Smart Practice Tips for Singers

Learning to sing amazingly well is like learning any other skill.  It requires our fullest attention, patience, time, effective and regular instruction and of course regular practiceBut it’s HOW we practice that makes a difference in seeing results.  If you are new to the process or have build up a lot of bad vocal habits that aren’t going away, here are some helpful hints to keep in mind when practicing voice:

Follow along with your lesson recording:

As hard as it is to hear our voices on a recording be sure to record your lesson anyway so you have a guide as to what to do in your practice.   Follow along with the recorded tools that were assigned and take into account what was said during your lesson so you can apply it throughout the week until your next lesson.

Practice shorter:

It’s not the length of time that matters, it’s the quality of practice that makes a difference to your progress.  In fact studies indicate that shorter and mindful practice sessions are more effective for the brain to actually create muscle memory.  If you are in the development stages of vocal training, try a 10 -15 minute practice daily.  If you have been working with an instructor for a while, step it up to 30 minutes daily.  Be sure to be present and mindful during the session.  Don’t go too long and fatigue your voice.  Take 2-3 minute breaks in your practice sessions so you can give your vocal folds a rest.

“If you aren’t feeling seeing or hearing any vocal progress after a while, it is most likely because you may need to reevaluate your practice strategy.  Booking regular voice lessons in the beginning phases of vocal development is crucial to ensure you are practicing right and being given the right exercises to make your way towards vocal success.”

Practice don’t play…yet:  

It can be fun and a good stress reliever to sing our cares away, but that isn’t productive practice and in fact you could be reinforcing poor vocal habits.  If you really want to take your voice to the next level, you may need to break down your song into sections.  Instead of singing the entire song from beginning to end, take little phrases and work them repetitively and slowly.  Take the lyrics out and work on the melody with some vowel/consonant combinations that were assigned to you in your vocalizing.

Check yourself in the mirror: 

Working in front of a mirror can be a wonderful way to highlight your habits.  Some of us don’t like to look at ourselves as we are highly critical.  Instead use the mirror as a way to constructively observe yourself as your sing.  What to look for?  Look for postural changes, facial strain or jaw tension, vowel formation.  Is your chin lifting up for those high notes?  The entire body should balanced, relaxed and in proper alignment.  When the body is involved in making the sound (for example lifting your chin during a high note) you are heading toward vocal strain and more prone to vocal injury over time.

Is it ‘taking too long’?  

Don’t panic if you don’t hear any automatic changes.  Also you may need to put up with not sounding so good in the beginning.  You are training an unused muscle to be able to meet the demands of challenging songs.  Learning to sing with proper balance and sounding amazing can be a long process.  Stay patient, go slowly and with daily practice you will start to notice your voice strengthening.  If you aren’t feeling seeing or hearing any vocal progress after a while, it is most likely because you may need to reevaluate your practice strategy.  Booking regular voice lessons in the beginning phases of vocal development is crucial to ensure you are practicing right and being given the right exercises to make your way towards vocal success.  After all, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

Alida is a voice and music educator based in Vancouver, Canada.  A graduate of UBC School of Music, Alida holds an IVA Advanced Certificate in voice teaching. Alida has been teaching voice for 9 years to clients from the Lower Mainland as well as across Canada and worldwide on Skype.