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The ultimate lyric remembering technique thread!

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James Lugo
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Ok guys so I have my new cover band. First time I'm doing this in over 20 years. I am having the toughest time memorizing lyrics. Lots of 80s, funk, Top 40 and disco. I was never the best at remember lyrics but it just seems impossible these days. Not sure if it's my years of killin brain cells as a kid. Either way I have to get my s@@t together.

What do you guys do to remember lyrics??? I know Formica knows the words to a 1000 tunes. Maybe he can throw in some insight.

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James, not sure if this is remembering lyric techniques, but consider getting an iPad mount that sits on a mic stand. Then you can use evernote or anything really, to put your lyrics and set list in front of you. You can get one of these tablet mounts at the TMV World Vocal Gear store... Click HERE >>> .... thats my best solution... 

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I feel like it's a bit like any other skill, and if you start practicing again you'll get better. Try to let go of the lyric sheet as soon as possible, since that forces you to really learn it. The longer I hold on to having a lyric sheet the harder I have to let it go.

Try to see a story behind the words in every song. The progression will then help you remember the lyrics.

Make a silly move to each phrase, to help your brain remember the words. This worked really well for me when I tried to learn the words to "I'll be watching you" and the words didn't wanna stick. When you got it memorized you just don't do the moves anymore, but your brain remember phrases easier when you got more than just a word to hang onto.

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It's all down to repetition.  The more times you sing a song the easier it becomes to remember the words.  I use an Android tablet with LyricPad and have the words to 280 odd songs on it in multiple different play lists.  I am involved in several projects and have songs that I sing solo with a guitar, songs I sing harmony with another guy, a hard rock band and a classic rock band.  Too many songs and styles to remember them all so I just use the tablet.  If I need the lyrics, they are there.  If I don't then I can just ignore them.  Being a Samsung I had to make my own tablet bracket as they are not that easily available.

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This is what I do to remember my own songs, I simply record the song with me singing, and then sing it over and over again; you can use any original CD too. I'm also using music notation sheet a lot, it helps me remembering lyrics too. But I think sing a song over and over again would help, same with Don.

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Repetition works really well and a lot of songs that I've sung say 10 years ago are fairly easily recalled, with maybe minor quabbles over things like 'did or could.'

 

If I'm trying to learn something quickly, it's really helpful to push the learning aspect from the very start of learning the song though. One thing I'd do is take a single glance over say a whole song. Speak/sing rhythmically, softly, not thinking about the singing. See what sticks when thinking of the song as a 'whole picture.'.

 

Then go verse by verse, take a single glance at a verse, look away, see what stuck with verse, using the same technique. If the next verse fails, rinse repeat.

 

I also find it is helpful to 'speed' from the top, familiar areas to the problematic areas. Like don't sing them but simply mouth them as fast as you can in your mind (almost rapping), leading up to a point where the song 'disappears' from memory and then focus heavily on the disappearing point. This technique can help with retaining an 'order' of the sections.

 

So by combining those 3 (single glance and fail, verse by verse fail, then speeding from top down to find failure points) it can be pretty cool. I also think time helps. I remember songs a lot better that I sing more than one day, as it transitions from short term memory to longer term memory. You can 'sing in your head' even waiting at a doctor's office, or whatever, which will help make that transition through the repetition of a completed song. 

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Hi James, what I do is this:

 

I pick a notebook, a pen, and a player with the song.

 

Then I play back the song, and I write down the whole lyrics myself. If I miss a part, I go back.

 

Once I wrote it down completely, I play it once more, and sing/mumble along with my own lyrics.

 

After that, I flip the page on the notebook, and I start to write down the song from memory. If I reach a spot where my memory fails, I go back to the previous step (listen to the whole thing while mumbling), and then I go ahead. Until I can write the whole thing from memory.

 

After I get through this stage, I flip the page again, start tapping my feet and kind sing it to an imaginary beat/rhythm (its best if you can recall details of the song), while writing it down all over again. If I encounter difficulties/insecure spots, I go back to the previous stage. Its important that you do it in a fluid manner, if you have to think or slow down, go back to the previous stage.

 

 

 

I understand it may look like overkill... But thats exactly the point. Takes some time, but for the guys like m,e who have difficulty memorizing songs, it works great. The crucial step is the "tap feet, dance, sing along to the music in your mind".

 

Let me know if it works :)

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Wow Felipe, that's fascinating and unique. I can see how singing the imaginary words might help, as a melody itself will help solifidy some memory.

 

I think I've also experimented with the writing technique, but with typing as I'm far too lazy to a ctually find paper and write on it if a computer is nearby. Saves a few trees that way too.

