Why are we able to remember music so well?

hink about this. Your driving on the road and you have the radio on, and a song comes on that you haven’t heard in maybe 10 years.

It comes on the radio and you can sing every single word of it perfectly

Why does that happen?

Before I delve in to that, here’s what happened to me. I was driving and Sunday Bloody Sunday from U2 had come onto the radio.

This was a popular song in my senior year of high school, and decades later I’m driving down the road and it comes on. Before you know it, I am singing out every single lyric from this song that I probably haven’t heard in many years

Research has shown that scientists can play a song for just a 1/10 of a second in some cases, and songs that participants know really well they can recognize the song from that 1/10 of a second clip.

Why do we remember songs so well and for so long?

There are three main reasons why this is the case


In actual fact you have heard this song over and over again.

You didn’t just hear it once or twice, if you did, it wouldn’t have transferred to your long-term memory.

When a song is very popular it is going to be played on all the radio stations, all the clubs, all the parties and maybe even inside shopping centers.

This repeated exposure is going to strengthen the connections in your memory. In essence you are reviewing the song even if it isn’t being done so consciously.

This is because it is everywhere you go since it’s popular on the radio.

This massive exposure is huge for your long-term recall.

It might not even be a popular song and you yourself decided to play it over and over again

Emotional Trigger

Your brain will remember things that have an emotional trigger. For example, can you remember where you were on September 11, 2001.

This was years ago but if you were old enough back then you will be able to remember every detail of where you were.

This is because it is an emotional trigger.

So, songs that trigger the most emotional trigger from you will be stronger in your memory.

It might be a song that reminds you of someone or a significant event in your life, you’ve tied that song emotionally to your memory or maybe the song is from your teenage years.

I often find that people can remember songs from our teenage years very well. Why is this?

This is because in your teenage years you’re trying to find your own identity and songs played a role in that. This makes it emotional for you

Motor Memory

Even if you are a bad singer, you have a tendency to sing along with songs that you like when you hear them.

So, what does that do?

This helps engage your motor memory, you are now actively involved in singing the song and it strengthens it in your memory.

This motor memory makes the song stronger for you

The tunes help us

When you hear the part of the song with the drum solo or the guitar solo, you’ve tied words to that in your brain, in essence you have connected the words to the sounds so this rhythm and music are places in your memory where you are storing the data

So, if songs help you remember things, why not create a song that helps you recall?

I knew a song that helped me memorize all the countries and capitals in South America, I learned this 20 years ago and I can still remember it to this day.

You probably have a similar scenario like songs from movies or Disney films which are popular among children when growing up.

You probably haven’t heard them in maybe 5/10/20 years ago, so if we can remember songs for that long why don’t we use that information to help us remember stuff today


We remember songs due to the repetition, we’ve heard this song over and over again. We are essentially reviewing it each time we hear it.

So, when your trying to remember something for a test, trying to remember somebodies name you are going to need to review

In regards to emotional triggers, if you are trying to remember history facts for example, try to visualize the images or pictures in your head so you can make that emotional trigger.

Motor Memory, we’re saying them out loud and acting them out. You need to say the information that you want to remember out loud and kind of act it out.

Use this to your advantage

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