Post-Memory Techniques For Music, Part Eight

Little girl playing piano indoors for family as a post-memory technique.

Part Eight: Post-Memory Techniques For Music

BY MEGHAN VANCE • April 29, 2024

You’ve memorized your song, or at least a significant part of it. Hopefully by this point in the memorizing music article series, you know that you’ll have to keep practicing your song if you want to keep it memorized. And you might guess that a significant amount of that practice should still be with the music, so that you keep using your visual memorization techniques and avoid errors creeping into your music. But even at this stage in your process, mere repetition isn’t a great use of your time. Post-memory techniques will help you keep practicing efficiently.


Practicing your song at various tempos by memory is a great post-memory technique. If you can only play your song by memory at one speed, you’re relying too heavily on your kinesthetic and aural techniques: focus on strengthening your structural, visual, and imaginative techniques. Try playing your song by memory at a slower-than-normal tempo. states that slowing the tempo “ensures accuracy” and gives you “time to think before playing or singing the next note.” Once you can play your song slowly by memory, use your metronome to gradually speed it up, forcing yourself to recall the information faster and faster.

A metronome going very fast as a post-memory technique of speed is in use.

    Yes, harder. If you can play your song by memory under challenging circumstances, you can walk onto the stage confident that you know your piece extremely well. A good starting technique is to focus on something different each time you play. A very challenging technique is to play the song in reverse, forcing your body to coordinate everything in reverse order. Get creative in ways to challenge yourself – think back through the different learning styles and handicap yourself in some way so that you can’t use one of those styles. Some of these post-memory ways to practice are fun to try:

    • Play while only looking at one hand (limit visual)
    • Play with your eyes closed (limit visual)
    • Play while the radio is blasting a different song (limit aural)
    • Play silently (limit aural)
    • Play with only one hand (limit kinesthetic)
    • Play it in an unusual position: standing if you sit, sitting if you stand, or even lying on the floor (limit spatial)

    Testing how far you can play by memory should be part of your memory process, but now combine this with the post-memory techniques above. When you play under challenging circumstances, where do you get stuck or have to pause? Record yourself playing by memory, and watch the music as you listen to the recording. Were there any mistakes? Did all of your intended articulations, dynamics, tempo changes, and other musicality aspects come across in the recording?

    Next, try playing for an audience. Start with only a person or a few people that you feel comfortable playing in front of. Rick Wormeli writes that performing for family or friends “simulates the pressure we’ll feel when reciting the lines for performance or test, and we need to condition our minds to be able to do this prior to the actual assessment.” Gradually increase your discomfort by adding more people, playing in front of people you are more nervous in front of, or playing in uncomfortable environments. By the time you perform for your intended audience, you’ll be much more comfortable.

    Man playing guitar picnic for wife kids close up to test out the memory in a post-memory technique. His happy family is listening to the music.

    The more you complete the whole memory process, including these post-memory techniques, the more you should learn about your own process. You may want to make mental notes, or you may keep an actual log, but pay attention to your process. This should help you choose which techniques you’ll use and predict where they’re likely to fail. Once you know this, you can take preventative action, focusing your time and attention on those spots.

    For instance, similar musical ideas look similar, sound similar, and may even be played with the same fingers in the same order, so visual, aural, and kinesthetic techniques may fail at those places. Monica Savage, for ELearningIndustray notes that “information placed at the beginning and at the end tends to be stored more easily than that placed in the middle.”

    (See how we placed that tip at the end, so you’ll remember it better?)