Needless to say that this is one of the most important skills for a singer. There’s also more than one way to memorize lyrics.
The most commonly used tactics to memorize lyrics are to write them down and recite over and again, sing a verse and repeat it over and again, sing along with the song with the lyrics in front of you. We’ll cover this and more.
Instead of steps this time, we’ll review tactics.
Sing the song over and over. Start at the top (the beginning) and as you push on to learn each new verse, repeating the earlier verses burns them into your brain. Become familiar with the song.
Learn the melody first before your lyrics. Some people find that learning the words is easier when they know the song’s melody, the tune. Humming it or singing “Ah” or “Oh” throughout the whole piece and getting familiar with the notes and rhythm can make it easier to memorize lyrics.
Write the lyrics down. This is a trick that many actors use as well when they want to memorize their lines. Writing down lyrics is great for stimulating that part of your brain that works with memory. There are two ways you can approach this tactic; either copy the lyrics straight off the web, songbook or whatever tool you have at your disposal or write them down as you listen to the song.
Repeat the words in one line at a time. This can be a bit long-winded but it is very effective. Sing the first line while either singing with the song or looking at the lyrics, then repeat the first line looking away from the screen or song sheet. Then sing the first and second line while looking at the song sheet, then look away while repeating the first and second line. Then look at the lyrics while you sing the first, second, and third lines and look away singing the first, second and third lines and so on until you do every single verse and chorus line. This is a tactic more commonly used by actors than musicians but I find it works just as well.
Talk the song. Forget about trying to sing the song note-perfect for now and just talk it. Either normally in everyday conversation or trying to match the notes depending on which works best for you and focus on what words are being said.
Visualize the story or message of the song. We cover this in detail with song interpretation here but for now, think about what the song means to you, what the song is trying to say. You will find that remembering the feeling and the meaning of the song helps you to remember the lyrics as well. It is much easier to tell a story if you understand the sequence and meaning of the story.