January 19, 2015 by Tony Lee
Say you’re a singer and you have a big performance coming up. You may also have an audition for a singing position, school play, or solo in chorus. You really want to show that you are the best one for the part. You are a mix of emotions: nervous, excited, hopeful, fearful. How do singers do it? How do they get up there in front of complete strangers and deliver a performance that seems seamless, heartfelt, and draws the audience in? 75% of the performance lies in the preparation. The way that we practice, eat, and sleep all effect the voice. The remaining 25% of the performance is effected by what we do on stage, but preparing for your performance in well planned practice time will help the final product! While important to the development of our style, practice can be a frustrating part of our routine. It does not have to be. Here are 5 tips to ensure a great practice session for singers. All of these tips are easy, but must become habit to notice results. Your body is your instrument! You carry your instrument around with you all day everyday, so it’s important to take care of yourself.
Drink all the water!
Stay hydrated. Our body is 60% water. In order to prevent dehydration, you should consume around 8 cups of water per day. This will ensure that your vocal chords stay lubricated and vibrate easily. Some people say to stay away from dehydrating beverages like coffee, tea, and soda; however, if you replace that beverage with an extra cup of water, that should do the trick.
This may seem like a silly way to start of your practice session, but I promise it makes a world of difference. You stretch before a big race, why not singing? The muscular system is connected all throughout your body and, therefore, affects the muscles that make up your vocal chords. Tension in the neck, shoulders, back, and hips can add tension to vocal production. Begin your practice session with stretches that target each of these areas for a more relaxed start. I even include a few minutes of lying on my back and breathing deeply, to feel the rise and fall of my belly, for dual efforts of relaxation and working proper breathing technique.
Be kind to your voice.
Of course there is the advice of refraining from any excessive screaming or shouting, but for singing practice, there is a tip that is just as helpful. The best advice I ever got from one of my voice teachers was to treat a practice session like every day is a fresh start. He would start off each lesson by sitting at the piano and saying, “Let’s see how the voice is doing today.” Your body never quite feels the same from day to day. It can be affected by weather, sickness, or maybe you’re out of sorts because you didn’t get enough sleep the night before. Start small in your practice sessions, maybe with some humming, sirens, or lip trills to explore how the voice is feeling that day. Gradually, increase intensity from there based on what you’re feeling. Over time, the good days will become more consistent.
Frustrated energy is wasted energy.
When our voice isn’t doing what we want it to, we tend to get frustrated! Belting that high D-flat was so easy yesterday! What is the deal?! When you feel this shift in your practice, this is a good time to stop and take a minute to breathe. We want to do it over and over again until it’s perfect, but singing with frustration is singing with muscular tension. The same teacher I mentioned above, when I would get frustrated in a lesson, would look at me and say, “And how’s that working for you?” He was so right. In the long run, it’s bad for your voice and doesn’t help you sing any better. Remember to stop, breathe, and go back to your basic fundamentals. You also have the option to stop, take a break, and come back to it.
End on a good note.
Pardon the terrible pun, but it’s good for your morale to finish a practice session with a song with which you are not only comfortable, but that you also love. Finish your practice with something that reminds you of why you sing in the first place, because, after all is said and done, THAT is what you want to give to your audience. Frankly, no one cares if your belted high D-flat is perfect if there isn’t any soul in it. Remember that singing is hard work, but it should also be fun! You should always leave your practice session with a little extra pep in your step because you worked hard! Because you had a productive practice, you are a better singer than you were an hour ago!