If you are a singer who wants to experience progress every time you practice, then keep on reading.
Today, I will ponder about a few questions about vocal practice that you may have asked yourself before.
- Why many aspiring singers don’t make any progress?
- What is the main difference between the ones who advance in vocal development and the ones who don’t?
- And finally – what is the key factor leading to a singer’s improvement?
In this article, I am going to share some very concrete tips about making your practice routine as effective as possible. But let’s consider the following factors first.
Factors to Consider
While there are many factors that will influence the speed and the level of progress that an aspiring singer makes in his vocal practice, some of these factors will play a bigger role than others.
The first thing that pops to mind is musical talent.
It is fair to assume that a talented student could initially make progress faster and achieve a higher level of mastery than a less talented student. In my previous blog post, called Can Anyone Learn to Sing?, I expressed my opinion that anyone could learn to sing, even people who do not possess an obvious gift for singing. (You can read my blog post here.)
Another factor to consider may be the “money” factor – the possession of means to pay for singing lessons or vocal training programs.
Again, it would be fair to believe that a student who takes hour-long lessons twice a week will make more progress than a student who is left to his own devices.
The question here is whether it is the money that makes the difference or something else?
Other influencing factors to be considered:
- the environment and support that the aspiring singer receives
- the quality of the vocal coach/teacher or the quality of the vocal practice program the student follows
- the motivation of the singer
- the frequency of vocal lessons
- and many more …
We can safely say that if more of these factors that influence a singer are positive, the more likely he or she can improve vocal skills.
But what it all boils down to is the intensity, frequency or the amount of vocal practice.
It is as simple as that.
The more a singer practices, the better he gets.
Now I can see you roll your eyes … Everyone knows that. But …
I see the “buts” everyday in my work and at home.
At home, every day I tell my children that the more they prepare, practice or train a skill, the better they get at it. (I know I sound like a horrible mother but I tell them in a nice way otherwise they would hate me or the activity.)
It does not matter if it is spelling, math, playing a musical instrument or singing.
You should see the satisfaction on my son’s face when he seamlessly plays a piece of music that seemed hard only a week ago.
And I have to remind him that it was him and the daily practice that made it possible. I have to remind him often because he can come up with many “buts” not to practice.
At work, every time I take on a new client, I lay the ground rules beforehand: in order to see progress in one’s speech-language development, practice has to be done daily.
(I am a speech-language pathologist if you did not know.)
Even if it is only 5 minutes a day but it is done daily, there will be progress.
I promise – ask any speech-language pathologist or any therapist for that matter.
And there are endless scientific studies that prove this point.
I can hear (or see) right away if a client has practiced or not. Some clients will practice for an hour the day before their therapy session, which may do the trick but progress is much slower and harder than if they practiced every day for a shorter chunk of time.
These clients also have many “buts” that interfere with regular practice.
And I remind them often …
The key to progress is regularity.
By doing something daily, you develop a habit and later, the habit may turn into a passion (well, that does not apply for speech therapy, I guess).
Believe it or not, five minutes every day will improve your skills – whether it’s mental math, writing, soccer skills, articulation or singing.
Once you get better, you tend to spend more time engaged in the activity. If you spend more time practicing, your skills get better faster, which leads to feelings of accomplishment, satisfaction and pride.
These positive feelings boost our confidence and we tend to seek out more of these activities that give us the confidence …
And the cycle goes on and on.
Having said that, I also know that it is very hard to stick to a regular schedule.
Sometimes, it is very difficult to start off because we may not see any results right away and we doubt every moment and effort.
Sometimes starting a new skill is easy because we are full of enthusiasm. Other times, following a routine becomes boring or a hurdle seems too difficult to overcome.
People tend to avoid problems and demanding tasks. Yes, it is easier not to deal with an adversity than to wrestle with it one bite at a time. In these moments, it is difficult to see the end goal when the present does not offer any fulfillment.
Here is a video, in which I am sharing 3 simple steps to making your vocal practice routine effective and recognize your progress every time you Click here to go to YouTube.
