How to learn a song without using repetition?

There are so many memory tips and tricks out there used to help people remember the words for a song and they almost all forget what I think is the most important ingredient.

That is your best method at the moment?

In this video I lay out my strategy for learning a song designed to help you learn without endless repetition, and to enable you to learn the song in a way that helps you really connect with the audience and deliver it in a captivating way.

When you manage to have a song really in your soul, you sing it in a completely different way, and what the audience hears is something on a different level.

Watch the video to find out more…..

Blog Transcript

Today I want to talk to you about how to learn a song without using repetition.

Now what’s the reason I want to talk to you about this?

Well the main reason is that it’s one of the issues that hits so many of my clients and I’ve talked about it before,

but as we get older, as I know all too well, it’s harder to learn songs in the way we did as kids, which was just orally or by rote – we just used to take them in by osmosis somehow. But the older we get the harder that becomes, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing! Because many of you out there will have heard and been told ‘start with the words’ and that’s really good advice but often we don’t really have a true motivation to start with the words so we sit down and we just start playing and we just start learning. We just go at it.

There are all sorts of tips and tricks to help you do that and I’ve seen people lay pages out or words on different chairs to get different memories of where those words are, visualisations, and all sorts of

different techniques.

But for me, the real key is connecting with the song. Connecting with it like it’s another

living being. 

Number One:  Understanding what the song is saying.

Now, if it’s in a foreign language that means start with a really good translation. If it’s a language you know but it’s not your mother tongue, really get into different meanings of the words and play around with it and dig into the meaning.

If it’s in your own language it’s almost harder to do this but it’s even more important to do this in some ways because when it’s a foreign language it’s often a natural thing to do to to try and understand what they’re saying but we assume we know what they’re saying when it’s in our own language.

So perhaps read it as a poem. Don’t think about the rhythm of the music just yet but read it as a poem to understand its meaning. If it’s an aria, where does it fit within the opera? If it’s music theatre, where does it fit within the story of the of the musical theatre piece/musical?  If it’s a standalone pop song what’s the message, what’s the feeling, what’s the the writer trying to convey? And what’s the person trying to convey? f it’s a leader, an art song what’s the story?

What is being transmitted from singer to audience from composer through singer to audience? Who is saying what to whom and why? And what different interpretation can you have?

I was doing a workshop this weekend and we were looking at

how if you put the stress on a different word in the sentence… We were using the poem ‘Sure on This

Shining Night’

Sure on this shining night, Sure ON this shining night, Sure on THIS shining night, Sure on this SHINING night, Sure on the shining NIGHT. How the different emphases can give different meaning to that sentence. 

So where is the peak of that sentence as you read it as a poem and what different meanings and emotions are behind that? So really dig in to the meaning and the message within that song.

Number Two: How do you feel about the song? 

This is something that I rarely see people do, or hear people being told to do and told to think about and that is how

do YOU feel about the song? how do YOU feel about the words? What does it trigger in you what emotions does it

trigger in you and do you understand why it triggers those emotions? 

For example, does it remind you of anything? Does it remind you of a situation you’ve experienced? 

I was talking about song this weekend and there was a song about…well  it was actually the poem ‘Sure on The

Shining Night’ and the phrase about high summer. (It’s a poem but it’s also a song because as so often, poetry is set to music).   The phrase about ‘high summer’  triggered different emotions because I suffer terribly in the heat so high summer holds different meanings for the people who love the heat. 

High summer was bringing out this wonderful feeling in one of the singers, and in me I was like…

hot! so our emotional reaction to the song can be really interesting. 

So if you can look to the reason why it might be triggering those emotions it may be it harks back to, as I say, an

experience you’ve had and recognising this can help us process things and it’s amazing how songs can help us process

stuff. They’re so powerful for using them to express our emotions when sometimes we might feel inhibited to express those emotions ourselves.

And if you struggle with the song you can ask yourself, Is it your emotional reaction to the song? A knee-jerk reaction perhaps, that is making it hard for you to sing this song freely, or to get the words in your head?

Maybe there’s some resistance in you because of what it’s triggering inside you. So number two is really understand your emotional relationship to this song to try and get to a stage where you can connect with it. The things that have got in your way, you can let go of or you at least understand.

Love it for all its good parts and it’s bad parts! A bit like we love a partner or a child! You know, we love them because of their idiosyncrasies sometimes, not even despite (ok, sometimes despite) but you know, we can love them for their quirks that other people find hugely annoying and can you love this piece for all the twists and turns it has and how it makes you feel?

Number three: Turn to the music, and listen to the music. 

I would suggest listen to it on its own, listen to the accompaniment, listen to what is going on, and and think about how it

makes you feel. You know the warmth, the dynamic the tempo. Or is it cold and startling, or is it sparkly or is it joyous? What is going on in the music?

And then put the words against the music and think about how they relate to each other. What is the music communicating? And then when it when you put it together with the words, what are the words and the music communicating? 

In number one you were looking deeply at what he piece was communicating, now what’s the music communicating and how with their combined voices do they communicate more? Can you dig under what the composer, and sometimes

the composer and lyricist are different – the words and the and the music come from two different sources.  So what’s the composer interpreting and do you like their interpretation?

Does some of it jar? And if it jars can you find a different interpretation that really makes sense? How does it relate to the words? You look at the dynamics, and look at the tempo, what are they expressing? 

Sometimes they mirror the words and sometimes they jar with the words and what’s the reason

they do that? What are they expressing and do you like what they’re doing?

If not, why not and if so, why? What is it do you like, what is it you dislike? And if you dislike it, what’s the reason you dislike it? And really dig into it.

When you’ve gone through all of this you’ll have a really good understanding of the piece. What it’s expressing, how it makes you feel, what the music is expressing on a much deeper level which means things like repetitions will make sense, because you won’t say I love you twice for the same reasons when you really

understand the meaning of it.

You know what’s the what’s the reason it’s being said three times, twice, four times? What’s going on that they feel the need to say it more times, what’s going on in the music that makes that second, third fourth, fifth time different? How do they relate maybe the the second and third time are more similar than the fourth time or maybe they’re all completely different.

Maybe they’re very similar but then you look for the subtleties of differences. Differences in

a dynamic. So to really understand what is being said by both words and music and the emotion behind them. And now, when you’ve done all of that think how you feel about the piece now.

Do you feel the same way you did at the beginning?

Has it changed? And if it’s changed what’s changed?

And if it hasn’t changed have there been subtleties that have changed? Has your physical reaction to the song changed?

And finally, Step Four: Let go!

This could be the hardest step of all

Let go! Because now you really understand the words the music the meaning and how they relate, you can sing. And those things won’t get in the way of what you’re doing. 

So I hope that gives you a different insight into learning songs, and perhaps a piece you might be working on or want to be working on next. 

So take a look and and dig a bit deeper.

If you’ve liked what i’ve talked about today and like my way of looking at music and and performing, then there is a free training you can sign up for here.  

Thank you so much for listening