Ah, who doesn’t love slipping up in the middle of a concert, exam, or vocal festival? I have literally done it more times than I could count. Needless to say, I’m definitely not an expert at memorization. But on the bright side, if you’re watching this video, you probably aren’t either. By the end of this video, we can hopefully learn a little bit more about ourselves and what memorization tactics might work the best for us.

So without further ado, let's get into it!

Tips for helping you memorize your song lyrics

Tip One - Practice at different tempos

You may find it helpful if you speak through all the lyrics first, without the music. Really read the words and try to conceptualise it as a story. How does this sentence flow into this next sentence? How do all of these sentences connect to each other? Once you;’ve read through it a couple of times, try to speak it rhymically and on the beat. When you start off, you might want to be a little slow. But as time goes on and you feel more comfortable, you can gradually increase the tempo to one much faster than the original. If you can speak your lyrics (memorized), faster than the tempo you’ll be performing at, chances are you’ll probably be fine during the performance. Try to do this a couple of days or week in advance. The more time you have to subconsciously memorize it, the better.

Tip Two - Practice in sections

Chunk it! This goes for all instruments as well, but if you mess up in a certain part, don’t run through the whole song and continue. What you really want to do is stop, take a breather, and go over the part you don’t know. You will save so much time.

Tip Three - Karaoke

Youtube is your friend. If you can, try to find the backing tracks of the songs you’re singing. And when you turn that video on, look away. Avoid looking at the lyrics, cues, and pictures. You are trying to test yourself!

Tip Four - Create mental images and absurd stories

Some things that people do are to take the first word of every phrase, and make a story out of it. If you can connect a few of the bold words to an image or storyline, it’ll really help you remember these faster.

Tip Five - Know thyself

If you don’t already know what type of learner you are already, I’d recommend getting to know yourself! There are a bunch of online tests that can help you. If you want to be more thorough, then you could analyse each of the three types to see what you fits you best:

  • Visual Learner - a trick for visual learners might be to picture the sheet music. However, you shouldn’t pin your hopes on it. Instead, a more reliable method would be rewriting the lyrics. If it helps you, take out those highlighters and start highlighting any connections you see within your piece. The goal is to create a picture or mindmap that connect all of these separate-seeming ideas, into a more cohesive blend.

  • Auditory Learner - Lots of people recommend call and response recordings for auditory learners. What you’re going to do, like in an episode of Dora, is:
    • Speak your phrase
    • Wait a few moments
    • Speak the next phrase
    • Wait a few (more) moments
    • And so on!
    After you’ve finished your recording, you’re going to press play. Listen to yourself speak, repeat. Listen, and repeat again. Another tactic that auditory learners might do would be to just listen to the original recording of the music. This could be tricky, as you don’t want to memorize the delivery of the lines. But if your goal is to learn the general melody and mood of the song, it can be very useful!

  • Kinesthetic - Admittedly, this tip applies more to memorizing songs for instruments (not the voice). But the big thing for kinesthetic learners is muscle memory! Repeat the lyrics as many times as you can, and really familiarize yourself with the way it feels to say them. Repeat, but don’t repeat passively. Really try to understand the lyrics and the song. Don’t go on autopilot. After all this repetition, the words will become more natural to you, and you won’t have to think so much about every single thing.

So that concludes our video on a few methods to help you memorize your song. Of course, everyone’s different, and everyone will find a different way that works best for them. If you want to share one of your own methods to the studio community, feel free to comment below what you do and what type of learner you are!

See you on stage!