Memorizing Songs

Wouldn't it be great to pick up your uke and start playing a few tunes? Here are a couple of tips on how to learn a song so you can start playing from memory. . :

What To Do

1. Look for patterns. See examples below. Jambalaya has 3 different verses and 1 chorus repeated 3 times. If you learn the chorus you have learned 1/2 the song!. White Rabbit and Walking After Midnight have a common format called the A A B A.format There are two chord patterns an A pattern and a B pattern. You play the A twice, then the B and the A again. Breaking the song into patterns makes it easier to learn and recall. It also makes it less overwhelming.

2. Look for the chord structures. Jambalaya is in the key of C and uses two chords the root or 1st chord and the 5th played as a 7th. C and G7. Walking After Midnight is a 1, 4, 5 in the key of C it uses C F and G. It uses 7ths of C and G as accents. White rabbit is a little different it is in the key of C (it starts with an A but it ends in C. Most songs start with the root note, but not all almost all songs end on their root chord, in this case C. White Rabbit's basic structure is C F G but it adds accents/passing chords with the Bb and Eb .

3. Practice the new song in short practice sessions learning each section (verse1 chorus, verse2, verse3) before moving on. You will learn it faster if you try to recall it by practicing 5-10 minutes in the morning , 5-10 minutes in the afternoon and 5-10 minutes at night rather than spending 60 minutes in one sitting.

4. Try to recall your new song at least once a day until it is moved to your long term memory (you have two memory areas, short and long. While Taking a walk, try and visualize the chords your will play or sing the lyrics.

5. Record the song so you can listen to it while driving, cleaning the house, walking, etc. Just think how many songs you learned the words from listening to them on the radio without even trying to learn the words. If you listen to another group's recording of the song make sure they have the same lyrics you are trying to learn. (its happened to me).

6. Write down the lyrics for each section that you are trying to learn. I once had a line in a song that made no sense to me and I had a difficult time learning it, so wrote it down then I learned it phonetically and would walk around saying it; "the Classic, Buck and Wing and the Wooden Clog" .

7. Don't look at the music when trying to recall it from memory. You use a completely different part of you brain when looking at the music. Learn the song one line at a time. Put the sheet music in a different room and try and recall it, make yourself have to get up and go look at it if you are stumped. You have to create the chemical connections in your brain to memorize it. Looking at the music will not result in that chemical connection in your brain's Synapses being created.

8. Memorize the first word, few words or phrase for each section to prompt you brain to recall the rest of the lyrics. For example the verses in Jambalaya start with these words in this order. Goodbye Joe, Thibaydeaux, Settle down. The chorus starts with Jambalaya.

9. Start out with a simple song that does not have a lot of lyrics. Build up to the more complex and lyric heavy songs. The more you memorize the easier it will become as your brain will allocate more resources to memorization. Read all about in in this interesting book This is your Brain on Music

10. Try and practice with others.

11. Have fun doing it.

What Not To Do

1. Don't play with the music in front of you if you want to, be able to recall it.

2. Don't make your practice long, short and frequent practice is better.

3. Don't try to learn to many songs at once.

4. Don't stop for every little mistake. You will make mistakes, so learn how to recover.


[C]Goodbye Joe, me gotta go, me oh [G7]my oh

Me gotta go pole the pirogue down the [C]bayou

My Yvonne, the sweetest one, me oh [G7]my oh

Son of a gun, we'll have good fun on the [C]bayou


[C]Jambalaya, a-crawfish pie and-a fillet [G7]gumbo

'Cause tonight I'm gonna see my machez a[C]mio

Pick guitar, fill fruit jar and be [G7]gay-oh

Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the [C]bayou.

[C]Thibay-deaux, Fountaineaux, the place is [G7]buzzin'

Kinfolk come to see Yvonne by the [C]dozen

Dress in style, go hog wild, me oh [G7]my oh

Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the [C]bayou.


[C]Settle down far from town, get me a [G7]pirogue

And I’ll catch all the fish in the [C]bayou

Swap my mom to buy Yvonne what whe [G7]need-o

Son of a gun, we’ll have big fun on the [C]bayou


Son of a [G7]gun, we'll have big fun on the [C]bayou.

Son of a [G7]gun, we'll have big fun on the [C]bayou.

White Rabbit

Intro: [A] [Bb] [A] [Bb] [A] [Bb] INTRO

[A] One pill makes you larger

And [Bb] one pill makes you small

And the [A] ones that your mother gives you A

Don't [Bb] do anything at all

Go ask [C] Alice

[Eb] When she's [F] ten feet [C] tall

And if [A] you go chasing rabbits

And you [Bb] know you're going to fall

Tell 'em a [A] hookah smoking caterpillar A

[Bb] Has given you the call

Call [C] Alice

[Eb] When [F] she was just [C] small

When [G] the men on the chessboard

Get up and [C] tell you where to go

And you've [G] just had some kind of mushroom B

And your [C] mind is moving low

Go ask [A] Alice

I think she'll know

[A] And when logic and proportion

Have [Bb] fallen sloppy dead

And the [A] White Knight is talking backwards A

And the [Bb] Red Queen's off with her head

Re[C]member [Eb] what the [F] dormouse [C] said

[G] Feed your [C] head Ending

[G] Feed your [C] head

[G] Feed your [C] head

Walking After Midnight

I go out [C] walking after [C7] midnight

Out in the [F] moonlight just like we used to do A

I'm always [C] walking after [F] midnight

[G7] Searching for [C] you [G7]

I walk for [C] miles along the [C7] highway

Well that's just [F] my way of saying I love you A

I'm always [C] walking after [F] midnight

[G7] Searching for [C] you [C7]

I stopped to [F] see a weeping willow

Crying on his pillow [C] maybe he's crying for me [C7] B

And [F] as the skies turn gloomy

Night winds whisper to me

I'm [C] lonesome as I can [G7] be

I go out [C] walking after [C7] midnight

Out in the [F] starlight just hoping you may be A

Somewhere a [C] walking after [F] midnight

[G7] Searching for [C] me [C7]