Supercharge Your Singing Practice
Being able to practice your singing on your own is one of the most empowering skills a singer can have. However many of my clients tell me that they:
a) don’t have the time and
b) aren’t sure whether they’re doing it right.
The truth is, no matter how amazing your vocal coach is, the real work takes place when you apply the strategies we have taught you in your own time. Here are my top tips for Super Charging your Singing Practice.
“We Overestimate What We Can Do in a Day and Under Estimate What We Can Do in a Lifetime” – Tony Robbins
Be honest with yourself. I see so many singers overestimate how much time they will be able to spend practicing. When starting a new routine, be realistic. If you take on too much and aren’t able to follow through, you will feel like a failure and quit altogether. If the reality is that all you can manage right now is 10 minutes per week, then start there. Once you start seeing progress, it will be easier for you to prioritise finding the time.
Start small. Many of my new clients feel like I’m not giving them enough material to practice .However the key is to practice 1 thing so effectively that real and permanent changes can take place. If you treat practice as a ‘tick box’ exercise where you want to cover as many topics as possible, you might create the illusion of working hard, but you are actually wasting your time. Effective practice requires lots of repetition. Each time we repeat an action, our brain creates more of a substance called Myelin. The more Myelin we have, the faster the signal from the brain is transmitted, meaning that we can perform that task more smoothly and effectively. Choosing to practice in this way is a challenge. It really forces you to focus. But it WILL work. Find out more about Myelin and effective practice in this awesome book.
How long should you practice for? I recommend starting with 10 minute sessions. Most people should be able to find 10 minutes at least once a week. Beginning with short sessions helps to get over the mental hurdle of not having time, and allows your brain to adjust to the depth of focus required without being too overwhelming.
Set a timer so you don’t clock watch. If you feel like doing more once the time is up, try another 10 minutes. Over time you’ll get a feel for what your optimal session length is and you can use that as a benchmark. However it is always OK to revert back to short sessions- slowing down is better than stopping altogether. As Newton’s law states “objects in motion stay in motion, objects at rest stay at rest.”
Don’t feel like you’re improving? Getting better at something you love doing can be a frustrating, disappointing and exhilarating experience. There will be highs and lows. However, remember- emotional responses aren’t a good guide in these situations. Just because you feel like you’re not doing well, that doesn’t mean that its true. Whenever you need to be reminded of this, watch this TED Talk by Lisa Feldman Barrett
Studies have shown that we perform musical tasks best when in a state of ‘non-judgemental awareness’. This means that criticising yourself actually hinders your ability to sing! In order to get accurate.non-judgemental feedback that will actually HELP you to progress, I highly recommend introducing some sources of sensory feedback into your practice sessions. For example, record yourself performing a phrase then listen back to it. Analyse whether you would like to change something about it, and if so try again.
My favourite form of sensory feedback is a mirror. Many vocal issues resolve themselves when we watch ourselves in a mirror, as it gives us a focus, calms our mind and allows us to make instant adjustments.
Read this book to learn more about how mindset can affect your musical ability.
Getting the most out of your singing practice is a matter of mindset. Allowing yourself to start small, having the discipline to focus on one thing and repeat it over and over. Reminding ourself that emotional responses aren’t necessarily accurate or helpful, and using external sources of feedback to monitor our progress. Getting a handle on your mindset is one of the hardest parts of being a singer. However if you take the time to work on it, you will gain skills that will allow you to keep growing and improving for a lifetime.