Ever thought of how to memorize lyrics, especially from complex musical theater productions? It can be tricky. But with some time and the right techniques, you’ll be belting out ‘Memory’ and ‘Mr. Mistoffelees’ in no time.
Here are a few tips to help you master the lyrics from Cats and impress all your friends with your musical theater knowledge.
Learn the Story and Context of Cats
To memorize the lyrics to Cats, you need to understand the context behind this musical classic. Cats is based on T.S. Eliot’s book of poetry, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. The musical tells the story of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles on the night they make the ‘Jellicle Choice’ and decide which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer.
Knowing the plot and characters will make the lyrics much more meaningful. As you listen to the soundtrack, follow along with the lyrics and try to understand what each cat is singing about. Pay attention to the cat each song is dedicated too. For example, ‘Mr. Mistoffelees’ is about a cat with magical powers, while ‘Macavity’ describes a villainous cat.
Reading through the lyrics while listening to the songs is one of the best techniques. Hearing the tune and rhythm of the words will lodge them into your memory. Try reading aloud or even singing along. The more senses you use, the more likely you are to remember.
Break Down and Analyze Each Song’s Lyrics
To memorize the lyrics to your favorite songs from Cats, you’ll need to put in the work. Follow this few tips to master your cat lyrics
1. Break down each song into verses and choruses
Analyze the overall structure and patterns in each song. Notice how the verses and choruses repeat – this repetition will actually help you remember the lyrics. Pay attention to any rhyming words or rhyme schemes which can make the words more catchy and memorable.
2. Read through the lyrics a few times
Simply reading through the lyrics, aloud if possible, is one of the best ways to start memorizing them. Hearing the words, seeing them on the page, and speaking them will engage all your senses and make a stronger memory.
3. Focus on one verse or chorus at a time
Don’t try to memorize the entire song at once. Work on just one verse or the chorus to start. Repeat it over and over until you can sing it without looking at the lyrics. Then move on to the next part of the song. Breaking it up into manageable chunks will make the process much less overwhelming.
4. Sing and listen along
Once you have a few parts of the song down, play the song and sing along to the parts you know. Hearing the tune and rhythm again will reinforce your memory. Try to sing just a little bit more of the song each time. Before you know it, you’ll have the whole thing memorized.
Use Memorization Techniques Like Chunking and Association
Memorizing the lyrics to an entire musical like Cats can techniques.
Break up the lyrics into smaller, more manageable chunks to memorize. Focus on one song or one verse at a time. Keep practicing that part before moving on to the next chunk. This will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed by the scope of memorizing the entire musical.
Connect the lyrics to visual images, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, or emotions. Our brains are wired to remember things that are linked together. For example, associate the lyrics “Jellicle cats come out tonight, Jellicle cats come one, come all,” with the image of cats emerging from the shadows at night and gathering together. These types of vivid mental connections will stick with you.
Simply repeating the lyrics out loud, either speaking, singing, or a combination of both is one of the most effective techniques. Say the lyrics over and over, focusing on one verse or song at a time. Start slowly, and gradually speed up to match the tempo of the music. The more you practice, the more the lyrics will roll off your tongue from memory.
Review what you’ve memorized regularly over time. Don’t just cram the night before seeing the show. Space out your reviews over the course of days or weeks. Quiz yourself by trying to recite the lyrics without looking at them. Review the parts that trip you up. Over multiple reviews, your retention and confidence will build until you’ve mastered all the lyrics.
With practice and persistence, you’ll be belting out “Memory” and “Mr. Mistoffelees” in no time. Use these memorization techniques, be patient with yourself, and soon you’ll know the musical inside and out.