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OT - Remembering lyrics #3000409 07/26/19 03:55 PM
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Stokely Offline OP
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Hey there,

Just curious if anyone has any techniques/tips for remembering lyrics. I've been working hard on my vocal technique for the last few years, and have been building up some tunes on which I sing lead.

The problem is that I completely blank out on lyrics, and quite often.

I almost never do this with music, I have never needed a cheat sheet for keys, chords etc. My hands just seem to know what to play even if my brain doesn't quite recall a chord. Obviously different parts of the brain!

Our lead singer (who loves taking breaks to have the rest of us take a turn) knows all this and is ready to start singing harmonies to clue me in (even when there are none!) She watches me out of the corner of her eye smile

I'm trying not to use reminders/props...I have found that if I need to refer to something, I end up relying completely on it. That said, this is an option, just put everything on my ipad and rely on it 100%. I don't like this because 1) I need to have my ipad there, just another thing to mess with and 2) my eyes will be on that and it makes it harder to perform

The other thing I've noticed is that the harder I try to drill it into my memory before a song, the more I'm likely to forget it....when I can "let it flow" like the Force in Star Wars it is a beautiful thing.

Just curious if this is an issue with anyone else. It's actually held me back because the band isn't willing to add too many vocal tunes for me when it's such a consistent problem. My fallback is the ipad reading lyrics so it's not the end of the world!

KC Island
Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3000417 07/26/19 04:24 PM
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I'm the same way - if I have trouble remembering a lyric, that chord progression in the bridge, a melody line, etc. - it goes into my iPad/SetListMaker. The more I read it, the more I HAVE to read it.
When it came to lyrics, I started out putting every word in there - not good for performing, as you said. Then I cut it down to the first few words of each line. Then maybe the first word only. Eventually I would only have to occasionally look at iPad to jog my memory.
As far as actual memorization, I wish I knew a process or a shortcut. I practice it by myself / sing it to myself when I'm not at the keys / make sure we hit it at rehearsals / make sure we perform it every gig.
I sing very little in the bands I'm in, so not a big problem. However, I'd be interested in seeing the replies you get.


"Don't get drunk on the job, and don't play cards afterwards." - Walter Goerg
Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3000431 07/26/19 05:42 PM
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Stokely Offline OP
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What was kind of funny (looking back) is that the singer came up before one show saying "I think you mixed up some lyrics on one song, can you review those?" She sings harmonies on it so yeah it's kind of important that we are singing the same thing smile I had gotten to where I felt that song was going well, I wasn't thinking about the lyrics yet they were coming to me nicely (or so I'd thought).

Talk about the kiss of death...now I'm reading lyrics and trying to recall what I might have messed up 10 minutes before set 1, when I was to sing the song. Needless to say when I tried to sing it that night I totally blanked on it, due to thinking about it so hard and making it a big deal grin

I told her afterward it was her fault hehe...

Sadly it happens to me on songs I've sung for 30+ years too....Don't You Forget About Me being a prime example. I used to sing that in 1987, and still mess up the verses just like I did then. Not like there are a million lines in that song or something. The singer in my 80s "frat band" used to screw up The End of the World as We know it by REM, which was bad because the entire party would be singing along....but at least that is understandable, there are a billion words in that song!!!

Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3000433 07/26/19 05:56 PM
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I've always had this problem and sad to say, I've never found a solution except for the written word which, as you say, becomes a crutch.


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Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3000446 07/26/19 07:20 PM
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I'm pathetic when it comes to lyrics -- I think Lucky Man and Take it Easy are the only songs I know from start to finish.

A Manhasset Music Stand -- and due to presbyopia, 24pt fonts -- are as much a part of my equipment as the extension cords and 20" fan. I expect to go to a (fairly large) digital display once I can figure out an affordable way to do it with a pedal for page turning.


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Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3000461 07/26/19 08:52 PM
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I have the same problem... but when the song doesn't have much lyrics, I excel. Songs like "Tequila"!


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Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3000467 07/26/19 09:22 PM
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David Loving Offline
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Why not just learn the song?


