Are you tired of being dependent on music books? Then you might want to browse through this blog and look at some of the strategies and tips that can help you memorise sheet music and play pieces off the top of your head. Next time you walk by a piano at a railway station, you’ll be able to sit down and steal the show! Also, most of the tips I’ll be sharing are even useful if you can only recognise chords instead of individual notes, and remember, learning songs and compositions by heart is no magic talent; it’s a skill that can be trained.

Tips to Help You Memorise Sheet Music

First Advice: Go Easy on Yourself

Before we start, it’s probably a good idea to say that you shouldn’t try any pieces that are still too difficult for you. The end result would likely be sloppy, which is not only very demotivating, but will also cost you tons of time that could be spent learning two or three simpler songs.

Repeat the Melody

Learning music by heart isn’t as difficult as most people think it is. Take your favourite tune for example. You could even sing along to it while you sleep, simply because you’ve heard it so many times. Hence, my advice would be to listen to, sing and hum the piece you want to play over and over. For most, the melody is by far the easiest to remember compared to chord progressions and lyrics. The benefit here is that you’ll always have access to a dependable mental guideline that can be used as a foundation to build the rest of the song on.

Tips to Help You Memorise Sheet Music

Discover the Chord Patterns

A lot of music includes chord progressions that are repeated throughout. This doesn’t just go for pop music – where a handful of chords are usually all that’s needed – but classical music and jazz also use standard chord progressions. With that said, try to discover the pattern of the chords used in your song. If they’re the same chords for the entire song, you’ll only have to learn them once. The rest is just rinse and repeat.


Here’s an example for those who can read music notation. Look at the first four measures of Yann Tiersen’s famous Comptine d’un autre été, and you’ll notice that you’re supposed to play a big bunch of notes with your left hand, which is actually easier than you’d think. There’s only one chord in the first measure, that Tiersen has broken into little pieces to create a nice little accompaniment part. If you play the individual notes of the measure at the same time, you’ll hear the chord. Each of the four measures has its own chord here, and that’s all there’s to it. Again, the rest is just rinse and repeat. By analysing a piece beforehand, you can make things a lot easier for yourself.

Tips to Help You Memorise Sheet Music

Comptine d’un autre été by Yann Tiersen. Want to play the entire piece? Download the sheet music here.

Practice Left and Right Individually

When you begin learning a song, it’s best to practice your left and right hand separately (as far your instrument allows this, of course). This can be highly useful if you play piano and is called the horizontal splitting of music. Practice your right hand first because it will usually play the melody. As soon as this becomes practically second nature, switch over to your left hand before you finally and slowly use both at the same time.

Complex Pieces: Split ‘Em Up

If your skills are a little more advanced, you can try learning more complex pieces by heart. These usually don’t have a simple structure and the chords alternate quickly and often include dissonance. While there’s still structure, it’ll be a lot harder to memorise. To keep things manageable, the composition can also be split both horizontally and vertically. In other words, divide the whole thing into bite-sized chunks that you can handle. Practice these bits individually and string them together once they’re all inside your head.


  • Think of every composition as a series of very short songs that are played back-to-back like a kind of mini-concert. Each little song is much easier to remember than everything at once, isn’t it? It’s just a matter of remembering the setlist in order.
  • Practice each smaller part with your right and left hands independently again.
  • Make sure you’re playing the notes correctly so that you can even get them right without any sheet music.
  • Pay extra attention to the transitions between the chopped up bits. This is where you’re most likely to lose track.

Tips to Help You Memorise Sheet Music

Gradually Put Away Your Sheet Music

As soon as you’re able to play a full page of sheet music, it’s time to start saying goodbye to your scores. Set the first page up so it’s a little more outside of your line of sight, so maybe just nudge it to the side of the music rest. While you won’t be able to read every note, there’s still something to fall back on. The next step is to remove your sheet music altogether. You might make a few more mistakes than usual at first, but if you continue to practice and keep track of your progression, this can be easily countered. Record yourself and listen back to see where things tend to go wrong. Mark your errors and improve them using your sheet music.


  1. Listen to a song before you start learning it by heart. Memorise the melody and use it as guidance.
  2. Split the piece up horizontally and if possible, practice both hands individually.
  3. Look for chord patterns.
  4. Split the piece up vertically and practice only a few measures at a time.
  5. Only put away your sheet music when you know the piece inside out.
  6. Record yourself and assess critically the result. Note down any frequent mistakes and use your sheet music again if needed.
  7. Practice, practice, practice. Learning things by heart doesn’t happen automatically.
  8. Showtime! Let’s hear what you’ve got.

More Tips

  • Don’t try any studying methods that you think are boring or annoying, even if other people think they’re the best. This’ll only demotivate you; having fun while practicing is much more effective.
  • Go slowly. You’ll remember notes more easily.
  • Don’t forget to pay attention to dynamics and other forms of expression! Not only does this help you remember, it makes your play sound more natural and rich.
  • Take into account that playing in front of an audience can be a little scary. Try to relax and play slowly.
  • If possible, dim the light. This forces you to use your ears rather than your eyes. Alternatively, try playing with your eyes closed to get a better feel for your instrument.
  • Don’t give up after the first hurdle. Trust us, not only will you be able to pull it off sooner or later, you’ll also notice memorising music becomes easier the more you do it. Just remember to keep things light, fun and fresh by starting out with easier compositions. Don’t wear yourself out!

Did I forget something? Or have you maybe already played a few mini-concerts following the tips in this blog? Please let me know in the comments below!

Tips to Help You Memorise Sheet Music

See Also

» Music Theory Books
» Music Books
» Sheet Music Stands
» Sheet Music Holders and Clips
» Manuscript Paper
» Metronomes
» Tuners
» Recording Gear
» Headphones
» Finger Trainers and Miscellaneous Guitar & Bass Accessories

» Chords: Theory and Chord Symbols
» Reading Music: Rhythm, Tempo & Measure
» Major & Minor: Hearing and Understanding the Difference
» Music Notation: Sharps, Flats and Naturals
» Ukulele for Guitarists: The 4 Most-Important Chords

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