It’s All About HOW You Practice

It’s incredibly common to hear the phrase “practice makes perfect,” but did you know there’s better and worse ways to practice? Whether you’ve been singing all your life, or are just starting out, it’s important to approach singing with as much respect as you would approach any form of training. To do that, I recommend the following:

  1. Make a list of just 2–3 songs you want to sing, preferably contrasting styles.
  2. Collect a list of vocal training exercises (see below).
  3. Practice in an organized, focused manner that enables you to retain and build upon your continued improvements.

VOCAL TRAINING EXERCISES

The best way to improve the pitch, diction and tone of your voice is to practice daily vocal exercises. Here are some great videos detailing some of the best exercises that will help you:

Overall warmup & tone production:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=Q5hS7eukUbQ

Work on the sound your singing voice:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtM2EM8HMdY

Improve your breathing for singing:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvb9jQm_GVs

Clarify your vowels:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QREIsiCVWWI

Intonation:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBPPOCPByTE

Vocal range:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwC4qfpZLoo

The list is endless but if you practice at least 10–25 minutes of vocal exercises per day, with adequate rest in between, you will rapidly progress.

ORGANIZING YOUR PRACTICE SESSION
Did you know that how you practice dramatically affects your success? Traditional methods tell us to spend tedious amounts of time working on one thing over and over until we get it right. But in fact, a far more effective way of practicing is to space out and mix up your exercises and music. It’s a concept known as interleaving. Here’s a great article by our friends at Bulletproof Musician on how to space your practice in order to maintain gains.

FOCUS, PROGRESS, & MOTIVATION
On top of how you work through a particular practice session, it’s also important to keep track of what you’ve been working on, and ideally, the progress you’ve been making.

Many musicians and singers accomplish this by keeping a practice journal. The single biggest reason to keep a journal is to plan and track your progress. Just like a body builder tracks his work out, your practice journal will have a record of your accomplishments and trials over the course of each session.

Take your organization a step further by recording yourself and listening to how you sound. Remember, you sound very different in your head than you do to everyone else. Grab your phone or other recording device and capture yourself singing.

Listening to self-recordings, you’ll have a much better idea of exactly what to improve. If you keep the recording, you can see just how much you improved when you go back and listen to it later. Keeping track of your progress – both in a journal as well as recordings – will help you stay motivated as you continue to see (and hear) your gains.

WORK WITH EXPERTS
Honestly, there’s really no such thing as “on your own”. There are many free and affordable resources online, and behind those resources are humans who care about music. Don’t be afraid to look to others for help – whether it’s a from a voice coach, a simple advisor or mentor, or just from finding valuable content online to help you address specific needs. From singing techniques to practice tips, there are nearly infinite resources to help you improve.

Marc Gelfo

  Marc Gelfo has been practicing music for 30+ years. After applying cognitive science & computer science to French horn, Marc became an internationally touring symphony musician. His experience includes teaching and performing with thousands of musicians around the world, including the San Francisco Symphony. He is currently the founder of Modacity, a music practice app designed to help musicians practice better and learn faster.