Why You Need Musical Memory To Write Songs Effectively


If you are an aspiring songwriter of composer, having a great ear is one of the most critical things you need to work on to make better music. If you approach it correctly, it can be one of the most fun and fulfilling things to work on in your musical development. The area of ear training I will be focusing on in this article is musical memory. That means the ability to quickly ingrain a musical idea into your memory and to be able to easily recall it accurately and precisely.


Musical memory is something that if overlooked will cause you a lot of unnecessary frustration and extra work trying to write songs. In addition to making it slower to learn existing songs, you will waste a lot of time in songwriting thinking about “What were the notes in that melody?” or “What voicings did I use for those chords?”


Musical memory is a very necessary skill for making music. If you don’t develop it you will go through a frustrating cycle: Forgetting ideas and then with difficulty trying to remember the ideas again and again. Doesn’t sound like fun to me! Imagine if you could generate a musical idea and memorise it fast and not forget it for the rest of your songwriting session. What would that do for you? Would it be easier to write songs? Would you be more inspired to write?


There are many exercises that you can do to improve musical memory, but they are beyond the scope of this article. But don’t worry: Any teacher with experience teaching composition should be able to give you exercises that help you with this. What I will do instead is give you two pieces of advice for your approach that will instantly improve how well you remember melodies and other musical ideas.


1. Be Totally Focused When You Write Songs


A lot of people love to multitask and shoot themselves in the foot doing so. Trying to do multiple things at the same time will ensure that you will fail at achieving your full potential at any of those tasks. The human brain cannot focus on two separate things at the same time. The best it can do is to switch attention back and forth, resulting in lots of wasted effort and time.


Your best bet for getting te most out of your songwriting sessions would be stop multitasking. Whenever you are writing songs, focus on that and only that. Focusing better will get you maximum available brainpower that you can use to approach making music and will greatly help in remembering musical ideas. As a result your sessions will go smoother and you will get better songs out of them.


After you’ve resolved to stop multitasking, you need to make the space where you write songs as best as possible. When you get organised and remove distractions, you will more easily get into the ‘flow’ state. Make sure your environment is easy for you to focus in. Here are a few tips to help you do that

    Have the space where you write be tidy and organised.

    Turn your phone off or silent and leave it in another room.

    Tell your family/friends/roommate to not disturb you while you are composing.


2. Fully Embrace The Emotion Of The Music You Are Making


The brain best remembers experiences in our life, which have a strong emotional feeling attached to them. That is why you can remember many details about your highs and lows, but cannot remember details from all your normal days. A strong emotion essentially acts as tagging an event with the label ‘important’ and as a result your brain makes sure to file that memory more carefully and with more detail.


What does this mean for your songwriting? Whenever you generate an idea, your best bet for remembering it is to totally immerse yourself in it. Feel it, embrace it. Repeat it a few times and then develop it further. By allowing yourself to fully feel and experience the musical ideas you generate you will make it easier for your brain to remember them and develop them into finished pieces of music.


There are a lot of bonus benefits to this too: I could write a whole article about them! So let me just say that when you allow yourself to experience emotions in music (or life for that matter) fully, the experiences you get will feel richer, more fulfilling and more alive.


What Should You Do?


These two pieces of advice will help you a long way to enjoy music and writing more songs. But don’t settle for that! In addition to doing these things you should also find a great teacher who can help you in the areas you want to develop. Doing so will get you the long term strategies and plans to get lifelong improvement and effective exercises for ridding yourself from your frustrations in the short term.


I hope you got a lot out of this article. If you did, be sure to share it with friends too, so that they can also get something out of it!


About The Author


Hi, I am Jere Toikka and I am a piano and guitar teacher living in Turku, Finland. I have a passion for helping students improve their songwriting and composition - it is something that I love to do. I love hearing all the cool ideas students come up with and develop into their own songs that they can be proud of.