Reading My Way Around the World

Monday 14 April 2014

Lyrics - understanding and remembering.

Listen to Lover's Eyes

Singing Tips - Understanding the lyrics
Many years ago, I decided to learn At 17, the wonderful Janis Ian song.   I struggled with the chords but ended up doing a passable job of the song.   In those days you had to keep replaying the record to find the words and hoped that you didn't ended up scratching the precious LP.

Many years later I came across my songbook with the lyrics handwritten into it and realised that I had misheard and misunderstood many of the lyrics - wrote down what I understood, as a  very unworldly 17 year old.   They were very funny...

Nowadays it's much simpler to find words on the Internet.   But as I've been teaching young singers I've realised that they don't always understand what they're singing.  And I'm not sure it's such a bad thing.   It means that if you believe today what you are singing, then you can sing the same song throughout your life and it will take on a new meaning as you grow and the song will still be fresh for you - a great example of this is Judy Garland singing over the Rainbow as a beautiful 13 year old in the Wizard of Oz and as a world weary 40 something year old.  Both wonderful, but very different.

Do you have problems learning lyrics? 

This is what works for me - write it down ... long hand.
Play the track and write the beginning of each line ... do this right through to the end without stopping the recording.
Now go back and play it again and fill in another bit of each line - again play the song right through to the end without stopping.
Repeat, until you have all the words.

Now, cover the piece of paper and write it from memory.
Once you've done that go back and check it with the original.
If there are mistakes, correct them, like a primary school teacher, with a different colour pen - stroke out the wrong word and right in the correction.
You may have to repeat this step a couple of times, depending on the length or complexity of the song,

The whole process will take you 20-30 minutes and that will get faster the more you do of it.
I promise you, the words are pretty well fixed in your memory now.


  1. Well I don't sing...but I do learn choreography for aerobics...I too write all the moves down in my own writing style then listen, listen and listen to the music for cues. Good luck with the challenge (

  2. This takes me back to when I was young, trying to learn the lyrics to a song just so I could sing along when I heard it! We'd use tape recorders to record songs we liked on the radio, then use the pause button while playing it back to write each line down. We would have loved a thing like Google, where we could search for the lyrics the second we heard the song! Ironically, now that I have access to lyrics, I never look them up. I just sing the wrong words while driving, thinking, "I really should look these lyrics up!"

    1. Haha Stephanie - I still do the same thing myself - much more fun. In Germany when we first started playing there, people would make up their own stories to the words they didn't get - I thought it was a brilliant idea lol

  3. Not a singer, except abit off key but enjoy live music and glad I found your lovely blog after visiting mine. Visiting from A-Z,

    1. Oh yes visiting from Edmonton Alberta Canada!

    2. Hi Bonnie, Lovely to hear from you. :) Keep on singing!

  4. I don't sing (at least in front of strangers. have no problem in showing off to my immediate family and close friends/co-workers) but it sounds like that little idea of yours would work for people who simply enjoy singing along to the radio/c.d.

    A-Z Challenge at Father Nature's Corner

    1. Oh the opposite G.B. - it's easily the best way of learning lyrics … You don't need to learn anything if you're just singing along.


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