Songs as mnemonics?

I find that writing songs is actually very useful for my memory, despite me mostly preferring visual information. If I have to remember something very complicated and unintuitive, it helps for whatever reason. Is that weird? Why isn’t it discussed here a lot? I’m curious.


Simply as of yet no standard method to make the equivalent of a memory palace in songs.
Would be interesting to try emulating beats and attaching lyrics, I could do this and have tried but its not quite as effective as a memory palace for me, I suppose it needs more investigation to decide precisely.

You are talking about writing songs though, the act of writing them makes them more memorable for you than writing words without a song format?

It’s also not weird it makes sense that adding beats which incorporate slightly different regions as well as intersections of language regions in the brain improves your general memory. It should make the information leave a more distinct mark in your brain which is useful in the same way that the major method provides some use over the peg list when both are made.
Similarly it also enhances the stimulus of the intersecting regions which I assume is beneficial for recall or consolidation.


Writing songs, even bad ones, helps me sometimes in recalling information I want to memorize. I definitely feel that the beat and rhythm aid in memorization and help pull up the next item sometimes, or help me remember related info I want to memorize. I guess it is like the Major System here - one item gives clues to the next. So maybe ultimately, it’s like a linking system.


After reading the Memory Craft by @LynneKelly I got the idea of trying to replace a lyric for a song with the things I wanted to remember. Seemed like a brilliant thing to do as it would make things easier to remember in order. The goal was to create something like this :

My idea was to take an original song where I know the melody well and map out the syllables, take my list of words I wanted to remember and do the same thing and then try to match/map it together. Didn’t work too well but I still think this could be quite useful. So any ideas on how to map word lists on to songs?

As an example how could this be mapped to a song (I just picked random words):

  1. lip
  2. economics
  3. life
  4. kiss
  5. combat
  6. testimony
  7. nightmare
  8. struggle
  9. novel
  10. branch

Start off with a familiar song, and then for the lyrics, you need to incorporate the words in this order. You can use cues to lead to the next word, but in general avoid it. For example, I’ll take the chorus from “Flying Purple People Eater”. Oh, it was a…

One-eyed one-horned flying purple people eater
One-eyed one-horned flying purple people eater
One-eyed one-horned flying purple people eater
Sure looks strange to me.

And now we need to put the words to remember in the song. What was it again? Oh it was a…

Lip economics life kiss combat
Testimony nightmare, it was a struggle
Lip economics life kiss combat
Struggle novel branch.

Not perfect, and we had to jump back a bit to get the rhythm to work out better, but from repeating this, the list will probably be memorized in about 10-15 minutes.

1 Like

I try to choose my mnemonics so that they have a rhythm or a consistent beat. I use the non value letters in the Major System to fill out the number of syllables I need.

Composing even a simple song takes time and some skill which I don’t have.

Hey, even bad songs work. You don’t have to be a professional poet to write songs. I’m not. I will admit that it is a matter of experimentation here. And maybe songs don’t stick in your brain. That’s also okay.

If I were to recall the list of people who posted, I’ll write it to the same tune as an example.

The creator of the thread was Icosencephalic
Nagime, Icos, juman, Icos
Then there’s zvuv, then there’s Icos, (juman didn’t post twice, oops.)
And with that, we’re done (for now)

I posted every other post on this thread, and that helps out the rhyme scheme. Even if it didn’t, I’d be able to make things work.


I’m not sure how you find it but my approach to this would be to make a new song in my head by mixing random beats to form a tune and then fill out the words afterwards.

With all my memorized songs I may find it easier so I am not sure if it seems difficult or not, it doesn’t take any effort from me to do this. Sometimes the words even fill in naturally but I have an odd thing for rhymes and occasionally do so unconsciously.

It also does seem more memorable than without.

It’s certainly an interesting topic and point as this is the equivalent of a memory palace verbally in the form of a song. Potentially this could be made systematic enough to provide a superior verbatim memorization method.

I like using established songs - I’m not one to write an entirely new melody to memorize something. Rhymes take a bit of effort for me, but the “word vomit” I spew out onto the melody usually works. I agree that this method could be very useful if it were more structured. I don’t know how many people do some sort of variation of this already. How is this not considered a formal or established technique?

I find it hard to overwrite existing songs especially if I like them but I agree with you this should definitely be a formal or established or at-least extensively tested technique, but I suppose a start has to happen somewhere, this may be the real start of it.

I might run some experiments of my own on it.

Writing melodies is hard. I’ve never been successful at it or I end up accidentally plagiarizing another song.

