How Do Singers Remember Lyrics (2022)

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  • Why are songs easier to memorize?
  • How does music theory affect the memorization of music?
  • Explore the tips and tricks singers use to remember song lyrics.

You have seen professional singers sing through a long list of songs without messing up on stage. They don’t seem to even need any sheet music or notes to keep them on track with each song. Professional singers make remembering lyrics look so easy that it makes you wonder how they actually do it. 

Singers are able to remember the lyrics of numerous songs because of massive repetition and an understanding of how melodies, chords, and lyrics work together.

Of course, singers do learn other methods to help them remember lyrics better. There is a reason songs are easier to memorize and musicians are generally able to grasp them faster. In this article, we’ll be exploring the science between memory and songs and go over a few tips on memorizing lyrics effectively. 

Why Do We Memorize Songs So Easily?

How the Memory Works

To understand how we easily remember songs, we have to take a look at how our memory functions. 

Our memory is our brain’s ability to store information before retrieving it later when it’s needed. The memory works with three stages: encoding, storage, and retrieval. The encoding stage is when your brain processes new memories. After that, they’re stored in your brain until retrieved when you want to remember them. 

But how does our brain know what to forget and what to remember?

The answers lie in short-term and long-term memory. Short-term memory stores information you need to know within the current time, whereas long-term memory translates selected parts from your short-term memory for longer storage. 

Then, there is motor memory, also called procedural memory, which is stored information from doing the same thing over and over, like playing musical instruments or singing. The act of singing along many times makes remembering lyrics very easy that it almost becomes second nature, even if you haven’t done it in a while. 

The Relationship Between Repetition, Rhyme, and Rhythm

Songs usually consist of rhymes and rhythm. When rhyme and rhythm go together, they form simple strings of words that are easier to remember. Repeated exposure to songs increases your chances of remembering the lyrics, especially if it’s your favorite song. 

Memorization and Music Theory

How Does Music Theory Help with Memorization?

Most musicians have some level of understanding of music theory, which helps them to understand the structure of a song. Music is made up of scales, and musicians usually find chords within these scales that sound melodious to the listener when they’re played together. 

As they continuously play and sing a song, they don’t even have to memorize the exact chords the song is made out of since it’s already ingrained into them over time. 

Tips on Memorizing Lyrics 

Repetition Helps the Memory 

This tip is a no-brainer as it’s proven that when you do something many times, you will eventually commit the details of the activity to memory. With music, it’s no different. 

The best way to remember the lyrics of songs is through consistent repetition or rote memorization. Professional singers will always have to go over their songs to be able to get the chords, melodies, rhythm, and lyrics right. When they practice their songs over and over again, it burns into their memory, and they commit fewer mistakes eventually. 

Professional singers usually have a set of songs they have to perform on stage. To remember the lyrics of these songs, they would learn each song, write down the set, and repeatedly practice it. This important step helps the singers to be more prepared and confident in the songs they will sing. 

So if you want to remember the lyrics of a song, make sure to consistently practice memorizing them. This doesn’t mean that you have to cram all that information into your brain as this causes you to forget them easily. 

Practice memorizing the lyrics in spaced intervals. You can practice once per day or once every few days. These practice sessions will basically train your brain to recall those lyrics. 

Learn the Songs by Ear

For those who know how to transcribe music, this trick will surely help you remember the lyrics of a song. Learning a piece of music by ear improves the chances of committing the song to memory. Besides, listening to a song repeatedly and attempting to transcribe it on paper or through an instrument is a great musical exercise. 

Match the Chords to Lyrics or Specific Melody

This tip essentially requires you to match chord changes to a specific lyric or melody in a song. Many songs actually have this particular pattern where chord changes occur at the moment the bridge or chorus is sung. 

Once you understand how chords, melodies, and lyrics relate and change with each other, it’ll be much easier for you to memorize the lyrics of the songs you choose.

Methods for Remembering Lyrics 

Method 1: Writing Lyrics Out

This method can seem like a tedious task, but it really does help in getting the lyrics to stick in your memory. 

