So you’re a visual learner! This is great news because there are a whole bunch of techniques and exercises that will work extremely well for you and I will list the best ones right here for you. Tah Dah! Before we kick off on visually learning songs, I saw this great quote from Martin Scorsese about visual learners, check it out:
If one wants to reach younger people at an earlier age to shape their minds in a critical way, you really need to know how ideas and emotions are expressed visually ~Martin Scorsese
Method 1: The Method of Loci
Background The method goes that in the 5th century BC, a poet named Simonides had been hired to entertain a banquet. Since their technology was not advanced enough to duplicate a large number of scripts for him to recite, he needed to memorise this lengthy poem by heart.
As almost anyone knows, it is extremely difficult to recall large pieces of text without help and therefore Simonides employed a memory technique which used the spatial aspect of his brain to remember the poem.
By vividly imagining each verse and creating a story behind it, then linking that story to the following verse, he was able to inter-link the long poem and recall in a somewhat supernatural way these lengthy stories. Anyway, after he finished his piece he exits the building and moments later, the roof collapses and kills everyone inside leaving.
A huge panic goes on around the town because the bodies had been crushed beyond recognition and therefore could not be distinguished Fortunately though, our friend Simonides had an excellent view from the stage. By employing the same method he used to recall the poems, he completed the gruesome task of correlating the identities to the position (Loci in Latin) at which each person was sat at the table.
Simonides later developed the concept of the ‘Method of Loci’ which became widely used in the Renaissance era as a memory tool to record vast quantities of information without the need for external tools such as laptops, iPads or even paper.
Although this technique goes back over a thousand years, and is still used today by memory professionals in competitions around the world to recall all sorts of information from decks of cards to peoples’ faces to poems and also large numbers.
Interesting story, but how will this help me remember my lyrics?
As I have already touched upon, spatial memory is extremely powerful. You use it everyday to navigate where you are going, so having all that practice under your belt, you may as well use it. Using your spatial memory isn’t too tricky and can actually be quite fun.
The key ingredient is creating a structure in your mind (a physical structure I mean). This could be your house, your workplace or the park then imagining a whole bunch of ‘spaces’ within each of these locations. Then using this place to create a story in your mind – kind of like what Simonides did with his poem. Imagine each space you go through as you enter your house. For me, I live in an old tower building that overlooks Glasgow.
I can create a ‘memory space’ out of the huge entrance doorway and the electronic beeper I use to get in. I’ve then got an indoor garden area that is shared with the building’s residents which leads on to a fish pond. Going back the way, the building has a stairway that leads to my apartment.
That’s not even in my house yet and I’ve got loads of places I could store interesting memories. You can do it too. Take a few minutes to think of rooms in your house that could be designated as your special spaces.
The ‘Hear for You’ Case Study:
Let’s go back to the song we were talking about earlier ‘Here for You’ and use the Method of Loci to create a Memory Palace in my house and a story to go along with it.
I’ll take a the first two verses and the chorus as an example: Oh my sweet dear Doralee, you don’t know what you mean to me. I just don’t know what I would do without you. You’re so efficient and alert and the way you look well shit that don’t hurt. Now please don’t think I’m just a flirt, it’s just I’m nuts about you.
Here for you, I’m here for you. I want you so I truly do. My body is your instrument (instrument sounds), please play it. So, what should we highlight here to make this stand out and become more vivid?
I’m imagining walking up to my front door and imagining a girl in office wear (Doralee) selling (dear) cupcakes (Sweet) that have a big £ sign styled in icing(dear). She then indicates that I follow inside, but slams the door on me and the cupcake gets squashed into my top (mean), but pretends that she doesn’t realise what she did wrong. Doralee then grabs onto a piece of rope that is hanging from above and gets hoisted way (without her).
I run up the stairs to the top of the tower where she is waiting and she slides down the bannister (efficient) without using any hands (alert). However, on her way down a pigeon covers her in poo (shit), but she doesn’t care at all (don’t hurt). Doralee then kisses (flirt) a chestnut (nut) then hurls it at me and I fall into the fish pond with a big splash.
My ears then start growing larger and larger (hear / here) and Doralee uses a huge syringe to squirt a truth (truly) serum in them. Doralee then starts playing with my ears (body) to make music (instrument). The final note is awaiting (please play it).
As you can see, I have carved up the song to highlight sensory words that can be slotted into an imaginary story that you create. All you have to do is follow the story from the beginning and you will be able to recall the story – and also lyrics – much better. To become really good at it, try and make the story as vivid and clear as possible with loads of details.
Method 2: Writing over and over
You see loads of people just writing down lyrics over and over again, but they fail for two main reasons:
1. They lose interest and their mind begins to wander elsewhere.
2. They don’t link together the song with what they are writing.
Here is my solution to the ‘writing for writing sake’ issue: Firstly, use colour to increase your visual engagement in the exercise and change colour every time you feel a change of tone – that way you will be more involved and have a bigger chance of internalising the words you are writing down.
On top of this, I would also encourage you to sing whilst writing. This will strengthen the muscle memory of your vocal chords, allowing them to more readily access those words that are available in your mind. Last of all, this is an old, but good one. Read, cover, test, check. If you really commit to doing this, it can be an effective way of remembering lyrics.
METHOD 3: Mind Maps
Most people have heard of mind maps, but how many people use them? Likely not many and it is probably because they don’t know how or why.
In a similar way to how we linked ideas together with the Method of Loci, the mind map also creates a bunch of links that makes memorisation and learning a lot easier too. There have been a bunch of studies on mind mapping and they point to: better comprehension, higher recall rates and increased levels of motivation to learn too.
All of these things are what we are after so using mind maps is a bit of a no-brainer! How do I make a mind map then? It turns out that is actually really easy and well worth the time (especially if you are a visual learner). Follow these 3 steps below and you’ll have you map in no time.
- Remember earlier in part 1 of this series on memory where we focused on what your song is about? Well, now is the time to use that. Take that idea and draw out an image of the central theme of the song.
- Next, make a branch of your mind map for each of your verses and (using separate colours for each). Again, make the headline of each branch the central theme for each verse or chorus. If you can draw next to these, then this is even better!
- Create sub-branches for each branch and note down a keyword or two to summarise each line. Make sure each set of keywords get their own sub-branch.
Boom, you’ve got your mind map. Have a look at my example below and see if you can do a better one for your own song.
Interesting facts about visual learners:
- 90% of all information that goes to your brain is visual.
- 40% of all nerve fivers that are connected to your brain are linked to your eyes.
- Your brain can process visual information approximately 60,000 times faster than other types of information.
- Visual aids are known to increase learning by up to 400%
- Your brain processes visuals in 250 milliseconds
- Around 50% of your brain is dedicated to processing visual information
- Visual learners are able to learn quickly when information is presented in lists (see what I did there?)
Don’t forget, in addition to these helpful tips and techniques that I publishing here, I also provide one-to-one vocal coaching and singing lessons in Glasgow that really can take you to the next level by following a fun programme that I have developed. See here for more information on singing lessons in Glasgow