Memorize Songs Effectively
Singing a song over and over may help stick it in your muscle memory, but if the voice is tired, your muscle memory could be memorizing bad habits that often accompany tired vocal production as well. Memorizing can be very quick when varied approaches are applied to learning a given piece.
We’ve found that the songs memorized through repetitive singing are the ones that have escaped in performance. There is nothing worse than being on stage and having no idea what word is sung next! It’s much more efficient to learn your music through means other than your voice. The following approaches allow you to memorize efficiently and thoroughly while saving your voice.
How to Memorize Songs
The best part of this process is how expressive and alive you’re free to be when you finally perform a piece learned these ways:
If a recording is available, listen to it once to grasp the general style and tradition of the piece. Don’t learn a piece by listening to a recording, or your personal artistic creativity will suffer.
Write out every sentence in your own writing.
Write the text on a piece of paper. Look for patterns, such as repetitive lines and break it up into sections.
Learn the music of the song and put it with the text. Study the musical expression of the text. Pay attention to what the dynamics, melody, harmonies, and accompaniment are doing when you sing the text. Is it mirroring the feelings expressed?
Speak the text as though it’s a story or monologue. Decide to whom you’re talking and experiment to discover new ways of expressing the text. Continue this process as you go on to the next approach.
Choosing a section of the text, stick the paper in your pocket and take a walk, going over that section and referring to the paper as needed. Speak it, sing it under your breath, or just lip-sync it. Do this during mundane tasks such as showering, washing dishes, and riding in the car. Avoid constantly building off the beginning so that the beginning is over-learned and the end is less polished.
Write the text out again and again from memory, referring to the paper in your pocket as needed.
Give the paper to someone else and have her test your memorization.
Now sing it with good technique and all the nuances, emotions and colors you found throughout the memorization process. I promise your performance will be unique and expressive, and if you forget a word, though it will be less likely, your brain will have many ways of recalling it.