How to Stick to Regular Vocal Practice?
Here are some suggestions that have worked for me, my family and my clients.
Write down your goals.
Write down your goals (one, two or three goals should be enough) in your agenda book, practice journal or on a piece of paper.
Create an electronic file with your written goals and make a habit of looking at them every day.
If you don’t write down your goals, you may lose focus and your goals will simply be wishful thinking.
In the 1950’s, there was a study carried out at Harvard University studying people’s life goals. It’s not surprising that everyone questioned in this study said that they had some life goals. The study then asked how many people put their goals in writing. The answer was only 3%! Thirty years later, the study followed up with the study group. The 3% that had written their goals on paper were worth more than the other 97% combined.
Isn’t this interesting?
In speech-language therapy (and other disciplines and industries), we use so called S.M.A.R.T. goals.
Every letter of the word SMART means something:
Specific – set specific goals.
Vague or broad goals like “I want to learn to sing” give you only general direction but do not help to practice a specific skill.
A specific goal, such as “I will extend my range by a semi-tone” or “I will memorize the lyrics of a song” or “I will use controlled breath support for singing long phrases in my song”, will pinpoint the skill that you need to work towards.
Measurable – set goals that you can measure.
Your goal should answer questions like how long, how many or how much. Examples are one pitch, half a song, five singing practice exercises, 10 seconds … You get the idea.
Achievable – choose goals that you can actually achieve.
Know your limitations and do not aim for goals that are beyond your physical, emotional or practical limits. Don’t set out to learn a song that is way out of your vocal range.
Realistic – similarly to achievable, set goals that you can realistically achieve in a realistic time frame.
A realistic goal describes a skill that is only one step ahead of your current skill.
For example, you want to extend your range one semi-tone at a time, not 5 pitches at a time. Or you want to memorize the lyrics to one song, not 10 songs that you love. Take one step at a time.
Timely – set a time frame, in which you want to achieve your goal, for example a week, a month, after 5 practice sessions, by January etc.
So go ahead and try it. Write down your goals and put them on display for you to see every day.
Bonus: To help you set goals around your breathing technique, download this free Breathing Checklist. Discover what you are good at and what needs more practice. Click here to start now.
Make a schedule.
Create a schedule.
Use an electronic agenda or use an old-fashion way – draw a table on a piece of paper, create a vocal practice log.
Plan exactly what day, time and how long you will practice.
To make things even easier, plan what exercises, songs or skills you plan to practice.
If you stay focused, you will keep improving.
Find a partner to keep you accountable.
It can be a friend, family member or your vocal teacher.
Find someone who will not forgive you every time you “forget” to practice (because they know that you are very busy and there is no way you can fit 5 minutes of vocal practice in your daily routine).
Find a partner who will be uncompromising but will remind you gently to do your “homework” when it is needed.
Maybe you know of someone who is just like you: someone who wants to improve their singing. You can work on the skills together.
It is always more fun to have a friend on the battle field.
Book clubs are a great example of friendly communities that force their members to read a book. I bet that many book club members would probably do something more “important” than reading books if they did not have to discuss it later.
Follow a structured program.
Follow a structured vocal practice program.
If you are new to singing, it may be difficult to figure out what to practice and how.
If you have a vocal teacher, discuss your daily “homework” with your teacher. Ask detailed questions about what and how. If you know exactly what to do during a singing practice, there will be fewer excuses not to practice.
If you do not meet with a vocal coach or teacher regularly, invest in voice training exercises and programs that “prescribe” exact vocal practice exercises for every day of the week.
Singing programs with downloadable audio files are a great option because you can take them with you.
If a program offers a sequence of exercises that you can follow just by pushing the “on” button, there are no more “buts”.
There is a whole slew of online vocal training programs, digital downloads, videos, and books with CDs with these features.
If you ever wondered how to sing better and recognize your progress, I hope I gave you some good tips to get the most out of your vocal practice.