten lyrics in front of an audience, including lyrics that I’ve written… I had to find an efficient way to learn and memorize songs, both to perform and to transcribe them so I could analyze them and improve my own songwriting craft.
The fastest way to learn a song is to memorize the entire song holistically… I explain how you can do it and then show you a real time transcription in this video… a written transcript is below the video.
The Fastest Way to Memorize a Song
I’m going to show you the fastest way to memorize a song you want to perform. If you’re a songwriter you can also transcribe the lyrics so you can analyze a song to learn how it’s put together to improve your songwriting craft.
Hi. I’m Trevor… I’m a songwriter and a songwriting coach, you can join me at epicsongwriting.com where I can help you unleash your inner songwriter. If learn from this video, click subscribe below and shake the little bell you’ll so know when I post new videos.
Click the link in the description to go to epicsongwriting.com where you can download an outline of the process I’m about to show you, you can also read a transcription of this video.
There are 3 main ways to learn the lyrics of a song.
- Google it… this will get you a version of the lyrics, but no matter how many times you hit your head against your computer it won’t help you memorize them. It might not even be accurate unless you find it on the artist’s or band’s official website.
- Brute Force… you listen and write or sing each line, rewinding it until you have the lyrics figured out… and then the next line and the next line. This works but you are memorizing bits and pieces. As a performer who’s forgotten lyrics in front of an audience, including words to songs I’ve written… trust me this isn’t the best way.
What I recommend instead is to
- 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 this song “Dig That Hole” by Ian Sherwood because
- I love it, it’s my favourite track on his album.
- It’s short so it works well for a demonstration
- Ian Sherwood is an excellent songwriter and a fiend. He gave me permission to use it in this video.
To learn this transcribing process yourself… do it! Pick a song
- That you love and want to learn
- With clear, understandable lyrics
- That’s easy and relatively short until you get used to this process.
Here’s how to memorize a song:
- Buy the song… support the artist you love, they will earn more from a purchase than Spotify streams or YouTube views, but I’m not going to judge you… do your thing.
- Write it out by hand, you’ll learn it faster. Save typing for the final copy when you’re done.
- Listen to the whole song, write as you go, catch what you can, leave space for what you miss this time through.
- 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 first time through the song catch the
- timings for the start of each section
- and the first few words of each line,
- use 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
- Catch rhymes (ends of lines)
- Then start filling in the gaps
- While you’re writing and listening: Start singing 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 Google the lyrics to double check if you need to… (or ask the songwriter!)
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, singalong 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 a solo, learn to sing the entire solo before touching your instrument.
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 heard “Dig That Hole” three times and I’ve intentionally not listened to it in over a month to be sure I don’t know the words. So you can hear the song better, I’ll overdub the song on the video afterwords. The first time listen will be in real time, then I’ll speed up the video so you can see how I fill in the words.
There’s a link in the video description below if you want to support Ian Sherwood and buy this song or the whole album.
If you click the link above you can read a transcription of what I’ve said on this video and download a printable version of the Fastest Way to Memorize a Song to help you learn the fastest way to transcribe and memorize a song…
Live Transcription of “Dig That Hole” by Ian Sherwood, used with permission
I transcribed the “Dig That Hole” on video yesterday, this morning I went back and proofread my lyrics. I found a couple of wrong words few words and I relabeled the 2 lines “Back then he didn’t even know” and “There were demons looking for him in that hole” as the Pre-Chorus.
I now have the song 90% memorized, my next step is figuring out the chords so I can play it too.
If you click up there you can get a PDF copy of The Fastest Way to Memorize Songs and read a transcription of this video. If you learned something you can subscribe and leave a comment below.
You can leave a comment on after the transcribed lyrics at the end of this article or on YouTube
Connect with Ian Sherwood
Purchase “Dig That Hole”
Other epicsongwriting articles with Ian Sherwood:
Songwriter Interview: Ian Sherwood… explaining his ideal songwriting process, how to write better songs and his best advice for new songwriters
Songwriting Sprints: Ian Sherwood… Why he spent 3 weeks on a songwriting sprint when he already had 40 songs ready to record, and how to create your own songwriting sprint.
Professionally Recording Your Songs, interview with Ian Sherwood… Ready to professionally record your songs? Are you ready to take your songs to a professional Sound recording studio? Learn from Ian Sherwood’s story, recording his CD in a Professional recording studio, choosing the songs, a Music producer, mixing & Audio mastering to finished CDs
Note: Thanks for correcting a few wrong words from my transcription, Ian… it always pays to double check with the author. Now I know I’ll be singing it correctly!
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 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.