Displaying lyrics on an iPod

(The original version of this article was first published on the Mp3 Backing Trax website circa 2006 – 2012)

Here’s how to look professional singing to backing tracks on your iPod even when you don’t know the lyrics.

If you’re anything like me, you probably need to practice singing a new song several times before you can commit the full lyric to memory. This can be a real pain when you’re really keen to sing a great new backing track you’ve just bought, but don’t want look like an amateur by standing on the stage holding a sheet of paper with the lyrics.

Some singers I know use a “music stand” and place their lyrics on it. I wish they wouldn’t. A music stand just looks silly if you’re a solo singer and not playing an instrument. It suggests to the audience that you’re not professional enough to know the words, or worse, haven’t bothered to learn them. This may sound like very unfair comments, but sadly the entertainment business is very unfair and audiences are notoriously fickle.

As if that’s not bad enough, when the audience see you looking at a lyric sheet it makes them feel like you’re more interested in the lyric sheet than them, which in turn makes them equally disinterested in you. Most professional entertainers will tell you from bitter experience that it doesn’t take much to lose an audiences interest. There’s nothing more disheartening than working hard the whole evening to successfully captivate an audience, only to “lose” them by ignoring them for 3 and a half minutes while you sing a song and stare blankly at a piece of paper with the words written on it.

So what can you do if you MUST have the words of the song in front of you, but don’t want to look unprofessional or lose contact with your audience?

Easy! Display the lyrics on your iPod!

Did you know that the Apple iPod can display lyrics at the same time as a song is playing? This capability isn’t new, in fact it’s been available on standard iPods and Nanos for quite a while and Apple have now added this facility to the new iPod Touch and iPhone. It’s all done via the iTunes software on your PC (or Mac) and is pretty simple to do:

Step 1
Select the backing track you want to enter a lyric for, then from the File menu click “Get Info”.

Step 2
Select the “Lyrics” tab which will bring up an empty window where you can enter the backing track lyric. You can type in the backing track lyric manually or copy and paste it from a word document, web page or text file.

Step 3
Click OK, and when you next synchronise the backing track with your iPod, the lyrics will be in there with it.

To view the lyrics while the backing track is playing, press the iPods large centre button multiple times until the lyrics appear. On the iPod Touch and iPhone, tap the image of the album cover while the backing track is playing and the lyric will display.

Most singers I know keep their iPod close to them on stage by mounting it on their microphone stand. This makes it easy to see and operate while you’re performing, and now, it also means that you can glance at the lyrics, hopefully without your audience noticing you’re doing it. This looks so much better than using a music stand or holding a piece of paper, both of which are noticeable enough to create psychological barriers between you and the audience.

And finally, I know that the size of the text and screen on the Apple iPod has long since been an issue for some singers with poor eyesight, so the idea of putting lyrics on the iPod won’t suit everyone.

But if you currently use an iPod for backing tracks, then you’ll already be used to reading small text to make song selections, adjust volume etc, so this could be just the thing for you.