When I was studying at university, learning a new song was my actual homework, so I had to develop a system in order to learn new songs quickly.
- Print the lyrics. Make sure the structure of verse chorus is clear and include the number of bars* in instrumentals.
- Analyse the lyrics to see where you will need to breathe, where your accents* should be, where you need to watch your pronunciation. Watch out for ends of words, diphthongs* and run-on words*. Also include your dynamics*.
- Listen to the song while following the lyrics as many times as it takes to memorize the melody of the song.
- Practise with the track and sing the melody on your own. This helps you to find your own way of doing it without copying the original artist. This will also help with memorizing song lyrics, as now your brain has to work on its own.
- Practise putting the lyrics away and see where you need more time to memorize.
- Once the song is memorized lyrically and musically, you can then go and work on the performance of it, add little frills to make it your own, change rhythms slightly etc.
- PRACTISE IN FRONT OF THE MIRROR!!! It’s so so weird when you first do this but it will help you see when you are looking like a chop* or when you need to act more!
- Practise in front of your family/dog/lover/random stranger you just met (just kidding). But seriously, practise in front of someone who will give you an honest opinion on where to improve. A singing teacher is a great option if you have one.
- You are now ready to sing in front of an audience!
So this is obviously just one method. But it works for me. I learn lyrics very quickly because I have a bit of a photographic memory, but for me to remember lyrics after a performance, the key is just to sing the song on repeat for days. Repetition is your best friend. Don’t kill the song for yourself but practise hard and good luck!!!
Bars – units of measurement in music
Accents – when words need to be stronger or weaker
Diphthong – when a word is said with two vowels instead of one, e.g. “say” sounds like sayee, but you have to try and sing it as saaaaay. This makes a whole lot more sense if you hear it. Maybe another day!
Run-on words – some words can mesh together if you aren’t careful to separate them
Dynamics – the loudness or softness of the music, so if you want to get louder at a point, softer at another, etc.
Chop – colloquial term used in South Africa for when you are being a bit of an idiot