Reading lyrics on stage? Hmmmmmm.

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Relying on lyric sheets or chord charts during a performance

It finally happened. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m thinking about leaning on a crutch on stage: a lyric app, a songbook, some loose napkins scribbled with a few words, anything.

NOT for my own songs, mind you. For shame!

It’s just that the list of cover songs I “know” is getting long enough, and I play each one of those songs infrequently enough, that I just can’t trust myself to remember which nonsense lyric starts the first verse and which inane babbling begins the final one.

Just kidding. I try not to cover songs if I hate the lyrics. But even in a classic like Squeeze’s “Tempted,” it’s tricky to remember when the dude is buying a toothbrush and when he’s buying a novel. You gotta get the order right, otherwise the whole rest of the verse is screwed, much like the character in the song.

So with many hours of cover songs plus 100+ originals in my head at any given time, I’m bound to flub a few lines. I’d rather minimize those instances while performing, so… I think I’m going to get one of those lyric-scrolling apps for tablet.

Is it uncool to have charts or an app on stage?

Probably, and I’d love to hear your thoughts too. The idea of glancing at a lyric sheet on stage DOES give me pause.

I joked on Facebook about Jerry Garcia not needing lyric sheets for the thousands of songs the Dead performed, and a friend of mine pointed out that Jerry had a teleprompter hidden in one of his monitor wedges, and before that he screwed up lyrics all the time. Even Michael Stipe uses teleprompters… FOR HIS OWN SONGS! Surely I can be forgiven for occasionally looking at a small tablet when I’m playing another person’s tune I haven’t performed in 8 months.

Anyway, I asked for some friends’ recommendations.

Here are the top lyric apps they suggested:

  • OnSong
  • forScore
  • Lyric Pad  (Wow, an app that actually doesn’t CamelCase!)
  • MySongBook
  • LinkeSOFT SongBook
  • Ultimate Guitar (Lots of my friends happily use the free version of this app. But one friend also said that Ultimate Guitar was a “super shady company,” which I think referred to the large amount of credit card complaints you can see online — but I have no personal experience with the service, so I’ll let you do the research and figure out if it’s right for you.)

One other creative suggestion from a friend:

A guy who does over a hundred weddings/cocktail hours a year told me he imports the song to a Word doc on his tablet then takes a screen shot. Then he organizes photo albums for each event type. One swipe left and you are on the next song. I’ve done that ever since and it is simple and works great.

What do you think of people reading lyrics or chords on stage?

Do you have lyric and chord app recommendations? Want to chastise me for entertaining the idea? Think I’m being too hard on myself (since brilliant musicians have been relying on sheet music for hundreds of years)? Holler in the comments below.



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