How to Memorize Worship Songs

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Memorizing your worship music has many great benefits, allowing you to be more in the moment musically, more focused on the Lord spiritually, and more able to lead the congregation pastorally. As daunting as it may seem to memorize and internalize your worship music, you truly can do it. Below are a few tips to help you get started memorizing your worship music.

Memorizing your music allows you to be more in the moment musically, more focused on the Lord spiritually, and more able to lead the congregation pastorally.


LYRICS:  Memorization is all about finding patterns.  First, try to identify any lines that repeat.  Does each verse end with the same line?  Are the Pre-Choruses the same?  Knowing these patterns will decrease the amount you have to memorize.

I like to hand write the lyrics as well.  This seems to help me internalize them. Get out your pen and notepad and write them out!

Also, nothing beats repetition.  Sing the lyrics along with the recording several times.  Then sing them on your own until they are locked into your brain.

MELODY:  Lyrics aren’t the only thing to memorize.  Get intimately familiar with the melody as well. Listen to the recording until you can sing it back with confidence.

MAP: Finally, memorize the map of the song.  How may times is each section sung?  Is there a Pre-Chorus or a Chorus after Verse 2?


CHORD PROGRESSION:  Regardless of the instrument you play, everyone is working from the same chord progression.  Here are three great ways to memorize chord progressions.

1) Repetition:  Play the progression over and over until it’s ingrained in your hands and you can’t mess up. Muscle memory really works!

2) Key:  In most modern worship songs there are only 4-6 different chords used.  They may come in all kinds of combinations but if you memorize what chords are in each key you will have a huge head start and a point of reference for memorizing songs. [thrive_2step id=’2098′]Click here for our “Chords Per Key Cheat Sheet”[/thrive_2step]

3) Tonal Quality:  Ear training is huge for memorizing songs.  If you can tell what quality or feeling that each chord in a key has you can anticipate it before it arrives.  Even if you forget a chord a trained ear can make the correct decision anyway.

TONE:  If you’re playing an instrument that uses different tones (electric guitar, keyboard) you’ll also want to memorize what tone is used for each section of each song.  Is the Intro a piano or pad sound?  Do I turn the reverb on in the Pre-Chorus or Chorus?

MAP:  Be sure to memorize the map of the song as well.  I’ve been caught knowing all the parts but unsure of when they come in the song.

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BEATS:  Drummers, you don’t have lyrics or chords to memorize but you’re not off the hook.  Most of the songs you’ll play are written with very specific beats that are crucial to the overall feel, flow, and energy of the song.  Oftentimes they change with every section of the song.  If you want to play confidently you’ve got some memorizing to do.

Begin by looking for patterns in the song.  How many different beats are used?  When does the same beat recur?

Again, nothing beats repetition. Your best bet to memorizing all the drum parts of the song is to play through the song until you’re confident with all of the sections.

DYNAMICS:  Along with the beats you’ll want to memorize the dynamics of the song.  When does it begin to build?  Is Verse 2 soft or full?  The drummer often drives the dynamics so it’s important to know them well.

MAP:  Finally, memorize the map of the song.  Know how many times each section repeats and when it moves on. This is crucial for transitions between sections of the song because the drummer can often subconsciously cue the congregation and band by playing a specific fill that leads into the next section.

One Step At A Time

Don’t be overwhelmed. Take baby steps. Here are some steps you can start taking right away:

Look At Your Music Less
You might be surprised just how much you’re staring at your music stand when you really don’t need to.  Make a conscious effort to look away when you can.

Memorize One Song Per Week
It’s hard to memorize six songs all at once.  Start with one song a week and in a few months you’ll have most of your song rotation memorized.

Use A Cheat Sheet
You’ll find that with most songs there is only one section, progression or lyric you have trouble remembering.  Try to get all of your notes for the whole service onto a single piece of paper, and keep it at your feet while you play.

That’s it! You can do this! Use the tips in this article, download our cheat sheet and start enjoying the freedom that comes when you can play your songs by heart!

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