Singing Practice or Just Singing

Singing Practice or Just Singing

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:

  1. * 3-5min on breathing and physically stretching
  2. * 5mins on scales and vocal patterns (dependent or how you’re feeling)
  3. * 3-5min singing a favourite well known song you feel you’ve already mastered
  4. * 15min closely working on your chosen new song,
  5. 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

How to Warm-Up & Practice Singing in Your Car Each Day

Singing Lessons with Leeann Flynn can booked through StringSong Music.

Singing practice can sometimes be tricky, especially if you are a busy person. Of course the ideal situation for practicing singing is to be able to stand so you are freely supporting your body and so that you able to use your diaphragm efficiently. A lot of singers sit to accompany themselves as they sing (keyboard players, guitarists, harpists) so standing is not always an easy option when practicing and performing. So developing a process that works for you and which suits your needs is worth pursuing.

Before you embark on practicing in a mobile situation it is important to gather together what you will need:

For those singers who spend time travelling to and from work each day by car these suggestions are hopefully going to be of some value to you.

* a device of some kind to play your exercises on (phone, MP3 player or tablet)

* seat adjusted so your back is straight, you will need to consider this even more so if you are practicing regularly whilst sitting

* a recording of your chosen warm-ups and exercises (scales)

* a recording of your chosen song – preferably a version with a lead singer to start with and then more importantly a version that is just an accompaniment (backing track or instrumental)

* have drinking water available  

1. Start off by breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth: a technique I use with my students is get them to mentally count to 5 on the in breath, then hold for a second or two and then slowly release the breath out through your mouth counting to 5 as you release. This is excellent for stress relief, as well as oxygenating the brain in preparation for singing. Repeat this step 4 or 5 times or as need – you know it is enough when you feel relaxed.

2. Hum softly for 3-5minutes. Humming entails making notes with your mouth closed, you will be breathing in and out through your nose as you do this. The use of humming as part of warming your voice up for singing is excellent as it forces you to really breathe well and use your diaphragm to help produce sounds. You could hum a song you would normally sing, however when warming up scales are a good place to start as you can focus on your pitch and getting long or short notes in a deliberate way.

3. A CD or MP3 file of scale warm-ups can be very handy to have playing – it is ideal to hear these scales through speakers and sing along rather than with ear buds in, as sometimes hearing yourself sing can be challenging. The important thing as you practice scales is to hear your voice as you sing each note, so that you know that your pitch work is effective.

4. Have the song you want to work on available – it is preferable to have a recording with a lead vocalist, so you can sing through with a guide singer. The best option is having the song as a backing track or as an instrumental version so that you can hear yourself as you sing. If you are practicing a song without a recording choose something very familiar lyrically. Remember it may not always be easy to work on learning lyrics as effectively as you would when not travelling.

5. Consider what it is you want to work on. Dynamics (variations in loud and soft sounds) is a great thing to work on in the car, especially if no-one is listening; this is one area singers sometimes forget to work on. Phrasing, timing and breathe work also areas you can work on in a mobile situation.

6. Plan your practice according to the length of the journey. If your make your own recording or use one from your singing lessons then the timing of how you practice will be more precise. 

Practicing should be a challenge, but also self-fulfilling in as much as it provides pleasure and a sense of a achievement. Take your time and be patient with yourself. Progress happens when strategic planning and dedication to using your time effectively occurs.

Let me know what your experiences have been like with this – I would love your feedback regarding any suggestions you have found useful.

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

Top 13 Ways to Get the most from singing lessons

Know Your Voice

The Voice is our first instrument. A good singing teacher or voice coach will help you to appreciate and understand how ‘your’ voice works. No two vocalists are the same. Our physiology and temperament play a huge part in how we use and express ourselves when we sing.  Singing, I believe, is the most personal instrument to master as we are expressing sounds so uniquely individual. For this reason, as teachers and students we must be even more respectful when approaching how and what we do in the learning process.

Once you have found the teacher that is the right fit for you, the next steps to take are:

  1. 1. Being Open – because everyone is different we need to be able to step outside ourselves a little to get the most from singing classes. It can be intimidating getting to know a new teacher so allow yourself time and try to be open to a new way of seeing and hearing yourself as a singer.
  • 2. Let Go of the ‘Self Critic’ – I cannot tell you how many times vocalists have come to me for lessons believing they are just ‘no good’ at singing – your voice is ‘yours’ – so be thankful if it sounds different to anyone else. The differences in tone an expression that you have mean you have greater cut through as an artist.
  • 3. Setting your own goals – know what you want before you begin and allow your teacher to understand what that means for you so they can help you get there. If you tell your teacher you just want to ‘sing in the shower’ but secretly want to be the next big thing online then don’t be surprised if all you do is sing in your bedroom and not grow as an artist.
  • 4. Record yourself often – listen to yourself. To begin with this is probably one of the most daunting things for a vocalist. We all hate the sound of our voice when we hear it recorded, so allow yourself to be ‘de-sensitized’ so you can really hear the tools you are using as you sing and can then choose how you use them.
  • 5. Practice Often – This sounds obvious, but so many of my students regularly tell me they sing ‘all the time’ but only practice once or twice a week. If your progress is slow then take some time to understand what ‘practicing’ as opposed to singing really means.
  • 6. Remember to breathe – Yeah you’re probably thinking this sounds mad, but since breathing is essential in singing a greater amount of attention needs to be given to it. Breathing helps us to relax into using our voice. Relaxing into using our voice can be one of the hardest things to master so give it time to develop. Practice your breathing so it becomes a habit.
  • 7. Do your vowel shaping exercises – A good amount of my time is spent helping students to have clarity and great pitch, without efficient vowel mastery this can be difficult, so practice your me, ma, meh, mo, moos … and enjoy the art of silly sounds.
  • 8. Hum often & Practice Your scales.
  • 9. Always warm up – find what suits you, Singing and voice coaches offer many ways to warm to get you going, you may not enjoy the formality of that – so if that feels ‘clunky’ choose a favourite song or songs to get you going. No more than 2 or 3 short songs or you may get lost in the singing and not actually practice.
  1. 10. Be gentle on yourself – turn off the self-critic – Singing takes courage, so be brave and let yourself be you as you sing.
  1. 11. Create a private space where you feel comfortable and go with the process.
  1. 12. Set aside time each day to something with your voice – sing in the shower but try to do more than that, maybe while you are driving listen back to a copy of your lesson on Mp3 and practice your scales.
  1. 13. Listen to as many different singers from different genres – especially ones outside your personal taste: Adele,Louis Armstrong, Etta James, Ed Sheeran,  Amy Winehouse, Shawn Mendes Gabrielle Aplin, Regina Spektor, John Frusciante, Lorde, Johnny Cash,  Bette Midler, Sam Smith, Karen CarpenterFreddy Mercury, Florence & the Machine, John Legend, Shania Twain, George Ezra, Vince Gill, Joni Mitchell to name a few if you are stuck for ideas…


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