Your voice is letting you know it needs regular practice if:
• It hurts after a band rehearsal or a gig
• You are struggling to get recalls at auditions
• You just cant hit that high note with the usual ease
• You feel unprepared or lacking control when you sing
Yet, many singers find it difficult to set up a practice routine. It can be a solitary experience.
If your budget is low and affording a regular teacher isn’t on the cards, it can be daunting to arrive at auditions and hear voices that are clearly trained when yours isn’t.
Don’t be put off! There are ways to get through this!
1. Surround Yourself With Practice
A young singer/actress roomed at my place for four years and I observed her move through the final year of her drama school training and go on into work – including The Lion King and Harry Potter in London’s West end – and she still works continuously!
The interesting thing is that she was dyslexic yet managed a huge singing repertoire and on top of this had to learn massive amounts of music and dialogue.
Each morning as she prepared her breakfast she would recite speeches and sing through material for audition or rehearsal – I loved hearing this! It was inspiring and infectious – I found myself joining her in this ‘spontaneous’ practice!
She posted music score and speeches around the house at “pause points” – it was so much fun! She changed these regularly … they lived beside the toilet roll holder, above the kitchen sink, at the front door where shoes waited to be put on – and by her bed on the wall!
Her rate of success is clearly a lot to do with her gifts but her sense of discipline was magnificent!
We can all find reasons for not ‘managing’ our workload and so not fitting in practice – but maybe it’s time for you to get creative about when and where you practice
2. Increase Your Feel Good Factor
The rigors of voice training require the ‘feel good factor’ for us to reach our full potential. So, why not create an attractive space for quiet work – a shrine! Your yoga mat or blanket – essences and a burner.
If you’re not into yoga, how about putting up some post-it notes of specific exercises in pleasant places in your home as reminders
Or, you can hang a picture or two of artistes who inspire you and who you aspire to emulate.
3. Work with a Virtual Guide
You could ask your teacher or choir/ensemble leader to record a scales practice sequence that’s personalised for you! It’ll feel like s/he’s right there in the room with you! (Buying commercial practice CDs is often a soulless activity)
You know your teacher and her/his voice will encourage you; you know their language and more importantly s/he knows you and what you need right now
You can renew the recordings as and when you are ready to move on!
Ask your teacher to dictate a few warm up exercises for you on your smart phone and plug it into your speakers to give the teacher’s voice some presence
Many of my students request to record our sessions. I even have a 1st year student who videos everything so she can check on physical (postural) comments. We make a point of pausing if we talk a bit between the exercises and simply stick to recording the sequences.
You may need to reassure your teacher that you wont use the recordings for anything except your private practice
4. Give Yourself Rewards
If you cover your whole practice regime, do something nice or go somewhere you really want to go or treat yourself in some special way. It may be an extra hour in bed, a special food treat, or a manageable purchase.
I once met a backing vocalist who actually bought herself a new black dress (well, some of them were vintage!) every time she got through from an audition to the job!
One twist on this idea is to blog about your practice-journey. Finishing each blog about your experience will feel like its own reward.
Talk about the more difficult days when you struggle to be motivated but find a way to overcome this. Others will relate!
5. Make practice and warm up part of your band/ensemble/choir rehearsal
If you do this, you may find that the entire group will enjoy it if you get creative with it!
I had a 3rd year actor-musician student in a drama school where I teach who created a fabulous environment around warming up.
She would set up a regular practice hub for her band and things developed to the point where her bassist and drummer joined her keys player as backing singers!
They all committed to the fun ideas she created around practice such as relaxing breath exercise routines (she found mats for them to lie on!) or fun arpeggio sequences around the song material.
In recognition of their commitment she supplied juice and croissants as a ‘reward’ – hungry musicians will always appreciate food rewards!
This young woman is now gigging in some of London’s most desirable Indie bars and her band really exudes a happy vibe!
Even if just one of these ideas resonates with you, go for it. You’ll find yourself practicing more.
Oh, and surround yourself with people who are diligent; its so easy to be pulled away from your practice by those who aren’t practicing – and want company!
You can always encourage them to join you, but you come first!
Rachel Bennett is a London-based vocal coach and singer songwriter. She is the lead singer of her band RAIE and they have played at venues including London’s Hammersmith Apollo, The Roundhouse, The Albany Theatre, The Forge and Map Café. She has been a Musical Director for various theatre companies and has worked as both a singer and coach for record companies in studios across London. She currently teaches singing at Goldsmiths College on the Popular Music Degree and at Rose Bruford International Drama School. You can learn more about Rachel on www.raiemusic.com