One method to memorise a song

Techniques for remembering how to play songs can include making sense of chord progressions, using lyrics as mnemonic devices and the even pairing emotions conveyed by the melody with the chords. The way I remember Willie Nelson's 'On The Road Again' uses a little of all three!

Although Willie Nelson's original recording is in A (on guitar), the version I refer to here is in the ukulele player's more forgiving key of C.
I give my regular uke groups 'memory songs' to learn without looking at the chord and lyric sheets, and this one has all the right ingredients - popular and fairly simple but with a couple of quirks to keep it interesting. The song's sentiment is wonderful for musicians too, so there is extra motivation to learn. Here are the thought processes I used to memorise it...

  • It's in the key of, and starts with, the easiest chord in the book, C
  • The singer can't wait to be on the 'road again', so instead of the minor, next we have E7, unresolved and poised to start the engine of the tour bus
  • This is followed by the wistful sounding Dm which imparts the emotional connection of a life devoted to 'playing music with my friends'
  • The sentimentality is shaken off by its relative major, F 'I can't wait to get'
  • Following is the key's trusty dominant seventh (V7) G7 for 'on the road'
  • Then back to the tonic C for 'again'
  • The chorus is just the (IV) F and the (I) C backwards and forwards a couple of times until reaching a turning point - the unresolved sounding link between chorus and verse - (V7) G7

Whatever song it is you'd like to remember, try making up your own story or chord prompt ideas, or use one of the techniques to boost your memory suggested in this article from the ABC's health and wellbeing news.