When I was growing up, practicing for anything from the piano, voice lessons, recitals, performances, you name it- was not at the top of my “fun” list. To be honest, I hated practicing and found that I lacked the discipline to do it regularly. I loved being in lessons, and I loved performing, but forcing myself to sit down and rehearse felt so daunting. Like many musicians, I tended to fly through practice just to mark it off my to-do list. I put in my thirty minutes a day, so I was good, right? As I grew into a more disciplined individual and singer, I realized that improvement required more than simply running through vocal exercises here and there and showing up to lessons- I had to embrace the art of practicing well.
Anyone can sing a simple scale or learn the melody of a song, but what are the secrets to fostering an actually effective rehearsal time? I have found that I have to give the music my full attention, just as I would if my teacher or coach was with me. The true secret to practicing well is to be fully present when doing your vocal exercises- not just driving in the car or doing laundry. Stand in front of a mirror and watch yourself. Turn your phone on silent or “do not disturb” to avoid distractions. Schedule your practice on your calendar so you can see it and work hard to keep the commitment to yourself and your craft. Make sure if your teacher gave you a note the previous week on an exercise that you are genuinely applying that note in your practice at home.
Sing LOUD! For instance, if you are building your chest voice and told to sing loud, don’t practice using a quiet, breathy voice in your bedroom, hoping no one will hear you. Otherwise, you are not practicing effectively, and all of your time spent working on your voice will reinforce your old singing habits. If you notice you struggle to find places to breathe, print out your music or lyrics and mark your breaths until you can do it without thinking about it. It is not a sign of weakness to mark up a sheet of music; it’s the sign of a strategic singer. Approach all of your songs to set yourself up for the most success. You are worth the dedication!
The way we practice is the way we play. We will most likely bring all of those things to the stage if we are rehearsing with tension, shallow breathing, and pitch issues. It’s so essential to work out these issues in your rehearsal time. In short, practice does not make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect. If we are practicing with intentionality, focus, and control, then we will improve as singers. It is ultimately about the quality of our practice time that leads to success!