It happened to me and my students more times than I can count. You get ready to sing a song you thought you knew well, then discovered you’re not sure when to enter, or about the rhythm somewhere, or how the pre-chorus goes? Turns out, you didn't really know the song...

Where to start learning the song? I'll show you the formula to learn sing the song and really know it. Also memorize it, if needed.

For the sake of this article I have upgraded my approach to include some tips from other voice experts and made an improved learning system for you all. Enjoy!

A geeky voice teacher’s advice to learning songs

If you are going to learn or memorise a certain song, chances are you are about to sing it, right? Yeah, probably. And a lot. So please warm up your voice first. Better do the whole warm-up (with the bodywork section in the beginning), but even 3 exercises are better than nothing. I don’t want people coming to me later with vocal problems!

The Break down method of learning a song

Some of the learning methods are not sexy, sorry guys.

In a nutshell, you need to do it bit by bit. Then repeat. Booo! 

BUT, when you are in the process, it’s actually very satisfying to take things slow. If you know how to go about it, and the right methodology for you. 

How to determine what kind of "song learner" you are

The great Dr. Dan recommends to determine what kind of learner you are. And then use methods that work with that way of learning. I’ve also heard this concept from the superb power couple of Vocal Process. The different types of learners are:

  1. The Visual Person: You might be a person who sees everything in their mind, imagine the way things look. When you look at something, it’s easier for you to remember. If that’s you - you are a visual person.
  2. The Auditory Person: If you need to listen and hear before you pay attention to what you see. If you remember things more easily after hearing them - you are an auditory person.
  3. The Kinesthetic/Tactile person: In order to really get something and understand it, you need to get busy with it. Do something with your hands. Or pay attention to a sensation in your body. This is easier for you to access than other stimuli such as visuals or sounds. If that’s you - you are a tactile person.

What's YOUR method of learning a song?

So let’s take a look at the different methods. Eventually, I recommend doing all the methods, but you can lead with the most effective one for you:

Visual song learners 

  1. Write down all the lyrics of the song/ get them up on your device/print them on a paper.
  2. Read one phrase, and repeat it out loud.
  3. Do this a few times until you get it. If you want to memorize the song, repeat ech phrase and at some point lift your eyes off the lyrics and try by heart. Do that one phrase at a time until you have it.
  4. Then move on to the next phrase and do the same. When you have learned 2 phrases, read both of them in a row and repeat until you go it.
  5. After learning a verse or two, go ahead and listen to the music, and use the method for the auditory learners.

Auditory song learners

  1. Start by listening to the song one phrase at a time.
  2. Repeat the line after you hear it, then listen again and repeat until you know it.
  3. After you have learned 2 phrases seperately, listen to both of them in a row and repeat until you get it.
  4. Then enhance your memory of lyrics by going to the visual/tectile method.

Tactile song learners

  1. Write down the song one phrase at a time. With pen and paper, and with your own hands (don’t borrow already written lyrics).
  2. After writing, repeat the line out loud. Do this a few times until you know the phrase.
  3. Then move on to the next phrase and do the same.
  4. After you have learned 2 phrases, write down both of them in a row and repeat until you get it.
  5. After learning a verse or two, go ahead and listen to the music, and use the method for the auditory learners.

The Formula for Learning and memorizing songs

It's actually painfully simple. No matter what method you choose, auditory, visual or tectile, this is a framework to learning with the break down method. I explained in above in words, but I thought you might want it more concise, so here it is:

Sing 1st phrase until you get it


Sing 2nd phrase until you get it

Sing both phrases until you get it


Sing 3rd phrase until you get it

Sing phrases until you get it


Sing 4th phrase until you get it

Sing the whole verse until you get it

For a more thorough finish: learn the connections

You can learn one phrase, then the other, or one verse, then the chorus. But sometimes you might find yourself getting stuck right in the transition between them. 

I notice that all the time in my choir rehearsals. We have to go to the end of the verse, and connect it to the beginning of the chorus. Especially if there is a big jump in the melody line, or a key change.

So whenever you see there is a difficult part - take some time and zoom in on it. Go one phrase before that and learn the connection.

Don’t skip steps 😉

We are all impatient. We want to be able to know the song NOW. We don’t want to wait until we know it! But hey, if you take it easy, I promise you it will go by faster than you think. And over all, your learning process will be shorter! It’s crazy, but true.

How to choose a song to learn?

Is a song even good for you? There are many songs we would like to be able to sing, but for now they are in a higher level than we are. Or maybe they are just in the wrong key! 

You should make sure you choose a song that fits your range and level. If you are starting out or if you are working on a certain vocal technique at the moment - choose an easy song. Check out how to do so in my post how to choose a song (for more advanced song, this post will also teach you how to adjust for the correct key). 

Last tip - Finish on a high

Because the process of learning and memorizing a song can to say..trying at times, it’s important to end up with some fun. Otherwise - you will not be able to go back to studying ever again! 

I always recommend finishing with a sing through session, also explain why and how in my how to practice singing article. So check it out. Get the song up on YT or a karaoke app, and just have a go, and enjoy the fact that we are a species that can sing. 

Let me know how this works out for you, and enjoy singing!



speaking about singing on stage

Your technique doesn’t have to be splendid to move the audience. But you have to (l)earn your place on stage. And guess what: there is a system to this.

About the author
Linor Oren

I'm an opera singer and (online) voice teacher, based in Amsterdam. It took me more than a decade to overcome my share of mental and physical issues and reach a professional level as a singer. Because of this background, and my 10+ years of teaching experience, I believe I can speed up your learning curve as a singer.

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Eye-openers, tips and stories. Also content that I don't publish on my website.