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Karaoke Fun! Singing Tips

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Tips for Singers:
Song Memorization Techniques
by Richard Baisner

Now you may be asking, "Why should I bother memorizing a song when the words are shown for you right there on the screen?"

I used to think that it would look like I was "showing off" if I wasn’t looking at the screen when I sung. But, then I realized that I never had that impression when someone else did it.

Memorizing your songs can be very advantageous for several reasons. First of all, knowing your song inside and out will give you a tremendous amount of confidence on stage. Secondly, it provides you with great flexibility for your performance. You are now free from actions that the monitor previously hindered you from doing. You can move around, focus your eyes where you want to, adlib if desired, and concentrate more on body gestures. Plus, memorization is almost mandatory for faster songs, it looks more
professional, and it help you improve your timing.

Let’s begin. Have you ever remembered a song title but couldn’t remember how the song went, but when you heard the music it all came back to you? Or how about when friend cited a verse, and then you found that you could easily join in on the rest? What happened? Well, before you had nothing to associate the song with. After you heard a couple of bars or the start of a verse, you were then able to fill in the rest of the song. That is a perfect example of how memory association works. Now, let’s apply that same concept to memorizing the lyrics to a song.

The first step is to get a copy of the lyrics to the song you wish to memorize. There are many resources available to find the true accurate lyrics, but for now I will assume you can manage to find them on your own. The most important thing is to make sure you have the correct lyrics before you start, since it will be difficult to readjust yourself if you discover something was inaccurate later on.

Next, I would recommend trying to figure out the underlying meaning of the song and each verse. It will help you tremendously when you can form mental images and attach feelings behind the verses, instead of just memorizing each specific word. Next, study the song structure. How many verses, choruses, and musical breaks does it have? Which words rhyme with one another? Knowing the rhyming words and patterns used will cut down the amount of memorization needed since it’s relatively easy to recall the
upcoming rhyming word in the next sentence.

Let’s do a little exercise. Think of one of your favorite songs and recite the first verse. Now, this might seem easy to do at first, but it’s
difficult if you have no music or other words to associate it to. Therefore, I found it extremely beneficial to fully memorize the starting word of your song. Find a way to mentally associate the song title with that first word.

Now comes the most time consuming part of memorizing a song - listening repeatedly while following along with your lyric sheet. By doing this, you are visually and audibly feeding the words into your brain. Everybody has a photographic memory to some degree and sometimes while you’re on stage, you can visualize that lyric sheet you studied for so long (or at least parts of it). On average, it takes me about five hours to fully memorize a song.

If you have problems remembering the beginning of a specific verse or lines within that verse, look for ways to link it with words you do know or create a "mini-sentence." For example, I had difficulty memorizing Duran Duran’s "Hungry Like The Wolf". The verses didn’t relate too well with one another, and the chorus would slightly change throughout the song. I had to create little mini-sentences to help me. For example, for the first verse I’d think of the phrase "Dark steam woman catch". Each word in that mini-sentence is part of the beginning of each sentence for that verse. With that in mind, it’s very easy to recall the entire verse from memory
since I have the beginning word of each sentence memorized.

It’s also difficult to recall the next verse following an instrumental break. Therefore, look for ways to link it up the last word of the verse
prior to the break, a musical instrument during the break, or any background singer lyrics. I’ve found that it’s also difficult to memorize the order of words in a series. For example, take the lyric line "gangsters, thugs, and smugglers". For this case, I create an acronym of the phrase such as "GTS" that I can quickly recall when that part comes up. Look for words that run in alphabetical sequence (either forward or backward) to also help you remember these types of acronyms.

Once you think you have your song memorized, test yourself by trying to sing along to the original song without looking at your lyric sheet. Or better yet, if you have the karaoke CDG, try to sing along with that for a true test.

There you have it. Hopefully I revealed some insights that can help you as you work on mastering your songs. Grab a cordless mic and have fun!

(reprinted with the kind permission of
Richard Baisner a.k.a. Grateful)

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