Singing is one of those areas where people feel like they should be able to instantly be able to be skilled at it. It also carries a lot of shame and embarrassment with it. This is because it is attached to our sense of self. But like any other instrument, we can learn to use our voice in singing, and become very skilled at it. This comes with practice.
The *HARD TRUTH* is that you must practice in order to be skilled at something. Sure you may be one of those “natural singers”, but you will only become a master of your craft with awareness of what you’re doing and the know how to do it.
Practicing a skill creates neural pathways in our brains, which is how we come to be able to complete any task.
“In brief, a neural pathway is a series of connected neurons that send signals from one part of the brain to another”. (Great Minds Clinic, 2017)
How practicing is directly related to your performance nerves
Studies have shown that a huge part of suffering from performance nerves or anxiety can come down to not feeling rehearsed enough. I personally have had this experience in the past. Feeling so uncomfortable about my singing, I even avoided practicing.
No wonder why I was a mess when it came to gig times!
The surprising benefit of practicing is that it can help with relaxing your nerves and anxiety. When you feel like you have practiced enough, then your mind simply has less to juggle in the moments of intense pressure that come during a performance.
So you must ask yourself, “Could my performance nerves be down to not practicing enough?”
3 Tips on HOW to Practice Singing
I spend much of my days helping singers with WHAT to practice. Giving them technical and stylistic tips and tricks in order to sing more freely and efficiently. However, today’s post is not on WHAT to practice, but rather HOW to practice.
Here are my 3 top tips on how to practice singing, so that you learn and retain your skill better, and nail it during performances!
ONE: Practice Little and Often
“Students who practice regularly improve far more rapidly than those who practice sporadically” (Central Coast Conservatorium)
Practicing a little bit here and there can be easier to manage and it can literally help you by just putting it in short bursts around your day, 10 minutes at a time, rather than 1 hour a week.
Tip: Schedule your practice times in! Use a phone alarm or your calendar to stay on top practices.
You’ll be amazed at the results you have when you practice regularly, even in such small periods of time. I see it in my students all the time.
TWO: Practice Slow
Perhaps it is human nature to want to rush, but I notice all the time how students skim over their songs and feel frustrated, self-conscious or underconfident about the tricky areas.
By practicing slowed down, you will feel more in control. You’ll feel that you are singing the song, rather than the song singing you!
Stop and start, going over each section and understanding what you need to do before moving on to the next section of your song
THREE: Visualise and Hear Yourself
If you’ve got a performance coming up, spend some time internally focussing on “seeing and hearing” yourself doing an amazing job. Where you have trouble with tricky areas in the material, hear yourself in your mind the way you want it to sound. This will actually help your brain create the neural pathways to make that happen. We first learn to vocalise through hearing – think of a baby learning the first words from a mother or father’s voice.
You can visualise the performance scenario, too. “See” the stage and the audience from your perspective, and then turn it around and “see” yourself from the audience’s viewpoint. Visualise and hear yourself nailing it!
This tip is very powerful and is used by athletes who train for high intensity performances.
(These ideas draw from a sports performance framework, and current research on “audiation” from Heidi Moss Erikkson, a classical singer and renowned voice scientist who had to relearn everything she knew about vocalising and expression after suffering a nerve injury that left her paralysed on one side of her face. )