If there's one thing I know as a voice teacher of nearly 15 years, it is that practice is paramount. Singing is physical. A singer must practice in order to condition the body to know the notes, phrase the phrases, deliver the story and sing with freedom.
HOW a singer practices is just as important as the existence of a singer's practice regimen. Follow these tips and strategies to make the best use of your practice time!
1. SING EVERYDAY
Commit to short practice sessions, spread across the week.
No matter your lifestyle or schedule, you will need to plan to practice during the week. Ideally, you will carve out time to practice for 20-30 minutes at a time, a few times per week. It is perfectly okay to practice only 5 minutes at a time at first. Build up your practice time slowly and steadily from there. I like to say to my students: "Even practicing requires practice!"
Beginner singers tend to experience better results with short and frequent practice sessions. The shorter timeframe encourages the singer to remain focussed and relaxed. You're more likely to practice good technique in 20 minutes of practice than forcing yourself to over sing for 60 minutes. Intermediate and advanced singers may practice for longer if their voices feel comfortable doing so.
The key is to STOP when you feel tired or tense. Furthermore, if you feel emotionally frustrated, STOP! Your body is signalling to you one of two things: either you are not practicing correctly OR you have been singing for too long that day.
Whatever your level, beginner, intermediate, advanced or professional, our voices have limits because this instrument is human. We are not machines. You cannot buy a new voice. Listen to your body.
2. SCHEDULE ALONE TIME
Plan for alone time.
Practicing new vocal exercises or repertoire and cementing the melodies, notes and rhythms in your brain, ears and voice takes time. Carve out alone time in a comfortable space so that you can practice freely, without distractions or interruption. Practice in a space where you feel comfortable making mistakes and exploring your practice material without feeling constrained or embarrassed. Creativity requires a willingness to get a little messy. Schedule in that alone time to get in the zone of being creative.
3. CREATE CONVENIENCE
Download your practice tracks or lesson recordings and upload them to your phone/device so that they are easily accessible.
At each private voice lesson, your instructor will customize a set of vocal exercises for you. These exercises are recorded for your practice throughout the week. Singing is physical and athletic. We condition your voice to function better (stabilizing the chest voice, releasing and engaging the head voice, blending the two registers together in the middle voice) with singing exercises that target your vocal problems with a clear solution. The solution is never intellectual, although understanding of vocal technique can help. The solution always requires physical practice. Make it convenient! Make a habit out of downloading your lesson recordings right away, on a device that is easily accessible and practice frequently.
For choir singers, you will need to listen to and sing the parts over and over to build them into your muscle memory. Your harmony part must feel instinctual to sing in order for you to freely express yourself at rehearsal and in concert! Have your practice tracks ready and put them on repeat to listen to during your commute to work, when you’re getting ready in the morning, etcetera, etcetera. Make singing and practice convenient and a part of your lifestyle.
4. BREAK IT DOWN
Learn your song or harmony part, a section at a time. Repeat until you can sing without making mistakes before moving on to the next section.
You may want to start at the most difficult section first (e.g. the chorus). DO NOT sing the song from beginning to end without mastering each section first. Learn your part CORRECTLY right from the start so that you are practising the right notes and rhythms rather than practising your mistakes. The worst is when a singer learns a part wrong, and builds that into their muscle memory. Now, they must UNLEARN and learn. Slow down, break it down and get it right the first time!
5. REPETITION IS KEY
Do you think you got it? Your harmony part? The vocal technique from this week's lesson? Well, practice it again. And again. And again. And again! And again!
It may become tedious and boring, but this is what it takes to be a solid musician. In fact, it's when a song becomes kinda boring that we kinda know it's ready for performance. When repertoire or a vocalise becomes boring to practice, it tells us that you're not learning anymore. You're knowing. It's in your body. You are now free to express the story, the song and ready to perform.
Remember, we sing to serve the music. This duty involves hard work! Mastery of any craft requires a large investment of time, energy and dedication. Singing is no different.
6. ASK QUESTIONS
We all experience our voices in our own unique way. Ask questions about your voice and share your experience as a student or choir member to your teacher or director. Asking questions will help you AND your teacher and director know where you're at and how to better guide you.
I hope these tips help to optimize the way you practice. Cheers to good singing and thanks for reading! Got questions about this post? Comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.