Practice Tips

Sometimes it’s tough to take time to practice. But the only way to get better at anything—or maintain what you’ve accomplished so far–is to keep working at it. So, here are some things to help you along as you practice.

DRINK LOTS OF WATER

In order to effectively sing well, you need to be hydrated. Drink before, during, and after you practice.

USE A MIRROR

It’s very important that, whenever possible, you get immediate feedback on what you are doing. As we sing, we often do things physically that we are unaware of. When we look in a mirror, we tend to fix them IMMEDIATELY. This is important because it helps to build good habits. The more we DON’T practice in front of a mirror and DON’T see what we are doing, the more danger we are in of creating unhealthy patterns.

PUT YOURSELF THROUGH THE PACES

There is a reason why your high school choir director did those crazy warm-ups. Those warm-ups get your muscles ready to work out-safely. So, don’t cut back on doing your exercises. Warming up is a good start, but working out is even better. When you take the time to push yourself (safely) to new levels, you can grow as a vocalist. This means having a set of exercises that you can use to help you in your target areas.

PRACTICE MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED TO

Fact: most people UNDER-practice. This is part of why many people get nervous. Most of the time, it takes more preparation than many people are willing to put in. If singers were truly prepared, they would have a lot more confidence and do a better job overall. When I was in college, my voice teacher told me to never sing a song in public that I hadn’t sung at least 100 times in private. I tend to go beyond that now that I’m “older;” I often need more help than I can get from 100 times!

RECORD, RECORD, AND RECORD AGAIN

There is no getting around our need for feedback. Many people are so afraid of how they sound that they refuse to record or listen to recordings of themselves. This is silly. If you are willing to sing in front of others, you need to know what you sound and look like. There is nothing like a decent recording to shock you into more practice. One of the great benefits of private lessons is that someone objective gives you immediate feedback. They can help spot your weaknesses and trouble spots. It is invaluable. But, most of you reading this will not be taking private voice lessons any time soon, so the next best thing you can do is to become your own vocal coach, to the best of your ability.

Video recordings can help you to see what you might be doing with your body that is not helping your ability to sing well. Often, singers take on movements and stylistic stances that, in fact, make singing harder. They are usually easy to spot with a video recording. Don’t shy away from these, as difficult as they may be for you at first.

Audio recordings can give you the simple facts of how you sound. Resist the temptation to just get discouraged. You will likely be your own worst critic, but try to take it easy on yourself and look for positives as well as things you’d like to improve. Record again in a week or two and look for improvement in the things you specifically tried to work on.

WHAT NOT TO DO

If you are not feeling well vocally, DON’T SING. The only exception I’m going to make for this is that I know you WILL sing when you’re scheduled, so at least gently warm up, sing as carefully as you can, and DON’T TALK. Do your best to rest your voice completely. I’d love to tell you to stay home, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that you likely won’t. If something hurts when you do it, stop doing it. Don’t push too hard in one sitting; building skills and muscles takes time. NEVER sing with air in your tone. It can cause serious vocal damage! And don’t get lost in the music while driving because you may find yourself in heaven sooner than you expected!

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Internationally acclaimed vocal coach with a degree from U of Illinois. Coaching since '79 and leading worship since '85.

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