Memorizing Music

3 Times and Out Game


Here is an excellent technique for checking whether something is thoroughly learned and/or memorized

We tend to think that if we make a mistake, all we need to do is to correct that mistake.  Chorus directors think that when they point out a mistake and get their chorus members to sing it correctly, that it is corrected.  Then they wonder why in the performance, the old mistake crops up again.  Instead we need to take HABIT into account.  We need to be aware of how many times we have done it wrong in comparison to how many times we have done it right.  Frequently we will make a mistake over and over again and then finally get it right.  Then we’ve got it!  Right?  WRONG!  Old habits die hard!  We should not practice until we get it right - we should practice until we hardly ever get it wrong.

Here is a simple method to make sure you have solved the habit issue of hardly ever getting the problem area wrong.


    Start at zero (0)

    Sing it thru.       If right, you are at plus 1 (+1)  If wrong, you are at   -1

    Sing it again     If right, you are at +2 or  0 depending on the last step. 

                             If  wrong, you are at  0  or  -2

    So here’s how it looks:


                       -1     +1

                    -2           +2

                -3                   +3 and Out



As you can see, if you are at -1. you have to do it 4 times perfect in a row to get to +3.  If you get to -3. you have 6 to do.  If you get to -5 HORRORS ! you have 8 in a row to get out.  This game forces you to do it more right than wrong.

So how do you avoid making mistakes?  The old saw: GO SLOWER and THINK!  Be cautious and go from 0 to +1 to +2 to +3 and you’ve got it.  Of course if you slowed down the tempo, you have to play the “Practice Game” at performance tempo to be thoroughly confident.


Start with the smallest bit.  If you take on too big a bite at one time it just makes it that much harder to be perfect.  After all, we want you to succeed.  Success breeds success.   But if your a perfectionist and want to kill yourself, play the Practice Game with the whole song including proper tempo, perfect tone production, perfectly expressive dynamics and perfectly in tune with totally accurate rhythm.  Just remember, perfection is for the next world. 

How you use the Practice Game all depends on what you want to accomplish.  Have fun with it and you will find great confidence in your preparation.

                                  I would love to hear from you. 

                          I appreciate any comments or suggestions.