This guide will walk you through the key elements of singing practice.
Always start your practice with a short physical warm-up. The warm-up we use in lessons is below, but you can vary this as you like. Remember to respond to your own body and give extra attention where you need it.
- Give everything a shake – arms, legs etc
- Find balanced posture – feet flat, hip-distance, everything aligned
- Roll your shoulders in both directions
- Roll your head from side to side, stretching out stiff places
- Pat up and down your arms, across your chest etc
- Massage your neck, face and throat with your hands
- Chew to wake up your jaw
- Screw up your face, then open it wide
- Lick round the outside of your teeth with your tongue. Stick it out a couple of times
- Breathe in, raise shoulders, breathe out, drop shoulders
Take a moment to bring your mind into the practice room. You can use a range of different techniques. Many people find focussing on their breathing helpful, or doing a mental scan of their body.
Choose some breathing exercises to do. At least one should help you think about breathing in deeply, using your whole lung space. Another exercise should focus on breathing out and activating your abdominal muscles.
Before you work on any pieces or studies, you will need to do some vocalising to prepare your voice to sing. This is also an opportunity to think only about your sound production and technique, so it is important to be mindful and not just go through the motions.
Try to chose (vaguely in this order):
- A “semi-occluded vocal tract” exercise. This might be humming, lip trills, singing through a straw or even a kazoo! The main thing is to have your mouth closed, or nearly closed.
- Gentle, small range exercise on a soft sound. This should not be taxing! Try to use baby-babble sounds like MM, VV, ZZ etc.
- Some range work. There are lots of patterns! Start low and go high, or vice versa. Try to work right to the edges of your singing voice.
- Exercises to wake up your tongue and lips. For your tongue, try dipthongs like “oi” or “ya” sounds. Move your tongue without moving your jaw or lips much. For your lips, you’ll need a “tongue twister” phrase. Sing it to any pattern you like
Now you’re ready to work on your repertoire. Try to take a macro-micro-macro approach. Sing the song through to identify problems. Work on the problems individually. Then put the whole song together again.
Remember, it is better to practice little and often, rather than for one long practice session only once a week.
After singing, it will help you to do a short vocal cooldown to relax your singing muscles and mentally return to your day. This is one suggestion:
- Siren midrange out to full range then back in, ever-decreasing to a small range
- Slide down repeated octaves starting around your high break, until getting to vocal fry
- Sigh-sing on a single low note
- Sink into a low vocal creek sound for a couple of gentle breaths
- Stretch off and shake