A great tool for memorization is to “storyboard”–something that film makers do to map out scenes before they are shot. Draw a symbol for each idea or part of an idea in each phrase of what you are singing. These can be realistic–or even silly–anything to help you string the parts of the whole together so that you can remember them in order. Here is an example of my storyboard for Bizet’s “Ouvre ton coeur”–just click on the link below (and yes, it’s fine to laugh at my drawing skills or lack thereof!):
I ask my students to translate any selection (even if it’s in their mother tongue) into their own every day vernacular, so as to have as personal a relationship to the text as possible. I’m pretty pleased with my translation of Chausson’s Le Charme:
Quand ton sourire me surprit,
When I was first caught off guard by your smile–
Je sentis frémir tout mon être,
I felt a tremor throughout my being–
Mais ce qui domptait nous esprit,
but the exact thing that captured my heart–
Je ne pus d’abord le connaître.
I wasn’t able to discern at first (I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what it was)
Quand ton regard tomba sur moi,
(After which) When your gaze fell on me–
Je sentis mon âme se fondre,
I felt myself melt inside–
Mais ce que serait cet émoi,
but whatever emotion this was–
Je ne pus d’abord en répondre.
I could not yet acknowledge it.
Ce qui me vainquit à jamais,
The thing that finally conquered me–
Ce fut un plus douloureux charme;
turned out to be a sadder charm–
Et je n’ai su que je t’aimais,
and I only knew that I (actually) loved you–
Qu’en voyant ta première larme.
upon seeing your first tear.
Thanks to student Joanne, who asked for online help in learning IPA, or the International Phonetics Alphabet– a crucial tool in being able to accurately (and therefore confidently!) pronounce text in any language for singing or otherwise. I highly recommend that you check out the following links–know that any time invested in learning this skill will pay off in a big way!
This is a video from Peter Ladefoged’s “A Course in Phonetics”
Here’s the link to the same author’s lessons and exercises for learning IPA:
If you’d like to buy the whole course on CD-Rom, here’s a link for that:
One of my students, Alex, is a doctor in NYC and sent me this link. It’s fascinating, once you’ve gotten over the shock of seeing peoples’ vocal cords in action, so hang in there to the end!