Is having the words with you on stage a helpful security blanket or a sign of laziness? Jaime Babbitt wades into the debate.
What are your views on using lyrics in a performance? I just can seem to fit all my songs into my brain…
Velma (I love your name!),
Last week, I was singing BGVs for a Nashville artist at a prestigious club during a huge music festival.
I knew the material but wanted to have the lyrics onstage- a security blanket, if you will.
I asked the sound person for a music stand; he said, “We don’t have any.” “You don’t HAVE any?” I stammered, incredulously.
He shrugged and said, “We don’t have a need for ‘em.”
Wow. All righty then.
I learned two things that afternoon: Not all venues have music stands, and: TAKE THE TIME TO MEMORIZE YOUR PARTS!
We singers store our lyric libraries on:
- Index cards
- iPhones (for singers with ridiculously keen vision—yay, you!)
I’ve seen music stands, clip-on-the-mic-stand iPad holders, pages with handwritten lyrics on the floor…I’ve seen (and used) them all.
And I’ve also had every excuse in the book: I was too busy/sick/headache-y/, the songs were hard… but I forgot this excuse:
I’M TOO L-A-Z-Y.
*For those of you who have to read complicated notated music while singing: you people are off the hook.
Everyone else, please listen up: whether you’re a lead or background vocalist, your job is not just to sing well. Your job is also to put songs across well.
And how well are you putting across a song if you’re looking at the words? How emotionally available are you to communicate to the people who paid money to see you?
Be an audience member for a minute: how do YOU feel when you see singers reading lyrics?
So, unless you got the gig a few days ago and had to learn 40 songs, guess what? You’re on the hook to start memorizing lyrics (and parts, if you notate your lyrics with pitches, rhythms and specific melodies like I do!).
There will always be extenuating circumstances: spontaneity, requests, a bandleader who’s okay with lyrics onstage.
So try this: BRING your lyrics on whatever medium you use…and only use them if ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. Then your security blanket is in the house.
And I’m only telling you what I tell myself…except I’m really old and I forget everything all the time.
Joking! My promise to not be L-A-Z-Y anymore starts N-O-W. Are you with me?