Tips to Memorize a Long Hymn

INC ChoirWhen choir members prepare for big events, there are a lot of factors to consider before they can declare with confidence that they are ready for the big and very special day.  One, that requires time, effort, and serious focus, is to memorize a really long hymn.  Here are tips from choir directors, veteran choir members, and personal experience.  If you have been memorizing long hymns a number of times in a year, for so many years now, most of these tactics must be familiar to you.  Remembering them does not hurt.  Thus, read on.

Master both melody and rhythm.  Your voice projection and articulation will only sound confident when you fully know how the notes move and how fast and/or slow they move.  If you do not play any musical instrument to review the score sheet on your own, ask permission to record the organist playing the piece or ask him/her for a voice guide recording.  Study the piece or hymn in sections.  Depending on your learning style, choose to start with the most challenging part/s or with the easier and repetitive ones.

Internalize the meaning of the lyrics.  Read the lyrics.  Check the dictionary for the definition of any unfamiliar word. Take a closer look at the meaning of every line in every stanza in every section.  Think of the emotion/s the hymn aims to impart.  Reflect on how and what the hymn wants you and the listeners to feel.  Visualize its overall meaning and create a story in your mind.  When images get attached to what the hymn means to you, recalling the lyrics comes more easily.  If possible, associate or summarize every stanza or section with an image that is meaningful to you.  You might want to draw or find photos of these images to reiterate these visual cues in your mind.

Practice. Practice. Practice.  Keep a conscious effort to realize your goal: to memorize a long hymn.  Try singing yourself to sleep.  Sing the whole hymn before you go to bed to send the lyrics to your subconscious mind for better retention.  When you wake up, sing the hymn again to refresh your memory.  If you love writing by hand, write the lyrics again and again.  If you prefer typing, then manually (cut, copy, and paste commands obviously defeat the purpose here) type the lyrics again and again.  If you want something tangible that gives you a quick overview, create your own set of mnemonics or flashcards to remember initial letters or first words of lines per section.  If you are more of an audio person, record yourself singing the whole hymn.  The recording alone will take you several attempts before you will be satisfied with a “final” file.  Use a headset to avoid distractions when you are listening to your own audio output.  Do not become too proud to let the whole neighborhood or office department hear you sing a long hymn.  Play your recording in a loop and use it as your daily OST until that special day.  Listen to it while you work and/or made to wait for whatever reason.  Please do not put your headset or earphones on when you are driving and walking on and/or crossing the streets.  Your safety comes first.  You have an important duty to fulfill and we all want to perform with you.

For other lessons and fun videos, please visit my YouTube channel.

by JellSoL, 2018-06-28

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2 thoughts on “Tips to Memorize a Long Hymn

  1. Read a line once
    Recite the line twice.

    Doing it up to the last line works for me… but only for a short time. Singing it makes it more unforgettable.

    1. Well said, Bob. When an input is encoded through several senses, the memory becomes easier to retrieve and gets retained a lot longer.

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