It’s almost 2012. It’s time to get those goals and resolutions set. Most of mine I give up for Lent (if I haven’t forgotten before then). One of my goals this next year as a worship pastor/musician is to memorize a majority of the songs each Sunday. This Christmas season really shed light on how poorly I connect with the worshipers at my church when I’m reading the chords/words. Sure, Christmas music is both lyrically and musically more involved that most of the other songs we do. But I was practically spooning my music stand these past few weeks.
So to keep that awkward analogy from happening again, I thought I’d write myself a “how to” article. You’re welcome to read over my shoulder. As a worship leader and instrumentalist, some of these techniques will be geared towards learning lyrics, others toward instrumentalists. Ignore or adapt what doesn’t fit you.
1. Listen passively.
Over and over. In the car, at the office, while you’re trying not to fall off the elliptical machine. It’s amazing what our brains can soak up.
2. Listen actively.
Follow the lyrics or chart as you listen. This is especially important for visual learners like me. If I can see it, I have a better shot of remembering it.
3. Listen and analyze.
This time, it’s listening with a pencil in hand. Mark up the lyric or chord chart. Look for and write out the following:
- Overall form (structure of verse, chorus, bridge, etc.).
- Repeats, turnarounds, tags, intros and endings. (These are especially important to mark if they’re not designated on the chart.)
- Where and how your part comes in, where it drops out, etc.
4. Look at the big picture – both with the lyrics and dynamics of the song.
What’s the “progression of thought” from verse to verse? Where does the bridge take us? What kind of journey does the music and arrangement lead us on? Knowing the big picture can helps us put the pieces into place. (A great example of this is “In Christ Alone” by Getty/Townsend – it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon theologian to identify progression of thought in those lyrics.)
5. Learn the song in chunks.
Even though we know that songs are made up of sections (especially if we’ve done #3), we often treat songs as linear, rhapsodic pieces and learn them from start to finish. Focus on learning each section on its own.
Next week, parts 6 – 12 to memorize our music in 2012.
I’d love to hear your techniques for memorizing songs?
Have you tried to memorize songs as a team? How has that worked out?
Before you can kick your charts to the curb, you might want a plan for creating better charts. Here’s a free seminar that can help you create, organize and distribute charts coming in January (1/9/2012). Participants will be entered for a chance to win a six month “Plus Membership” to Planning Center Online.