I wanted to write about the importance of practice! It’s a well known fact that you need to practice to improve, and I definitely agree, but how do you practice so it’s effective?

I have plenty of experience of being taught by music teachers (I’ve had many over the years!) it’s common place to be told to spend a “certain amount of time” a day or week learning your scales and pieces by playing them over and over again…until you get it right. Then you go back for the next lesson and you’re assessed on whether you have improved. I did this and sometimes things just got worse!!!!! Why?

Yes, you do have to repeat something to create a new habit (look at my blog happy 2021 everybody) but this is not the same as effective practice. Learning a new skill (swimming, bike riding, writing, playing a musical instrument) creates muscle memory. If we spend hours going over something, but we’re doing it wrong then it’s going to stay wrong! It will become part of that muscle memory and then that is really, really, hard to change. Practice makes permanent.

When we sing it is important to learn good technique to build that muscle memory properly. I do this by using specific vocalises for my voice given to me by my teacher. I do the same with my students. However, there is more we can do to practice effectively.

How can we practice singing effectively?

• Do your vocalising before the song! These techniques really do balance out your voice and get your instrument in the best condition before you apply it.

• Identify the part of the song you can’t do yet. Try and figure out why. Record yourself and listen to it. What do you hear?

• Bring the song to your teacher. Your teacher wants to help you figure out how to do the tricky bits. Don’t keep singing it the same way over and over again remember practice makes permanent!

• Practice it in your mind. There have been loads of studies that have shown that virtual practice in your mind is super effective. Go over the words, the melody, the rhythms and what you want it to sound like in your mind…without making a sound!!!

• Talk to yourself positively. For example, “this song is hard because it goes into my upper ranges. I can’t do this YET!”, “I am willing to try new things to achieve my goal”, “Imperfections simply show me I am doing things differently, change facilitates progress.”

• Give yourself a mantra when I sing: “I am HAPPY, CONFIDENT and CALM” say this to yourself as part of your practice before and after you sing.

• Little and often is also better.

Try these tips on effective practice and improve your vocal skills straight away. If your current teacher “practice” insists on hours of blindless repetition, it may be time for a new teacher!

Cat Singing