"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."
Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3000475 07/26/19 09:38 PM
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In the 50's and 60's show band I play in we have one of the 4 front guys who is pathologically incapable of singing a song and getting the lyrics right. In fact, it's so pervasive that on the rare occasion he DOES get it right it involves high 5's and "attaboys". The only time it's an issue is when he leads the band astray, ie, going to a chorus when we're expecting a bridge, stuff like that.....

Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: David Loving] #3000485 07/26/19 10:27 PM
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Stokely Offline OP
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Originally Posted by David Loving
Why not just learn the song?


Learning isn't the problem, I do...it's remembering it in the "heat of battle" that's the problem! smile

Take a simple song like 867-5309/Jenny Jenny....I've read those lyrics many times, played the song a zillion times in many bands...yet when I go to sing there's every chance the dang line is nowhere to be found!

Oddly, certain songs I'm good with. I sing "Some Kind of Wonderful" and no longer have any issue with remembering the lyrics....

Just a mental thing. I'm singing 3 new songs for the next practice, I'll endeavor to be mentally tough moving forward! (or else it gets the ipad again....)

Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3000486 07/26/19 10:31 PM
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This is an area where electronic gizmos fall short.
Ditch the iPad for a moment, and write the lyrics by hand on a piece of paper (I mean, using a pen or pencil).
This will imprint the words in your brain better than any typing on your keyboard, or copying from a web page into an electronic document.

Like many here, I am not usually the lead vocalist, so for those 3-4 songs during a gig where I do sing lead, I find this helps.

Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3000487 07/26/19 10:31 PM
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Ed A. Offline
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Even John Lennon forgot the lyrics occasionally:

Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3000488 07/26/19 10:42 PM
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If you can't sing it in a performance, you have not learned the song. Consider that you do not know how to learn the song. Just stick with the iPad. Nothing wrong with that.

Last edited by David Loving; 07/26/19 10:43 PM.

"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."
Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3000495 07/26/19 11:34 PM
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I've seen this a lot over the decades. Most singers I've worked with suffer occasional blanks, even on songs they've sung every single gig. And of course you can pull up YouTube ad infinitum showing the big names occasionally slipping up.

Part of it is common pressure and stress. The more pressure you put on yourself, the more the blank slate can rear its ugly head.

Five possible remedies I've heard from signers:

No music: Speak the lyrics out (or mouth them) without the music. Start with short phrases, go to full verses, then work up to the entire song. Get to where you can recite the entire song without music from memory.

Write out the entire lyric, manually (no typing) onto paper from memory.

Perfect repetition - AKA putting the time in - singing it 5 (10?) times letter perfect, back to back with no props in rehearsal - not just reviewing it, actually singing it out full voice unless you need to save your voice.

Another is owning the lyric - digging your focus into the song to the point you emotionally own the lyric (well, as much as is possible depending on the song). Memorizing words is one thing, selling the emotion is another.

The last is learning it to the point you can sing it perfectly in rehearsal while doing something else unrelated, like dancing or bouncing a ball.


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Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3000531 07/27/19 01:47 PM
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Stokely Offline OP
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Good points all! Misery loves company so glad to know it's not just me smile

Tim's last two points there really strike me as especially important. When I sing the song I mentioned above (some kind of wonderful) it's one I get into more emotionally. I reckon that makes a big difference. I'll try to apply this idea more to every song, which I should be doing anyway smile

Being able to know the lyrics well enough to do something else is an interesting flip on my norm, which is trying to get the playing down to where it's a no-brainer so that I can sing and play! Obviously both being no-brainers is the ideal goal.

I have certainly noticed that at gigs where something is "off"--say, PA problems, or I've been sick or feeling really tired etc etc, those are the ones where I forget lyrics the most. So definitely state of mind has a say in this. Just weird that no matter what I can always remember my playing parts, the lyrics are a more tenuous thing! I have always had problems remembering lines/speeches as well, might be the same part of the brain.

