The fantastic world of memory and music

by Stelly in Did you know?

November 18, 2023

9 minutes to read

Music and Memory: A journey of discovery

Our sensory systems allow us to explore, understand and respond to many environmental stimuli, primarily sound.

The following article will look at Memory, Musical Memory, Semantic vs Episodic memory, Individual differences, and much more.

What is the difference between memory and music memory?

1. Memory

Memory is a complex mental process that allows us to store and retrieve information about our experiences with other individuals or events, knowledge, and skills. It is essential for our daily lives, as we rely on our memories to make decisions, solve problems, and communicate with others.

Can you believe that memory is not a single process? It is rather a dynamic system that involves several stages, which we will discuss later.

2. Music Memory

Music memory is an amazing ability of the human brain to recall music that has been heard before. It is the ability to remember a tune, melody, or rhythm, even when you have not heard it for a long period of time. It is a complex mental process that involves the brain’s ability to process and store musical information.

It is an essential part of our musical experience and plays an important role in our enjoyment and appreciation of music.

We are going to look at the science behind memory and music memory, the benefits of both memory and music memory and how we can improve them.

Stages of memory

Memory can be divided into three stages that allow us to use the information we have stored in memory when needed. Let’s look at the different stages of memory below:

Encoding (Memories going in)

This is the process of getting information from the outside world and transferring it into memory. This is like entering data into a computer. Once we obtain the information, our brain labels or codes it accordingly.

Let's use an example of green for no danger or little importance, yellow for not really significant but can be of importance and red for danger or high importance.

Have you ever been introduced to someone, and then after 30 seconds, you realise that you have already forgotten their name? This type of forgetting often arises from a failure to form a memory code for the name because our attention may have been diverted when the person was introduced to us. Has this also happened to you before? If yes, it won't be the last time.

Let's look at what encoding really is. Some types of encoding include the following:

1. Structural encoding - This is a shallow process that puts emphasis on the physical structure of a stimulus.

2. Acoustic encoding - It involves naming or saying the word. It is like you hear a song play after a long time, and yet you manage to sing along.

3. Visual encoding - The name says it all - it all relates to images and our recollection of faces and places. When the face looks familiar, but you can’t remember the name.

Storage (Keeping memories in)

After encoding, the next stage in memory is to retain the information you have. Storage can vary, from very brief traces to permanent storage. Before a memory goes into storage, there are three phases it has to pass through, sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory.

Retrieval (Getting memories out)

This is the act of getting information out of storage and back into your conscious awareness. For you to do anything, you must be able to retrieve information from storage. We all know how to brush our teeth in the morning or night. This act was once encoded and stored, and we retrieve it daily, all thanks to long-term memory.

Strategies to enhance memory

There are several strategies to enhance memory so that we do not forget information, especially if you are in school or busy with a course in the workplace. We will now discuss the different strategies you can use to better your memory.

1. Rehearsal

Just like everyone says, practice makes perfect. In reality, practice simply leads to increased retention of information. To rehearse helps to transfer information into long-term memory. Have you ever wondered how a teacher can teach the same thing to four different classes without looking at the book? This is all because of rehearsal.

2. Elaborative Rehearsal

This involves thinking about the meaning of new information in relation to the information already stored in memory and making it meaningful in some way.

3. Overlearning

Overlearning is by far the best insurance against “going blank” on an exam or test because of being nervous. So, even when you know the information, keep on rehearsing it.

4. Chunking

This strategy involves the process of organising information into bits and chunks that are manageable. It is mostly used when you want to recall information, such as a cellphone number. People will usually not remember a 10-digit number, but they would rather group the number into chunks to make it better for them to recall at a later stage.

5. Mnemonic Device

This is usually used to remember facts or larger amounts of information. People often use a song, rhyme, acronym, image or phrase.

Fun facts about memories

Now that we have learned the basics with regard to memory. Let’s look at some facts about this fascinating aspect of human cognition.

  • The human brain can store information equivalent to 3 million hours of TV shows.
  • The scent of rosemary has been shown to improve memory retention and performance.
  • When you study while chewing gum and then chewing the same gum during a test can help improve memory recall.
  • Do you know why people call it the “magical number seven”? It is because people can remember up to seven pieces of information at a time.
  • Memories can be altered or even completely false due to the power of suggestion. That is why critical thinking and questioning are so important.
  • Sleep plays an important role in remembering information, and when you get enough quality sleep, it can improve memory retention and recall.
  • In the human brain, you have the hippocampus, which is primarily responsible for the formation of memory. This is also one of the few areas of the brain that continues to produce a few new neurons a day throughout our lives.

These are just a few of the many interesting facts about memory. When we understand how memory works, it will help us improve our learning and recall abilities.

Music memory

Many of us listen to music while we study, and the reason is to prevent drowsiness and to maintain the arousal to study. Some people also believe that having background music leads to better work performance.

Let’s have a look at the difference between semantic musical memory and episodic musical memory.

Semantic musical memory

This refers to our ability to store and retrieve knowledge about music and the structures around music. This is by far one of the most captivating areas of cognitive neuroscience, because it involves the interaction of different brain areas and processes, which includes perception, emotion and memory.

Research has shown that our personal experiences and cultural beliefs strongly influence semantic musical memory. Despite these differences, semantic musical memory is a universal phenomenon that is present in all societies, and it also plays an important role in our ability to enjoy and appreciate music.

We can all agree that semantic musical memory is more abstract and general, such as knowing the lyrics to your favourite song or recognising a singer's voice or a particular type of music.

Episodic musical memory

Episodic musical memory is the ability to recall specific events in our lives that are associated with a particular song. This can be seen as a type of autobiographical memory that involves connecting personal emotions, experiences and details to music.

According to numerous studies, episodic musical memory is closely linked to emotional processing. Music has the ability to produce strong emotions and enhance our memories. It is, however, influenced by different factors, such as age, musical expertise, and cultural background.

Episodic musical memory is a useful tool when used therapeutically, as well as for music education and research on memory and cognition.

Individual differences between music and memory

1. Different Races

There was a difference found by Gaab, Keenan & Schlaug (2003) between males and females in the processing and subsequent memory for pitch.

Males showed more lateralised activity in the anterior and posterior regions of the brain, with greater activation in the left. Males also had increased cerebellar activation than females did. However, it was demonstrated that the behavioural performance did not differ between males and females.

2. Left Hand or Right Hand

Researchers have found that left-handed people with mixed hand preferences outperform right-handed people in tests of short-term memory for pitch.

What if you have Amusia?

Let's first look at the word and meaning of Amusia. It refers to a tone-deafness. A person with Amusia primarily has deficits in processing pitch, but they also have problems with musical memory, singing and finding rhythm. This is because they cannot tell melodies apart from their beat.

On the other hand, they can recognise other sounds at a normal level (i.e. voices and environmental sounds), therefor if you have Amusia, it is not due to deficits in exposure, hearing or cognition.


Whether you are tone-deaf or can sing like a bird, we all have some sort of emotional connection, love connection or bad memory that is linked to a song. You will still sing along, no matter the connection!

Take the time to encode, store and recall those memories, as they are all we have at the end of the day. Don't forget to also check out our WOW playlist on Spotify! Enjoy!

Article by Stelly

CasinoWow Contributor

Hey there! I am Stelly, and happily, I'm part of CasinoWow's content team. It excites me to be able to write and share with all gambling enthusiasts unbiased reviews and news that contribute to the gambling community and industry. Thankfully, I also have the chance to help you make an informed choice for casino brands and games, as well as provide interesting guides and news.

Anything incorrect or missing?

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