Memory & Cognition

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 242–253 | Cite as

Learning lyrics: To sing or not to sing?

  • Amélie Racette
  • Isabelle Peretz


According to common practice and oral tradition, learning verbal materials through song should facilitate word recall. In the present study, we provide evidence against this belief. In Experiment 1, 36 university students, half of them musicians, learned an unfamiliar song in three conditions. In the sung—sung condition, the song to be learned was sung, and the response was sung too. In the sung—spoken condition, the response was spoken. In the divided—spoken condition, the presented lyrics (accompanied by music) and the response were both spoken. Superior word recall in the sung—sung condition was predicted. However, fewer words were recalled when singing than when speaking. Furthermore, the mode of presentation, whether sung or spoken, had no influence on lyric recall, in either short- or long-term recall. In Experiment 2, singing was assessed with and without words. Altogether, the results indicate that the text and the melody of a song have separate representations in memory, making singing a dual task to perform, at least in the first steps of learning. Interestingly, musical training had little impact on performance, suggesting that vocal learning is a basic and widespread skill.


Dual Task Line Structure Oral Tradition Musical Training Word Recall 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amélie Racette
    • 1
  • Isabelle Peretz
    • 1
  1. 1.Département de psychologieUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada

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