Last edited by Stokely; 07/27/19 01:50 PM.
Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3000551 07/27/19 04:07 PM
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New member here! (long time lurker)

They say (whoever "they" are) that writing things down is the best way to remember something. That said, writing down lyrics to a boatload of songs is no small task, but if there's a problem song or two, or even a particular portion of a song that is a reoccurring problem then it may help. Get's harder as we age, that's for sure.

Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3000588 07/27/19 08:35 PM
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I found it helped for some lyrics to write a sort of prompt sheet -- not the whole lyric, which becomes a crutch, but just the first phrase of each verse. This only works, of course, for songs where I did actually learn the lyric at some point, and only need a prompt as to which verse is next.

FWIW -- listening to many live Grateful Dead shows reveals that Jerry Garcia occasionally forgot lyrics, well before his final years. There one from the early 80s where the soundboard recording clearly has Jerry singing something like "a dub-a dub-a dub-a de-dee" for a couple lines in "Alabama Getaway" (at a time when they performed that song almost every show).

Also FWIW, there was a story from when the Dead and Dylan were rehearsing together, and Dylan proposed one of those long songs of his that had a dozen verses. Bob Weir of the Dead -- no stranger to blowing lyrics onstage -- gently asked Dylan if he could truly remember all those words in the live-on-stage moment. Dylan's answer was something like "oh yeah .... the important ones, at least"



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Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3000591 07/27/19 09:16 PM
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In the same way that I tend to learn music by ear, I tend to learn lyrics the same way.....by how it sounds. Even songs I don't know the real lyrics to, if I've listened to it enough times and know what it should sound like, I can sing the syllables Phonetically. In fact, if anything, sometimes that can make it harder to learn the real words because it may not exactly fit what my ear hears if people pronounce or accent things in unusual ways. But in any case, I don't think there's any substitute for repetition. At most, sometimes I'll jot down the first word of each verse. Usually that's enough to get me started and then I'm fine. It also keeps me from switching verses or doing a verse twice, which is more likely for me than blanking out.


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Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3000592 07/27/19 09:58 PM
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There's no shame in forgetting lyrics or chords on occasion, we are not perfect. I'm pretty sure my solo act is/was different than most of the people here. For decades I did a solo act and I sang lead on every song, obviously. I remembered most of the lyrics, but occasionally would lose a line. As the number of songs I had sequenced and learned started to add up, I had to keep track of all my songs in a large binder, with plastic sheet covers to fit the binder. So, i typed out the lyrics to each song, printed them out, and kept them in alphabetical order. I kept a second binder that had the songs in the order of the set. I kept them on a music stand on the side of my KB when using a 2nd synth or a music stand in front of my ES8 when I didn't. I also have a light above the music stand for dark clubs.

I have used an iPad for work related content, but being as old school as I am, I'll never depend on electronic devices that I need to do a show. Large Binders don't require batteries. I also carried music that I needed for reference for odd requests for standards for songs I didn't play for years like "The anniversary waltz" for say a married couple that came into the place I was playing to celebrate their 50th anniversary and asked for that song.

There's no shame in being organized and trying to be at your best. I remember most of the songs I sing all the time, but I'm not ashamed to say that I'm don't have a photographic memory and have been known to make mistakes. I tried to Post a photo but the file size limit is one MG. My photo was too big.


Cheers!


Mike T.

Last edited by MikeT156; 07/27/19 10:01 PM.

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Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3000680 07/28/19 05:49 PM
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I hear 'ya OP! Sometimes I can't remember lyrics and/or music I've written. Shit just sometimes blanks out. I think some of this stuff is genetic - some folks have photographic memories, can remember every word and every note of every song. Other folks have a hard time remembering what happened yesterday.

Anyone using teleprompters? The folks who are mentioning iPads and other devices, are teleprompters apps available and actually work?


