Never Forget Again!: Tips for Memorizing Vocal Music

So here we are at the close of the fall semester.  It’s been a productive season of vocalizing, repertoire learning, and confidence building, but it’s not over!  Winter recitals are just around the corner, and for some students, so are college music auditions and competitions.  What does that mean?  Everyone has got to be prepared!  So what do we do with the next few weeks to make sure we’re all memorized and performance ready?

Music memorization is best done over a long period of time.  Remind your students that the work they do a month before is exponentially more effective that the work they do the night before!  And consistent practice is key.  Whether it is 15 minutes or an hour, don’t quit!

When I assign a piece, I make a recording for the student on their iPod.  I myself am not the most proficient pianist, but I make two tracks of my own playing.  TRACK #1 should consist of the vocal line ONLY, in tempo, with accurate rests and note values, exactly as they occur in the music.  TRACK #2 should consist of the vocal part played with as much of the accompaniment as possible.  For myself, I will play the vocal line in the right hand and as much of the piano part’s left hand.

I will then make a CD recording of only the accompaniment, or TRACK #3, either from the included piano accompaniment CD in my books, or I will ask a friend to sit down in the studio and record several pieces for me.  This is for educational purposes only, and is not meant for the student to use in performances for a substitute for an actual accompanist.

  1. Put text of song on 5 x 8 ruled index card, with text on one line, IPA underneath, and word by word translation on back of card.
  2. Start speaking the final word of the text on the card and work backwards, adding the previous word.  Repeat this process until all the words on the card have been spoken.  Then start speaking the words at the beginning of the text and repeat the process.
  3. Turn card over, speak foreign language text on the front of the card while looking at the English word for word translation on the back.
  4. Look at the foreign language text on the front of the card while speaking the English word for word translation of the back.
  5. Say text in rhythm, with metronome, while conducting, no music.
  6. Say text in rhythm while listening to track #1.
  7. Say text in rhythm while listening to track #2.
  8. Sing on the [a e i o u] vowels while listening to track #1.
  9. Sing on the vowels of the text- NO CONSONANTS- while listening to track #1.
  10. Sing vowels of the text while listening to track #2.
  11. Sing vocal lines with vowels and minimal consonants while listening to track #2.
  12. Sing music and text while listening to track #3.

About the Author

Sarah Luebke
Nebraska native Sarah Luebke completed her MM in vocal performance at the University of Kentucky, and her BM in vocal performance at St. Olaf College. Recently she has been seen performing the female lead, Jane McDowell, in "The Stephen Foster Story" and the ensemble of "Big River" with Stephen Foster Productions. Other performances include the soprano soloist of Bach's St. John Passion, La Fee ... [Read more]


  1. Daniel Hunt

    Your articles are very informative, you’re obviously a gifted teacher.. you have a passion to teach which is good to see.. my kids are learning the Violin & Cello, so I really liked your idea of putting music onto IPODs, young people can connect with these things..

  2. Tom Thorne

    What a cool blog. I used to be a fairly talented piano player until I had a sever accident that left me with dystonia. Now I can barely type with my right hand. I still love music though.

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