How to Practice AND Get Results

How long have I been practicing today? How many things did I practice on? Did I practice at all? If I did, did I practice yesterday? Do I have a plan for tomorrow? On and on the thoughts run in my mind. I have to admit, I did not do all the practicing I should be doing today. I got  some practice on the drums, to get some ghost notes going. No vocal practice at all, and I also missed my ear training.

How to Practice Singing

Why am I telling you this? I don’t know.. Maybe because I feel bad so I’m punishing myself by telling the whole world about what I did (or didn’t do). Nope, just kidding! I told you so that you won’t feel that way if you happened to skip a day of practicing. I’m not saying skipping practice is a good idea, just that if for one day you don’t feel like practicing, it’s useless to try to fight the feeling. =p

So what constitutes a good practice session anyway? I for one have always gone with the slow and steady approach. I believe that everytime someone does an extraordinary thing, there will be myths and legends surrounding them because “normal” people don’t know what to make of it. I also believe that those extraordinary people have one simple thing that they do repeatedly until they get crazy good at it – to the point that “normal” people spread myths and legends about them.

There is this one quote that I like when it comes to getting good practice, and it goes like this: “Fear not the one who practices 1000 moves once, fear instead the one who practices one move 1000 times.” This is really the essence of excellence; true and inescapable.

The best way to get the most out of your practice, therefore, is to keep it simple. Keep it so simple that people looking at you would think that you’re stupid (what I wouldn’t do for my art ^^). For example, when I was starting to learn the drums, I watched this video where the late Joe Morello (great jazz drummer) showed a ridiculously simple exercise that looked very simple and pointless. For drummers out there, it was singles, doubles, paradiddles, 2 bars each.

I was skeptical, but he was the jazz legend, so I did just that. Sure enough, my speed and control zipped past most drummer friends that and I still do those dumb exercises today. I had the same experience with guitar, where the way to get used to the instruments was to do some meaningless scales over and over and over and over… Almost puked several times.. not kidding. But I did learn the guitar.

Singing is a bit different. The voice is inside the body, so instead of keeping your exercises simple, you have to keep it more simple. What’s the point of doing complicated scales if you can’t see what’s going on anyway. And because of the way our ears are positioned, you won’t really know whether you’re singing the right notes or not until your ears are properly trained.

You need to keep it stupidly simple so that you can hear what’s really going on in there. With simple exercises, it’s easier to adjust and tweak and experiment with how your throat feels, how the voice sounds, etc. A simple “ah” for instance, you can try to sound it from the chest, through the nose, in the mouth, in between nose and mouth, and basically get to know that thing you call your voice better.

What I recommend is to abandon scales altogether at first, until you feel that your voice is like your friend that you can work together with instead of a stubborn employee that you have to force to fall in line. That approach worked for me, and you can check out the recommendations that I make of the two coaches that I feel are worth listening to in this area.

Do the simple “ah”, without scales, just move them up and down. And most importantly, feel. Don’t just do it because it’s practice. Feel how the throat gradually tightens up when you climb higher into the upper registers. Feel it. Listen to the change in sound. Sing in relaxed mode. Listen. Sing forcefully. Listen again. Get in touch with the throat, jaws, tongue, nose. What’s happening to them with everything you try.

That is where it starts. It starts with trying to understand first, being understood second. Get to know the voice, understand it, and once it becomes your friend, you’ll conquer the world together! (if you want to, of course..)

And that’s the answer to the above question: How to practice singing.

Happy singing! =)

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