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Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3000736 07/29/19 12:23 AM
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Yeah, there's no shame certainly. I don't mind forgetting a line here and there, except--when it causes me to get completely off track! There are three scenarios I've experienced:

- forget a line, maybe do a "David Lee Roth" and spout some random syllables and the next line is ok

- start singing a line from the wrong verse, which then leads me to the next line in the wrong verse etc...not good...<--- this is the one that happens to me the most

- completely blank out and get so flustered that I can't get anything back, at all....this happened a time or two when I was really tired, or something had put me off my game (problems with my rig, personal issues, what have you). Thankfully if I'm really feeling sick or way too tired we have enough songs and singers that I can just say "cross that out", or our drummer can cover a few of the ones I sing.

Going to work on many of the things discussed in thread.

One thing I noticed I tend to do...we are going to do a new song that I sing, and I was walking around singing it to while I was doing some chores at home. Problem: I was singing it wrong, there were a few lines I didn't have down and I was substituting lines from a part I DID know! I have done this for decades with random songs, but I can see how this is a really bad habit with a song that I intend to sing.

Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: timwat] #3000835 07/29/19 01:52 PM
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Originally Posted by timwat


Another is owning the lyric - digging your focus into the song to the point you emotionally own the lyric (well, as much as is possible depending on the song). Memorizing words is one thing, selling the emotion is another.


That's a very good idea. I have always had a problem with rote memorization and none of the mechanical techniques really work for me. I have always had to find alternative routing in my brain to get things into permanent storage. Making the lyric into a story you can relate to emotionally might be a way to do that. One problem is that I have typically found the lyrics to pop songs to be vapid and superficial, i.e. not really worthy of emotional investment...
Now that I think of it, I did sort of haphazardly use that sort of technique on one tune years ago. I used to sing "Lyin' Eyes" which has something north of a thousand verses. I got to where I could visualize the story line to keep myself on track without mixing and matching the verses. "She gets up and pours herself a strong one..." In my version she was a svelte brunette in a long clingy red dress
wink


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Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3000865 07/29/19 03:37 PM
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For a long time I thought it was bad to have to rely on "Cheat Sheets" to remember lyrics. You should be able to remember the song!

Or so I thought

Recently, I've noticed how many national artists, some of them multiple Grammy winners, Have prompters in front of them to help remember the lyrics. And this on songs they've performed thousands of times.

After seeing this, I decided that it's OK to have something there to help. So, I've taken a barely utilized Android tablet, added SetList Helper, bought a holder that attaches to my mike stand, and now I have the needed crutch, for both chords and lyrics. We play too many outdoor gigs to be able to have written pages on a stand. No matter how securely you place them, then is the potential for them to blow off the stand at the most critical moment.


In face, I've had an issue remembering the last few horn chords at the end of "Does Anybody Know What Time it Is", so I have the sheet music on it (Licensed, paid for copy),

Yes, the majority of the songs I sing I remember the lyrics, but songs like "Feeling Alright", "Doctor My Eyes" (lyrics), and "New York State of Mind" (Chords) are too good of songs to drop due to my inability to memorize them.


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Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3000867 07/29/19 03:46 PM
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I've seen major artists even have banter on the teleprompter. And that's not a criticism. Their ability to make it seem like natural patter is a talent in itself.

In songs with a lot of lyrics over repetitive parts, I try to start each section a little differently in terms of keys. A different inversion for the first chord of the second verse, etc. Then I tie that change to a single syllable. That's usually all it takes for me to jog my brain into spewing out the correct lyric. I don't do any lead singing though, so this may be a bit much to do while not having a pause.

And another vote for writing it by hand over and over. It really helps.


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Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Mr. Nightime] #3000870 07/29/19 03:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Mr. Nightime
Recently, I've noticed how many national artists, some of them multiple Grammy winners, Have prompters in front of them to help remember the lyrics. And this on songs they've performed thousands of times.
I remember a few years ago, a journalist who apparently had nothing better to do wrote an article critiquing Bruce Springsteen for using a teleprompter, as if it somehow made him less "authentic" that he wasn't singing the words from memory.

Nils Lofgren actually wrote a letter to the editor, saying "we have a rep of over 200 songs, we take requests from the audience, and Bruce sometimes will spontaneously call a tune that we haven't played in 30 years -- or have never played at all. Having a reference for lyrics doesn't take away from his performance." He was more polite than I would have been.

