Well, I have a friend (James Anderson - he'll probably appear on the "Jeopardy!" game show someday) who can just go right down a list of names, facts, or whatever and memorize it very quickly without using any kind of "tricks" or other memory techniques that I describe in The Memory Page documents. For him to do so would probably just slow him down! But this is a rare, gifted person -- most of us can't memorize things quite that easily. Therefore, association is just one basictool that we can use to remember things more easily and effectively. We don't have to use the tool, but, formost of us, it can help us enormously.
"Think of your existing memory as a scaffold upon which to fit new information," says University of Michigan cognitive researcher Denise Park, PhD. "Don't isolate new information out 'in left field.' Always relate it to something."
Memory experts would agree -- association is a proven, highly effective technique. Nevertheless, countless numbers of people dismiss the method because it seems like it's too hard, too silly, or simply too much work. Well, sometimes it is more work, but a little extra effort done at first will save a lot of time (and anguish) later on.
Does it seem too hard? Here's a secret:practice. Forming associations may be hard at first because you're not used to doing it... just like riding a bike is hard, or ice skating, or typing, or whatever. But with practice you can really perform well. I just thought of a good metaphor, so maybe I can elaborate even more. We all know that to type properly you have to put your left hand on ASDF and your right on JKL;. You also have to use the correct fingers to hit the letters. To someone who is used to hunt-and-peck typing, forcing yourself to use the right keys is going to really slow you down and seem tedious. But with much practice, you can type faster, and faster, and faster... until you reach 60, 80, even 100 words/minute, something not possible with hunt-and-peck.
Here's an example of how the memory tool of "association" has helped me. To remember names, I associate names with faces. So I have to think of pictures for names, like "Shave" for "Dave," "Cave-in" for "Kevin," "Cross" for "Chris," etc. It was a bit hard at first because it took a while for me to think up a good picture for people's names. But eventually I developed standard pictures for many common names, and I now can go much faster. Now, every time I see a Mike, I think of a microphone. All I have to do is associate a microphone with the most prominent feature on the Mike's face and I'm set.
This can apply to you, too, in whatever you are trying to memorize, whether it is names and faces, mathematical formulas, historical figures, movies, delivery routes, etc. In practice, you will find that patterns will emerge, and you can do it much faster. You'll be surprised at how much and how quickly you can learn! I certainly surprised myself. Can you believe I've now memorized the capitals for all the countries of the world? A few years ago I thought I'd never be able to do something like that (or have the time for it). But with the memory techniques and a little practice I have achieved what seemed to be impossible.
Music can sometimes be very easy to memorize; sometimes it can be very hard. It depends on what you're trying to memorize. When presented with the concept of "music," for many of you the first thought that comes to mind are some of the most popular pop/rock hits. Usually there's no problem memorizing these: Since they are of special interest to us, we take a special interest in remembering them. The tunes are usually simple so they're easy to memorize -- in fact, often we'll end up with the song going around in our head all day! And before long we've memorized the words to the song, and once that is done, we've also memorized the title to the song because usually the title of the song is somewhere in the lyrics.
Now... instrumental music is more difficult. Since there are no words, the tune takes longer to remember, though usually we do after listening to the composition a few times. The most common challenge is trying to remember thename of the composition. The key is to use creativity and some of the techniques you've learned on this web site. I've decided to present a few examples with increasing order of difficulty to give you some helpful ideas. If you don't know the examples personally, just read the text anyway, try to understand the concept and try to apply it to a similar composition you know.
introductory music class. The victim is marched towards a scaffold, makes a final gasp for life, then is hung. If you imagine all of this while you listen, it's a very powerful piece. In this case, it's very easy to associate the title with the music. If you forget the composer, you could associate the composer's name with the scene: For example, perhaps the prisoner is going to be hung because he has broken the "Bear Laws" (Beriloz)! He marches between two lines of angry bears which are all looking at him. Wow, this picture is getting more vivid by the minute. Probably even you will remember this for years even if you never actually hear the composition!
is just a generic march. Not only that, but the title isn't even in English. Here's a clever idea: We know that music is easy to remember if they have words... and difficult otherwise. Well, why not make up our own words? That's right... let's invent our own words to give to the composition. We don't need to do this for the entire musical piece, just the most prominent melody -- the most memorable part. For this composition I've thought of, "It's for Ron! It's for All! It's for Rondo Alla Turka! It's for Ron, it's for all, it's for Rondo Alla Turk." Silly, eh? Who
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