I’ve been thinking more and more the last few days about how best to review pop songs with Anki when I came across a post about memorizing long poems by Soren Bjornstad in the Anki help system. He writes:

But it is quite possible to memorize a text with discrete unordered cards; you just have to do it the right way. Here is what I do for song lyrics, which are similar:
First, I go through the song. I know most of the songs I try to memorize quite well by the time I begin, but I find a recording and listen to it (and usually sing along) a couple of times. With poetry, you should read through it; it would probably help to read out loud if you can.

Then I go to Anki and create cards with two lines of context and one clozed line:


This is the first line
And this is the second line
A: This is the third line

And this is the second line.
This is the third line.
This is the fourth line.

I have a Bash script that automates the procedure of creating these cards from a text file of lyrics; let me know if you’re interested in it.

Once I’ve learned all those cards, I find I can usually sing the song from memory, without ever having gone through the entire thing at all (except in my initial lookover). After you’ve had all the cards introduced for a couple of days, try to recite your poem: you’ll probably be surprised with how well you know it. If you’re still having trouble, take a look at the whole thing again on a piece of paper and try to sequence what you’re still missing, and study for a couple more days.

If you find you don’t know it well enough or are still struggling with putting things in order (which I find is rare, with two lines of context), you can create cards for each stanza and even a card for the entire thing, to make sure you can recite it that way as well. But don’t do this until you have learned the three-line groupings.

Note that, while reviewing, I always sing the entire context (out loud, if I’m alone) before attempting to recall the clozed line; I find this helps with being able to remember what comes next in time later on. (Okay, I lied, I skip this step if I know the entire clozed line off the top of my head in less than a second or so, as that clearly means I know it well enough.)