Lip-synching is the act of moving your mouth to match a prerecorded track, either speech or song. In the early days of television, lip-synching was the established performing style because the music industry could not agree on royalties for live performances. More recently, canned vocals have been used to back up a singer in concert as performances have become more elaborate and athletic. Fans are learning to embrace this practice, but some still want to know when a performance is lip-synched. Performers and technicians are adept at hiding electronic enhancements, but there are ways to spot a lip-synching performer.
Listen to the music. If the concert sounds exactly like the record you have at home, you are probably listening to prerecorded tracks. If the band adds extra choruses, jams for a minute or two, or otherwise alters the song from its album version, it is more likely to be live music. However, the performer may have recorded song variations for the concert to help disguise lip-synching.
Watch the singer’s throat. This works better with a man than a woman because of his prominent Adam’s apple. When a performer is singing, the muscles of the throat contract, the tendons stand out and the Adam’s apple moves up and down. This method is not foolproof because many performers are encouraged to sing even though the microphone is off. Singing along with the track also prevents the performer from overacting and making facial expression that would not be possible during live singing.
Pay attention to the performance. Highly athletic dance performers like Beyonce, Britney Spears and Justin Bieber may use partial or completely recorded tracks so they can dance and “sing” at the same time. Even the best of singers will get winded from dancing for 15 minutes straight and may take a breather by lip-synching one or more numbers in order to maintain the integrity of the overall performance.
Look for inconsistencies. If you are sitting at the back of a large stadium, delays between action and sound are common. However, if you are in the front row and you see the singer’s mouth from one word but you hear another, the singer is lip-synching.
Transplanted Yankee Erin Watson-Price lives in Birmingham, Ala., and has been writing freelance articles since 1997. She worked as writer/co-editor for Coast to Coast Dachshund Rescue's newsletter, "The Long and the Short of It." In 2007 she obtained a certification as a copy editor. Watson-Price holds a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.