Choose from one of the following;
a) makes me crazy
b) is too hard by myself
c) makes perfect
Let’s start with WHY you need to practice! Only a very small minority of singers are what you might call a ‘natural’ singer. They just open their mouth and out comes liquid gold. The rest of us have pretty much the same instrument – it just needs some setting up. We need to learn about how it works, how to calibrate it, and how to get it connected to the main computer, so to speak… or should I say 'so to sing'? That’s really good news. It means with knowledge and lots of practice you too can develop your singing voice.
If you haven’t quite reached the stage where you look forward to practicing, then don’t worry that’s pretty normal –at least in the early stages of learning to sing. I guarantee that if you stick at it, at some point in your growth as a singer things will turn around!
The whole experience of singing is so much better when you have warmed up. The exercises you are given are for warming up your voice to prepare you to sing and to achieve growth. That’s why they change from time to time. Singing lessons are a lot like having a personal trainer for your voice, and a personal trainer ensures you stretch and warm up before embarking on a full-on training session.
When you start to make progress with your exercises by yourself and try the song you’ve been working on, that's when things get interesting! When the two experiences gel and you can hear and feel a tangible difference, that’s the incentive you need to keep at it. In fact, the whole process of practicing by yourself is actually integral to the growth of your skills as a singer. You need to spend some quality time with your voice, and the recording of your lesson, and make some noise!
I'll explain in a little more depth.
Everyone has some sort of tendency that can be fixed to achieve a better balance in his or her voice. For example: some singers lack strength in their chest voice; some are strong in their chest voice and can’t figure out how to reach their head voice; and others have a frustrating little break in the middle that means they can’t quite move back and forth smoothly…and so on. IVA teachers choose exercises that address the personal needs of your voice. Once you have some home-base exercises that help you achieve balance in your voice, you will be set new challenges to extend your skills and move your voice to the next stage.
That’s why it matters that you listen to your recorded lesson. You can learn a lot from listening and then singing along with your lesson. I know that it can feel embarrassing, but I promise you that it’s worth toughing out until you just don’t care. It’s pretty exciting when you start getting results! Often your voice feels better before it sounds better, and that’s just part of the learning curve.
Be MINDFUL when you practice and pay attention to how your voice feels and sounds. This will lead you to eventually being able to take charge of your practice routine. You will understand which exercises help you to achieve certain goals and which exercises assist you when you’re tired or sick and so forth. Eventually you will feel confident enough to direct your practice sessions according to your needs.
A great rule of thumb is: If you are attempting an exercise, or a note, or a phrase in your song and just can’t achieve it, STOP after 3 unsuccessful attempts then wait and work through it in your next lesson. If you catch yourself thinking about what's for dinner, or what's on TV and you start losing concentration, STOP and take a break. The reason for this is, if you keep repeating a mistake your body has a way of learning it. You need to be AWARE of what you choose to practice, because a mistake can become a program and that makes it harder for you to eliminate it.
How long should you practice?
If you’re a total beginner, then 10–15 minutes a day of the exercises would be great. If you can manage that twice a day some days, that’s even better. Ask yourself to notice – Is it getting easier? Do I feel some changes as a result? If the answer is yes, then you are on the right track. If you can only manage a few longer practice sessions per week (which would include a song as well as your exercises) that’s fine, but prioritise short practices of the exercises on the other days.
If you’ve been having lessons for some time, the same rule-of-thumb applies – practice the exercises for at least 15–20 minutes a day as a minimum and have longer practice sessions (which includes application to songs) as often as possible.
If you’re a professional then it pays to develop a personalised warm up and maintenance routine in more detail with your teacher. Familiarity pays off and that’s why it’s so important.
One day off a week at whatever stage you are at makes good sense too!
Where should you practice?
Choose a place where you don't feel inhibited and as a result hold back your sound. Practice in an environment where you feel safe to make a lot of strange, wonderful sounds—and plenty of horrible noises and mistakes—on your way to making something beautiful. I have had to talk myself into practicing in hotel rooms and apartment blocks – I can tell you it can be done regardless of who can hear you! I’ve trained myself not to care anymore about what others think. We humans are amazing at adapting. When we want to achieve something badly enough we can adjust to just about anything.
So what is the answer to the multiple-choice question?
d)...(other) The answer is: 'perfect practice makes perfect!'