The 5 Step Life-Cycle for Long Short-Term Memory Models in Keras

Deep learning neural networks are very easy to create and evaluate in Python with Keras, but you must follow a strict model life-cycle.

In this post, you will discover the step-by-step life-cycle for creating, training, and evaluating Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM) Recurrent Neural Networks in Keras and how to make predictions with a trained model.

After reading this post, you will know:

  • How to define, compile, fit, and evaluate an LSTM in Keras.
  • How to select standard defaults for regression and classification sequence prediction problems.
  • How to tie it all together to develop and run your first LSTM recurrent neural network in Keras.

Kick-start your project with my new book Long Short-Term Memory Networks With Python, including step-by-step tutorials and the Python source code files for all examples.

Let’s get started.

  • Update June/2017: Fixed typo in input resizing example.
The 5 Step Life-Cycle for Long Short-Term Memory Models in Keras

The 5 Step Life-Cycle for Long Short-Term Memory Models in Keras
Photo by docmonstereyes, some rights reserved.


Below is an overview of the 5 steps in the LSTM model life-cycle in Keras that we are going to look at.

  1. Define Network
  2. Compile Network
  3. Fit Network
  4. Evaluate Network
  5. Make Predictions


This tutorial assumes you have a Python SciPy environment installed. You can use either Python 2 or 3 with this example.

This tutorial assumes you have Keras v2.0 or higher installed with either the TensorFlow or Theano backend.

This tutorial also assumes you have scikit-learn, Pandas, NumPy, and Matplotlib installed.

Next, let’s take a look at a standard time series forecasting problem that we can use as context for this experiment.

If you need help setting up your Python environment, see this post:

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Step 1. Define Network

The first step is to define your network.

Neural networks are defined in Keras as a sequence of layers. The container for these layers is the Sequential class.

The first step is to create an instance of the Sequential class. Then you can create your layers and add them in the order that they should be connected. The LSTM recurrent layer comprised of memory units is called LSTM(). A fully connected layer that often follows LSTM layers and is used for outputting a prediction is called Dense().

For example, we can do this in two steps:

But we can also do this in one step by creating an array of layers and passing it to the constructor of the Sequential.

The first layer in the network must define the number of inputs to expect. Input must be three-dimensional, comprised of samples, timesteps, and features.

  • Samples. These are the rows in your data.
  • Timesteps. These are the past observations for a feature, such as lag variables.
  • Features. These are columns in your data.

Assuming your data is loaded as a NumPy array, you can convert a 2D dataset to a 3D dataset using the reshape() function in NumPy. If you would like columns to become timesteps for one feature, you can use:

If you would like columns in your 2D data to become features with one timestep, you can use:

You can specify the input_shape argument that expects a tuple containing the number of timesteps and the number of features. For example, if we had two timesteps and one feature for a univariate time series with two lag observations per row, it would be specified as follows:

LSTM layers can be stacked by adding them to the Sequential model. Importantly, when stacking LSTM layers, we must output a sequence rather than a single value for each input so that the subsequent LSTM layer can have the required 3D input. We can do this by setting the return_sequences argument to True. For example:

Think of a Sequential model as a pipeline with your raw data fed in at in end and predictions that come out at the other.

This is a helpful container in Keras as concerns that were traditionally associated with a layer can also be split out and added as separate layers, clearly showing their role in the transform of data from input to prediction.

For example, activation functions that transform a summed signal from each neuron in a layer can be extracted and added to the Sequential as a layer-like object called Activation.

The choice of activation function is most important for the output layer as it will define the format that predictions will take.

For example, below are some common predictive modeling problem types and the structure and standard activation function that you can use in the output layer:

  • Regression: Linear activation function, or ‘linear’, and the number of neurons matching the number of outputs.
  • Binary Classification (2 class): Logistic activation function, or ‘sigmoid’, and one neuron the output layer.
  • Multiclass Classification (>2 class): Softmax activation function, or ‘softmax’, and one output neuron per class value, assuming a one-hot encoded output pattern.

