Practicing Your Singing: Getting Started
If you truly want to become a great singer, you must practice using your singing voice. It's okay if you aren't sure what to do when you practice your singing. Knowing where to practice, when to practice, and what to use when you practice puts you on the right track for vocal technique work.
Where should I practice?
The number one question is about location. You can practice anywhere that works for you. If your piano is in the TV room, consider moving it. The TV may be easier to move than the piano, but you may be outnumbered at home. Your practice space can be anywhere in your home where you can be alone and concentrate. Ideally, leave the space set up so that everything is ready each day for practicing. This practice space doesn't have to be the size of a football stadium. You simply need space to move around comfortably during the warm-up or when you create the scene for your song. Try practicing in stairwells, bathrooms (great acoustics in the bath!), and basements. You may be able to practice best in your car. Regardless of wherever else you do your practicing, just make sure that some of your time is devoted to standing up and practicing several times a week somewhere.
What's the best time to practice?
Schedule a specific time and duration for practicing each day. If the practice time is allotted on your calendar, you're more likely to practice. Decide if you're a morning person or an evening person. Many singers practice more efficiently at night because of their body clocks. You can also practice on your lunch hour or right before or after work. If your house gets plenty of traffic during the day, practicing in the evening when it's quiet may be more convenient. Or if your home is usually overwhelmed with familial comings and goings in the evening or early morning hours, then you may want to schedule a time in the middle of the day. To maximize your concentration, turn off the TV and turn on the answering machine during your daily practice time.
Have your practice space set and ready each day. If you have to search the entire place to find all your practice tools, you'll waste valuable singing time. Be organized, so you can enjoy your time being creative!
How long should I practice?
The length of the practice session depends on your level of expertise. Someone who is new to singing can benefit from practicing 15 to 20 minutes a day. Gradually increase the practice time to 30 to 60 minutes per day and the warm-up portion appropriately. However, quality practice is better than quantity. Focusing for 20 minutes of creative practice is better than unfocused practice for an hour. The voice is like any other muscle group in your body. It becomes fatigued and needs rest. If your voice is tired after 20 minutes, rest for a time and sing again later.
If your voice hurts while you're practicing, then something isn't right. You may be pushing too hard to make the sound. Take a break. Fatigue is normal and the muscles will feel warm and tired. But, stop practicing when the fatigue sets in, and the recovery won't take as long. As long as the voice is back to normal after a few hours of rest, then your practicing is on the right track. Improvement happens with frequent practice. You can't expect to practice once and be perfect. Your goal for practicing is to make improvements in your sound. Longer endurance may happen, but it's not necessary for a beginner to practice for three or four hours a day. Set goals for each practice session for consistent progress.
What do I need besides my voice?
Of course, you need your voice in order to practice your singing. However, you need some other tools as well:
- Keyboard: Of course, you'd like to have one or two pianos, preferably a grand and a baby grand. Right? But beginning singers don't need a piano; they just need to hear their notes. So if you don't want to spend too much money so early in your singing career, why not start off with a small keyboard? Available in the electronic department of most department stores, a small battery-operated keyboard can serve your purpose. You can program some keyboards to remember the melody, so you don't have to pluck out the tune a second time to hear it. You just press a couple of buttons.
- However, just about any new or used electronic keyboard works. A piano is fine, too, just as long as it's in tune.
- Tape and tape recorder/player: A tape player is super useful if you don't have a keyboard (or even if you do), because all you have to do is tape the music when it's played and then play it back over and over again during your practice time.
- Tape-recording your practice sessions is a great way to monitor your progress, too. Record yourself singing through the exercises and rewind to hear if you were right on pitch, whether the vowel really sounded like an ah, or maybe you're so perfect that you never need to practice again. If you want a sound that's a bit more sophisticated, buy a minidisc recorder. The sound quality is as good as a compact disc.
- Pitch pipe: This gizmo is what the leader of the choir or barbershop quartet whips out of his pocket and blows into to sound the starting pitch. It's usually round with the letter names of the notes on a dial that moves around to change pitches, and it's usually inexpensive. If you don't have a keyboard or a tape with your exercises handy, you can get a pitch pipe and play your starting pitch. You can also play a pitch occasionally to see if you're still on target.
- Metronome: This gadget monitors speed and maintains rhythm — not like a radar gun but more like a ticking sound that encourages you to stay at the same speed or tempo when you practice. Many singers slow down at the hard section of the song and don't realize it. While practicing, you can listen to the tick-tock sound of the metronome to stay right on the beat. Metronomes come in different sizes and shapes. Some of the newer metronomes are as small as a credit card.
- If you can't locate a metronome, look at the clock. The second hand on the clock is ticking 60 beats per minute. You can practice your song or vocal exercise keeping a steady pace with the ticking of the clock.
- Mirror: Mirrors are so helpful for practicing. Coif your hair perfectly and then watch your body! Notice your posture, the way your mouth moves to make each vowel or consonant, and what moves as you inhale and exhale and sing. By watching yourself in the mirror, you become much more aware of how you move your body as you sing.
- Music and pencil: As you listen back over the tape, take notes on your practice chart or on your music. Seeing the notes from your last practice session helps you remember your goals.