We’ve all heard the old joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!” And many of us have also heard the quote attributed to Vladimir Horowitz: “If I don’t practice for a day, I know it. If I don’t practice for two days, my wife knows it. If I don’t practice for three days, the world knows it.” Clearly, the key to success in almost every musical endeavor is deliberate practice—that is, study, exercise, and repetition for the express purpose of perfecting technique, learning new material, and polishing material already learned. And whether we like it or not, we know that the vast majority of the singing we will do in our lives will not take place in front of an audience, or even in our teacher’s studio, but by ourselves, all alone, in a practice room.
Yet how many singers have ever received explicit instruction on how to practice? For most of us, if we received any instruction at all, it had to do only with how long and how often we were supposed to practice. But what, exactly, should our practice time consist of? What types of exercises should be included in every singer’s daily vocal exercise routine? How should we monitor our bodies while we practice? What external feedback tools can improve of our practice? How can we save our voices while learning new music? How can we apply technique to repertoire more fluidly? When practicing repertoire, how should we balance our time between technical concerns and dramatic or expressive ones? How can we set goals for our practice? How can we find more time or greater motivation to practice, if either should be lacking? And perhaps most importantly, how can we find more joy in our personal practice time, so that we want to return to the practice room, again and again? All too often, these important questions—and many others—are left to us to figure out on our own.
This blog is devoted to issues of singers’ practice habits. My hope is that these entries will encourage you to examine your practice habits closely, make adjustments, try new strategies, and ultimately, lead you to a practice routine that is not only more effective and efficient, but more satisfying and joyful. Stay tuned!