I've found that my own lyrics are the hardest to remember -- probably because in addition to the finished lyrics, my brain can call upon every version of them before I hammered them into their final shape. There are some tunes where, no matter how many times I do them, certain spots are always troublesome.


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Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3001032 07/30/19 01:56 PM
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I’ve heard too that even Sinatra used some sort of chest notes. If he did, why can’t i?

I’m not a great singer by any means, and really just sing out of necessity...

I drill and kill sections one at a time. I loop the sections on my iPhone using the Yamaha Chord Tracker app. ( which also allows you to transpose and tempo)

First , I sing along with the original, section by section, just by ear. Listening all the vocal inflections ,breathing and other details.

I’ll alternate singing along with the recording, and then acapela.

Also I will sing along with a drum pattern from the Drum Genius app.

As I sing, to the drum loop, I hear the bass and other instruments in my mind. I love to this when walking. I kinda move and groove and sorta march in time as I’m singing. I must look like a freak but it’s very helpful and great musical and physical exercise!

I just got home from a 45 minute walk morning doing this with the Santana song “ Smooth” and got to tell I feel so good now! Yes, I’ll probably have my iPad on my stand with the lyrics displayed when sing for the first in public tonight, but I don’t think I’ll have to have my eyes glued to the screen.

Another thing, if you mess a lyric, get a verse out of order, just keep the flow going, scat sing the melody if you have ( like someone mentioned Jerry Garcia of the Greatful Dead would do) We are humans, nobody’s perfect, right?

Last edited by montunoman; 07/30/19 02:06 PM.
Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3001036 07/30/19 02:04 PM
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Personally, I don't think it's "bad" to rely on prompts....it's just a hassle. For one thing, my eyesight has become a bit "why can't they print the @#$#! labels bigger"... grin Printed sheets have a habit of falling down and flying away, especially since I have a fan blowing on me. Ipad it would have to be, and I'm not sure where I'd put the thing, especially considering our sometimes-crowded stages. If I get a modx7, it has a big empty space to the right where it could go.

Biggest problem is having my eyes glued to something while I'm trying to put on a show and play.

I'm going to really buckle down and see if I can't spiff up my retention better--at the least, get to where if I forget a line, I can get back on track. Worst case, I go with a prompt, probably something that scrolls on the ipad (I think some apps you can set the speed to match the song from what I have seen). I think a lot of my issues stem from confidence, and thinking that I'm going to screw up (which of course becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy!)

Last edited by Stokely; 07/30/19 02:08 PM.
Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3001040 07/30/19 02:23 PM
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My bass player has an iPad and has a bluetooth foot controller that allows him to scroll even though both hands are in use.

Me, I have my android tablet to my left, on my mike stand. I can easily reach over to scroll when needed


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So God helped him and created woman.

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Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: montunoman] #3001077 07/30/19 05:49 PM
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Originally Posted by montunoman
I’ve heard too that even Sinatra used some sort of chest notes. If he did, why can’t i?


I saw Sinatra at a concert here in my little town, just a few years before he passed. He had a teleprompter scrolling lyrics with the text being large enough that I had no problem reading it from my seat, which was probably 250 feet from the stage......

Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3001079 07/30/19 06:07 PM
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There's no problem using prompters / iPads / big notes. Until it looks like you're just singing karaoke.

Most singers I work with have an iPad these days. But more than a few are more constantly engaged with the tablet than the audience.

Nothing better for an audience than watching someone read out loud all night.


"I'm not just untalented. I'm multi untalented."
Re: OT - Remembering lyrics [Re: Stokely] #3001085 07/30/19 06:57 PM
Joined: May 2005
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T
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Joined: May 2005
Posts: 5,816
Never had a problem learning lyrics. For new songs I might use a cheat sheet but I eventually won't need it.

I sing songs with lots of lyrics like Walk This Way and American Pie. And not ashamed to admit that I have "senior moments" on occasion.

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