Remembering your lyrics can be a huge pain so to help fellow singers, I have researched far and wide to create this guide to memorising songs.
I hope that you find it useful. If you enjoy my tips, please share with a friend.
A performer’s worst nightmare
There you are, standing on-stage with the mic in your hand; just about to open your mouth, but then…NOTHING!
You fiercely try and tap into your brain the way Bradley Cooper does in Limitless, but alas, no results. You can’t help but murmur along to the music behind you.
It’s what performer’s call ‘drying’ and it ain’t pretty.
Some people protest they’ve never been good at memorising things.
“My brain doesn’t work that way”
The chances are it’s not their brain that is the problem, just how it’s being used.
Hold on, why can’t I just use sheet music?
You might know someone who reads whilst performing, but thinking back – were you blown away by their performance?
Let’s imagine an audience enjoyment spectrum.
At the top of the spectrum, the audience are utterly in awe.
Think about some of your favourite performances you have been to and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about.
The sound is equalised perfectly. The singer is pitch perfect and they use various different vocal styles to mix up the songs and intrigue you. Perhaps there is a band rather than a backing track. Maybe there is a dance routine to go along with the performance or a storyline throughout the entire performance to keep you following on.
The size of the venue and crowd will also likely add to the atmosphere and energy in the room.
What they produce isn’t just a song. It’s a performance and when it is right, the audience can’t help but embrace!
And that ladies and gentlemen is what we are really striving for.
So, if that is the top of the league table, then what is at the lower end of the spectrum?
Here is an example of the flip-side of the spectrum where lip-syncing can lead to a horrendous viral video cue Ashley Simpson:
What are the fundamental basics to a good performance?
This is a huge post in itself, which I will be going into at some point, but one these fundamentals is knowing your song intimately.
And, by intimately I mean without having to refer to your notes.
We want people to feel something when you get on stage and sing into the microphone.
We want your words to ring deep, pull on heartstrings and give rise to goosebumps so that when each audience member goes home that night, they remember you and your message.
What will you do to make sure that your message is as powerful as possible?
I say your first step is memorising song lyrics.
Here are three more benefits associated with knowing your lyrics:
Higher on-stage energy levels
You have 100% of your energy to allocate for each performance. If 30% is given to your eyes to read the music and send that signal to your brain, instantly, you are losing energy that could be used to enhance your performance in other areas.
Think about all of the other areas where you body is demanding energy during the performance: breath control, rhythm, your body’s movements, pitch or your stage presence.
By simply remembering your lyrics, it will allow you to focus more on the performance (what you are trying to accomplish) and less on a mental task going on in your brain.
Visual interest from the audience
Did you know that 65% of the population are visual learners?
That means if you fail to establish eye contact with them, then you can almost count on losing almost 2 out of every 3 people who are watching.
In some audiences, if you don’t stimulate the audience’s visual curiosity, then you may lose everyone’s interest.
By removing the need to use your eyes to read music, you can put give the audience the engagement they need to satisfy their visual curiosity.
Fuller Connection to the Song
Heard the phrase: ‘learn it by heart’?
When you know the words of a song and what the writer was trying to capture when they wrote them, you will be better equipped to deliver that to the audience.
Have you seen a news presenter reading a wrong auto-prompter?
Their lack of contextual awareness means that they can’t freestyle and continue where they left off.
As a singer, you want to be able to take the emotions of your song and release them upon the audience so that they understand what this song means to through the depth and breadth of your voice.
Alright, I hope you believe me now. We have our why!
Case Study: ‘Here for you’ from the Musical ‘9 to 5’
In addition to explaining each of the techniques, I thought it would be beneficially for you to observe a practical example so that you can decide for yourself if you have a particular preference.
I currently have a student who is learning the song ‘Here for you’ from the musical ‘9 to 5’, so this is an ideal opportunity to help him and also anyone else who is reading.
Have a listen to the song here:
What does the song mean?
An important part of remembering your lyrics is simply understanding what they mean.
A really great resource that I have recently found is genius.com, which is basically a community of people who try to de-cypher what song lyrics mean.
However, I would suggest that you try and come up with your own song meanings first so that they become more meaningful to you and therefore, you will have a better time remembering them.
Consider what the songwriter is trying to convey. What is the story that they are trying to tell?
|Oh my sweet dear Doralee,
you don’t know what you mean to me.
I just don’t know what I would do without you.
|Doralee’s boss, has a deep longing for her.|
|You’re so efficient and alert
and the way you look well shit that don’t hurt.
Now please don’t think I’m just a flirt,
it’s just I’m nuts about you.
|Franklin admires the way Doralee works and her looks too, but doesn’t want to appear to appear to be coy. He really wants her.|
|Here for you, I’m here for you.
I want you so I truly do.
My body is your instrument (instrument sounds),
please play it.
|Chorus: He is waiting for the right moment to give his body to her.|
|It’s just that you stay on my mind,
every minute all the time.
I’ve got to do it, make you mine completely.
|Franklin’s longing is possessive. He wants to own Doralee completely.|
|I’d give you every dime I got.
Why honey you could be on top!
There’s no way to say this all discreetly.
|He keeps flipping the coin between giving everything and controlling her. His sexual advances become ever less subtle.|
|I’d like to take those double d’s,
hold them oh so close to me.
I could lose myself in her
|Franklin can’t contain himself any longer and lays on the sexual references.|
|Will I get those legs uncrossed?
Course I will, yeah cause I’m the boss.
I will win at any cost, I’m clever
|He doubts himself for a moment, but then re-evaluates his position as the boss. His desire to win at any cost sounds abusive.|
|Here for you, I’m here for you.
Oh I do enjoy the view.
Oh dear, I can see why you feel shaky!
|Chorus: Franklin opens up as being a bit of a pervert at work.|
|The ladder of success is steep
but not if you hold on to me or,
I’ll hold onto you my sweet.
Oh you just drive me crazy.
|He knows it will be difficult to ‘obtain’ Doralee and that she is also struggling in business, but he believes if they work together, they will be successful.|
|I will have that moment,
I have long anticipated.
I will have my way with her,
she’ll wonder why she’s waited.
|Franklin’s dreams of pleasing Doralee and doing anything to get his way.|
|I wont flinch until I quench my thirst
from her sweet cup, those sweet cups!
|He is extremely persistent and won’t give up|
|Yes I get just what I want
and I want her so much.
|He can’t imagine not getting what he wants|
|I’m here for her, I’m here for her.
And I will not give… up.
|Re-iterates that he won’t give up|
Summary: A sleazy boss is trying to woo a member of his staff and gives his account of what is going through his mind.
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