How do musicians that play without sheet music do it? They memorize!
Having a good “ear” and having a working knowledge of music theory are important, but if you lack a good memory, you will continue to struggle in this area of your musicianship. Let me emphasize that! Even if you got straight “A“s in music theory class, without having this key component, you will continue to struggle.
Let’s consider professional musicians. There are those who read music and those who don’t. The musicians who do not read sheet music are obviously able to play without it. Then there are the musicians who read sheet music who are also able to play without it. What do these two groups of musicians have in common? A good memory!
Memorizing music comes very easy to some people while it is a real struggle for others. If you are in the “struggle” group, you may have asked these questions: “How do I get a good memory?” or “How do I improve my memory?”
Short answer: Exercise.
Your brain and mind, just like your physical body, will respond to exercise and become more efficient, stronger, and better. To exercise your memory, you have to USE it! As with many other things, you’ll want to start off slowly by working with very small achievable goals, then gradually increase your level of difficulty as you experience success along the way.
Start with memorizing and playing melodies like “Happy Birthday”, “Ode To Joy”, “C Jam Blues”, “Now’s The Time” or any of the traditional nursery rhymes. Then move on to songs like “Heart and Soul” and “Doe, Re, Me” as you gradually move towards learning and memorizing your favorite songs. While working on songs with longer melodies, I suggest that you work on small, fragmented segments at first. Later, you can take on the whole song by joining and combining the fragmented sections for easier assembly.
To help get you started on the process of improving your memory, I’ve included a link to a visual memory game, a link to an audio memory game that combines visual elements, and a few links to some other games.
Dr. Oz approved this game where you recall visual patterns.
Use your qwerty keyboard to play this one.
You’ll recall the musical pitches played in
Concentration game where you match match music symbols.
Memory Matching Game