How often do you see a singer performing with a sheet of song lyrics in front of them? Rarely, I’d guess. Performing singers memorise song lyrics to free themselves to be in the moment, to better interpret a song and its character, and to engage with their audience.
Many of our studio singers have upcoming performances that require memorising lyrics. Solo singer-songwriters playing gigs or recording must know their words deeply to infuse the feelings of the songs in intimate live settings and in their recordings. Choral singers don’t need to know every word by heart, but they need a good knowledge, for a smooth flow of sound, while keeping an eye firmly on the conductor. Singers in bands need to know their words to allow for genuine, spontaneous interaction with the audience.
Ahead of our forthcoming studio concert, I encourage all the singers to memorise the words of their songs.
Songs are stories; they express feelings and engage listeners. So, a singer needs the body movement, facial expressions, gestures, and voice qualities to express these stories. Memorising lyrics lets you go inside the meaning of the words and find that depth of human expression, and connection that comes with performance.
Word by word
Put your body into it
Become the character
Push through any nerves
Practise singing your song when you are busy, frustrated or slightly out of breath. This helps simulate the experience of performing, and the nerves that can accompany it.
And remember to enjoy the tapestry and contours of words and the melodies fused with the rhythmic patterns. Part of performing is convincing the audience of the charge of feelings and words in the phrases. You are creating illusions. Or as Norma Desmond says, in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, Sunset Boulevard, “We taught the world new ways to dream.”
Kathleen Connell is experienced in helping singers prepare for performance, with singing lessons catering to all levels and lifestyles. Browse our in-person or online training options, or call 0402 409 106.