Practice makes perfect right? WRONG! The Voice Studio is reclaiming this famous phrase and giving it our own spin:
"Perfect practice makes perfect"
Is it possible to practice perfectly? We think so! Perhaps there is no such thing as a perfect performance, or a perfectly sung song. It's all so subjective right? But we definitely believe that by following our top 5 perfect practice tips, you can practice perfectly practically every time...
1. Short Bursts
At The Voice Studio we are big advocates of short bursts of practice. We have found that 5 - 7 minutes of practice on one or two vocal exercises is much more efficient than 20 minutes of singing your song through a few times for example. We have found that twenty minutes divided into 4 mini blocks of 5 minutes is the most efficient and useful way to make steady development in your singing technique. We recommend literally setting your timer for 5 minutes and moving on when your time is up. You could do two twenty minute blocks a day if you like.
There is plenty of scientific research that proves the theory of practicing in short bursts. In simple terms, every time we begin a new task our brain has to reconfigure and re-plan what it is doing. This results in new neuro connections in the brain resulting in information we are learning being retained for longer and more efficiently. There are numerous studies that show practicing more things for shorter periods of time is more beneficial than long periods of time on one thing.
2. Take it Slow and Steady
Slow, steady, focussed, attentive work results in solid, long lasting progress. Think of the singing progress you want to make as a very very long ruler (stay with us). Making huge ten meter strides at random points will result in confusion, lack of retention and periods of not moving forward. When you make progress you want to be sure of why and how you had that break through. Making smaller milimetre steps of progress daily will result in paying more attention to what you are doing and in turn a deeper understanding of your voice and how it works (concentration is a muscle that needs to be trained like every other!). You will find that all your singing skills will develop steadily at the same time rather than making huge advancements in one area while the others stay stagnant, struggling to catch up.
Good alignment is absolutely essential for efficient use of the voice. In a nut shell good posture is the alignment of the whole body with special emphasis on the spine, neck and head. Good posture allows our body to successfully act as a resonator for the sound we make, and to breathe at our most efficient. It also makes us look confident and assured, and enables us to communicate effortlessly with flow and ease. If the spine is out of alignment then so will the larynx and everything around it required for supple movement and support. If we compromise on posture then we will compensate by straining and pushing too much air over the vocal chords - an article and video on perfect posture is coming soon.
Water takes four hours to reach your vocal chords, so drinking a glass of water at the start of your practice will have no benefit for your voice there and then, although it is still good to sip water through out your practice. Aim to slowly sip clean, fresh spring water from the moment you wake up throughout the day leaving four hours before you start to sing (yes, it does mean waking up at silly 'o clock if you have an early morning session/audition/performance). If you practice on dehydrated vocal chords they won't make efficient contact. You will push more air, increasing friction (i.e heat), resulting in more drying out. The best and quickest way to hydrate your vocal chords is to steam. Steaming your voice is what is known as topical application (the beads of water hit your vocal chords instantly). It is the most nourishing, hydrating thing you can do for your voice. We highly recommend the Dr Nelsons Inhaler available here from John Bell and Croydon on Wigmore St, London.
The first principle of voice is contact. And we are not talking about calling your best friend for the weekly gossip. We are talking about vocal chord contact. In daily life and especially in practice we highly recommend always aiming for clean, clear tone (voice without breathiness). A voice with huskiness or breathiness indicates that the vocal chords are not making efficient contact and this results in straining the voice. It is absolutely possible to improve breathy tone with some steady, detailed practice (find a good vocal coach to assist you). If you can not produce clean clear tone we would suggest seeing an ENT specialist. Visit the British Voice Association for a list of clinics.
Slow, steady and attentive practice is essential for progress in any field. If you want to run a marathon it is slow, steady, daily practice that is required.
Above all make your voice work fun. The word 'practice' is used a lot and it conjures up images of being stuck at a school desk for hours on end wishing you were somewhere else. The best advice we can give you is to think of your voice work as exploring, discovering and playing with new sounds and new sensations. Go forth and become the best that you can be. And always feel free to contact us for a chat or to ask any questions.