Singing can be so much fun, our favourite songs can take us back in time or bring feelings of intense joy, peace and euphoria, as well as help us tap into deep feelings of sadness or melancholy. Before we know it, time passes and we may have sung the same song over and over or waded through several tunes not knowing how long we’ve been singing or why we chose the songs we’ve sung.
So singing is about engaging in the song fully and becoming one with it, often this occurs in isolation when we can be uninhibited and free to go with the flow. Practicing, however, is almost the opposite to this. It involves understanding the challenges and skills required to perform the song to the best of our ability: pitching, phrasing, dynamics, use of tonal variations, appropriate breathing and expressing ourselves in a way that invites the audience into our space.
Songs we love to sing teach us about how we use our voice and what is meaningful to us. Developing a personal style is important as a singer because every singer has something unique to share. It takes time to understand your sound and ‘your voice’, so be patient – it can be like digging for treasure. Half of good singing is listening to what we are doing as we sing.
Practice time needs to be planned. It is a good idea to have a place where you feel safe to perform, rehearse and try out new skills. Lots of people practice in their bedroom. A room where you can stand is good so your posture supports you. Some people practice sitting, this is really a last resort (eg if you are practicing in the car). Know what you want to learn and make a list of songs you’ve decided to master. Think about how hard or easy these are. If you only have a short space of time to practice decide how much of the song to work on eg just the chorus or a single verse. A short practice biting off a small chunk is better than no practice.
Before you start working on chosen songs you wish to master, make sure you use your vocal warm ups your singing teacher has shown you or ones you feel help you to loosen up physically and emotionally to get you going. Usually these are a mix of body work and breathing exercises and then pitch and vocal stretches (scales and vocal patterns).
Unless the songs you choose are ones you know well, try to only work on one song in each practice session and do it well, rather than just singing songs from beginning to end and moving on without polishing. Sing your chosen song a few times and then record yourself. Listen to your pitching, phrasing etc. What are you happy with? What do you need to work on? If you don’t have sheet music, use the lyrics on paper so you can highlight and write reminders to yourself about what you are doing eg breathe marks, variations in dynamics etc. Phrasing takes time with a new song so remember to breathe.
Let’s say you have half an hour set aside to sing the structure for your practice time might be like this:
- * 3-5min on breathing and physically stretching
- * 5mins on scales and vocal patterns (dependent or how you’re feeling)
- * 3-5min singing a favourite well known song you feel you’ve already mastered
- * 15min closely working on your chosen new song,
- singing through 1-2 times all the way through and then breaking it up into sections chorus, verse, bridge etc and polishing these sections as you go
If you feel you have struggled with a song it is a good idea to finish your practice time with a song that you really enjoy singing. Sometimes practice sessions help us to understand the challenges in songs that we may not have first seen. We can feel disheartened when we realise that perhaps the song is harder than we originally thought. Familiarity can breed contempt for a song and at this point and we may feel like giving up, but sticking with it offers the reward of true mastery. Be patient with yourself. Communicate with your teacher so they can provide some assistance.
Having a practice routine helps you to further develop your intuitive skills as a singer. Songs that have been practiced rather than sung over and over can become works of art that you create. Copying other artists’ styles helps singers to grow and exposes them to the many tools vocalists use. Once you’ve played with these tools you can make them our own, and go beyond copying to creating.
Singers who practice work to find the ‘rules’ that someone else has made in each song, they learn them, master them and then break them when they want to, in order to make the song their own. Singing then is the beginning and end of the process – with practice as the mid-point, so that whether you sing in your bedroom or to an audience you can feel free and uninhibited enough to showcase your gifts.
If you are keen to learn more about singing, warm ups, exercises and finding your voice, feel free to contact me or leave a comment about your own experiences.
If you are interested in making an inquiry about Booking Leeann for Music Lessons in the Lower Clarence Valley or via Skype (Singing, Bass, Banjo, Celtic Harp & Autoharp, Flute, Guitar, Keyboard, Mandolin & Ukulele) or Performances please use Leeann’s Contact Form.
StringSong Music – Leeann Flynn
Lower Clarence Valley – Ashby, Chatsworth Island, Gulmarrad, Harwood, Iluka, Maclean, Woombah, Yamba