How Do I Lip Sync?

Elizabeth West

To lip sync, short for lip synchronization, is mouthing the words to a recorded song in perfect time with them, creating the illusion that you are singing the song. It takes practice with the particular song to get it right. Popular singers who perform elaborate dance routines often lip sync their tunes, especially if they are having voice problems or technical difficulties. Instrumentalists may sync for the same reasons.

Lip syncing isn't just about matching mouth movement.
Lip syncing isn't just about matching mouth movement.

If you want to lip sync perfectly, your first step is to choose the song. It should be a tune you are already familiar with. Practice singing the song with the recording, as many times as you can. Watching yourself practice, using a mirror, can help you see how effective you are at synchronization. You can try different facial expressions to go with the song.

Lip syncing takes practice.
Lip syncing takes practice.

A successful lip sync will need more than just singing. If you are going to record your performance for websites or friends, you should come up with some choreography. In lip synchronization, somewhat exaggerated gestures and interpretation are common elements of parody. Your costume can also be an important part of your performance. Dress appropriately to fit the music, such as using your favorite cowboy outfit for a country song, or fake leather and big hair for a rock ballad.

Many of the performers whose trademarks include elaborate and vigorous dance routines often lip sync during live shows. Singing while dancing, especially if routines are strenuous, can be extremely difficult. Television shows often require singers to do the same, due to problems with sound mixing and rehearsal time. Demand for perfection in concerts, with modern technical effects and complex staging, sometimes makes a lip sync the only way artists can satisfy fans’ expectations. At the 2009 inauguration of American president Barack Obama, a quartet of famous classical musicians synched their performance because the weather was too cold for their instruments to remain perfectly tuned.

Performers who lip sync are often criticized or panned for doing so; however, certain types of shows demand it. Drag queens often sync while portraying their favorite singers onstage. If those singers are female, the lower voices of the cross-dressing male performers would make a number pitched for a soprano impossible. In musical performances in films, actors often lip sync to the music, which is then dubbed in later to cover ambient noise and ensure a perfect sound.

Lip syncing might be done as part of a karaoke performance.
Lip syncing might be done as part of a karaoke performance.

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Discussion Comments


When lip syncing is done perfectly, very few audience members would ever know the performance wasn't live. I have watched professional actors like Paul Rudd and Jimmy Fallon lip sync on television and I didn't see one false move. They knew the lyrics forwards and backward, and they also imitated the original singer's stage moves and personality.


I've noticed some performers are better at lip syncing than others. Lip syncing for television performances used to be more common than it is today, so many young performers aren't as experienced as older groups. Using a live vocal microphone over professional backing tracks is now a more common practice.

I remember groups used to lip sync over the studio track, which meant they needed to remember every extraneous shout or "ooh" or moan they performed on the original recording. Some performers would forget to emote on-camera as passionately as they sang on the hit song. Others would deliberately stay out of sync with the recording to point out the deception. I think the best performers sang along with the vocals on a dead microphone. Pantomiming the words doesn't seem to work as well.

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