Practice makes perfect, especially when it comes to progressing as a singer, however not all practice is equal. Over time the art of practicing has been studied to find the most efficient ways of building connections in the brain.
Why do we need to practice singing?
Every beginner singer has a set of habits they default to when singing, some of these may be helpful but many will get in the way of efficient vocal production e.g. Neck tension, poor posture, incorrect larynx setup. An action becomes habit when we repeat it over and over again in response to the same situation or stimulus, this strengthens the path between the stimulus, areas of the brain producing the action and muscles until it isn't a conscious decision. To override the habits that get in our way we must consciously practice responding in a different way to the stimuli over and over until that action takes over as habit. E.g. In response to a high note you jut your chin forward causing tension and inhibiting vocal performance, over time you practice holding correct posture when singing high notes and slowly this behaviour becomes habit making vocal production more efficient.
Just as paths in our brain can be strengthened they can also weaken over time, if we don't use the path our brain will devote more energy towards higher traffic paths. Therefore regular practice is key to keeping good habits strong.
1) You need to practice for hours to make any difference.
False!! In fact practicing for hours on end can be detrimental, not only will your voice exhaust itself (leading to increased risk of vocal injury) but so will the brain. After a certain point the brain either becomes frustrated or bored meaning little progress if any will occur. The truth is 15-20 mins of practice a day is ideal.
2) You need to practice every single day.
False! In an ideal world we would be able to practice every single day, however this just isn't practical. 4-5 times a week is sufficient to see progress. The brain needs time to process what it is learning and practicing every single day doesn't allow for this to occur.
3) Practice should always be 'full-out'.
False again! Although practicing 'full out' does need to happen in order to know you are moving in the right direction, if you were to belt the same phrase over and over you will increase the risk of vocal fatigue and damage. Mental practice can be just as useful as physical practice in strengthening the pathways of the brain and building habits. Some mental practices include: Closing your eyes, listening to the song and mentally working your way through the correct technique and silent singing (creating all of the movements with the larynx and articulators without air or vibration).
4) You need to repeat the same thing over and over again.
False! When practicing a tricky phrase just singing it repeatedly won't do the trick efficiently. Instead pin-pointing what the issue is and working on a few exercises to target these areas, then applying the technique to the phrase will work quicker and address the issue more effectively.
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