[From my Sept/Oct 1999 newsletter – thought I was done with all of these! I have tweaked this one quite a bit to incorporate some of the newer ideas I have on vocal technique.]
I’ve asked a lot of people how much time they put in on practicing each day. These are some of the answers I’ve received:
- Oh, I sing in choir every day so I don’t need to practice.
- I can’t remember what I’m supposed to practice.
- I’m too embarrassed to practice where people can hear me/my neighbors complain when I practice/I don’t have anywhere to practice.
- I get so busy I forget.
- I practice for hours, till I lose my voice.
- Your choir director is preparing you for the art of choral singing. He/she is teaching you to blend as part of an ensemble. I am teaching you to develop your voice as a soloist. These are very different goals. You need to practice the exercises that you have been given in lessons in addition to the vocalises that you do in choir.
- A lot of vocalises are done every week. A lot of them are done on the spot to correct your individual vocal concerns(s). During your lessons, I ask you how things feel while you’re doing them … this is so that you will do them with care and thought of what is going on in your body. Mindful of their function, rather than just throwing them off. If you really can’t remember your exercises, I invite you to take time during your lesson to write them down OR to bring a flash drive to insert into my piano and record the exercises. You can also do this on your iPod or iPhone (there’s an app for that!) Also, all of you were given my BRAAP sheets at your second lesson, which is an overview of a variety of exercises and their function (Breath, Resonance, Alignment, Articulation & Phonation).
- Oh come on.*
- Oh come on.**
- I’m so glad you’re so enthusiastic, but don’t practice more than an hour at a time. Your vocal folds are delicate folds of tissue and overuse can be damaging. Practice intelligently and efficiently.
- So why are you taking lessons? (See final paragraph of this blog.)
- Physically warm up. This means get into the appropriate physical place for singing. Rotate your shoulders, lift your arms up over your head and back down, gentle neck rolls, rag doll down and back. Stretch. 2 minutes.
- Do some breathwork. Pant like a puppy, inhale on a K, exhale on a slow “sss.” 1 minute
- Warm up the voice/isolate registers. Slides and sirens in your head voice on [u], lip trills, tongue trills, tongue between the teeth on “th.” Go to your chest voice and do simple short exercises on “no” or “ho” (Santa!) or “nyah.” 2 minutes.
- Scales and vocalises/mix. Refer to the exercise sheets or your notes or recordings. 10 minutes.
- Repertoire (The Music). Don’t just run through it. Take your time and do it right. “Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent.” (Marianna Busching, although I suspect others have said it as well.) If something is new, work through it on different syllables before you put in the words. Take it apart and work on it in sections. 20-30 minutes.
- Go through the rhythms. Clap them out, write in the beats if you are having any problems.
- Go through the text. Make it mean something to you. Write it out for yourself. Take a sheet of paper and write out three columns:
- The original text to be sung
- The literal translation (if foreign).
- Your “inner monologue.” What this text means to you. Create a character if you can’t find a meaning for yourself.
- Go through the diction. Say it slowly. If you need to write in pronunciation cues for yourself, whether through IPA (international phonetic alphabet) or your own personal shorthand, do so.
- Do some research. Find out about the poet. Where did the poem come from? What’s the historical significance? What was going on when this song was written? What was the composer’s story? Use the Internet – that’s why Al Gore created it. 🙂
- Listen to recordings, not to imitate it but to hear how everything fits together: the text and melody, the harmonies, the instrumentation/orchestration, the texture. But really listen: don’t just use it as background music.
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