Can't Remember My Own Lyrics
June 12, 2006 8:10 AM   Subscribe

I'm starting to gig out for the first time. Problem is I often forget the lyrics, even though I wrote them. Any suggestions for remembering one's own lyrics?
posted by Ironmouth to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Write them down
posted by thirteenkiller at 8:12 AM on June 12, 2006

One of my musician friends writes his lyrics out by hand 10 times. By the time he's done, he's got them for good.
posted by Miko at 8:14 AM on June 12, 2006

I sing 'em over and over in the shower. I also practice making up new ones on the spot, just in case, or just singing syllables.
posted by COBRA! at 8:15 AM on June 12, 2006

The same way you get to Carnegie Hall. I used to juggle while rehearsing lines to make sure that they would come out on their own even though I was occupied with something else.
posted by Ohdemah at 8:17 AM on June 12, 2006

as a little side note -- I know some of my favorite moments as a fan of a band is when they forget the lyrics to a song or sing / play it wrong -- it can be quite endearing.
posted by Julnyes at 8:53 AM on June 12, 2006

i don't bother. if i know 'em i know 'em, if i don't i stop and read my notebook. this works well with my schtick though. my better songs have easier to remember lyrics, so it's not so much a problem.
posted by kendrak at 9:08 AM on June 12, 2006

One thing I used to do was be really clear about the first line of each verse/chorus/bridge part. Usually if you can recall the first line, the rest comes naturally.
posted by vraxoin at 9:12 AM on June 12, 2006

Write lyrics you could never forget.

I try to never write down lyrics until I've got all the verses written and the song has laid around and fermented for a bit. And like Ohdemah implies, by the time they flow automatically, the song is probably ready to play out.

Also, if you are playing with a full, amplified band, no one is gonna hear or pay attention to much beyond the chorus, so second verse, same as the first doesn't get noticed by anyone in the audience.
posted by bendybendy at 9:18 AM on June 12, 2006

Listen to recordings of your songs in the car / ipod / etc. Listening is a different frame of mind than performing, allowing you to absorb the words naturally. If you can remember the words to songs by other musicians, there's a good chance this will work.
posted by yorick at 9:22 AM on June 12, 2006

Michael Stipe uses a music stand with his lyrics on it. If it's good enough for Michael Stipe...:)
posted by Bud Dickman at 9:34 AM on June 12, 2006

Also, if you are playing with a full, amplified band, no one is gonna hear or pay attention to much beyond the chorus

Yeah, if your lyrics suck.

Writing things down is a good suggestion. I've forgotten words during shows a lot, but I do it less these days, because I try to make a point of keeping my wits about me onstage. If I'm forgetting words, chances are other things are getting screwed up too. If I give my complete attention to what I'm singing and playing, rather than what I did that day or what I'm going to do after the show or how the microphone smells, I rarely have problems. It can be hard to do, though.

And yeah, practice a lot. I sing to myself all the time, thinking of ways to vary phrasing or melody and such.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:52 PM on June 12, 2006

The best way, and I mean the BEST way, is to get a recording. Even if it's just you singing it solo, or with a guitar track, or whatever, you can listen to it one or two or four or seventeen times between now and performance time, and you won't be able to get the damn thing out of your head.
posted by armoured-ant at 3:50 PM on June 12, 2006

You could use a similar strategy as that for learning to spell. The spelling skill goes like this: visualize the word and spell it forwards in your mind, then visualize spelling it backwards until you can do it forward and back without hesitation.

Same would work with lyrics or any other blocks of text, except you chunk it into words instead of letters.
posted by trinity8-director at 4:29 PM on June 12, 2006

What works for me is laying out the structure to the lyrics--that way you can reason out what comes next if you find yourself marooned in the middle of a song. For example, in Pills, he lays out the problem, appeals to the nurse, and when that doesn't work he goes over her head to the doctor.

Use forgetting lyrics to your advantage; there's nothing that produces better lines than making things up on the spot. As long as the ends rhyme, which isn't difficult to do, nobody will notice at all.

For those times when you completely blank out, learn how to fill space well--this'll give you a chance to recover or for somebody to feed you a line. Any good performer needs to know how to fill gaps and get back into the song when everything gets straightened out.

If you've got a plan for when things go completely wrong, you'll be cool enough that it will rarely happen and you'll handle it. Above all, act like nothing happened. Keep your face straight.
posted by Nahum Tate at 6:30 PM on June 12, 2006

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