Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What is the best way to practice? How do you make the most of your practice time?

How Do I Know I Am Making the Most of  My Practice Time?  

There are so many ways to practice, what is the best way to make sure you are prepared for your lessons and progressing at a good pace?  Here are the top 6 things you can do to maximize your practice time.

1. Practice in a clearly defined practice space.

*   Set up a place to practice and do not leave it.  Once you have started practicing, do not answer your phone, text, talk to anyone.  It is your private singing and practice time; stay on task.

2. Practice what your teacher gives you.

* Voice teachers craft warm-ups (vocalise) for a reason. Start practice with the warm-ups from your previous lessons as well as a few favorites you know warm up your voice well.  THEN move on to your repertoire.

3. Practice songs focusing on what your teacher recommended in your lesson in addition to learning new pitches.

* In your lesson, pinpoint 2 or 3 things you should work on during the week in practice.  Put it into your own words.  i.e. Breath Control (use your laughing muscles) and Breathe only where you have breath marks!  You can do this with your teacher in every lesson.

4. Pay active attention to your voice in the moment. 

* Make a note of it in both your warm-ups and repertoire.  Write down questions for your teacher to take to your next lesson.

5. Ask yourself WHY if things are not going the way you want them to in practice. 

* Target the tough areas.  (See details for this process next week!)

6. Sing a "Cool Down" for your voice.

* Sing a song that is well set in your voice.  This way you 'warm-down' and know if your practice of the day follows good technique for your vocal development.  It is always fun to end your practice time by just singing something you love!

Remember:  The more active your brain is when practicing, the more you will get out of your practice time and the quicker you will obtain your singing goals!  

Tune in next week for how to have a more successful practice session and target trouble spots in practicing using the "Why" Technique.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Practicing for Singing Involves 3 Main Components: Warm Ups, Text Study, and Repertoire

There are 3 main things that one should work on in each practice session:

1. Warm Ups
2. Text Study
3. Repertoire

(In my studio, we also practice prepared sight singing to help my young students learn how to truly read the music on their own.  After years of study, this may be dropped, but it is essential to learning to teach oneself the notes and rhythms of                                                                        repertoire). 

Warm ups should be thoughtful and productive

Start with a few basic stretches and relaxation exercises. Then practice the warm ups given to you in your last lesson.  They were selected by your teacher to work on technical things.  If one is tough, it is the one that needs to be worked on the most.  Switch them up a little bit so each session is a little different.
“The aim of vocal exercises is to warm up the voice and free the sound of tension so that the rest of your practice is productive.”  MichelleLatour, Classical Singer September 2013.

Study the text of your repertoire SEPARATE from the music

Speak the poem of your song so that you understand what it is saying.  Work on pronunciation if it is in a different language.  Research the poem, time period of the composition.  Speak it in the rhythm of the repertoire.  This makes it easier to put together with the music.  We often skip this step, but it is so important!

Work on the Music
Star t with something familiar so that you know your technique is strong.  (Sing a song that you have been working on first).  Isolate a particular aspect of the song to work on that day.  Maybe you know it well enough to “act it out”.

After you have song something familiar, move on to newer repertoire.  Break it down one part at a time.  Work on the rhythm first.  Then add the pitches on a nonsense syllable.  Finally move on to sing the words and melody together. 

If you approach practice as an experiment, you explore how and why you sing it the best way!  How do you further plan out your practice sessions?  Look next week for specific tips to fine tune it!

Ideas are self generated and in concurrence with Michelle Latour.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Practice makes Perfect and Practice Makes Permanent- How to get in that Practice Time!

How do you find time to practice in the full swing of things?  There are exams to study for, homework to do, other activities, sleep and work or school classes.  Scheduling practice time is essential to quality practice.

-MAKE the time!  Schedule it into your planner.  Put it in your mental and physical to do lists!

-WRITE IT DOWN EVERYDAY. Make it a priority that you will enjoy.

- Make PRACTICE a BREAK from other things.

        ** If you know you want to study for your math test for 2 hours, schedule a 1 hour study session. PRACTICE as a BREAK and then go back to your homework.

        ** Do your English homework and then PRACTICE before going to soccer.

        ** PRACTICE while you are waiting for mom to take you to an activity

        ** Mentally PRACTICE on the long bus ride or before you go to sleep
        (this helps with MEMORIZING music)

Figure out how it works best into your schedule and your lifestyle.  Does it relax you and serve as a wind down to the day? Does it get your brain working better and spawn good studying?  This will tell you when it will be the most productive for you.  Once you figure that out, schedule it at the SAME TIME and SAME LOCATION.  Using practice sessions in this way help you to manage your time.

Scheduling practice time gives you the MOTIVATION to do it.  Set GOALS and a plan of action for each practice session to maximize your practice time.  Now that you have time blocked out to practice, find out how to make the MOST of that PRACTICE time in next week's blog and  in "Practice Makes Perfect" by Michelle Latour in Classical Singer September 2013.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

In the Height of FALL, how do you take care of your singing voice and yourself?

Allergies (UGH!), Stress (How am I going to find time to study?), and Lack of Sleep start to catch up with us this time of year.  Fall activities are in full swing right now and you are feeling the pressures of all of the aspects of life.  The leaves are falling making your allergies act up.  We have less daylight hours, so we want to start to hibernate and be less active. We are stressed about tests and getting things done.  What are the most important things that you can do right now to take care of YOURSELF and YOUR SINGING VOICE?

10 Top Things to Take Care of Yourself and Your Singing Voice 
1.       Good Hygiene- Wash your hands and don't touch your face

2.       Drink 8-10 glasses of water (or non-caffeinated beverage) a day

3.      SLEEP  at least 8 hours every night!

4.       Exercise 3-5 times a week to keep up your immune system 

5.       Reduce Medicines - Use nasal saline spray first, medicines last

6.       Sing Well - good posture, breath support, and sing in correct range       

7.       Speak Well Support your speech as if you are singing, minimize talking, don’t
          yell over loud noise!

8.       Practice Everything in Moderation (Singing and Speaking and Activity Level)

9.       Pay attention to your body signals.  If it doesn't feel good, don't do it!  

10.   Find time for a little relaxation and de-stressing time!

     Your body knows what it is saying.  If you take care of it and listen to it, you can make it through the allergies and stress and not get sick thus preserving your wonderful singing voice!  Keep singing!