Thoughts on How To Practice....
Most singers will agree that in order to build your voice into an instrument that you can depend upon and that will last over the years takes practice. But do we really know how to practice?
In my experience, many singers simply give themselves concerts - that is - they sing songs in the practice room - and feel that in doing so, they are developing their singing skills. For most singers, this kind of work is not enough.
Start with breathing.
Now I know that some teachers feel that breathing exercises are highly overrated. They believe that when you sing, you just breathe naturally and learn to control the expiration.
But when I talk with my own students about how to practice, I tell them that by doing a few breathing exercises before you practice or before you take a lesson, you gain in various ways.
First - you are making a definite break between your often frantic life and this time of oncentrated work on your voice.
Second - you are taking a few minutes to re-focus your mind for the task at hand. And practice does take a quiet mind. So any healthy ritual that can help slow down the race driver in the head, is useful.
If you have a favorite breathing exercise, do that. If not, here's some help... How to Practice - a free breathing exercise
MORE ON "HOW TO PRACTICE" BELOW, BUT FIRST....
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Next - Vocal Exercises
Begin with something that is simple and sits in your easiest range - usually your low-mid range. I like to start with "bubble-lips" (you make your lips flap with a small stream of breath.) This is a good starter exercise because it gets your breath moving and does not strain the vocal cords.
If you do not use the bubble-lips exercise, choose another good starter and then do a few more simple exercises that you know from your singing lessons. Here is a free vocal warm up in case you need some guidance.
Then increase the level of difficulty - in terms of range, power and flexibility.
After you've worked for about 15 - 20 minutes, and you feel warmed up - start to incorporate a few exercises that will help you with specific problems in your songs.
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Then - sing your songs.
But avoid simply giving yourself a concert. There is a place for this kind of effort, but at this point, you should be working on specific passages in your songs that need to be improved.
When you feel that you have brought a song to a higher level, then sing the whole thing as though you are performing it.
The whole warm-up process can be as short as 15 minutes or as long as an hour, depending upon your unique needs.
But you should SELDOM sing songs without warming up your voice appropriately. It's easy to strain stiff muscles. Learn to warm up now so that it becomes an easy ritual to follow in future.
If you need a little more guidance or just the opportunity to talk with an expert about your singing voice, you can Ask Barbara!
I wish you Great Singing!