Singing Practice – Challenges and Solutions

Practice Your Singing
Popular teacher Linor Oren shares how singers hold themselves back – and how they can move forward.

Linor Oren is a popular singing teacher in the Netherlands who has reviewed Singdaptive, calling it a refreshing way of learning and “definitely worth trying out”.

We thought you would love hearing her wisdom on how to make singing practice work well for you:

What is the most important theme for singers to understand about practicing?

Don’t just sing randomly and then rinse and repeat hoping for the best. Have a structure and a method of evaluating what happened. Then, finish your practice with a time of singing for the pure joy of it! 

Does singing practice ever kill one’s passion for singing and performing?

Very often. When singers fixate only on vocal technique, that can end with them banging their head against the wall. We must not forget about the song as a whole – and about what singing actually means to us.

One piece of advice for re-energising one’s singing practice?

Start with not making any sounds at all, but freeing up your body (for example with yoga). Your body is your instrument! That gets me going 95% of the days when I’m not feeling up to it, and I end up singing after all. 

That’s terrific advice!  Any more?

Finish the practice a little bit before you want to. That gives you a feeling of wanting more as opposed to being worn out and exhausted.

Linor Oren inspiring a singing student.

What is a common practice challenge for new singers? 

It’s what I call the “first moment of hesitation”: we pause half a second before we start the sound, instead of starting the sound smoothly and carelessly. In that half-second we add muscle and air tension and…oops! The technique we planned to do didn’t work so well.

Good point!  What is a second challenge?

Lack of body awareness. Simply put, this is when we are not aware of what happens in our body when we sing – and when things go “wrong” or “right”. 

Do experienced singers also face these challenges? 

Absolutely. It could be the case that the more passionate you are about succeeding in your singing, the more of that hesitation you will have. Personally I was chained to this hesitation for almost a decade, and it seriously held me back from progressing properly.  The body-awareness issue usually improves with time, provided that the teacher is working on pointing the attention to what happens in the body. 

What is one tip on overcoming this “first moment of singing hesitation?

“Rip off the band-aid”. You know how it is when you need to take a band-aid off, but scared it will hurt, so you trick yourself: you count to 3 but you quickly rip it off at 2. So count to 3 in your head and start singing at 2. If you have some technique you want to execute, think about it in advance, maybe while you inhale, but then go, go, go!

Do you spend more time in your singing lessons on mental challenges rather than vocal technique? 

It is only true 90% of the time :) Maybe I’m exaggerating, but not much. You can learn the best technique out there, work with the best teachers, but if your brain speaks mean things to you, then these have to be overcome. Examples of messages that need dealing with are:

  • “That was bad”
  • “I made a mistake” 
  • “Well, I’m only a student”
  • “I’m trying my best, but it might not work”
  • “Was that ok? I’m not sure”

All of these thoughts create a mentality of failure. This mindset doesn’t allow you to move up to the next level in your singing, let alone become a professional. 

One tip on starting to overcome these negative messages?

Accept their existence, they are a part of being human. And then get alternative, productive thoughts and repeat them every time the negative thoughts come along. 

Linor Oren teaching singers to reduce vocal tension.

What is an aspect of body awareness that you find comes up a lot with those new to singing?

Beginners move their heads a lot, mainly up and down with the melody. So many singers are not aware that this is going on. The jaw is another thing. Most people think they are dropping the jaw, when in fact it has barely opened at all. 

Is this the same for those who have been singing for a long time?

That depends on the journey the singer had, and what they worked on previously. Neck and jaw tension are super big issues, so many people struggle with those. But hopefully after a while one has learned to free the neck and jaw while singing.

Is there just one main way singers should warm up their voices?

I don’t believe so. It’s like saying there is only one diet for everyone, or one lifestyle. However, I do have a strong opinion on how one should warm up, and there are a couple of main principles to it: 1) start with vocal consonants (or straw-singing), then closed vowels, then open vowels. 2) Go from short to wide range exercises. 3)  Start in your comfort zone and continue lower or higher (I like to go lower first).

What are some common technique areas you find singers needing to develop?

Having worked with hundreds of students, I’ve found that it normally boils down to three technical principles: 

  • Freeing more space in the instrument
  • Closing the vocal cords
  • Maintaining constant airflow. 

I also believe these are the 3 main components of healthy singing. So simple, but the way to get there is not! 

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