20 Oct 6 Tips to Avoid in Your Practice Sessions
“Practice should be messy and unappetising.”
There I’ve said it, BUT it should also be deeply rewarding. In this blog I going to give you six points to avoid in your practice sessions. By following how NOT to practice, you should then gain the most out of your practice sessions and improve your progress in your vocal studies.
These same do NOTs can also be used in any instrumental practice.
1. Jump Straight into it.
I’ve lost count of the number of new students I’ve taught, who say this is what they do in their practising outside of the lessons. The problem with this approach is that you’ve not set your goal for the practice session. How can you measure what you’ve achieved if you’ve not identified what it is that you’d like to achieve?
TIP – Check your notes from your singing lesson to see what you’ve been asked to focus on.
BONUS TIP – Make notes in your singing lessons so you can remember what you need to focus on.
2. Run straight through the pieces
By all means, run straight through the piece, but don’t just leave it there. Have a pencil handy and note it as you’re going through. Where you missed a note, a word, where the breathing didn’t work. Then you’ve got specifics to work on. Working on a small bite-sized piece of the song can enable a quicker mastery of it.
TIP – record yourself so you can listen back and note down where you’d like to work on. You’ll be surprised at how helpful this can be.
3. Carry on despite a mistake being made
No, no, no, no, no!!!! In practice, if you are working on a specific section to master it, you need to stop as soon as a mistake is made. When we learn we are building up neural pathways, these pathways get stronger the more we do something. So if you’re practising a mistake into a technical exercise or song, it’s going to be harder to undo.
Think of it as road-mapping your learning brain. The more you track over a route (say in a wood) the more that route is going to be clear. If you don’t go down a potential track that could lead you to the wrong place, then the track will not be visible.
4. Keep the practice routine the same
We all love a bit of structure and routine – we know what we’re doing, and we feel safe. Yet, are your goals going to be the same each practice? If the focus for that section is going to be working purely on rhythm, do you need to do a full warm-up first? Yes, we need a warm-up and some exercise work, but make that specific to the goal that you are wanting to achieve for that session. Keep the warm-up changing and the voicing should stay flexible. Light, fast passages may not need a weighty ‘belt’ warm-up and vice versa.
5. Keep going until you’ve got it right
Sometimes this does work, but…… when it doesn’t, the frustration starts to kick in and that is when you need to walk away, do something different.
To try to avoid this frustration, mix the piece up. If there are sections to practice that are next to each other, move the order of them about. Try reversing a phrase of notes (you could try the words, but you may end up in a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious situation), or inverting them. You could even try to do both (what is called a retrograde inversion) if you really want.
Change the words to babble sounds, or vowels, and mix those up too.
6. Think practising is the same as performing
We are in a different mind set up when we’re practising, and we need to be aware of that. If you’re preparing for an upcoming performance, then try and find ways to alter the conditions to match those you’ll be in during the performance. Try things such as finding a room/practice venue with a similar acoustic set up, using a backing track or an accompanist. Even ask some friends/family/colleagues to watch to help with that build-up of adrenaline.
And always remember whether you’re practising or performing that we should strive for excellence, perfection is a myth.