The Vocalzone Guide to Learning Lyrics

Learning Lyrics Vocalzone

For any singer learning lyrics is a necessary evil. It may be frustrating and dull, but if you plan on singing long term it’s not going anywhere so you may as well follow our tips to make the experience as manageable as possible!

When you learn to drive a car the skill doesn’t come naturally; you’re using a controlled way of thinking to pick up the technique. This is because your brain is running on a thoughtful, intentional system. Once you’re comfortable driving you barely need to think about it with your brain switching to a minimal effort way of thinking. These are two distinct systems which your brain toggles between depending on what you’re doing at any given time. But what relevance does this have to learning lyrics? When you’ve mastered an entire song the learning of the lyrics has allowed your brain to transition from the ‘learning to drive’ habit building stage to the ‘learnt to drive’ minimal effort system. This is the ultimate aim of the game for any set of lyrics you need to remember!

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Know the song

It may sound obvious, but you can’t expect to learn the lyrics if you haven’t heard them enough. Even if you can’t listen to music at work in the day time there are numerous opportunities for cramming in as much listening as possible. You can play the song when you’re driving, whilst you’re getting ready to go out, when you get home in the evening and before you go to bed. You should make sure you have the song available to you in as many formats as possible for convenience; is it on your computer as well as your phone? Can you listen to it in your car?

If your lyrics are part of a larger piece in which other people sing, have you familiarised yourself with where you fit in? Your lyrics in isolation are only giving you part of the picture; you could be misunderstanding the entire tone of the song and the sentiment behind it.

It is a good idea to write out the lyrics as this can aid memorisation, but you should allow yourself plenty of time to simply listen and read before getting stuck in with the notes. Typing them out can be a temptation as we all tend to be more used to using a computer to write, but writing by hand has been found to be more beneficial.

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Where to start

When you’re learning lyrics you must set reasonable goals. Little and often should be your philosophy, spreading the learning over a sensible period of time. This will not only make the task more achievable, it will also alleviate unnecessary stress surrounding the lyric learning.

Its likely that there’ll be a particular part of the song that you find tricky to master. You should allow your brain to focus on this section by giving it special care and attention when note taking and learning in general. You can write out the lyrics either in a silent space alone and or when watching TV. Writing the lyrics down without looking at them is a great way of testing that they’re sinking in.

Next Steps

You’re more likely to retain the lyrics by reading and hearing them aloud, so make sure to record the song playing it back as often as possible. If you’re singing lines as part of a group you could try pausing the recording as your line approaches and singing aloud what you think comes next. Breaking the lyrics down, begin with small sections repeating them until you remember without prompting. Cumulative memorisation is a technique for memorising passages of text in which small fragments of information are continually added to what you already know.

For example:

These lyrics are very becomes

These lyrics are very hard to learn because then

These lyrics are very hard to learn because the song is long

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Once more with feeling

When you’re trying to learn lyrics it can be easy to slip into the habit of mindlessly repeating the words as sounds, without thinking about what they actually mean. Feeling the emotions of the lyrics and beginning to plan out your overall performance will help you remember them. You can also give the learning process a refresh by going for a walk or drive changing the environment. Its worth bearing in mind that if you’re likely to encounter other people on your walk, you may want to pretend you’re on your phone or sing the lyrics in your head!

Finishing touches

If you can associate the lyrics with past experiences in your life this can really help with learning as the brain thrives on links. What imagery comes to mind when you sing each line? When you take the time to think about each line, does it trigger a memory? Use this to your advantage when it comes to making those lyrics stick!

Friends and family can certainly come in handy when it comes to learning lyrics. Ask them to read the lyrics as you sing to them. They can point out any errors along the way. Did you know that catching forty winks after learning lyrics can help? Most of us don’t need an excuse for a day time nap, but lyric learning is a perfectly valid one. The act of getting some sleep after learning something allows your brain to transfer it from short-term to long-term memory.

Look after that grey matter

If you’re planning on singing long term, you’re going to find yourself continually learning lyrics. To make the process less arduous its imperative that you exercise your memory to keep it in good working order. Your lifestyle has a big impact on your memory; get plenty of exercise, try to keep stress at bay and take the time to recharge with a good sleep routine. Learning a language or musical instrument as well as any sports which hone your hand-eye coordination are more specific ways of training your memory.

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Written by Laura Thomas

Social Media and Marketing Executive at Vocalzone. The Simpsons, The Wicker Man (original!), real crime shows, metal, punk and the new punk (grime)