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I would relate the words of David Lee Roth the first time he was to re-join Van Halen but really, from any time in his music career, including his actual reunion with VH. When getting back together with VH, the first thing he needed and asked for was a set list for the tour. Even if it was a song that he wrote himself ("Ice Cream Man") several decades ago, he needs to rehearse it now, depending on how the band is playing it, now. For example, Wolfgang Van Halen is playing the bass, now. Pretty much VH is a family band, father, son, uncle, and the brightly feathered peacock from Indiana.

 

On your site for your band, James, I saw the list of songs the band covers. I would probably only worry about those. I assume it's a list agreed upon because it is within the playing skills and repertoire of the other guys. So, your not trying to cover the entire ASCAP catalog, just some of the songs from it.

 

I don't have a set way to memorize. Sometimes, I just recite the lyrics like a story I might tell a child at bedtime. Other times, before I know all the words, I la-la through it to find the melody line and where it is going to sit in my voice.

 

Some guys use a teleprompter on their own songs! Ozzy Osbourne does. Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden was criticizing that and Sharon took off after Bruce and that is why they don't get a long any more. Others' method of "cheating" is to paste up lyrics behind the speaker cabs. Or on the drum riser, where they keep their water bottles. When they are getting a drink of water from the bottle with the Black Jack label, they are reading the next set of lyrics.

 

For a recording session, who cares, you will have a music stand or a phone or ipad clip in front of you, problem solved.

 

What I do is make my own cheat sheet or alter one that I get. General chord progression, number of repeats for intro. Chords over words in the lyric where the chord changes.

 

Chord pattern and repeats for Chorus.

 

And even if it is a case where I am recording the guitar first and then will sing over it on another track, I still keep the cheat sheet to follow the chord count so that I have my cues as to where I should come in.

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Good post... I hope I don't sound too salesy, but I have used this software before and it is extremely cool and helpful... 

 

Click HERE >>>

 

For writing new, original lyrics... bit database of rhymes, thesaurus, figure of speech, famous quotes, etc... that you can pull from to keep a lyric moving forward and sounding cool. 

 

The John Brim media is cool... very raw.

 

 

 

 Even if it was a song that he wrote himself ("Ice Cream Man") several decades ago, he needs to rehearse it now, depending on how the band is playing it, now. 

 

Yes, for sure! Although it might be the warm up... not sure it would be "Running With The Devil".... this song is kick butt. 

 

 

James your getting good advise here!

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Felipe's method sounds great! I will have to try that sometime.

 

I do know that just the act of writing the words down helps to lock them in. I remember someone years ago telling me that writing them out once with your dominant hand and THEN writing them with your non-dominant hand really helps cross the brain hemispheres, and I've found that it does wonders for me! Not sure if it would work as well for everyone as it does for me, but it's definitely worth trying.

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    I visualise the song. "Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane" I see the airplane and Daniel entering it greeting the stewardess. I "SEE" the red tail lights......

"American Pie"......I visualise the Chevy at the Levy.......On this one the story gives clues to what is coming next.

    There is a natural progression to most songs. A beginning, A middle and and End.   Lyrics usually follow that kind of pattern. Something has happened, something is happening, something will happen, Or you will get  progressive results of what has happened. Songs are stories set to music.

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That's a good video there ronws.  The video I posted is the guy who actually wrote the song (it wasn't Roth). Of course opinions vary, but I always thought the original was the better version.  Dave's was fantastic but in my opinion no longer truly blues. And I have had this conversation (debate, lol) with him personally. He disagrees but then again, "Dave is never wrong."  wink.   But I do find it a shame that the song is always attributed to Dave and the actual writer is just lost in the sauce. Rarely even a footnote.  

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That's a good video there ronws.  The video I posted is the guy who actually wrote the song (it wasn't Roth). Of course opinions vary, but I always thought the original was the better version.  Dave's was fantastic but in my opinion no longer truly blues. And I have had this conversation (debate, lol) with him personally. He disagrees but then again, "Dave is never wrong."  wink.   But I do find it a shame that the song is always attributed to Dave and the actual writer is just lost in the sauce. Rarely even a footnote.  

So, you've actually talked with David Lee Roth? I mean, I concede, I did not know this was originally written by someone else and I had only known the VH version for the longest time.

 

So, what was his physical disability and when did he start overcome it? (Most people do not know he was disabled at one time.)

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 I did not know this was originally written by someone else and I had only known the VH version for the longest time.

 

 

 Well, in my original post I linked a wikipedia link (maybe you missed it) about John Brim and the song. 

 

As for Dave and disabilities, those may be things .that people pick up through todays "googlemania" world of knowledge. These days everyone knows everything about everybody, even things they shouldn't. I only know Dave through passing conversations at chance meetings and mutual events in our business. We talk music and nothing else. 

