By Abigail Heimann, Vocal Instructor, The Rock and Pop Music Academy of Boulder
One huge fear for many vocalists is forgetting the words while on stage. For some aspiring singers, this is enough to keep them from performing in public at all.
However, this is not a rational reason to give up on performing and doing something you love! Fortunately, there are countless memorization practices to help boost your retention skills. Here’s a quick voice lesson with some of my favorite and most simple tips for memorizing lyrics.
Sometimes when practicing, musicians have the tendency to rehearse the parts that we like and know the best or feel the most confident playing. For singers, this is often the catchy chorus, which repeats itself usually two to four times during the song.* This is not efficient! Verses are most often different lyrics but with the same melody. Focus more on differentiating the verses or bridges and getting those lyrics locked down.
* Be sure to watch out for the occasional choruses that change slightly (maybe one word or phrase different from the first chorus). Highlight and practice those small variations!
Write Them Out
A very accessible way to get lyrics memorized is to write them out. Start from the beginning and write out the first verse three to five times. Then do the same for the following choruses and verses. DO NOT type them out on your mobile device or computer – this doesn’t work your brain the same way using pencil to paper does.
And before you start thinking this is like writing lines in detention, make it fun! Use colorful pens or markers, and turn it into something you enjoy looking at!
Visuals Are Key
Many people absorb information more quickly through visuals, and the same goes for memorizing lyrics. There are several ways to visualize the words to your song.
Maybe your song has a music video that goes well with the lyrics.
Create a picture story of your song with different drawings or pictures representing each line, verse, or chorus.
Or you could simply read through your lyrics on your sheet music and memorize the way your sheet music looks.
Finding a way to visualize helps most people with remembering the text.
For some singers, simply hearing a song over and over again is enough to get the lyrics cemented in their mind. Practicing through the tune a few times in a row is helpful in memorizing your words, but be careful not to over-rehearse. If your throat starts to feel tense or overworked, take a break from singing and just listen to your music and whisper the lyrics.
Use and Take Care of Your Body
While some people are more visual learners, others are kinesthetic learners, which means they absorb information more easily doing things physically. Writing out the lyrics on paper is one example of a kinesthetic method, but you might also stand up, clap, or by all means, create a fun dance while rehearsing your song.
This also means you have to take care of your body. Our minds are far more capable of memorization when they are running on adequate sleep and exercise. During sleep, the brain sorts through all the information it absorbed during the day and stores important bits in long-term memory. Aerobic exercise has tons of benefits for the mind, including boosting the brain area that deals with memory and learning. So, even going for a walk, run, or bike ride can help get your brain in better shape for your music lessons!
Pick any one or any combination of these tips when rehearsing your next song, and I guarantee you will learn tunes faster and feel more confident in your memory and yourself!
What other tricks do you use to memorize your music and lyrics?