From ChorusAmerica November 3rd, 2011
Having trouble getting the words to stick in your mind? Here are several strategies for succeeding at memorization. Mark Bosnian!
Without a doubt, one of the biggest fears most singers have is that they’ll forget the words of a song they are singing. Many singers have confided to me that they have poor memorization skills. My experience leads me to believe that it’s not so much skill that they lack, but an awareness of how to memorize lyrics and the realization that it often takes real work to make it happen. Merely singing a song multiple times won’t automatically burn the lyrics into your memory.
I’ve found four different memorization techniques that work well for many singers.
Memorization Technique 1:
Write out, in longhand, the lyrics of the song.
Yes, I know that takes time—but that’s exactly why this works. The lyrics can take firmer root in your mind because you are slowly going over each word during the process. As you’re writing, make a note of any storyline or plot element in the lyric. This can make the order of the lyrics more obvious.
After you write out the entire song, set aside your written lyrics and sing the song from memory. How did you do? If you had trouble, write out the entire song again, then set aside the written lyrics and sing the song once more.
If you are now able to remember all the words of the song, you know that this technique is well-suited to your personal learning style. If you still have difficulty, try one of the other techniques listed here.
Memorization Technique 2:
Temporarily enlist the aid of a lyric sheet as you sing.
Have a lyric sheet (a piece of paper on which the words of the song are written) available. Place the lyric sheet face down and sing the song. At the first point that you can’t remember the words, turn the lyric sheet over and find the missing words.
The next step is very important. Start the song over and see if you can sing through the part that just caused you a problem. If you can’t, turn the lyric sheet over again and look at the words. Is there some connection you can make between the last line you remember and the line you keep forgetting—some way that will make it stick in your mind?!
Don’t move on in the song until you can get past the first challenge point. Then move to the next challenge point, repeating the process until you are all the way through the song.
Memorization Technique 3:
Write a cheat sheet that contains just the first few words of each line or section of the song.
Oftentimes, seeing the first words of a line or section triggers your memory of the rest ofthe lyrics. If this technique suits your personal learning style and allows you to remember the lyrics of the song, you can turn over your cheat sheet and use Memorization Technique 2 to wean yourself form using any help at all.
Memorization Technique 4:
Listen to a recording of the song multiple times.
This method, much like the method used in Memorization Technique 1, gives your mind time to absorb the words. It’s especially effective if you listen to, then sing, the song, repeating this process several times. You can use this technique when you’re driving, cleaning, or performing a variety of other tasks.
If you are more of a visual learner, you can use a variation of this technique: Tape a lyric sheet to the bathroom mirror or carry the sheet with you throughout the day and read, then sing, the lyrics frequently.
The main point to be made about memorization is that it doesn’t happen automatically. If you use any or all of these techniques and you put in the time, you can begin to let go of the fear of forgetting words, get your eyes off the page and onto the audience, and sing with more confidence and passion.