Practicing is crucial for vocal development, but it can be overwhelming trying to practice when you don’t know where to start. Here are some strategies to help you get the most out of your practice sessions!
Come up with a plan. If you start your practice session with a plan in mind, you will find that you can accomplish a lot more in a short amount of time. You don’t even need to plan beforehand – spend the first five minutes of the lesson coming up with a game plan on what you want to work on, and you’ll see significant improvement in your practice routine!
Chunk it out. Do you find yourself simply singing through your repertoire over and over? What if I told you that there is a more efficient way to practice, that will take less vocal energy and less time? The answer is “chunking it out.” What does this phrase mean? It means to break up your songs into parts. What part of the song scares you the most? Start there. Implement things you worked on in voice lessons with your teacher and see if you can improve in that particular section. Then move on to another section. Not only will this make it easier to focus during practice (only having a small part of a song to focus on is much less overwhelming than one whole song at a time), but it will also help you to conserve precious vocal energy.
Note: if a section you need to work on is more vocally taxing than the others, make sure you don’t practice that section to the point of vocal fatigue or hoarseness.
Approach with curiosity. We often approach a practice session with the mindset of “getting it right.” Sometimes, this can cause us to speak to ourselves in a way that hinders our progress. For example, if you are singing a certain note in a less optimal way, this can lead to frustration. Which can lead to negative self-talk, which can lead to our bodies tensing up as we try to “get it right.” This kind of self-talk more often than not leads to tension, which will bring the opposite effect of what we want.
Instead of negative self-talk, try speaking to yourself in questions, with a curious mindset. You can say “what do I want to happen when I sing this high note?” or “what does it feel like when I breathe efficiently?” These kind of leading questions can set you up for success in being able to habituate proper technique.
Practice in smaller segments (at least starting out). I, for one, struggle to practice singing my music for an hour straight while staying focused. I have found it to be easier to practice in smaller segments of time, while taking breaks in between. One way to implement this practice strategy is to spend 25 minutes warming up and working on a specific section of a song, then taking a small break. After the break, continue working on that segment or pick a new section. And repeat! You will find that this makes it easier to stay focused, thus you will notice improvement more quickly.
Quiz yourself often. How do you know you have formed a habit? If you can get it right over and over again on the first try. This applies to singing! If you can sing that high note in the way you want to the first time repeatedly, you can know that you have habituated that technique you’ve been practicing for ages. When you start practicing, try to see if you can sing the section you’re working on with proper technique on the first try. If not, no worries! Practice implementing the techniques you want, take a break, and quiz yourself again. The more frequently you implement this practice strategy, the quicker you will notice improvement!
Try these tactics out and see which ones work for you. Hope this helps!