I can’t live… If lividi-bada-dooo…

I bet you have done this once or twice! You got on stage and then suddenly in the middle of the verse you went zazuum shashimi with your lyrics because you forgot the words. It is funny and embarrassing at the same time but the show must go on.

This happens to almost everyone at some point. Even actors and professional singers like One Direction are not safe.

(Warning: some lyric changes might offend!)

Of course, there’s the lyric stand, the prompter, and the song book. But what if you were not allowed to bring those onto the stage? Or if you need to prepare for a competition or a performance outside the karaoke hall?

Don’t fret. We are here to the rescue! We have compiled the top 10 tips for memorising songs. So you don’t have to sing “lividi-bada-dooo” ever again.

Learn the words

Good advice! But how are you going to do that?

Tip 1: Prepare your lyrics sheet

Search online and look up the correct lyrics of the song. Print a copy that you can bring with you wherever you go. Read it ten times over. To be able to memorise something, you need those words to get into your brain and the only way to do that is to read the lyrics out loud and in silence. Repetition is always the best way to really solidify information inside your head.

Tip 2: Understand each word, in each stanza

Internalize the meaning of the song by breaking it into chunks. You cannot eat a whole pizza without slicing the pie. Break it into lines and memorise it line-by-line like poetry. Search for the meaning of the song and imagine each line’s contribution. Imagining the story within the song doesn’t just help you make solid memories, it can also make it less boring and more fun. Plus, understanding the song much better will bring real life to your performance.

Tip 3: Read along as you listen

Make a playlist and add the song to the list. With the lyrics sheet, follow through the lyrics while listening to the song. This technique can also help you with the timing and pitch. Don’t sing just yet though. Focus on capturing how the lyrics flow with the song.

Sometimes you can even find handy lyric videos on YouTube where somebody has prepared the perfect prep tool for you:

Just read it and feel it.

Tip 4: Learn it in your sleep

You need to revitalize your brain with sleep so you won’t have a problem retaining what you’ve learned the next day. But before you drag yourself to slumber, go over the song one more time. With the lyrics in front of you and the song playing, first try to hum with it while reading the lyrics. Then hit the replay button and sing along with it.

Bring out what you’ve memorised

According to Michael Milone, Ph.D., an Educational Consultant, Research Psychologist, and Writer, memorising comes in two parts. One is taking it into your brain and the other part is getting it out.

Tip 5. Write it out

On a blank piece of paper, write out the lyrics from memory. No cheating! Move away from distractions and find a quiet place to write. This way, you can test how much you have memorized from the song and which parts are still tricky. After writing out the complete song, try singing it a cappella. Figure out the parts you need to work on and focus on those in future.

Tip 6. Divide it into sections

Here are some fun ways you can memorise a song in chunks:

  1. Write it out and color code sections. Adding colors and images is one way of boosting your retention.
  2. Print each verse in sections and pin it all over your room. For example put one section on your bedside table, another one on the mirror, and another one in the bathroom. Or you could go crazy and put some in the kitchen, by your TV, or stick it to your computer screen.

Practice, practice, practice.

Now it’s time to sing! Here are some ways you can practice your song (maybe glancing at the lyrics just once or twice).

Tip 7: Karaoke

This is the best opportunity to practice without the instrument. Grab your friends (for moral support and fun!) and go to a karaoke joint. Look for your song in the list. If it’s not on the list, no worries, try YouTube! Look for versions marked “karaoke” or “instrumental”. This can help you practice the song in different styles and in different ranges too.

Although the words may be shown, challenge yourself to singing without the lyrics sheet!

Tip 8: Use your instrument

Time to add some style! If you play an instrument that allows for it like guitar or piano, grab your instrument and sing the song while playing it. Find your groove and add some style that you are comfortable with. Work out which parts you find difficult or tricky. Don’t worry if you are stuck in the chorus or in the second verse. Go around that part and repeat it a few times until you hit the jackpot. Then, repeat the song until you can completely sing the song with no mistakes.

Although you might find playing along to be an extra challenge which makes it harder to remember the words, this is exactly the point: if you can remember the words while also remembering and playing the instrument part the chances are strengthened that when the time comes for performance those words will always stay on the tip of your tongue in spite of any distractions which arise.

Tip 9: Record your own memorisation tracks

Hit the record button and sing the song – whether a cappella or with the music. Felicia Ricci shares two great tips in this video:

  1. Speak out the lyrics and just listen to your recording over and over again. [3:46]
  2. Call and response version: sing a line and then leave a space during the recording so you can sing back the next line while listening. [4:29]

Another way of memorising is to sing the song in your own voice, whether it’s a cappella or playing the your own instrument or with the band. And then just listen to each section over and over again, whether you’re working out, driving to work, or cooking.

Tip 10. Make practice a performance

I always remember my voice coach telling me that you should always give your highest performance during practice. Even when you’re practicing a song for the first time, sing it with all your heart and soul. Emphasise the lyrics like you mean each and every word. By doing this you will internalise the words in a much more effective way than if you’re simply singing them mindlessly without really connecting.

All in all these 10 tips all point to one direction (no not that One Direction!) – that is practice.

Practice using these 10 tips every day and surely you will not only memorise the song perfectly, but it will also enhance your performance on your big day. Practice will also help you getting the confidence you need and brush away all the jitters. Most of all, it will make you enjoy your performance more rather than always worrying about remembering the next line of the song. Happy singing!