Music Memorization Technique: Staff-Paper Flashcards

music memory tipsIn my previous two articles, I provided you overall strategies for memorizing music and the first of two memorization techniques. Here is the second technique. If you missed either of these posts, make sure to go back and read them so that you can try all of my memory suggestions.

Equipment Required:


  • Staff Paper (I recommend a landscape page for cutting into quarters in step 1)
  • Pencil
  • Scissors or paper trimmer
  • Music to be learned
  • Your instrument

Method:


  1. Cut staff paper in quarters. (All should be the same size.)
  2. Write the name of each passage to be memorized on one side.
    • If your staff paper is lined on one side, write this on the blank side.

  3. Write as many notes as you can before your memory fades

    Write as much as you can before your memory fades

    Copy the music to be learned on the other side.

    • Take your time and write legibly, longhand, with no simile marks .
    • Make a game out of trying to write as many notes as possible from memory without looking back at the original copy.

  4. When your flashcard is complete, try to play the excerpt slowly from memory with the passage-name side up.

    • Never play with the music-notation side visible.

  5. Once you have copied all passages to be memorized onto flashcards, shuffle the deck and use the cards to quiz yourself on playing the passages from memory.

    • Never play with the music-notation side visible.

Notes:


  • I could design a smartphone app to generate these flashcards, but the process of copying the music out is so enormously helpful to the memorization process that it is absolutely worth doing this work.
  • Make sure to copy everything in the passage, including tempo markings, dynamics, articulations, text to be sung, piano pedal markings, and your own pencil markings.)

Try it

Give this technique a try on your next piece to memorize. I’d love to hear your reactions, successes, difficulties, and revelations, but only once you have given it a try.

Robert Kelley

About Robert Kelley

Robert Kelley is a music theorist, composer, pianist, harpsichordist, and Associate Professor of Music at Lander University, in Greenwood, South Carolina.
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