Trouble Memorizing Songs

Outside of Justin’s books/tabs etc. this is pretty common across chord sheets on the internet. It’s pretty easy to spot if you are playing the song because it’ll just sound damn wrong if you move to the next chord too early/late

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Thanks for your input I will definitely try this.

Regards Adrien

Thanks for your input and recommendations I will definitely try this.

Regard’s Adrien

Ian Gillan also relates a humorous story when serving as vocalist for Black Sabbath. Lyrics on a sheet on the stage floor. I forget the details as to exactly how it all went wrong …

The more i read and research this topic. The more i relize that there is tons of artists/musicians that cheats quite heavily. With monitors on stage and what not…
So i dont think we should feel bad if we struggle or cannot remember lyrics etc. on different songs we play from time to time :grin:

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Trond, when I first started playing at Open Mics, I felt some pressure to memorise the songs. It was encouraged, with varying degrees of emphasis, by more than a few members in the Community. No argument as to impact of singing from lyric sheets on being able to perform for and entertain an audience. But at that stage, the additional stress and worry about remembering lyrics had a far more severe impact on the quality of my playing than any gain in being able to connect with the audience. So I reverted to song sheets and my performances improved. As is the way, we continue to improve and when I returned to playing Open Mics, I’d developed in my playing and (don’t ask me how) ability to memorise songs and feel comfortable to play from memory.

Moral of the story … do what you need to do to play, perform, grow, and have fun. Consider all the tips and suggestions, but don’t get hung up about anything. What is important is to keep learning, practicing, and playing, having fun and enjoying yourself. And that is how we grow and slowly become musicians (irrespective of play-grade).


Yep. 100%
And as you said… remember lyrics when you play by yourself is a different matter than remember lyrics in front of others…


I love Gilmour and even more now for his honesty and humor. And feel a heck of a lot better for not being able to remember tons of songs. It has been a big frustration for me to be so dependent on tabs and lyrics for songs I should know in my sleep by now!!

We must be about the same age but I have only being doing Justin’s Grade 1 lessons for four months so not your experience.
I have to work very hard to remember the lyrics, don’t think it is an age thing with me, at least I hope not, I was absolutely hopeless at remembering poetry at school.
I try to remember a key word in each line and sometimes my brain fills in the gaps.:relaxed:

Possibly been mentioned, but a great method I find is physically writing out the song in your own songbook, including the song sections, chords, strumming patterns etc where applicable. I find this personalised approach makes it my own and helps to nail the various elements down quicker. The more senses you can include when learning something the better.
It becomes a living document that can be annotated over time as you develop.

Cheers, Shane


Haha, that reminds of of when I was back in school and all my mates used to write out ‘crib’ notes to refer to in exams. I tried this method out a couple of times, but found that by the time I had decided what I needed to put down on the note and had written it out by hand, I knew the information and the cheat became superflous :roll_eyes: :laughing:

It went wrong because of the dry ice covering his folder so he couldn’t see them lol.

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I’m at the same level as you grade 2 module 12
What work for me was picking a favorite song ( one I really wanted to play completely through) breaking it in pieces , writing it down, practicing it with app and with the actual song played. Basically you got to buckle down and commit to just that one song for a few lessons and drill your brain on the chord changes even when not actually playing like riding in the car and challenging yourself to see how far you can go in your mind before you get lost recalling the chords.


Hi Michael,
I think you have a few years on me - not lot, but clearly some!
I have been using Justin’s lessons since about July 2021, and got first guitar April 2021. progress with modules has fallen off a bit as I am trying to pick up some of the shortcomings I notice due to “graduating” myself before mastery. I generally think this is ok as long as I am willing to go back and pick up the rough spots.
I don’t have trouble with lyrics so much - I seem to have learned them in my youth, even the songs about a generation before my time. However, if I start to LISTEN to the song, I start to forget what to PLAY, and that suggests I really don’t know what I am playing yet. I have a lot of trouble with patterns of notes/chords that do not have well defined groupings. I seem to do ok remembering some songs, like Asturias (just the beginning section so far), where there are a lot of repeating themes, but something that takes 16 bars to get back around to repeating looks like it will just take the brute-force method of repetition.
I enjoyed your Learning Log. I had looked at it when it was new and fun to see your recent notes as you progress!


Thanks for the kind words and encouragement.
Trying to learn the words for me will hopefully a bit like years ago when I was driving and listening to a tape or CD with the tracks in order. I would have no idea what the next track would be until the instant the last one finished then my subconscious mind kicked in and I knew what was coming and sometimes the exact gap between tracks. It was all a bit surprising but the brain can multitask.
I have been working on remembering the lyrics and it is starting to come together.:grinning:

Even the great performers sometimes have problems remembering songs. A truly classic example is Ella Fitzgerald performing Mack The Knife live in Berlin. Check out how she handled forgetting the lyrics:
(18) Mack The Knife- Mack The Knife - Ella In Berlin.wmv - YouTube

It happens at 1:40-2:08


I also struggle with memorising songs, and I’m now re-organizing a new songbook printing out only the lyrics, working first with a Word Processor to get a clear structure of the song. Then pencil and rubber for the chords, I try to play without the chords, write them with a pencil, erase and again pencil and rubber until I have memorised them…at this point I write them with a pen and that song can be collected in my new songbook.


Train my ear to know exactly when to change the chord…I’m working on this, as it seems to me the main thing if I want to play confidently a song and focus on other aspects like rhythm and feeling and not struggling to remember the chords…our ears should be able to remember, they just need to be trained.

This is a fascinating topic and something I have been thinking about a lot recently. I have been considering purchasing the app, but like others I think it helps with playing songs, not necessarily with memorizing songs. I think maybe you need a mixture of both the app and a structured way of seeing the song. Will follow along with this topic looking for tips and tricks, as I am still on the fence about the app, and will try to find a way to create a songbook. I use Justin’s beginner songbooks, but will probably benefit from writing out my own.

Tl;dr I have aphantasia (self diagnosed) which means that I can not visualize things in my mind. For example I rarely dream, struggle with relaxation things, like picture yourself on a beach. I know what a beach looks like but don’t have a mental image. So did wonder whether I was unique but apparently not. I see the app as like a GPS, vs a map. If I use a GPS, getting to a place is easier, but I have little recollection about the route in future. If I use a map, and navigate with landmarks, then I could go back again. This has also reminded me of my past I used to work doing manufacturing support at Kodak, and the inside of the buildings were old and like mazes. We used to be shown to locations in the light, but when they were manufacturing it was totally dark, don’t be fooled by the movies where they show things in dim red lights. Most places were pitch black with only a few pinpoints of glowing strips. Memorizing your way by landmarks totally failed when the lights were out, so you had to remember directions in a structured way. Back to guitar, I also use Rocksmith, which to me, behaves like the app, in that it teaches you to follow along and shows whether you are improving but does little to help you memorize a song. Sorry for the rambling post but as I said I find this fascinating and am really happy that it is not just me.

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Good comment from @GreenRider in another similar question:
Practice chord sequences like 1-min changes

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