It happens, but it doesn’t feel good when it does. I was onstage at a summer festival, and the first verse of a song completely exited my memory. I stood there like a frightened deer—frozen, embarrassed, and devoid of any escape plan that decades of gigging should have offered me. I just copped to it, let the bassist whisper the lyrics into my ear, and we started the song again. Not exactly the way to put on a professional show. Sigh.
While it’s likely overkill, or too expensive, to cart around a high-tech teleprompter for club gigs, there are simpler ways to provide little memory jogs during live performances. Mobile apps designed for performing musicians can scroll lyrics, arrange set lists, serve up chord charts, and more.
Search and download lyrics. Automatic lyric scrolling. Chord and text highlighting. Manages set lists.
Set Lists (iOS, free trial)
Allows you to import song lyrics, or copy them into a song file, and choose your font for easy readability. Scroll lyrics via a Bluetooth footswitch or hand-held devices. Dark set mode keeps screen dark so as not to interfere with stage lighting. Compatible with ChordPro format. Offers split screen view (iPad only).
BandHelper (iOS/Android, free trial)
Manages songs, set lists, lyrics, chord charts stage plots, income and expenses, contracts, and more. Auto-scrolling of lyrics/chords. Onboard click tracks and backing tracks. Subscription service after trial (Pro Account, $20-$250 per year, depending on number of band members).