Music Major Minute: Daily Practice Rx: Show Up, then “Treat Yo’ Self!”

Music Major Minute: Daily Practice Rx: Show Up, then “Treat Yo’ Self!”


Learn more about daily practice habits to make your semester’s voice lessons successful.


As we head back to campus for fall semester, music majors know it is a time for new repertoire, a new schedule. Your professors have taken care to craft updated syllabi for your classes. The voice lesson syllabus provides guidelines for your vocal development and undoubtedly requires practice time. Vocal development requires daily effort and the understanding of the process to practice effectively. This column will specify some points of inspiration for instilling daily practice as a habit and remind fellow singers to reward their marvelous behavior. 


Eleanor Roosevelt advised, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Pull up a YouTube video of any Olympic athlete crossing a finish line or sticking their landing. Years of daily practice conditioned those athletes into superstars, and we singers are playing a similar game. Daily practice conditions the vocal mechanism and is required for learning music. Listening to a recording of your favorite singer can give you goosebumps—do you want to sing like that? Attending a live performance can bring tears to your eyes—do you want to be able to act like that? To truly believe in the beauty of a dream, we must work every single day. 

Every day might not be our best, but every day we can show up and make progress. Many incoming freshmen voice majors do not know how to practice and/or balance all the vocal demands of ensemble music on top of their solo repertoire. As a voice professor, it is my job to teach my students that the successful voice major practices daily, commits to attending all rehearsals, prepares for lessons, and somehow keeps up a positive attitude. Stephen Sondheim said, “Art is craft, not inspiration.” In other words, showing up is the necessary element. By showing up physically, you are where you need to be for the work. Showing up mentally opens up possibilities for that work to be focused. When we are focused and putting in the work, we can create art.

Make Daily Practice a Habit

There are theories about forming habits. Some say it takes 21 days of active repetition to form a habit. In 2021, the British Psychological Society concluded that it takes 59–70 days to create a habit. I subscribe to the idea that we make a choice every single day to continue the habit or not. 

If you want to be a singer who practices daily, rain or shine, good voice or bad, great mood or no—there are tools that can help:

1. Incentive—Goal Setting

Do you want to earn an A in lessons? Do you want to be cast in a show? Setting goals defines a specific incentive and creates motivation to show up and do the work.

2. Monitor—Keep Track

A practice log is fantastic for all levels of study. Create an appealing way to track your accountability: buy a beautiful notebook, jot notes in your binder, or keep it simple by using the Notes app on your phone. Checking a box is satisfying and increases motivation to show up and do the work.

3. Mindfulness—Attempt the Task at Hand

Showing up mentally is key to the notion that “art is craft.” Singers that go through the motions without focus are in danger of memory slips or worse: uninspired regurgitation! Intentions will set you apart as a student and a performer. By setting practice room intentions, you can strengthen your resolve to…you guessed it…show up and do the work. 

4. Reward—Treat Yo’ Self

You did it! You showed up and did the work. Some say that work is its own reward—but here on Soprano Island, we appreciate a little treat and encourage a world where singers recognize and reward their efforts. 

In the hallowed words of characters Tom and Donna from Parks & Recreation, “Treat Yo’ Self.” Tom and Donna spend one hilarious, albeit financially dangerous, day a year treating themselves to spa treatments and high-end shopping. Most of us need to pace our spending, but the heart of the mantra is self-validation. The way to train a puppy or an elementary school class is to reward good behavior, so it follows that training a singer to practice daily with external rewards is a beneficial plan.

Need ideas for immediate rewards on a student budget?

  1. Have a sweet tooth? Anything you can fit in a Ziploc snack bag becomes a legit treat on the go as you leave the practice room!
  2. Missing your summer Netflix binges? Allocate one episode for every hour of practice and your show becomes a treat!
  3. Are you a Starbucks Gold Reward Card savant? “Treat Yo’ Self” with a coffee after practicing, and those reward points will treat you back!
  4. Need time with your pals or significant other? Text your crush to meet you behind the library after your practice or arrange a run to Sonic for drinks with some music major besties after your collective practice hour, and social battery charging becomes a treat!

Once the decision is made to show up and do the work, it is time to address the “task at hand.” When it comes to practicing, the student/teacher relationship will benefit from specific dialogue about what you are supposed to do each day. If you think your practice time could use improvement, gather ideas from your professors and upperclassmen. YouTube is a great tool for introducing a new song by listening to a great artist—but, ultimately, voice majors need to “woodshed” their own music at the piano and develop their own interpretation for performance.

Five Quick Tips to Practice Like a Pro

Make a Plan

  • Vocalize to both warm up the voice and develop healthy vocal technique.
  • Learn your music and texts.
  • Improve problem sections of songs and arias.
  • Master the styles of your repertoire.
  • Develop your authentic interpretation.
  • Memorize.

Set Practice Goals

  • Goal #1: Show up!
  • Goal #2 Speak it, sing it, support it, resonate it.
  • Goal #3 Prepare for the next lesson, rehearsal, or performance.

Respect Your Repertoire

  • Style matters.
  • Composer history will inform your interpretation.
  • The poet penned the words that inspired the composer—now it is your turn to inspire the listener with a clear delivery.

Stop Procrastinating

  • Treats will help!


  • Line by line, baby!
  • Memorize one phrase each practice session and you will know your music sooner and be more secure in performance.

The practice room awaits! Organize your schedule and create time for daily practice. And by “treating yo’ self” in small ways, you will enjoy the process. Talk with your teachers about their expectations for your practice, challenge yourself to set goals, and learn and memorize your music. By showing up and doing the work, you will prove Maestro Sondheim right, that your art is your craft.

Christi Amonson

Christi Amonson is a soprano, a stage director, a curious reader/writer, a professor of voice and opera at The College of Idaho, and a curator of food, hugs, and good times for her family.