The Blog

Back to School, Use Music to Help You Memorize

Many people have a hard time committing things to memory, especially with all the distractions that can come your way. Maybe the answer is as close as your iPod!
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
young woman listening music...
young woman listening music...

Many people have a hard time committing things to memory, especially with all the distractions that can come your way. Maybe the answer is as close as your iPod!

Developing better memorization and faster recall skill for school-related projects will enhance your ability to pull together a wider spectrum of information for class discussions, papers, and tests. This blog will show you how you can use your favorite songs to help you do just that.

Continuing with my back to school series, which began with "Back to School, Use Music to Get Better Grades," this blog will discuss how you can use your favorite music to help improve your memory when it counts most: for things you are doing at school. Again, this approach is not about using music to get smarter. Rather, it is about how to use music to optimize some of your natural skills that already help make you smart as well as more successful.

In my book Your Playlist Can Change Your Life, my co-authors and I discuss the science of optimizing the mind by balancing it. This starts with figuring out which way your mental energy needs to go (up or down) before you start a task and using music to get you there. In my last blog, I gave playlist suggestions and meditations to help guide you into states of more alertness or more calm.

In terms of increasing enhancing memory, my partners and I, in Playlist, talk about using your favorite music to launch your mind into a flowing (optimized) and remembering mode and, all importantly, sustaining that mindset for your projects. If you'd like to try adapting this some of this strategy toward school work, here's all you have to do.

  • First, balance your mind. This is an important first step. Consult my previous blog, "Back to School, Use Music to Get Better Grades," for playlists and meditations to increase your mental energy or decrease it, depending on which way you need to go (again... up or down) to feel simultaneously relaxed and energized.

In brief: If you are too mellow to accomplish a task or too unmotivated, then create a playlist that will bring you up to the right level mental energy you need -- but not over. Too much of a good thing, in this case, can have negative returns. You're looking for balance. If you are too anxious or pumped up and need to calm to send your focus to its peak effectiveness, put together a calming playlist. Just push play for 7 - 12 minutes until you've reached the desired effect.

  • Next, play a song from your distant past that you really enjoy. When you feel you have balanced your mindset (you're feeling alert and relaxed simultaneously) try this: Pick a tune that you liked a lot "back when" and which you still really like today. For me, I try to pick songs that my mom or dad liked in my childhood, when I felt in the deep comfort and safety of my parents -- happy days with warm and comfy memories of my mother and father and good interactions among us. These were days when my entire hand was still smaller than my father's palm. For you, it can be anytime, anywhere as long as it doesn't send conflicting feelings or themes that may inhibit what you are trying to do next: in this case, schoolwork.
  • As for me, I love listening to "You Are My Special Angel" by Bobby Vinton. This one is loaded with childhood memories of my family eating breakfast in our small country town, with my mother usually singing a little along with the radio that was always playing in our house. I was younger than my youngest child then, but my memory of this is quite clear and moving. It's perfect. If I try hard enough, I can imagine even the food on the table and flood of good fragrances from all those years ago.

  • Lastly, make a mental movie. Create a narrative (story) in your head using some of the images or segments of your memory that are coming back to you. The more parts of your mind you use the better. Try to create dialogue; hear the voices. Pay attention to scent and touch and taste. The more the better -- 10 - 12 minutes works great.
  • Now, you are ready to start working.
  • Balance again if necessary.
  • Send your brain the message that you want it to remember. Read what you are trying to commit to memory often before you actually need it for a test, presentation or discussion. Read aloud.
  • One young woman I was working with said her college grades went from Bs to straight As in one semester by using this activity and tapping the power of her favorite songs. Worth a try.

    For a more detailed discussion of how this works, you may want to check out Your Playlist Can Change Your Life.

    Stay tuned: In a series of upcoming blogs, I will explore how you can use music to help with on the roller coaster of emotions you will probably experience at school this year, including in new relationships and breakups. We will also look songs to help keep you organized.

    As always, remember, it's really all about training the mind to act the way you want it to in specific daily situations -- and music, when used in this way, becomes your conditioning tool.


    "Gonna Make You Sweat," C+C Music Factory
    "I'll Be There For You," Bon Jovi
    "I Want To KNow What Love Is," Foreigner
    "Only Wanna Be With You," Hootie & The Blowfish
    "Roll With It," Steve Winwood
    "Punk Rock Girl," The Dead Milkmen
    "Genie In A Bottle," Christina Aguilera
    "All Star," Smash Mouth
    "Back At One," Brian McKnight"
    "Love Shack," The B-52's

    For more by Joseph Cardillo, Ph.D., click here.

    For more on emotional intelligence, click here.

    Popular in the Community