Monday, September 23, 2019

What’s the best way to present lyrics when teaching a song?

Unless a song has only a few words, singers will need to see the lyrics in some form.

What’s the best way to present lyrics for the most effective learning?

handing out bits of paper

When sheet music or lyric sheets are handed out to singers, invariably heads go down and eyes become glued to pieces of paper.

It’s hard to listen (to your part being taught), to watch (your choir leader) and read (the lyrics) at the same time.

And even if that were possible, lines and lines of words are hard to process whilst singing — whether they’re in rows under stave lines, or in blocks on a lyric sheet.

There are several ways that choir leaders can simplify this.

When using sheet music, just print the lyrics to verse one.

If handing out lyric sheets, just print the first verse in a large, legible typeface.

The downside of this approach is that singers become experts at verse one, but can stumble on subsequent verses. See How to deal with song lyrics 2.

putting lyrics on the wall

When a song is taught by ear, you can avoid having sheets of paper in singers’ hands.

But if a song has more than a few words, the lyrics have to be visible somewhere as it’s hard to retain long verses without seeing the words.

My approach is to have A1 sheets of paper with lyrics written on them clearly and legibly. I write the words in my best handwriting and try to avoid colours like green and red.

I like to work in a circle though, which creates the problem of where do I display the lyrics?

One solution is to make two copies for every song and put lyric sheets up at either end of the room. That means there will usually be a comfortable option for singers to be able to see clearly without twisting their heads.

The downsides of this are that it’s double the work having to write every lyric sheet out twice, and in a circle there will always be a few singers who can’t see the lyrics easily.

A compromise is to stand the singers in a semi-circle and have them facing the lyric sheet.

If your choir sits in fixed sections, you can make sure you put the lyric sheet on the most suitable wall. You have to ensure that the words are large enough for everyone to see, and that heads don’t get in the way for the back rows.

using technology

Some people create the same effect as large lyric sheets by using a projector. You can then type the lyrics which might make them easier to read. This will only work if there is a suitable wall to project on, and the room is not too light. Also, you’ll need two projectors if you want to work in a circle.

With the advent of mobile phones, I’ve found that many singers will take a photo of the lyric sheet if they find themselves no able to see it clearly. Seems like a great idea, but it does mean that we’re back at the “looking at sheets of paper in the hand” situation with all its inherent problems.

other solutions

I’m sure there are some brilliant solutions to presenting lyrics that I’ve not come across. Do leave a comment and let us know how you’ve solved it.

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Chris Rowbury




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Chris Rowbury


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