Do You Always Memorize Your Lyrics?
by Molly Shorter
She was asked to sing at her best friend's wedding. She rehearsed and rehearsed the song that the bride had chosen. During the wedding ceremony, as the bride and groom gazed into each other's eyes, she stood to sing with a lyric sheet printed in a large font on the podium in front of her. She tried just to glance at the lyrics as she moved through the song. Sometimes her glances were longer than intended, but her song was beautiful and exactly what the bride wanted.
He was scheduled to sing in the upcoming Sunday morning service. He rehearsed his song to the point of memorizing the lyrics. When he stood to sing his song, he stepped up to the podium and sang with freedom and conviction. He looked into the eyes of the audience as he sang truth.
These are two different scenarios that you as a musician have probably experienced. Other than church services, wedding ceremonies and funerals are the most common places you as a singer will be asked to sing. The question I have is this: Should lyrics always be memorized or not?
Each musician must come to his/her own conclusion about this. I believe that the best way to communicate a song is to have the lyrics memorized. But, with that in mind, I also believe that the importance of memorizing the lyrics can be dependent on the type of service in which you are singing.
For instance, in the first scenario - the wedding ceremony, the singer may sing off to the side of the stage so that the focus is on the bride and groom. In this case, having the lyrics memorized isn't as important. You do need to know them well but not necessarily have them memorized. In the second scenario, the singer is in a church service so the focus should be on him as he sings. I believe in this case lyrics should be memorized so that the singer has the freedom to sing with conviction and look into the eyes of the audience instead of staring at a lyric sheet.
Now, I know that there are exceptions to every rule. But, as musicians in service to our King Jesus, we should always strive for excellence. In I Chronicles 25, King David appointed nearly 300 musicians to serve in the temple. They are described as those "who were trained in singing to the Lord, all who were skillful." (I Chronicles 25:7 ESV) Perhaps we can take from this that skillful musicians should strive to be thoroughly prepared.
So, the next time you're asked to sing, make the most of the opportunity and thoroughly prepare for the opportunity. Know your lyrics well. To memorize or not is a decision that you will have to make. What's your opinion?
Molly Shorter is full-time musician and worship leader in the service of her Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. She works with church musicians, giving them opportunities to develop and use their God-given musical gifts for His honor and glory.
Along with leading a large worship team, she is also a teacher to budding musicians, a playwright and theater director, a composer, and the writer of your enouragement here at Christwill Music.