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For me it's repetition of all of these things: actively listening to the original, singing with instrumental with lyrics until they feel already memorized, and then finally singing with instrumental without lyrics to find common mess-ups and taking mental note of them.

And it's important to leave space in between the repetitions, grinding on one song on repeat will do nothing, you'll forget it as fast as you learned it. At the bare minimum, dedicate multiple songs for a practice session and rotate them in a playlist. And do the same thing the next day so you can revisit them after the memorization benefits of sleep and see where that leaves you at.

And for songs that repeat back to the same musical section a lot but with new lyrics, really mentally checking in throughout the song of where I am in the form instead of just flowing along. Currently this is what I am worst at so I just really focus hard mentally on it for now, it's been the last thing to fall into place, I haven't found any tricks for it yet.

Those are my main methods, quite basic.

Some accessory ways:
Taking extra time to learn and imitate the exact melody and stylings of the original version will tend to also aid my lyric memorization as a byproduct.

Quickly handwriting the whole set of lyrics also helps but in a more subconscious way, I haven't been aware of the effect but it hasn't failed me either.

I also sometimes do what I think KillerKu mentioned? Trying to mouth the lyrics as fast as you can no stopping to think, taking note of any common blank points and taking extra care to memorize those. There are some shortcomings to this approach but it does help.

In summary:
SING IT A LOT as the more you do it the better you'll sing it anyways. For me personally I allow myself to read lyrics as long as I feel comfortable, as I believe it will eventually become muscle memory memorizing most of it and if you can remember it while singing the song that's what counts, you don't have to separate it from the singing. I actually have more trouble remembering some of my original lyrics if I am not physically singing or saying them - that is the effect I mean. Knowing them on paper is not as important as having them on the tongue.

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Another trick I use is to cut a CD with the tracks I am trying to learn and then play it in the car while I am driving and sing along.  More repetition! I also have my set lists as playlists on my iPod, my computer and my phone so can play them in any situation I find myself in with a bit of idle time.

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 Well, in my original post I linked a wikipedia link (maybe you missed it) about John Brim and the song. 

 

As for Dave and disabilities, those may be things .that people pick up through todays "googlemania" world of knowledge. These days everyone knows everything about everybody, even things they shouldn't. I only know Dave through passing conversations at chance meetings and mutual events in our business. We talk music and nothing else. 

 

Yeah, I learned about it from reading his memoirs, "Crazy from the Heat." So, probably I know more about him without having met him in passing than you do, Steve Perry. Now, that is some irony,

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 Well, in my original post I linked a wikipedia link (maybe you missed it) about John Brim and the song. 

 

As for Dave and disabilities, those may be things .that people pick up through todays "googlemania" world of knowledge. These days everyone knows everything about everybody, even things they shouldn't. I only know Dave through passing conversations at chance meetings and mutual events in our business. We talk music and nothing else. 

 

You really do sound like the guy I'd seen in a Behind the Music ish special back in the day. Why would a rock star know of or more importantly be interested in discussing another rock star's private life after being hounded in their own? Most imitators would google the answer. Most aren't geniuses.   

 

Thanks for showing us the original tune. I may not have not had the chance if you didn't. If you're a genius impersonator, I hope the real Steve would be proud of your appreciation of music history. If you don't already have one, you can create an alternate anonymous account and keep making comments like that if you'd like. I'll read them and listen to the songs. :)

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Well, Killer, Steve Perry was saying that he had conversations with David Lee Roth about the song "Ice Cream Man" but, as we learn now, only in passing, and not as part of a talking between friends. Yet the nature of discussion first described seemed more than in passing. 

 

No doubt, I have been schooled in that "Ice Cream Man" was not originally written by DLR, though I had previously thought it was. He certainly sings like he wrote it. And he never talked about knowing or discussing with Steve Perry, in public or otherwise, the authorship of songs that he performs, though that information may not have survived a final edit of "Crazy from the Heat." Or any episode of the David Lee Roth show, even the one that deals with this song.

 

But I am always collecting odd bits of trivia.

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    I visualise the song. "Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane" I see the airplane and Daniel entering it greeting the stewardess. I "SEE" the red tail lights......

"American Pie"......I visualise the Chevy at the Levy.......On this one the story gives clues to what is coming next.

    There is a natural progression to most songs. A beginning, A middle and and End.   Lyrics usually follow that kind of pattern. Something has happened, something is happening, something will happen, Or you will get  progressive results of what has happened. Songs are stories set to music.

 

Associations and mental "anchors" such as visualizations and the context of form are all very helpful for memorization, for sure.

 

@Cantando

 

Not to get off track here, but I LOVE your profile animation... is that a Gif?  Very cool, especially since I'm big on Cosmology.

 

Thanks! It's just a random gif I found. I'm into cosmology too!  :)

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