Select Page

Bright Knowledge Instants are short tutorials that give you one thing you can do right now to move ahead in your creativity.

How’s your memory?

Memory is a huge topic for creatives, and especially musicians.

It tends to be something that we think we’re either good or bad at. almost like the myth of talent.

But just like the fact that talent is a myth, so is good memory.

Memory is a skill that you can cultivate over time.
Find out how in this Bright Knowledge Instant…

The fact is that the more you practice your memory the better you get at it.

One of the most beautiful descriptions I’ve heard of memory is by my student Linda.

She calls it “deep knowing”.

I think this is a wonderful way to sidestep all the baggage that memory tends to have for musicians.

Deep knowing takes ownership again of your memory experience.

So if you think of deep knowing as resonating better with you, use that every single time I say the word “memory”.

What if you’re an improviser?


Auditory memory still counts just the same.

Say you’re doing an improvisation in Lydian Mode. You have a great aural memory for what Lydian Mode is. You know its entire character. You know what the different intervals sound like. You know what the accompaniment could be.

You have an aural picture, an aural landscape in your head before you even get started.

Now you may be taken by surprise as you go along, which is a beautiful feature of improvisation. That’s all good. The thing is to have an aural picture when you start.

What about other genres?

So, for example, close your eyes again and hear Celtic music. Have a picture of Celtic music in your head.

Now switch over. What about jazz? What about classical? Simply by doing so, you’re rehearsing your aural memory, your aural vocabulary.

We can then bring this to the pieces that we’re arranging, that we are improvising on, that we’re composing or simply interpreting.

By having this type of memory suddenly there’s a lot more available to you artistically.

Cultivate auditory memory with your own pieces

There are multiple levels of auditory memory, but how do you put them into practice?

First is with your own pieces. With your own song, auditory memory means that away from your instrument you can sing the song in your head top to bottom.

And I say in your head because you hear all parts. It’s not just singing the melody line. It’s actually hearing all parts. So right now, if you close your eyes and hear Beethoven’s 5th in your head you actually can hear the whole orchestra. The melody is just one tiny part of the picture.

With auditory memory you actually have an aural image of the entire piece top to bottom and you are able to sing it in your head with no gaps.

That means you know the song in your head and it gives you so much more confidence when you are practicing and performing it.

Ways to cultivate auditory memory


There are a range of ways to actually do this, to cultivate your auditory memory.

Definitely start by singing your pieces as you’re going along. The good news is that you can do that anywhere.

You can be singing it in your head as you walk along, as you’re driving, as you’re waiting for something, so your practice time opens up incredibly. This is legitimate practice.

And then try listening to recordings, live performances of other genres. Genres that you like and also genres you don’t like.

Listening to them occasionally will really help because it helps you define your style. You say in your aural landscape that’s a particular shrub that doesn’t fit and you’re able to articulate why.

This gives you tremendous artistic control and artistic prowess.

So in terms of listening of course you have your CD collection, you have iTunes, you have YouTube, you have Pandora.

Pandora is a wonderful place because it will oftentimes introduce you to things that you haven’t heard before but they are in a genre that you love, so you make all these new discoveries.

With YouTube you can let a playlist run and sure enough it starts running into some crazy stuff. That’s really interesting too!

Practice when you’re not able to practice 


In downtime moments when you can’t practice, you can because you can do your aural memory.

When listening, you can allow music to play in the background or you can sit and pay attention to it. In both cases you will actually absorb the aural information and you will increase your aural vocabulary.

Aural memory is the memory that rules them all. It is the one that you want to have in place before you look at the other types of memory.

These other types are analytical memory (the theoretical side of music, the architecture where we talk about keys, modes, time signatures, the facts of music) and the kinesthetic side of playing (how are your fingers moving, what is the choreography, the dance, the shape that works for any instrument: piano, flutes, harp of course.)

So today, I’d love you to start going through your songs and seeing where your aural memory is on them.

Can you sing from top to bottom on your songs?

Let me know!

Setting goals that stick! (BKI 3)
How to play with expression: listen first! (BKI 4)
How to feel more Inspired (BKI 5)