Whether you’re an aspiring Hollywood actor or have picked up a plum part with the local drama society, one thing you might tend to struggle with is the learning of lines. Unless you’re fortunate enough to work exclusively in radio and on podcasts, you can’t really hold a script while you perform, leaving committing to memory as the only option if you want the show to go to plan.
Fortunately, while it may seem challenging to start with, especially if you consider yourself as having a generally poor memory, there are some tips and tricks you can use to make the process much more comfortable. We’ve pulled together 10 of the best in this feature, so let’s get right to them.
1. Practice Out Loud
Reading lines over and over is never a good approach. You should read through once in silence, especially if it’s an original story that you know little about. After that, every reading should be done aloud, even if you’re alone. It works better with a partner, but we’ll get to that in good time. For now, rest assured that you’ll put yourself in a great position to absorb the lines because you’ll not only say them, but you’ll hear them too, even subconsciously.
2. Get A Friend Involved
That didn’t take long! The fact is that learning lines is possible on your own, but it’s much better with the assistance of a trusted friend or family member. This can be more difficult than it sounds. If you have friends that also act or are even in the same movie, play or production, then it’s a match made in heaven, and you can lean on each other to get you both to where you need to be.
In the absence of an actor, you just need to steer clear of anyone that won’t take the process seriously. The joker of the friend group or anyone that rolls their eyes when you mention your acting ambitions are out of the question. It’s ok to have fun with the process, and that can even aid the learning process. However, for the most part, you want the time you devote to this to be well spent and productive, so focus on the task at hand.
3. Keep Practicing
It’s not the most glamorous element of acting, but there’s all the evidence you need out there to indicate that repetition aids memory better than just about anything else. Even if you’re confident in your memory, we will wager that there’s only a handful of people out there that can memorise something in one sitting and the repetition of the lines will imprint them on your brain and indicate when you can comfortably recall them.
4. Don’t Spend Hours on End Working
You might have landed the role of a lifetime, and it could be the only thing on your mind. However, spending every waking hour running the lines through your head can not only not be beneficial; it might also be counterproductive. Much as with most diet plans, it’s a good idea to implement short bursts of practice in your schedule and do them often. Ten minutes of training, three times each day will often yield better results than three hours every day.
5. Try the Techie Approach
It’s the 21st century and the saying ‘there’s an app for everything’ is true, especially if you want to speed up the line-learning process. You’ll find them on your app store of choice, but they all work in the same kind of way. You can record your lines, along with those of other characters, and leave pauses to speak your part in the appropriate places. Different apps have additional features that will help depending on how you like to learn, such as providing scripts. They’re not for everyone, but they do work and are worth looking into if you struggle.
6. Use Your Phone’s Basic Features
If you can’t find an app that aids in the learning process, you can go back to basics without losing out on all the tech benefits. This can be a better option on a budget too, as most of the dedicated apps charge a fee. Between something as simple as the notes and voice recorder options on your phone, you can plan your learning, record snippets and play back the roles of other characters, all without the need to get anyone else involved.
7. Combine Learning with Movement
Many people perform better in learning and memory when they combine their efforts with movement. It’s probably best not to go for a jog while you learn your lines, but even getting up and pacing around can ensure that the information you need to recall sticks about in your head. If you do prefer being more active, wait until you can repeat the lines over and over.
8. Don’t Forget a Working Knowledge of Everyone Else’s Lines
Just as important as knowing what lines to say is when to say them. Most actors do this by taking their cue from those around them. There are multiple approaches, but one of the best is to learn which lines lead into and out of your own. It does increase the workload, and you may come up with a better idea, but the point is not to underestimate the importance of timing.
9. Make the Most of Rehearsals
The chances are you’ll learn your lines long before you commence official rehearsals. However, they remain an integral part of the learning experience. Consider what you struggle with and use this time to work on it. Hopefully, it won’t be your own lines, but it could be that timing mentioned above, chemistry with other actors or any other weak spots.
10. Try to Avoid Last Minute Prep
Ideally, you’ll go into your performance confident in your lines and your ability to deliver them. It can be tempting to do some last-minute revision, but this can actually throw you off your game. If you stumble in prep time, it can sap your confidence for the real performance. Trust in yourself and your efforts and knock the role out of the park!