It’s way more effective if you write out the lyrics than printing it off from the internet or typing it on your laptop. Writing takes time, and it gives you the chance to fully go through the lyrics and grasp the structure of the song. This method is especially true for singers who are involved in the songwriting process. 

As you write the lyrics out, try speaking or singing each word aloud. This causes you to use more than sense, which forms a stronger memory of what you’ve written. Rewrite the song as many times as needed, and practice singing it while you do. After doing this, you will find that you only need to write the lyrics out once to remember them. 

Method 2: Listening to the Original and Different Versions of the Songs

The more you listen to a song, the more likely it will get stuck in your mind, meaning the lyrics would come easier to you too. The reason you should listen to different versions of the song is to get you immersed in it and prevent you from going bored over listening to the same song on repeat. This method especially helps when you’re trying to memorize a lengthy song or a song with complicated lyrics. Listening to different versions of the same song helps you to remember the lyrics better as you will associate different sounds and singers with the lyrics. 

For this method, you can create a playlist on your phone that has the original and different versions of the song you choose. Make sure to include acoustic versions and covers, regardless of the genre. 

You can also watch music videos of the song if they’re available. Music videos help you to form new narratives and ideas related to the song in your brain. They also provide visual stimulation that you can associate with the song. For music videos, it’s better to watch them without distractions so you can really take it all in. 

Lyric videos are another great way to remember songs. While listening to the song, you can sing along to the lyrics shown in the video. Lyric videos also come with quick prompts which you can memorize to remember the chord or key changes in the song. 

After you’ve listened to the original version and different covers of the song, make a recording of you singing the song. When you sing along with the singer, you don’t really memorize the lyrics. But when you record yourself singing, you are forced to focus and remember the lyrics as you sing the song. 

After you have memorized the lyrics, download the backing track of the song and sing along to it to test your memory. 

Method 3: Memorization Apps

If you want to switch up from writing lyrics out or watching videos to something else, you can try using memorization apps. Memorize By Heart is a memorization app that is easy to use and can be downloaded from Google Playstore. 

All you have to do is paste the lyrics onto the screen and apply one of the features in the app to get you started on memorizing them. Some of them include removing certain letters or words, unscrambling sentences and revealing selection portions of the lyrics you pasted. You can even test yourself by reciting the lyrics by memory and see if you got them right using the speech-to-text feature. 

There’s also an exam feature that will ask you questions related to the lyrics you pasted into it. You can even set the app to send you notifications to remind you to review the lyrics for long-term memorization. 

Memorization apps can help you in memorization since they provide you with different prompts that challenge you to remember in different ways. This can keep you alert as your brain is constantly surprised and tested to recall memories and make connections. 

FAQs

Do Singers Use Teleprompters?

It isn’t uncommon for singers to use teleprompters. It’s just that not all of them do. Famous professional singers like Elton John, Michael Jackson, and Bon Jovi have used them in the past. For some singers, it can be hard to remember the lyrics to so many songs within a short period of time. In some situations, teleprompters are present at arenas so everyone on stage knows what to sing and do next. 

Do Singers Have Good Memory?

Singers generally do have better memory and cognitive abilities compared to non-musicians due to the singing and training they had to do. Most singers don’t just know how to sing, they have also been trained to read music sheets, understand scales, and memorize lyrics. This leads to a higher and more efficient information processing, motor control, and working memory. That’s why they’re able to remember tons of different music and lyrics when they’re performing. 

Do Singers Ever Get Tired of their Own Songs?

Singers do get tired of their own songs, especially if they have performed those songs numerous times. Some singers don’t mind it, however. For most of them, they prefer to perform something new instead of sticking to the same songs over and over again. 

Key Takeaways

Professional singers remember the lyrics to their songs by practicing a set of songs many times until they are confident they won’t screw it up. Singers are also musically trained, which means they understand how the fundamentals of a song go, making it easier for them to memorize lyrics. 

If you want to be able to remember song lyrics, whether for karaoke or for your own music, you can try some of the methods we listed down. We recommend combining the methods instead of sticking to one; it keeps the whole process fun! 

Make sure to take a break while you’re memorizing as it can be really tiring doing the same thing again and again. You’ll definitely get the lyrics to stick in your memory with consistent practice, focus, and commitment. 

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