Step 2. Compile Network

Once we have defined our network, we must compile it.

Compilation is an efficiency step. It transforms the simple sequence of layers that we defined into a highly efficient series of matrix transforms in a format intended to be executed on your GPU or CPU, depending on how Keras is configured.

Think of compilation as a precompute step for your network. It is always required after defining a model.

Compilation requires a number of parameters to be specified, specifically tailored to training your network. Specifically, the optimization algorithm to use to train the network and the loss function used to evaluate the network that is minimized by the optimization algorithm.

For example, below is a case of compiling a defined model and specifying the stochastic gradient descent (sgd) optimization algorithm and the mean squared error (mean_squared_error) loss function, intended for a regression type problem.

Alternately, the optimizer can be created and configured before being provided as an argument to the compilation step.

The type of predictive modeling problem imposes constraints on the type of loss function that can be used.

For example, below are some standard loss functions for different predictive model types:

  • Regression: Mean Squared Error or ‘mean_squared_error’.
  • Binary Classification (2 class): Logarithmic Loss, also called cross entropy or ‘binary_crossentropy‘.
  • Multiclass Classification (>2 class): Multiclass Logarithmic Loss or ‘categorical_crossentropy‘.

The most common optimization algorithm is stochastic gradient descent, but Keras also supports a suite of other state-of-the-art optimization algorithms that work well with little or no configuration.

Perhaps the most commonly used optimization algorithms because of their generally better performance are:

  • Stochastic Gradient Descent, or ‘sgd‘, that requires the tuning of a learning rate and momentum.
  • ADAM, or ‘adam‘, that requires the tuning of learning rate.
  • RMSprop, or ‘rmsprop‘, that requires the tuning of learning rate.

Finally, you can also specify metrics to collect while fitting your model in addition to the loss function. Generally, the most useful additional metric to collect is accuracy for classification problems. The metrics to collect are specified by name in an array.

For example:

Step 3. Fit Network

Once the network is compiled, it can be fit, which means adapt the weights on a training dataset.

Fitting the network requires the training data to be specified, both a matrix of input patterns, X, and an array of matching output patterns, y.

The network is trained using the backpropagation algorithm and optimized according to the optimization algorithm and loss function specified when compiling the model.

The backpropagation algorithm requires that the network be trained for a specified number of epochs or exposures to the training dataset.

Each epoch can be partitioned into groups of input-output pattern pairs called batches. This defines the number of patterns that the network is exposed to before the weights are updated within an epoch. It is also an efficiency optimization, ensuring that not too many input patterns are loaded into memory at a time.

A minimal example of fitting a network is as follows:

Once fit, a history object is returned that provides a summary of the performance of the model during training. This includes both the loss and any additional metrics specified when compiling the model, recorded each epoch.

Training can take a long time, from seconds to hours to days depending on the size of the network and the size of the training data.

By default, a progress bar is displayed on the command line for each epoch. This may create too much noise for you, or may cause problems for your environment, such as if you are in an interactive notebook or IDE.

You can reduce the amount of information displayed to just the loss each epoch by setting the verbose argument to 2. You can turn off all output by setting verbose to 1. For example:

Step 4. Evaluate Network

Once the network is trained, it can be evaluated.

The network can be evaluated on the training data, but this will not provide a useful indication of the performance of the network as a predictive model, as it has seen all of this data before.

We can evaluate the performance of the network on a separate dataset, unseen during testing. This will provide an estimate of the performance of the network at making predictions for unseen data in the future.

The model evaluates the loss across all of the test patterns, as well as any other metrics specified when the model was compiled, like classification accuracy. A list of evaluation metrics is returned.

For example, for a model compiled with the accuracy metric, we could evaluate it on a new dataset as follows:

As with fitting the network, verbose output is provided to give an idea of the progress of evaluating the model. We can turn this off by setting the verbose argument to 0.

