I am prepping for an upcoming concert and I just got through my memorization process. That is what it is for me, a process. Something I have to actually set my mind to do and make time for . Being a classical Opera singer myself, (as well as a voice teacher and Creator of Voice Lessons To Go), I am often faced with memorizing large amounts of music in Foreign Languages. Thank God this is something that has never given me problems. As long as I make the time to do it, I can always get it done.
Just like practicing your voice and learning the notes of a song, memorizing words need their time slot on your schedule when preparing to sing in front of people.
Regarding memorizing, the sooner you do it, the faster you can get into creating the music on your own rather then relying on sheet music to get you through. Once you are memorized you can practice singing into a mirror or out into an “imaginary audience”. This really helps you open up and feel your role in the song and gives you time to make it yours.
Whenever possible you want to sing memorized in front of people. People connect to you through your eyes. They should be up and out when you are singing, not buried in a music folder.
Having your music with you on stage holds you one step back from delivering a professional performance.
So how do you memorize music most effectively? I think it really depends on what kind of learner you are; audio or visual. Think of how you do or used to study for tests in school. Did you just look at your notes, have to talk through them aloud, have to practice writing them back onto paper to absorb them?
For me it has always been a bit of a combination. For example last night I went through my piece of music and wrote all the lyrics out onto lined paper. I translated it as well (was not in English). Then I looked at what I have written to find patterns in the words and get an overview of the full structure of the lyrics.
When singing through music it is not the same as looking at a sheet of all the lyrics written out. For me I need to think about it as a monologue, finding the beats. I then went through my music again in my head trying to come up with the lyrics again spot checking where I needed help. Usually, you already are part memorized from learning your song when you start the memorization process so you need to identify where these parts are so you can focus on the parts that need work.
The other thing I think is great to do is to tackle a tough spot towards the end of the music so that once you have that you know you have something to look forward to when starting the top of the song again.
So I did that a few times, circling and underlining parts that needed help on my lyrics sheet. Then I wrote it out again. Each time “feeling” the words come to life on the paper. For me the process of writing it out and seeing it show up in front of me is very powerful.
I did this till I was able to get through the song in my head and on paper smoothly. (about 45 minutes)
The next step I do always is to put the music down, let it go, and sleep on it. I really think the sleep helps to solidify the lyric to my brain. This morning I went through all my lyrics in my head, and sang them out loud softly a few times. Not only do I need to get them on paper and in my head, but I need to practice saying them with my mouth, so I don’t stumble.- You need to memorize the mouth movements especially if it is a fast wordy song.
Today I will sing through the piece and practice performing it without looking at the music, spot checking as I need it. Then I will really practicing performing it not thinking about about the lyrics to get them onto auto pilot. I do this because I know that when I am on that stage I will not necessarily remember to think about the lyrics with the audience, orchestra and lights surrounding me.
Over the next few days I will go through the lyrics in my mind, speak them through, do them while doing other things such as cooking, exercising, and driving. I will also listen to a recording of the music repeatedly to train my aural skill of listening and learning.
Doing these things will make me memorized and prepared. Not doing them will have me nervous and undependable as a performer on a big stage. Always choose preparing instead of worrying!
Now go write out those words !
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written by Ariella Vaccarino creator of Voice Lessons To Go (singing lessons on CD) and author of Vocalize!
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