Memorizing Songs
Publish Date2016-02-24

Know Your Song Well Before You Start Singing

The most important piece of a musical performance is the actual music. It is the price to play. Capturing audience attention does not require this, but converting them to followers and fans does. Which is the whole point of performing. More importantly, you owe it to yourself to play something high quality.

The songs you play should be rehearsed. This surpasses memorization, which is why I am so confused when people bring lyrics/chords to an open mic night. You are playing four songs, just learn them. Have you seen Bob Dylan, Taylor Swift, Jay Z, or Neil Young heading up to stage with a sheet of lyrics. Nope.

Reading off a sheet is bad for three reasons:

  1. Creates an unprofessional vibe
  2. Disengages you from your performance emotion
  3. Disengages you from the audience

The second is the most important to me. Things like timing, melodic and tonal microexpressions, and passion are sacrificed when your focus in stuck on a sheet.

Yet, I can sympathise because its hard to memorize songs. Its also exciting when you have a new song to perform. But, you cannot really engage the song until you know it.

I memorize lyrics by using two different methods. The first, and my primary method is Eyes Open/Eyes Closed.


I am very systematic with this method. Its sort of a game I play. It is won when the song is performed 4x in a row without looking at the lyrics, and without hesitating. The 4x is arbitrary, but gospel for me. Meaning, I think the number could be different and still work, but I have never questioned it.

Play the whole song

Start by playing the song and reading the lyrics. Then close your eyes and try to play it. If you hesitate or forget the words thats fine. Just, try as hard as possible not to look at the words.

By part

If you struggle on a verse or a line, employ the method on that subsection. For example, play a line in isolation while reading it, and then repeat it 4x.

Just write

If that fails, I employ the same method, but instead of playing guitar, I only write the lyrics. It has never not worked for me.