Step 5. Make Predictions

Once we are satisfied with the performance of our fit model, we can use it to make predictions on new data.

This is as easy as calling the predict() function on the model with an array of new input patterns.

For example:

The predictions will be returned in the format provided by the output layer of the network.

In the case of a regression problem, these predictions may be in the format of the problem directly, provided by a linear activation function.

For a binary classification problem, the predictions may be an array of probabilities for the first class that can be converted to a 1 or 0 by rounding.

For a multiclass classification problem, the results may be in the form of an array of probabilities (assuming a one hot encoded output variable) that may need to be converted to a single class output prediction using the argmax() NumPy function.

Alternately, for classification problems, we can use the predict_classes() function that will automatically convert uncrisp predictions to crisp integer class values.

As with fitting and evaluating the network, verbose output is provided to given an idea of the progress of the model making predictions. We can turn this off by setting the verbose argument to 0.

End-to-End Worked Example

Let’s tie all of this together with a small worked example.

This example will use a simple problem of learning a sequence of 10 numbers. We will show the network a number, such as 0.0 and expect it to predict 0.1. Then show it 0.1 and expect it to predict 0.2, and so on to 0.9.

  1. Define Network: We will construct an LSTM neural network with a 1 input timestep and 1 input feature in the visible layer, 10 memory units in the LSTM hidden layer, and 1 neuron in the fully connected output layer with a linear (default) activation function.
  2. Compile Network: We will use the efficient ADAM optimization algorithm with default configuration and the mean squared error loss function because it is a regression problem.
  3. Fit Network: We will fit the network for 1,000 epochs and use a batch size equal to the number of patterns in the training set. We will also turn off all verbose output.
  4. Evaluate Network. We will evaluate the network on the training dataset. Typically we would evaluate the model on a test or validation set.
  5. Make Predictions. We will make predictions for the training input data. Again, typically we would make predictions on data where we do not know the right answer.

The complete code listing is provided below.

Running this example produces the following output, showing the raw input sequence of 10 numbers, the mean squared error loss of the network when making predictions for the entire sequence, and the predictions for each input pattern.

Note: Your results may vary given the stochastic nature of the algorithm or evaluation procedure, or differences in numerical precision. Consider running the example a few times and compare the average outcome.

Outputs were spaced out for readability.

We can see the sequence is learned well, especially if we round predictions to the first decimal place.

Further Reading


In this post, you discovered the 5-step life-cycle of an LSTM recurrent neural network using the Keras library.

Specifically, you learned:

  • How to define, compile, fit, evaluate, and make predictions for an LSTM network in Keras.
  • How to select activation functions and output layer configurations for classification and regression problems.
  • How to develop and run your first LSTM model in Keras.

Do you have any questions about LSTM models in Keras, or about this post?
Ask your questions in the comments and I will do my best to answer them.

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37 Responses to The 5 Step Life-Cycle for Long Short-Term Memory Models in Keras

  1. Avatar
    Peter Marelas June 7, 2017 at 7:47 am #

    Your missing “.shape” in your reshape statements.

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee June 8, 2017 at 7:35 am #

      Hi Peter, it still seems to work when shape is provided as integers rather than a tuple.

  2. Avatar
    Birkey June 7, 2017 at 5:44 pm #

    Nice summarisation!

    and I’d like to add:

    if timesteps = 2, and keep features as it is, then
    – reshape(int(data[0]/2), 2, data[1])

    if timesteps = 2, and keep samples as it is, then
    – reshape(data[0], 2, int(data[1]/2))

    • Avatar
      klaas June 8, 2017 at 4:09 am #

      Thanks Birkey, that means I can have multiple timesteps and features at the same time right?

