5 Tips for an Effective Singing Practice Routine

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“So, how do I practice?” It’s a question I hear frequently as a vocal coach and teacher. Although we spend a lot of time with clients addressing breath support, how to navigate register shifts, and all sorts of other technical considerations, it’s all for naught unless there’s a solid practice regimen in place. Although the scope of what constitutes a successful practice routine depends to some extent on the needs and goals of the individual (and would take more than a few articles to cover comprehensively), I’ve narrowed things down to five essential points to get aspiring vocalists started and keep veteran singers going.

1. Dedicate specific blocks of time to practice and stick to them.
Before determining what and how to practice, you need to commit to when you’ll practice. Let’s face it: we live busy lives, and a performer pursuing a musical theater career will need to devote much more practice time to vocalizing than, say, an actor who might occasionally sing a couple of phrases for a role. Either way, it’s important to plan blocks of practice time and to treat them like any other important appointment (i.e., put them in the calendar). When we block off specific times to practice, we’re much more likely to follow through than if we say “I’ll find an hour in my schedule some time tomorrow.”

2. Bring a pencil (or whatever you use these days…)
Take note: it’s time to make your music messy. No matter how much you try to convince yourself to the contrary, you won’t remember every vowel modification, placement choice, or acting beat that’s discovered during your practice sessions, so you’ll want to be sure to highlight, underline, circle, and otherwise be a scrupulous annotator. If you’re studying with a teacher or coach, it’s also a good idea to have a blank page at the ready, in case questions arise during your session to jot down for your next lesson.

3. Always warmup and cool down.
Running late to your practice session? Don’t cut the warmup or cool down. They’re both essential to vocal health and an effective vocal workout. Find that you’re always running late to your practice sessions? Refer to the first tip above.

4. Include something fun and frivolous in each session.
OK, maybe not frivolous. But you know that latest song you’ve been listening to on repeat and would “never sing?” Or that showstopping number you’ll “never play” because you’re “not right for the role?” Now’s the time to bust them out! Set aside five minutes in every practice session to sing something purely for the fun of it. Not only will this give your brain a break but you’ll look forward to your practice sessions more if you let yourself cut loose and enjoy a one-person karaoke party. And who knows—you might even find that song you’d “never sing” actually makes a perfect addition to your rep book after all!

5. At the end of each practice session, plan the next one.
Set aside the last five minutes of each session to plan the next one. Practicing without a plan feels daunting (and is far less productive), so you’re likely to feel more motivated to get down to work if you have a map already in hand to guide you. Each session should consist of a physical and vocal warmup, followed by a few vocalises (exercises designed to target specific technical goals), some work on your rep, and a cool down. Before you return to the real world, sit down and reflect on your priorities for your next practice session. Will you introduce a new warmup or maybe work on that really wordy passage in your latest patter song? Don’t hesitate to plan in such detail as to include specific amounts of time for each portion of your next session. This map isn’t intended to be set in stone, but to serve as a guide for each session. Remember to set specific goals! 

So there you have it. Five essential tips for effective practicing. Remember: while practice may not always make perfect, one thing’s for sure: you’ll never know unless you do it.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Adam K. Roberts
Adam K. Roberts is an Austin-based vocal coach, conductor, and artistic director. He is co-founder of TILT Performance Group and Resolution Creative, a faculty member at the Actor’s School and Carol Hickey Acting Studio, and director of music at St. Luke United UMC. His students have performed in principal roles on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in regional theater, been nominated for the Tony Award, and appeared in film, national tours, and on network television.
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