If like me you run a choir where you teach by ear using lyric sheets which are discarded for performance, you’ve probably come accross those groans and grumbles in rehearsal when you ask people to put the sheets aside. The lyric sheet almost becomes a comfort blanket of sorts and singers often seem to be convinced that they cannot possibly sing without them. Of course the sooner your singers can discard their lyrics the better as they are more likely to look at you the conductor and also start thinking about adding the performance element to the song. I always like to remind members as performance dates start creeping up to think about lyric learning and in the run up rehearsals we start to put them down completely (although there are always still one or two people who can’t let go and fold them into tiny squares thinking I won’t notice)!
Here are five tips for you to relay to your singers on lyric-learning:
1. Have a sing through your pieces without the words, you’ll probably be suprised how much you actually already know which will give you more confidence and also a good starting point on what learning is still to be done.
2. Find some solitude away from distractions so you can completely focus on the music- perhaps send everyone out at home or go for a walk. Take one of your song sheets and start to memorise the lyrics.
3. When learning a song build it up in order. Learn the first few lines and repeat until you have memorised them. Then add on the next bit but keep returning and singing from the top so that you are building the lyrics up in order. You will soon be word perfect.
4. Make lyric learning fun and social – get together with some friends from choir and work on the songs together, this will help you to focus on the songs, build confidence and team spirit.
5. Don’t be scared to put your lyric sheet down in rehearsals. This is a great time to memorise the songs and in a rehearsal setting it really doesn’t matter if you get things wrong and it’s a great way for you to gauge what work still needs to be done. Plus once you can put your sheet down you can really start adding the performance element in and enjoying the sounds around you rather than focusing in on the words.
If you run a similar type of choir we’d love to hear any further advice you might have on this subject.