If you want your singing to improve, strengthen and feel good, there’s only one way to achieve it: practice! It may not ‘make perfect’, but it’s how you grow as a singer. Successful singing practice requires the discipline to show up, regularly practice and think about your technique.
While singing is definitely a creative pursuit, being creative doesn’t equal lack of discipline or organisation. Singers who want to improve are, in fact, the opposite: they have regular practice routines and make time to experiment with music and songs.
If you find it difficult to fit practice into your week, here are my tips to help you create – and stick to – a regular singing practice routine.
Why prioritise singing practice?
It helps you identify where your problems are, so you can work on them in lessons with your singing teacher and your own practice.
When you first start to learn singing, it’s especially important to establish good practice habits. And the number one habit for successful singers of all levels is:
YOU SHOW UP.
I can’t emphasise this enough: persistence pays off. Think of your singing practice being as valuable as your paid singing lesson; that can help you make time for it.
Regularity is crucial, so experiment at first to find a time that suits you: lunch time, after work, before work. Mark it in your calendar so it’s fixed in your schedule.
Location is important because you need to be free from distractions (turn off your phone and TV too!). You need to feel relaxed, to focus and be free to move around a little.
Home: If housemates or neighbours might be impacted, try soundproofing with rugs near the door, a thick blanket hung over the door, or the back of your piano. Use the soft pedal on your keyboard.
Hired venues: Some churches, council halls or rooms, or a private studio are available to hire for practice.
How long should you practice?
This depends on your level of experience:
Little, focussed practices build your skills and create sparks of understanding.
HOW TO STRUCTURE YOUR SINGING PRACTICE SESSION
Your singing practice will usually look like this:
Slow practice helps build skills that give you a chance to recognise plateaus, blossoms, misfires and awesomeness in your singing. You develop mastery and build confidence, and your learning looks more like a geometrical pattern rather than a straight line of skills.
Always warm up with some lip buzzes, tongue trill or gentle sigh/glides, on an ‘ng’ sound (as in ‘song’), a hum or even a ‘Z’ (zed). Try other fricative sounds, such as ‘V’, ‘Ch’ or ‘Th’, simply gliding up and down your range. Extend into your upper and lower voice.
Focusing on one new skill will develop that particular goal. It could be breathing technique or smoothing your register transition. Try to keep your brain on the one target skill, rather than shifting your attention. Repetition is key.
By taking ‘target practice’ at developing new habits and thinking, or strengthening your voice skills, you begin to change. Your neural pathways become uninhibited – better pathways strengthen and less helpful ones grow weaker.
Your aim here is to make new skills permanent and ready for action.
Push past your comfort zone
While most vocal exercises need to be at your skill level, choosing one or two above your expertise enhances your practice. It stretches you, helping you build new skills, and soon it will become easier.
By the end of your singing practice session, you may need to just sing and revel in the randomness. There’s learning here too, so do it!
Feeling tired after practice is good, as singing is physical, but soreness around your throat and neck may mean you are overdoing it and using your voice incorrectly. Slow down and relax your practice.
Finish your practice with a warm down. Gentle sighs and glides bring your voice back to its speaking place and signal the practice is over. Take some deep breaths, just as you did at the start and stretch a little.
Reflect on your work
Here’s a suggested weekly singing practice routine for a beginner
Regular singing practice is part of your learning, a reinforcement of what we cover in our singing lessons.
I often ask my students to explain what they are doing, thinking and feeling. Articulating your ideas is helpful, and you’ll find there isn’t a black and white answer. As a dear musician friend once put it: “Singing is thinking”.
Think, notice, be aware. That’s where the fun is!
Whether you’re a beginner, or have some singing experience, Kathleen Connell offers an introductory lesson, and singing training packages to suit your needs. Find out more.