Tip #1 of the Top 10 Tips for a More Confident Performance

May 28, 2020

Tip #1 of the Top10 Tips for a More Confident Performance-Know Your Song

This tip refers to “knowing” on two levels: memorizing the lyrics and having an understanding of what your song is actually about. Let’s start with the second of those two items. When I ask singers preparing for a performance what their song is about, they often reply either, “What do you mean?” or ”I don’t know….”.

If you’re like most singers, you don’t usually give a second thought to what the song is about. You’re concentrating on remembering the lyrics, trying to sing in tune, and hoping you don’t fall apart on a high or low note—who has time for anything else?

The problem with not knowing what your song is about is that it shows when you sing.

You may sound good and look good but you won’t make a deep connection with the audience without knowing what the song means to you.

Songwriting is all about telling the story of your song. And you can’t tell the story well if you don’t know the story well.

Truly connecting your song to the audience and feeling confident during a performance takes an awareness of the general story line: who the character is that’s singing and what the general mood of the song is.

Spending a little time developing your vision of the song will help you decide what mood and emotions you want to evoke during the performance. I’ll go into more detail on this in Tip #8–Tell The Story of Your Song.

The other important aspect of knowing your song is being able to perform it without a “cheat sheet” of the lyrics on stage.

An important truth I’ve learned over the years of performing and teaching is “your voice goes where your eyes go.”

If your eyes are going to a music stand or a lyric page lying on the stage, they’re not looking into the eyes of your audience. There goes your connection….

I’ve found four different ways that can be effective in memorizing lyrics:

  • The first is writing out the lyrics in longhand. The lyrics can take firmer root in your mind because you are slowly going over each word during the process.
  • The second method is to start with a lyric sheet turned face down. At the first point that you can’t remember the words, turn the lyric sheet     over and find the missing words. The next step is very important. Start the song over and see if you can sing through the part that just caused you a problem. If you can’t, turn your lyric sheet over again and look at the words. Moving through the song with this method can be a powerful memorization tool.
  • The third method is to write a cheat sheet that contains just the first few words of each line or section of the song. Oftentimes, seeing the first words of a line or section will trigger your memory of the rest of the lyrics. Wean yourself from the cheat sheet by using the “face     down/turn the page over” technique from the last method. 
  • The fourth method is to sing along with your song multiple times. For some lucky folks (I don’t seem to be     one of them) simply singing the song a certain amount of times is the key     to memorizing it.


Want to be a confident singer who makes a powerful connection with the audience?  Make sure you “know” your song…


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Mark Bosnian

Mark is an award-winning songwriter and professional voice coach with 30+ years of experience teaching people how to take center stage. He has toured nationally with the 80's hit band Nu Shooz and coached Grammy award nominees, American Idol semifinalists, and singers on The Tonight Show.