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee June 8, 2017 at 7:39 am #


    • Avatar
      Mlin April 17, 2018 at 4:42 pm #

      hi, Birkey!
      if timesteps = 2, and keep samples as it is, then
      – reshape(data[0], 2, int(data[1]/2))

      the quantity of the features has changed. would it affect the result? is it still meanful?

  3. Avatar
    Ali June 10, 2017 at 3:05 am #

    Hi Jason,

    As always, you write in the most excellent way. I really enjoyed it. Thank you.

    Have you covered LSTM in Deep Learning Book?


    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee June 10, 2017 at 8:25 am #

      Thanks. Yes, I have a few chapters on LSTMs in that book. I hope to release a new book dedicated to the topic soon.

  4. Avatar
    Harsh July 13, 2017 at 4:04 am #

    I have 3 classes and want to design a LSTM for 3-class classification. Any suggestion what I am doig wrong here.
    I get the below error :
    Input 0 is incompatible with layer lstm_1: expected ndim=3, found ndim=2

    #below is the snippet from my code
    print train_data.shape,train_labels.shape
    (1199, 11) (1199, 3)

    print test_data.shape, test_labels.shape
    (592, 11) (592, 3)

    model = Sequential()
    model.add(Dense(3, activation=’softmax’))
    model.compile(loss=’categorical_crossentropy’, optimizer=’adam’, metrics=[‘accuracy’])

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee July 13, 2017 at 10:01 am #

      LSTMs require 3D input. Ensure that your input data shape is 3D [samples, time steps, features] and that you specify the input_shape argument with a tuple of (timesteps, features).

  5. Avatar
    Thomas October 11, 2017 at 8:11 pm #

    HI Jason,

    Nice tutorial. Please explain how you decide the number of LSTM memory units?

    I’m just curious how it affects model accuracy.

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee October 12, 2017 at 5:27 am #

      Trial and error. We cannot analytically calculate how to calculate a neural network.

  6. Avatar
    Harlan October 27, 2017 at 7:38 am #

    Another great tutorial!

    One question though: isn’t the performance of LSTM here atrociously bad (after 1000 epochs!) considering that there is a perfectly linear relationship between X and y?

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee October 27, 2017 at 2:54 pm #

      It may be. It’s a poor example as the model is not given a chance to learn via proper BPTT given only one time step per sample.

  7. Avatar
    Vikram November 2, 2017 at 8:21 am #

    Hi Jason, I enjoy reading your blogs, you have one of the finest explanation out here.

    I am trying understand LSTM but still a little confused about the dimensions of input/output. Some details that I found on this post aren’t mentioned anywhere, e.g.:

    ” If you would like columns to become timesteps for one feature, you can use:
    data = data.reshape((data.shape[0], data.shape[1], 1))
    If you would like columns in your 2D data to become features with one timestep, you can use:
    data = data.reshape((data.shape[0], 1, data.shape[1]))

    It would be really helpful if you could explain in details about reshaping the data for different types of LSTM networks, one-to-one, many-to-one, many-to-many.

  8. Avatar
    krupa galiya June 19, 2018 at 8:42 pm #

    Hii, Birkey!
    Is there any way to determine how good is model(except less loss) for regression problem??

  9. Avatar
    Thusitha D September 14, 2018 at 12:24 am #

    I have question,I’m try to predict eur/usd currency exchange rate using LSTM RNN or MLFNN.What NN should i used?provide some answer

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee September 14, 2018 at 6:38 am #

      I don’t know about finance. Perhaps try a suite of methods and discover what works best for your specific dataset.

  10. Avatar
    Richard October 8, 2018 at 9:40 am #

    Hi Jason,

    Thanks so much for your website and books. I’ve bought the time series and machine learning stuff, and I’m soaking them up as fast as I can.

    I intend to use LTSM to forecast EURUSD close prices fyi I know you don’t know about finance. So, I’m not asking specifically about that. However, I’d like to see how to extend the above example to predicting a future timestep. What you have only ‘predicts’ what you’ve trained it on.

