Donders Wonders Blog

Sing to remember

In order to complete our routines, we rely on the power of memory. Remembering things is easier, not to mention funnier, if you do it through song!?

This post is also available in Dutch.

In order to complete our routines, we rely on the power of memory. Remembering things is easier, not to mention funnier, if you do it through song!

Not everyone has the perfect voice for the stage, but the power of music is in all of us.
Image courtesy of Pexels (CC0 1.0).

There’s one thing we all have in common: whether you are a student, worker, or parent, we all have to remember things. We depend on our memory skills to carry out our daily tasks, from remembering all the items on our grocery lists to what we have to say in a public presentation. Even if we use agendas and post-it notes, it’s still quite challenging to remember everything we have to do… and sometimes it can be quite painful. Remember being locked in your room studying for exams? With all the things we have to do and remember, we forget that there is a powerful gift, which we all possess, that can help us remember things forever: singing!

Yes, things are easier to remember if you turn them into a jingle!

Of course not everyone is gifted with an angelic voice, but that doesn’t diminish the power of singing. I bet that most of you remember the theme song from your favorite childhood cartoon show, instead of what you learned in math class around the same time. That’s not pure coincidence but a phenomenon that happens to all of us. Studies show that one needs fewer tries to remember a list of names if the names are sung compared to spoken normally. Researchers have shown that these differences are coupled with changes in brain activity in a study using EEG. All these studies show that singing has a very powerful effect on our minds, which has been explored by our society in many ways. For instance,  clinical therapies use music to improve the memory of Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis patients, companies use it to advertise their products, and teachers use songs to help students learn things like foreign languages. I still remember most of the lyrics of the song “Ich bin Ausländer,” even though my German is almost non-existent. Imagine now if you could learn everything with music!

Studying wouldn’t be so boring if it involved singing!
Image courtesy of Pexels (CC0 1.0)

Singing as a teaching method is not new. You may remember Schoolhouse Rock!, the Saturday morning show that aired in the US from the 70s to 90s, and helped children to learn all sort of things though song (even how a bill gets passed in Congress/Parliament). The success of this and similar kinds of shows inspired schools to use singing as a teaching method (for example the Continent Song). With so many educational songs, you would probably have enough hits to make several music albums. That’s precisely what, for example, Portuguese psychiatrist Maria de Vasconcelos does! She writes and composes songs about the things taught in primary school in Portugal (Maths, Portuguese, English, Life Sciences, etc.). But Maria even applied this method to help get herself through medical school! It might seem unrealistic (and hard!) to turn everything in your life into a song, but if you do manage, the sky is your limit.

It’s true that not everyone, including myself, has the musical talent and creativity to come up with what people like Maria achieved on their own. In any case, we can profit from learning with music, without compromising the joy that it brings to our lives.

This blog was written by João, edited by Marisha and Monica

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