Monday, April 25, 2011

Learning a Song During Crunch Time

Happy Thursday to everyone! Hope you all enjoyed a great Easter! I had the opportunity to be a part of my church's Easter program this past weekend and sing a solo during the production. It was a great honor and I ended up having a blast! But I will admit to you a serious weakness of mine- I am a procrastinator. I knew the name of the song I would be singing about a month ago, but I chose to start learning it this past Wednesday!

I know, I know, I shouldn't be admitting this, but I think it proves an important point. Many singers tell me that they can't perform a song if they have short notice to learn it. We all have a fear of getting on stage and opening our mouth to sing but forgetting the first line. I can definitely say that fear has been a reality for me a time or two and it's not fun! Forgetting words when I'm performing makes me want to crawl in the drum cage until the song is over and no one is staring at me dumbfounded anymore.

But if you're a singer who thinks you can't learn a song and perform it satisfactorily in short period of time, I want to encourage you that I believe it is possible. I'm going to give you some tips straight from my education classes. The fact of the matter is, if you are a working singer or musician, you may not always have the luxury of getting your music a month in advance. If you're a studio singer, oftentimes you'll be expected to arrive at the studio in time to learn your music on the spot before you record it! That's reality for a musician and you have to be able to adapt quickly in order to earn that paycheck.

Here are my tips for learning music quickly:

1. There are three broad categories of learners: visual, auditory, and kinestetic. Figure out which one you are and learn your music accordingly.

Here's a brief overview of learning styles, although they are pretty self-explanatory:
-Visual: you learn best by seeing. For instance, having a copy of the lyrics or music of a song would aid you best; you may have a photogenic memory
-Auditory: you learn best by hearing. If you can listen to a song or passage over and over again, you will learn it easiest this way.

-Kinestetic: you learn best by acting it out. If a song, poem, or passage has actions, you can easily memorize it by acting out the words and memorize the emotions.

In my case, I learn optimally with both visual and auditory cues. So, for my Easter solo, I set the song to repeat on my iTunes and typed out the lyrics (for some reason, the act of actually writing out the lyrics instead of just finding them online helps me too) and sang along, over and over again.

2. Practice, practice, practice. I am a true believer that practice does make perfect, but it does require some work. It's important to take as much time as you have before the performance and maximize it with practice. Try to view the lyric sheet in your head and picture the words or pretend the music to the song is playing nearby. You don't need to be singing out loud to get in good practice! The day before Easter, we had a dress rehearsal for the production and during the hours of down time when the choir wasn't singing, I was drilling myself on the words and melody of my song.

3. Reduce anxiety during the performance. Anticipate any possible issues that you might have before the performance so you're not caught off guard if they happen while you're singing. For instance, in rehearsal, the track I was performing with kept coming in a measure early, but I made note of that and wasn't surprised when it happened during my actual performance. Try to relax before you're about to sing and make sure you have that first line in your head ready to sing. Enjoy the experience! That's what singing is all about.

I hope this helps you the next time you have to memorize a song, poem, or passage on short notice. You can do it! Maximize the time that you do have with careful practice that caters to your learning style and get ready to nail that song!

By the way, I didn't miss a word when I sang my solo on Easter!


  1. I don't know if you remember from school or not, but I'm no singer... must be why I got the part of the Worm ;-) But these seem like great tips, and could also be applied elsewhere... speeches, etc. Kudos, Kristin!

  2. Bird, (or Brittany!)

    Sorry I'm just now replying to this. I've been sick all weekend. For the record, I think you made a fabulous worm! That brings back great memories, huh? Yes, I do think these tips can work in all kinds of situations, whether it be learning a song or learning lines for a play or speech. Thanks for reading!