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How to Memorize Your Lines the Right Way

Need to learn how to memorize? I can teach you that. I used to be terrible at remembering my lines. A professor of mine used to say "Memorization is the $%!* work." But then I started using this magic memorization technique. Let me show you.

The Problem with Repetition

Most people memorize by repeating the words over and over again. What they don't realize is that they're not only memorizing the words, but the rhythm, cadence, and tone of voice too.

Don't believe me? Think about the American Pledge of Allegiance. Where are the pauses?

Amazing, isn't it? We call it muscle memory and it's lethal to good acting.

Why? Because when you're acting in a scene, it has to seem like you're living it for the first time, every time. But if you're trapped behind your muscle memory, you're not vocally free. And you're not acting.

A Better Way to Memorize

You'll memorize by rote.

You're going to repeat the words over and over (and over) in a monotone voice, without any inflection. Like a robot.

When you memorize this way, you eliminate the muscle memory associated with the lines. So when you play the scene, it'll be different every time! One day you'll be angry and yelling, and the next day you'll be on cloud nine.

Give it a try, this stuff really works.


How to Memorize

Memorization Tips

  • Cook, clean, or go jogging.
    While you're repeating the words, do something with your hands and feet. Do some cooking, clean your bathroom, or go for a run. This will occupy the parts of your brain you don't need for memorizing.

  • Chunk it down.
    You don't have to memorize all of your lines at once. Do a chunk of them this afternoon, and another chunk tonight.

  • Take your time.
    This technique requires lots of time to work its magic. So if you have to be off book by next month, start now and take your time.

  • Ignore punctuation.
    Just because there's a comma on the page doesn't mean you have to pause. Just because there's an exclamation mark in your script doesn't mean you have to yell. Just because there's a question mark.... You get the idea.

  • Whisper instead.
    This technique requires you to talk a lot. It may be hard on your voice. If you need to, whisper it instead.

  • Remember to breathe.
    It may sound simple, but it isn't. People like to hold their breath subconciously. But if you breathe, it will help you remember the text better.

The Bottom Line

A final note about how to memorize: Your lines must be so ingrained into your body that you can recite them in your sleep. If you're struggling to remember lines during a scene, you're not being attentive to your scene partner. And your acting will suffer.

But if you know how to memorize by rote, you won't have to worry about that. You'll be too busy building your acting career!

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