Monday, March 25, 2024

Why does it take me so long to learn a song? Everyone else seems to pick it up fast.

People often write to me asking me why it takes them ages to learn a song.

photo by matea2506

They think it might be due to age, dyslexia, or all manner of other ‘problems’. But it’s probably simpler than that.

In a choir, when you’re learning a new song, it may seem that all the other singers are catching on much faster than you are.

Does that mean that you may have memory problems, or are just not a very good singer?

Then when the song is being sung, you get lost and confused with the harmonies and have no idea where you are.

It must definitely mean that you’re a really bad singer, or you have a ‘problem’. Right?

Yet this is such a common scenario. Probably 99% of the other singers think they’re not getting it and that everyone else is better than them (see You are not alone – most people in your choir think they can’t sing well).

The fact is that it takes much longer to learn a song than you think (see How long does it take to learn a song?). Weeks and weeks of repetition, especially if you’re learning by ear. Many professional singers reckon it can take a good six months before they really have a new song under their belt.

It may seem that all the other singers are picking it up quicker than you, but they’ll almost certainly forget it as soon as they leave the rehearsal, and they definitely won’t remember a new song the following week.

We’re all quick to run ourselves down (“I’m just not a good singer”) or blame some ‘problem’ (“My memory’s getting worse as I get older”). But you should let yourself off the hook and realise that this whole song-learning business takes time.

Maybe your memory is not what it was, or you have particular difficulty remembering lyrics. In which case, you can do work outside the rehearsals if you really think you need to. Use practice recordings to nail your part, write the lyrics out in large letters that you can read easily.

But don’t give yourself a hard time too soon. Wait a few months until a song has settled in before you decide that you’re struggling more than the other singers.

Good luck!

older posts

You might find these other posts useful too.

Why do I end up singing the tune when I should be singing a harmony?

How to learn effectively from a recording of a song in parts

Why some singers find it hard to learn by ear (and what you can do to make it easier)

Singing in a group is a learnt skill – if you find it hard, it doesn’t mean you can’t sing

Chris Rowbury


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