I’d be interested to know how your experiments go.

1 Like

So far though it has been the odd 20 minutes only I am finding that it doubles verbal memory, I can more or less remember 35-50 words (or around 3 sentences in 1 repeat) without any visuals reliably using this method , I think it largely depends on the difference of the tones as well. Some phrases stick particularly well if they are in sync with the melodies, to the extent that I don’t have to recall them again to keep them memorized.

I also feel capable of singing what I have memorized on background kind of like an earworm not sure if this would provide benefits or not, so far I have tested short melodies and sets of words. Kind of like the memory palace it helps when the places are different and not all the same and also if the words interact with the environment or in this case melody. Perhaps because of this I seem to be able to make melodies while reading in general.

It definitely sticks better and feels like once fully retained will be similar to standard music.
Despite typing this I also still remember the sentences from around 15 minutes ago.

This may provide major use for particularly short sentences perhaps with the combination of the memory palaces it may be much more potent. I assume the melodies in general are likely to be much more effective if they are highly distinct in a song.

I also wonder what happens when the melody is much longer perhaps 900 words or so, particularly required recall rate and alike, but for now I will leave it at that.

What a fun and interesting thread !
I for one wouldnt create a new song. I would use a song I know very well and love very much and as I go along singing it, I would link what I want to learn to key parts of it.

As I am used to taking audio and transform it into various images form different sources, I will definitely use this method. I cant believe I havent thought about it before, thank you so much !

my example with your list :

The Beatles song : A day in the life :

I read the news today, oh boy (big lipped boy)
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire (my economy teacher wears a dress full of holes ahhh)
And though the holes were rather small (tiny man with LIFEjacket)
They had to count them all (Count Dracula kissing all the Beatles)
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall (Arsenio HALL combat fighting in the court of law in TESTIMONY chair)
I’d love to turn you (giving love to Freddie Kruger(nightmare) by giving him a Strudel - struggle)

Not verbatim and it still works fine because the mind is a great guesser !

i try to imagine the tiny man in LIFEjacket when singing “…rather small”, perhaps even place the tiny lifejacket man in one of the holes of my economics teacher!

On the second round of revision I see it without effort, as I do the rest of the images.

Singing ‘count’ Count dracula pops up and corresponding info

Singing ‘holes’ immediately see my economy teacher full of holes…


I need to use this.


Here is a rework of my try to use syllables to break a list down. I picked the song The Proclaimers - I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) Video which has a simple beat. Taking the chorus I broke it down to beats/syllables like this :

Then I replaced the syllables by breaking down the list to memorize above like this :slight_smile:

This works… kind of but the text would probably be more memorizeable if adding some words to the text to make it more like a story and still fit in the beat.

1 Like

I have used poems as Journey/Memory palace. The poem itself has to be memorized, just like one would with an imaginary palace. I’m thinking of using Tyger for my next applications.

I mostly use existing familiar melodies and redo the words. I use puns and stories and fun to make the song memorable. But for something like the family names of birds, I let the rhythm of the Latin names dictate the tune / chant and puns gave me a story line. It is less tuneful, but works for those words.


But is it possible to encode more than lists of ten random ideas?

I’m imagining layering various lists of ten things as a tree, accessing each node through triggers in a song. So the song is just one layer of a traditional peg mnemonic system.

It certainly is a talent to put words to music!
I can’t understand how anyone can do it at all.
A little off topic, but there was a guy ( Roger Whittaker), who had a radio show and he launched a competition asking for stories and poems, and he would put chosen ones to music which he made up. Such a tale came from a silversmith in England (Whittaker was a white African folk singer I believe), which he liked and put to music. It later became a hit in multiple countries (the song is: The Last Farewell). This was of course quite a while ago (when they were making vinyl records, maybe a couple of hundred years ago).

…I think most would fare better sticking to tunes they know well !

If you can put your memory task to music, then I think anecdotal evidence probably most of us have is that you can recall words to songs that you haven’t thought about in years, so it would seem to be very effective.

I have songs which are layered. So the base song just gives the list, but there are songs linked to each member of the list. In my bird families song, there are 82 families. Some of them then have further songs, and stories. Some have dances mimicking behaviour. But most of my songs don’t tend to stand alone. I have them linked to other mnemonic methods, like memory boards (hand held portable memory palaces), stories, and full scale memory palaces.

Some of the stand alone songs are for foreign language vocabulary. For example, I sing body parts in the shower in a song about washing.



An important detail, this is. Listed in book, I wish this was. Not paying attention though, I could have been.