Sometimes as a singer, there are times when you completely draw a blank on lyrics. It can be one of the most frustrating (and embarrassing!) things that can happen during a performance, but don’t worry! I’ve got some tips and tricks to help you out.
1. When learning a new song, cut out as many distractions as you can. If your attention is elsewhere, your brain can’t properly encode those lyrics that you so desperately need to learn, so don’t give that new song a back seat!
2. Listen to the song whenever possible. I find that the best time for me to work on new music is while I’m driving. If you’re learning a voice part for a choir, ask your conductor to make a CD or MP3 file with just your part on it. This way, you can easily concentrate on your vocal part outside of rehearsal. Many popular works of choral collections can be found at singleparts, cyberbass, choraLine, and NotePerfect for your rehearsal needs.
3. Don’t practice your errors. Whenever I’m practicing material, I am constantly using the rewind button to go over parts that I’m not comfortable with. Always take the time to fix your errors before moving forward!
4. Write or type the lyrics out before a nap or bedtime. Not only does this help you find repetitive sections or differences in the piece of music, but studies show that people are most likely to remember a piece of information if they learned it just prior to sleeping.
5. When you have a spare moment in the day, read over the lyrics (aloud, if you can!). Be sure that you have the correct lyrics, and try to look at your paper less and less throughout the day.
6. Speed up the song a capella to find problem areas that you still need to work on memorizing. Make a notation of the hang ups that you had and practice those sections repeatedly. Be sure to pay close attention to your phrasing and articulation during your sped up version, but don’t worry so much about dynamics or breaks.
7. Try running over the music from the end of the song to the beginning. Practice the last few lines, and work your way up the song. This creates more confidence with the entire piece.
8. Sometimes stage fright can really be a bummer, so don’t hesitate to practice on your friends and family before your big day.
9. If you have a set list that you can peek at while on stage (inconspicuously, of course), keep a cheat sheet for sections that are difficult to remember in a song. I’ve seen many musicians in St. Louis using this technique during performances. For me, the first couple words of the song, and maybe even a few words for the verses, chorus, and bridge, seem to be helpful for recalling the entire song during a performance.
10. Don’t forget to have fun! Even if you forget a lyric, you can always come back from it. If you’re drawing a blank, use vowel sounds (oos and ahhs and ees) or make up your own words if you can until your memory comes back to you! Take it from me, most of the time your audience won’t know the difference.
Photo Credit to: local St. Louis Photographer with Red Cloud Allied Enterprises, LLC.
Photo of: Tony Ingracia of Mean Street