In this series, “Singing on Stage”, I go over 6 invaluable elements to showmanship and how they work to comprise a great show. I’ll also offer tips along with each ~
Memorizing lines & Lyrics ~ BE IN THE MOMENT!!! BUT ALSO BE IN THE NEXT MOMENT!
You have to be conscious at all times of what is coming next. It’s the only part of performing that ever felt like work to me, but with practice it can also become as natural and “second nature” as anything else. You have to be thinking about what is next… what is the next line, what are your next moves or steps, where are you supposed to be standing next. This is all key to a seamless and natural looking performance. One way to rehearse this is to practice singing at home or wherever, while walking around spontaneously changing direction or working with your hands, cleaning or dusting or whatever… can you do this and still be consciously preparing for the next line. Can you do it without interrupting the flow of the song or forgetting a line.
Lose the cheat sheets and iPads. Here’s how!
Are you chained to those lyric sheets or your iPad? Let me tell you that, as an audience member, nothing is less impressive than a singer who couldn’t even be bothered to memorize lyrics to a song! Think of it like this, only one person in the room is being paid to sing the song, shouldn’t they know it?
First step is to abbreviate the notes you need. I started by eliminating 90% of the lyrics and only putting the first word of each line on my lyric sheets. Like a hint. Then, I removed all hints I didn’t need, only putting the first word to the lines I had trouble remembering. Then, I got creative about my notes. I put them on tiny index cards on my keyboard, so that a couple of glances at the right moment could get me through the whole song! Then… I got more creative and would put a simple hint or two on the actual set list. Now I had NO NOTES anywhere, and no iPad. Nothing to look at but the audience and my fellow band mates. Immediately, the interaction on stage got more fun and personal and the audience love it, also, I was able to start interacting with the audience more and more until I barely needed the set list.
Face it, the set list and lyric sheets are a crutch to most bands. We play the same songs over and over and usually in similar set formats, so really, why are we still staring at notes? I think, it’s to protect us from less-than-optimal responses from a crowd. On dead nights, or in front of dead crowds, we don’t want to be in that moment, so we stare at an iPad… I say, if there are only two people in the crowd, I’m going to try to give them a personal and awesome show they can talk about tomorrow. I’ll sit on their damn laps if I have to, but I’m going to enjoy what I do no matter what, and more often than not, that is infectious:)
More tips about Remembering Lyrics
Have a copy of the lyrics in front of you
Whatever your method of memorizing lyrics, having a hard copy in front of you helps. Whether you are reading them or writing them out, adding visual memory to auditory memory increases your call-back of things.
Do you always forget one or two lines in a song?
Then drill down on it. Focus on the line in context of the lines around it. Don’t just rehearse the line or lines you forget, but rehearse them coming after the other lines you remember. Then you are teaching your muscles and mind that they follow those lines. Your mind and mouth will learn to start forming the words by memory as a part of a bigger picture.
Memorize the story, not just the words
Remember, you are telling a story with every song. There’s a bigger picture and sometimes you can even imagine, in your minds eye, the story playing out. First they get in the car, then they get where they’re going, then they fight in the hotel room. Use memory tricks like visualization to help with this.
Already know a song? Don’t need to rehearse it?
Yeah, ok… but that’s the one that’ll surprise you when you draw a blank live! haha. You should always be practicing your trade, so you might as well run songs you already know and keep them in good form:)
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