Scripts Down

Weekly Teaching Tip – Sep. 14, 2015
by Leigh McRae

“Scripts down”!
This is the command given by the director that actors and singers often dread as it signals that lyric sheets and librettos are no longer allowed. There are several reasons for this however the main one is that you really must know your work and be able to start, stop and recommence anywhere within the scene, musical number or song. Truth is that until you reach this point it is virtually impossible to perform with conviction because part of your senses are being utilised for reading.

This past weekend I was invited to a concert involving a number of well-known singers and musicians performing a tribute to a legendary British rock group of the 1970’s. Frankly I was appalled that several of the singers were reading the lyrics from ‘cheat sheets’ on the floor and more than once song lyrics were all but forgotten and even joked about… not acceptable!

In my studio I allow lyrics to a song for one or two sessions and after that it is ’scripts down’. By this stage we have worked the song with technique, made music corrections and discussed a vocal strategy, now it is time to perform.

I am old enough to remember sitting down with pencil and paper writing out song lyrics. I remember one rainy afternoon scribing out every lyric to Jesus Christ Superstar! There is supportive evidence suggesting that because you are using 3 of the 5 senses (listening, hearing and touching the pen or keyboard), and the concept of ‘spaced repetition’ (going back and listening from different starting places) that you increase the chance of remembering those words for a long time to come. Case in point is that I wrote out the JSC lyrics close to 40 years ago and I could do it today from memory. I know that we have the Internet and I use it to search for lyrics but just 1 time only. After that if the singer is committed to singing a particular song then I insist that they hand write the lyrics out and practice saying them or reciting them into their phone until they absolutely know them, no exceptions.

Remember this ‘if you don’t sing about something then you will sing about anything ‘ and that is more likely if you don’t know the words.

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