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Memory Maps

Concert season is almost upon us! I’m  really starting to get into detailed work with my students to clean our music as much as possible, but if you’re like me, you’re also working to get repertoire memorized. To make this process a little easier, I like to create memory maps.


This is a memory map I made of Arirang, arr. Paul Basler, for my 6th grade students. They were having trouble remembering where the bottom line changed, so I wrote the beginning of each section out so they could visually see the difference.

What is a Memory Map?

A memory map is a sketch of a piece of music that I draw (usually on my board) to help guide my students as they get used to performing without the aide of their scores. I try to include helpful hints to guide them along the way, note changes or patterns, etc. It’s like learning to ride  a bicycle with training wheels first as opposed to someone just giving you a push and telling you to pedal.


They’re not using the music, but using the map provides breadcrumbs to help them find their way through.


My 8th graders are working on Ukuthula. It's a great introduction to SATB voicing for them. I usually stick with 2-3 part music, and consider SATB voicing VERY carefully before I assign any.

How to Create Your Own Memory Maps


My girls were struggling to remember the change from unison into 3 parts at the beginning of A la Nanita Nana, so  I  tailored this memory map to focus on the first two large sections so they could easily see the differences. 

Identify sections.

I go through my music and identify the “big sections” You know, like you used to do in music theory.

Look for patterns.

Is there a melody that keeps on coming back? Highlight that in your map. Is the melody the same, but the text different? 

Highlight differences.

Where do those patterns change? What can you jot down in as simple of a way possible to help steer your choir in the right direction?


What are the first couple of words that start each section?


What’s going on in the story in this section? 

What is your choir struggling with?

Are they missing a transition into a split? Do they have trouble remembering the order of each verse? Tailor everything to what will serve your ensemble best.

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