A common question I get asked from my fellow up and coming rappers is if I could share some techniques on how to memorize lyrics. Well that time has finally come and during this article I will give you my personal technique that has helped me memorize my rap lyrics for over a decade. So without further ado lets dive right in!
How To Eat An Elephant
In short the way that you memorize lyrics is the same way that you eat and elephant…one piece at a time! Many people make the mistake of trying to memorize too many lyrics at one time and quickly get discouraged and start thinking something must be wrong with them.
The key to memorization is reputation in small quantities; please allow me to explain.
The Break Down
So a song on average is around 3 minutes and 30 seconds and often the song structure contains about 3 verses and 3 hooks. The verses are typically 16 bars and the hooks 8 bars. That’s a lot of data to try and memorize all at once! So in order to keep my sanity along with my hair color what I tend to do is break up the song into 4 bar sections.
Look To The Hook
A Good place to start is with the hook. The hook is meant to be easy to memorize in the first place so listeners can sing along with it. It’s the part of the song that “hooks” the listener in. Even tho the hook is typically 8 bars it’s often just a 4 bar hook that’s repeated twice. And the entire hook is usually repeated around 3 times per track which is the equivalent of 24 bars which is a verse and a half. So once your memorize the hook you’ve also memorize a good chunk of the song! Who would’a thunk?
Now in regards to the hook just focus on the first 4 bars. If you are unsure how to count bars check out my article and video on song structure. Now just keep playing the 4 bars over and over while saying the hook while looking at the lyrics.
If you are on a computer and have an audio program available just loop the 4 bar section if not just download a free copy of Audacity so you don’t have to keep readjusting the position of the song. If all you have to work with is a smartphone download Cappiccio Free for iPhone or AB Repeat Player for Android.
After repeating the 4 bars about 4 times while reading the lyrics try to say the 4 bars without the lyrics. It’s possible you may have not memorized the whole 4 bars at this time and that’s fine. The point is to see what you have been able to memorize by taking the training wheels off the brain by removing the lyrics.
Keep repeating this process of saying 4 bars 4 times with lyrics and 4 bars 1 time without lyrics until you have memorized the full 4 bars and then move on to the next 4 bar section of the hook and apply this same technique.
Once you have memorized the 2nd half of the hook “if it varies from the first half” try to say the whole hook without looking at the lyrics. If you mess up then say the full hook while looking at the lyrics 1 time and then try again without the lyrics. Keep repeating this process until you are able to say the whole hook perfectly.
I recommend memorizing lyrics to the verses using the same exact technique as we used on the hook. Start working on the first 4 bars of the verse repeating them 4 times with lyrics and 1 time without lyrics. Once you’ve memorized them move on to the next 4 bars and memorize them.
Once you have the 2nd 4 bar section of the verse memorized then go back and try to say the first 8 bars of the verse. If you mess up say the 8 bars once with lyrics and once without lyrics until you get them down.
Then move on to the 3rd 4 bar section of the verse. Once you memorize them try to say the first 12 bars of the verse without lyrics. If you mess up say it once with lyrics and once without lyrics until you nail it.
Then move on to the last 4 bar section of the verse and memorize it. Then try to do the whole verse without lyrics and if you mess up do the whole verse once with lyrics and then once without lyrics until you have memorized the whole verse.
Already Over Half
Once you have the verse nailed down try and add the hook to the end off it. Once you’re able to say them both without looking at your lyrics guess what? With the verse being 16 bars and the 8 bar hook being likely repeated 3 times which adds up to 24 bars. That’s a grand total of 40 bars of the song you have already memorized! That means You’ve just memorized likely over half of the song! YEEEEEEEAH!!
Rinse And Repeat
Now simply copy the same technique of memorizing the 1st verse to the following verses. Once you get the 2nd verse memorized try and say the first verse, hook and second verse all at once and refer back to your lyrics as needed. And the same for the 3rd verse.
Now here are some important side notes worthy to mention. Don’t pressure yourself to try and memorize a full song all in one day. Remember the way to eat an elephant is one small piece at a time and personal appetites may vary. There’s nothing wrong with working on only 1 verse per day. However I recommend recording whatever you do memorize even if it’s just on your smartphone so you can reference to it later if need be.
If You Don’t Use It You Loose It
Remember the key to memorization is repetition in small quantities. If you don’t use it you may loose it. So each day set some time aside to go over what you’ve memorized even if it’s while commuting to work or school or even in the shower! We are constantly learning new things everyday so in order to prevent your lyrics from being buried in your mind by all the new clutter make it a habit of revisiting your lyrics often to keep them fresh on your mind.
How Did I Do?
Did you find this article helpful? Have a question or a comment? I’d love to hear from you so make sure you drop your 2 cents in the comments section below!