Vocal Edu Series (4): Make the most of your expensive voice lessons: Practice!
Rehearsal Methods for Individual Singers
Taking voice lessons can be an expensive pleasure. In this blog, I would like to share some tips and tricks for you to make the most of the time in between lessons, so you will improve more and faster from lesson to lesson and ask better and more precise questions during your lessons. How much you want to practise is of course up to you. The amount of practise time needed depends of course on your skills and resources and on the goal or level you want to reach within a certain timeframe. No matter your goal, level or timeframe, there are some things you could consider.
Make sure that you have a rehearsal room, where you can actually sing out loud, and where you are not disturbed. To practise you need to be focused and to feel free to make mistakes without being judged.
Duration and frequency
Studies have shown that most people find it difficult to stay concentrated for more than 45 min in a row. The longer you continue after that, the less you remember, the more mistakes you make and the more exhausted you will be. This means that you are likely to not rehearse again later the same day or maybe even the day after. In the worst case scenario, you might actually get worse and not better, if you push yourself for too long time, because your muscular memory will “save” all the mistakes you made when you were exhausted in the end of the session and not all the rights you made in the beginning, when you were focused and well-rested. Studies have also shown that you learn more from practising 2 x 45 min than 90 in a row. This also means, that you could consider splitting your rehearsal time during a day up in two or three laps: 30 min in the morning and 30 min in the afternoon and maybe 30 min in the evening.
A break is not checking your cell phone, answering emails, watching television or things like that. A break is something where the brain can be unfocused and your thoughts can wander. Make a cup of tea. Go for a little walk. Or even better: Take a power nap! Studies have shown that the best way to save things from the short-term memory to the long-term memory is to sleep.
- Make a plan of what you are going to rehearse. Make it a mixture of different disciplines, so you don’t get bored and lose your motivation. It could be:
- Physical excercises to strengthen and stretch to improve posture and decrease involuntary/compensatory tensions.
- Breathing and support excercises
- Modes/different sounds in different ranges and volumes
- Some kind of effect like vibrato or creeking you want to improve.
- Improvisation over a vamp or a jazz standard. Give yourself assignments like: legato/staccato, change the first note of the phrase or don’t ever sing on the first beat of the bar.
- Work on a song or two. Focus on different parameters: Rhythm/time/groove, sound colours, pronunciation, dynamics, interpretation etc.
- Remember to take breaks every 45 min.
Observe – Consider – Take Action
Here is a simple model to help you analyze the observations you make about yourself and help you take appropriate short term and long term action:
- What do I hear? What do I see? What do I feel?
- What could possibly cause this?
- What could possibly change this to the better here and now and on longer terms?
- What should we do here and now, and what should we do on longer terms?