Thursday, December 6, 2007

Vocal Coach’s Corner - Aaargh! I Forgot My Words!

By Roger Beale, courtesy of Christian Musician Magazine

Memorization! Every singer who has ever sung a song has experienced the pain, heartache, mental anguish, abject terror, embarrassment, and depression that memorizing a song can cause. I have personally witnessed a well-known artist sit at the piano to perform a song that had risen to number one on the Christian radio charts. Well guess what! Right in the middle of the song the artist stopped, looked up from the keyboard, and said, “I’m so sorry. I just forgot my own song.? Everyone had a good laugh, the performer made a few comments, and the audience relaxed. But every singer in attendance felt empathy because he or she at one time or another had publicly done the same thing. Another incident happened during a contest some time ago. One of my students had gotten extremely anxious before her adjudication and sang the same words for verse one and verse two. Later, she was able to laugh if off a bit, because the judges never noticed. She lived to sing another day. Some tangible, dependable, and proven techniques to memorize a song do exist, but very few people are aware of them, and those who are don’t use them. Most singers don’t work on memorization, they just hope the song is memorized. To be effective in your memorization skills, you must find a way to develop a total mastery of the words. This is a sensible place to begin the memorization process. Separate the words from the music. Too many times a singer just grabs a piece of music and starts to sing while banging out notes on a keyboard, before he has even listened to or studied the melody. Even worse is the Sunday morning soloist who purchases an accompaniment track on Saturday afternoon, runs to the car, puts the track in the tape deck, and begins singing. This person has waited way too long to work on his song. There will not be enough time to develop a confident understanding of the song for the worship service. We can all be guaranteed an unforgettable performance in that Sunday morning service. Word rhythms. If the song you are learning has been well crafted, the words will be wedded to the melody through the rhythm of the song. To further enhance your memorization, consider speaking the words in the rhythm of the melody. This may seem burdensome or time consuming, but it will help you to understand the words, and it will assist the articulators in developing a proper diction. This must be done to begin the memorization process. Listen. Music is an art of listening. Before you add music to words, listen to the melody by itself. This will help you to feel and recognize the accents of the rhythm. This makes it easier to meld the word rhythms with the rhythm of the melody. It allows you to recognize what words the songwriter intended for the performer to emphasize. Form and structure. Some basic knowledge of the techniques of songwriting are necessary for any performer. You, as the singer, must be able to identify the form and structure of a song. This is a simple process. For example, the song could be in the form of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus; or it could be verse, verse, chorus, chorus, etc. Get around some songwriters or attend a class in songwriting. Ask some questions and learn from some gifted writers. Your knowledge of these techniques will enhance your memorization skills greatly. Stay on task. During your actual performance, keep your mind on what you are doing. Concentrate. Do not let your mind wander. Think of your singing, music, words, and above all, your communication skills. It has been said that the mind can only think of one item at a time. Therefore, think on the positives of performance, not the negatives. Eliminate thoughts regarding fear, forgetting your words, or what your audience thinks of you. Stay focused on communicating the gospel effectively.
Practice. It is amazing what practice and rehearsal can do to enhance a performance. Perhaps the simplest thing to help you with your memorization of a song is repetition. Sing the song over and over, almost to the point that you can’t stand it anymore. By that time you will have become completely familiar with the song and can express that song with complete understanding and emotion. The singer that achieves this leaves nothing behind. The song will be absolutely and completely sung. Let me suggest that you apply these techniques as your memorize your song. Let me also encourage you to allow these techniques to eliminate your fears and self-doubts. It says in the scriptures that love will cast out all fear. Cast out the fear and go love your audience. If you have your songs confidently memorized, they’ll love you too.

Vocal Health Tip

For those singers with allergy problems, consider using nettle. This herb can be purchased at the health food store and is effective in helping the body deal with allergies. I have several students who use this product and are claiming good results. A recent study of allergy sufferers found that more that half of them could reduce their discomfort with nettle supplements.

\Roger Beale is one of Atlanta’s foremost vocal coaches. He presently works with professional singers in all areas of musical performance. His teaching and coaching facility, The Voice House, is involved in the management and care of the professional voice. Many of his students have won vocal competitions, scholarships, and are well known artists in the Christian music industry. Roger can be contacted at: The Voice House, 1675 Virginia Ave., Suite 103, College Park, GA 30337, (404) 766-0526, email:, website: .

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