Myself and another singer will be performing a song together. Some parts I sing, some parts she sings, and some we sing together. But when it's time to perform we get confused as to who sings what. I can bring a sheet of lyrics to help us remember.

The problem is, what is the best way to present the lyrics so we can know at a glance who sings what without getting lost?

I've tried color. One color for me, one color for her, and a third color for those lyrics sung by both. This can be done using the color of the text itself, or using a background color (highlighting).

Another is positional. My lyrics would appear on the right, hers on the left, and the text in the middle sung by both.

Is there a best practice for this? Any suggestions?

  • In all honesty, it sounds like you haven't practiced enough if you are getting confused on which part is which. Hopefully some of the methods outlined will be a good start, but you need to make sure you are practicing properly too! Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 15:08
  • I use three different color highlighters with a key showing which color goes with which singer. Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 5:35

6 Answers 6


Color is a badness on stage. stages can be bathed in colors that make reading something impossible. Yer on yer own when that happens and god bless you and all the ships at sea.

There's this sort-of amazing concept, where individual instruments in an orchestra are given these magical sheets of paper, where only the notes intended to be sounded out by them specifically, are included on the sheet. they're called "parts." They EXCLUDE all the other notes that other instrumentalists will be playing. Oddly enough, entire orchestras are able to navigate this disaster, by employing a "conductor" who has all the notes in a big folio. Each part, however, is kept "secret" from the other parts, because well, we don't want them to think they can just pick another part to play.

:) so, suffice to say...singers who start singing the melody line insteaad of the harmony line...need to be given PARTS.

  • +1. I've heard of these 'parts'... However, for a fully fledged , experienced muso, they work well. Trying to count the bars of rests isn't so easy for amateurs.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 12:07

If each of you has a separate score, for each part simply make the unsung lyrics light grey. This avoids the color problem. With the text that is not sung being light grey, it is easier to look at the important sung text because it's visibility is stronger.


I agree with the others who have said more practice together would do wonders. But I recognize that if you are like me and have to work at a real job and only get to do music in your spare time, practice time may come at a premium.

So let me share what I have done when singing with a partner when singing a duet or song with two distinct parts (not like a background singer or harmony but separate parts).

First approach I have used works best if you are both going to be reading the same sheet of music from one music stand (won't have your own individual sheet). What I did was highlighted the other singer's part in one color and the parts that are sung together in a different color. So the second singer knows to sing everything that is highlighted and nothing else. Of course, if you have colored or poor lighting on stage, a music stand light will help you see the highlighted lyrics more easily. See picture below.

Lead Sheet for Duet

Another idea is represented by the two pictures below. This is an example of how you might use a customized set of lyrics that are different for each singer. You will of course need two music stands. Again the highlighted lyrics are sung by all. But in this approach, each singer only sings the part appearing on their sheet in bold. Their partner's part is unbold and lighter. Also shown is another idea which is to offset the other singer's part by shifting it to the right. Each singer's customized individual lead sheet will have the part they are to sing justified to the left margin. Any part indented (shifted right) is not sung. So the next two pictures illustrate two other options which can be used independently or together.

Singer One's Sheet Singer Two's Sheet

Practice as often as practical and most of all try to have fun. That's what music is supposed to be about after all.


I do not see how the color is bad, unless the scene of performance is lighted so that it is not visible well. Fonts can be tried for this case as well (bold, italic, or just at different type of font).

Separating messages by position may make the text difficult to follow.


Either works well, and another idea is font change. Maybe italics and Roman, with capitals for both. but remembering is probably the best. Working without a cheatsheet always looks best. More practice would be a good move here, if at all possible. If only one of you remembers, that one could prompt the other.


You would both be well advised to learn musical notation. Then you can read EXACTLY who sings what words, to what tune, at what time.

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