How much, when and what to practice? These are questions I get all the time. I’d like to share my thoughts.
I am a great believer in short bouts of practice. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner. Breaking down your practicing into short increments is the best way to ensure you will a) be able to ingrain new habits and b) avoid hurting your voice. I think when you’re trying to teach old muscles new tricks, it’s always best to do it a little at a time.
If you’re mainly working on breaking old habits or gaining some new technical ground. And, especially if you’re completely retooling your technique, then my guidelines are always, less is more. Ideally, if you have a whole day (where you’re running errands or maybe you only have a short work day), your may want to break it up throughout the day into small increments where you do your vocal exercises or work on one concept for 10-15 minutes at a time 4-6 times throughout the day. This not only helps with muscle memory but it allows you maximum mental focus. It’s especially important if you’re trying to break old habits.
And what if you don’t have the luxury of a full day to break into tiny pieces? Again… less is more. If you’re working full days and getting home exhausted at the end of the day, you will not get the best work done under those conditions. So my suggestion is that you try to get in 5-10 minutes in the morning before heading out. If you have someplace to sneak off to and do another 5-10 during lunch, that’s great. Then another 10-15 once you’re home. It may not seem like a lot but it adds up.
Remember, you’re working new synaptic connections in your brain. You’re working new muscles, you’re trying to get new habits into your body. So think of it as a reminder for your muscles, “Hey throat, this is how I want you to keep the vowel going in a scale, got it? We will review again later.”
Now, if you’re working on learning pieces and routining songs or arias for auditions or performance, you will certainly need to be working for longer amounts of time. Take about 15 minutes to do whatever warm ups or technical exercises you need to work on then work your music for about an hour or so depending on just how much music you have to work on. But I recommend you not sing for more than an hour at a time when practicing for the same reasons stated above. Unless you’re at the point where you need to run through a whole role, my recommendation is that you learn new music rhythmically first, then words plus rhythms (so you’re speaking through it), then singing it vowels only, then finally words and music together. It may seem pedantic but it means you will learn it all right the first time! For older pieces, go through and do spot checks. Rework things you learned wrong the first time. Sometimes there’s a hard passage you need to take apart slowly. Separate it into beats. Spend time doing those things rather than singing the piece from beginning to end repeatedly. That will not fix anything and will only result in cementing anything that is wrong. If you still have questions regarding how to practice or a specific issue has come up, please feel free to contact me!
Happy practicing all!! 🙂