Learn the best way to get the most out of your practice sessions!
Less is more! Many people “over-practice”
thinking that it is helping them.
Remember: Use your mind!! If it’s in your mind, it will come out your mouth! I learned from famed dramatic soprano Birgit Nilsson to “practice in my mind.” This saves your voice. Go over your lesson CD in your mind several times. Write down the corrections on your sheet music or on small cards and look at them frequently. Make a mental note of the corrections. Remember mentally what the larynx felt like when you made the correction in your lesson. Keep feeling that sensation in your mind before ever practicing out loud. Train you kinesthetic sensory memory. A short but focused practice session is better that a long session on autopilot. As you continue to make progress and to free your voice, longer sessions will be possible.
If the voice gets tired, the external muscles will take over and cause you a myriad of problems. Stop practicing before you get tired. Less is more! Only practice as long as you can stay mentally alert and physically fresh. Singing on automatic when practicing is extremely detrimental. It not only reinforces your old, bad habits, but also tires you out vocally before you can work on re-patterning the correct muscular coordination. Obviously, different singers with different voices can sustain varying lengths of practice. Bottom line: Do not allow yourself to sing when mentally fatigued and do not allow yourself to get vocally tired!
What signs should you watch for that indicate you are headed for vocal fatigue? The larynx may start to feel consistently raised or tight. Stop singing! The swallow muscles may begin to get involved, causing extra tension. Stop singing! You may realize that you cannot think clearly or focus your mind. Stop singing! The voice may start to sound raspy or husky. If that happens, you have really worked too long and in most cases, improperly. Stop singing immediately!
For students of my technique, try using the lip or tongue trills instead of words for the melody line to remind the larynx how to behave. Then add more complex functions in difficult areas, like the muh-muhs or the gee-gees or the nay-nays. Continue to work on the neurological retraining by returning to the trills. When the larynx feels completely free, try using the vowels from the actual words. When this feels free, try the words. Do not try this all in one practice session!!! Use just the trills for a few days. Then, try the nay-nays, etc. This resetting allows the voice to extend the practice time and enforces the new behaviors more extensively. Remember to rest your voice during your practice sessions as well as rehearsals.
Refer to my “How to Learn a Song” and apply the principles to your practice.