    In other words, to get the next number ’10’ I shouldnt have to provide ’10’, but I kind of expected the ’10’ to result from passing it the 0-9 sequence above. What am I missing?

    I’m sorry for my noob status. I’m sure this is basic. I think I’m understanding this, but I just want to be clear. .

    Thanks again!

  11. Avatar
    Mazhar Ali Dootio May 1, 2019 at 1:43 am #

    Dear Jason
    I ask question out of this post
    What are major differences between LSTM and GRU?
    Since working on LSTM for non English text I feel good

  12. Avatar
    Leena Bora February 6, 2020 at 7:52 pm #

    Hi Jason,

    I have a question related to multiple stack of LSTM.

    Hypothetically assume this example, where I want to predict next number in series:

    1 2 3 4 ==> 5
    65,66,67,68 ==> 69

    Using LSTM stack for this example is over-killing. But let’s just assume we are using it.

    Suppose our architecture looks like this:

    LSTM-2 ==> LSTM-3 ==> DENSE(1) ==> Output

    For 1st layer which is LSTM-2 (and let’s consider only sample-1 that is 1,2,3,4):

    => First LSTM Unit will be fed input 1,2,3,4 one by one sequentially and produce intermediate vector v1
    => Second LSTM Unit (from same first layer) will be fed the same input 1,2,3,4 one by one sequentially and produce intermediate vector v2

    question-1] First and second LSTM unit have same input 1,2,3,4, but their output v1 and v2 are different because each LSTM unit have different weights. Is my understanding correct?

    For 2nd layer which is LSTM-3, input will be v1 and v2 (from earlier stage) which will be fed to 2nd layer sequentially one by one.
    Is my understanding correct?

  13. Avatar
    Ron May 14, 2020 at 5:22 pm #

    I tried to use Relu in the dense layer instead of linear for regression
    problem trying to predict shop incoms in a week by a given number of days (there are 3 features).
    When I used 3 days (so time-step = 3) the Relu worked better than linear. How ever for 2 or 4 days
    (time-step = 2 and time-step = 4 respectively), the error while training seem like jumping with huge loss, and with linear activation the decay seems normal on both cases. Seems very weird behaviour (as I don’t expect negative values that much)
    is there something that I might miss regarding Relu’s behaviour? Maybe gradient issue?
    Sorry I couldn’t attach the graphs here.

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee May 15, 2020 at 5:56 am #

      You cannot use relu in the output layer, it must be linear for regression problems.

  14. Avatar
    Maha Sabb March 1, 2021 at 5:07 am #


    I have a model that consists of a single LSTM layer of 100 units and the output layer of single neuron

    INPUT ==> LSTM (100) ==> OUTPUT (1)

    the input is one time stem that has six features and Im predicting for only one of the features.

    My question is:
    For example my first time step is [], does it go as input for all of the 100 units of lstm and the generated vectors (h) are then used in finding the final output by the equation
    output= h*W+bias of dense layer?

    or does each timestep goes only to one lstm cell??

  15. Avatar
    Slava March 15, 2021 at 3:03 pm #

    Thank you for so useful articles!
    Would you please share the information for what virstion of tenserflow this example was written?
    I got mass of errors trying to run in.

    I have Python 3.9
    Keras 2.1.2
    Keras-Applications 1.0.8
    Keras-Preprocessing 1.1.2

    tensorboard 2.4.1
    tensorboard-plugin-wit 1.8.0
    tensorflow 0.12.0
    tensorflow-estimator 1.13.0

    And my error resume is: TypeError: Expected int32, got list containing Tensors of type ‘_Message’ instead.

    • Avatar
      Slava March 15, 2021 at 8:56 pm #

      solve it by down version of python from 3.9 to 3.8, tenserflow is still doesn’t support 3.9. Thank you again for your work!

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee March 16, 2021 at 4:43 am #

      I recommend using the latest version of Keras and TensorFlow libraries.

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