How to practice singing

What is singing practice? For those new to singing, it can be confusing about how to practice well.
Let’s start with what it is NOT!
It is NOT just singing your song through!  That’s a bit like having your pudding first! All this does is re instate all the inaccurate muscular habits, wrong notes, and incorrect breathing points that are already there. What we are aiming to do is to iron these things out and embed better muscle memory, controlled and free breathing, good vowel production and more!

What practice IS:
It is an aware act! It is also the best therapy you can give yourself, as you are listening to what you are actually doing – not to what you THINK you are doing! How often do you really check in with that? Recording yourself and listening back, with this key point in mind, is a really valuable tool. In practice, you are working the tools and techniques that aid the song to flow. Time spent on warming-up with scales and sliding between difficult note changes to get them smooth, will make big changes. Awareness of breathing patterns and allowing the breath to expand in the phrasing, all help the song interpretation to work.
At the end of the day, it is all about the song! If you are struggling to reach a note or control your breath the song is compromised.

  • Have an aim in mind of what you want to achieve in the specific exercise i.e. Have a clear intent
  • Complete the exercise whilst listening AND feeling the sound production. Here you are checking placing, posture and especially any throat/neck tension
  • Did you achieve what you wanted to do? If not, what did you observe? What could you change/release in order to get the desired sound?

If you are new to singing practice, start with 15 mins at a time so that you keep the concentration and gradually build it up. Listening and awareness is key!
 Ideally the weight needs to be 55:45 towards the balls of your feet, with knees soft. Stand tall with a wide ribcage, so that your breathing isn’t compromised.
Here are some basic things to be aware of:
How are you standing?

    • Where is the weight in your feet? Do you rock backwards when you get to the end of a phrase? (what happens to your breathing when your weight is back on your heels?) Check at the end of the phrase! Keeping your weight more forward enables you to keep breathing in your diaphragm.
    • Is your neck free? Can you relax your jaw? Are your knees soft?
  • How much effort are you engaging as you sing? Can you reduce it at all? What happens to the sound if you reduce your effort? I use a minimum effort/maximum gain ratio
  • Listen to your breathing and observe yourself in a mirror. Are you really maintaining a diaphragmatic breath or is it coming up to the chest? Check it by repeating the phrase and FEEL and HEAR a difference. If you can’t tell you are probably in your habit rather than in a new technique!

Have a clear idea of what you are aiming to achieve. Practice ONE aim at a time and then put them together.

Breath control – breathing in the correct places needs practice! Relax as you extend the breath through and resist tightening. In a choir a breath in the wrong place can be heard and ruin the flow of the line. Don’t let it be you!

Vowels and articulation– especially important in choral singing. Record and listen back to the sounds you make. If you are in a choir the vowel you sing is really important! Can you hear and feel the difference between an A (as in cat) and an AH (as in heart) or does yours sound like an UH (as in hurt)? Is your oo (you) more an ew or o (hot). Listening to yourself will tell you. Your director can tell you but when you hear yourself, you start to learn.

Placement  – allowing the voice to be flexible and free. Singing through your part on one vowel will highlight any wobbly bits of tension! Are you letting your voice tighten anywhere? Can yu sing that section and relax your throat?

Learning words: Read the story of your song – understand where the song is going and how it fuels the emotion and drive of the narrative. Who is speaking? How does your part aid the interpretation?

Where you breathe, how you sound and how you stand, all help the audience understand the song and the story and therefore get the impact. The audience hear the song for one time only. The work you do privately, helps an audience enormously. The points that you work on may feel like small nuances, but they are dynamite in performance!
I’ve found that if you can practice for 4 consecutive days you will really feel a change and an improvement in your singing.
Let me know how you get on!

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13 Comments on "How to practice singing"

Sue Williams
4 years 7 months ago

My music teacher David Barton passed this on to me!
It’s really helpful …..thank you

4 years 8 months ago

Thanks for such a clear and articulate explanation Sandra. So helpful to have a step by step guide. Hope you don’t mind if I print it out and stick it in easy view?

4 years 8 months ago

Really well explained Sandra, thank you. Think I shall print this out and stick it on my wall…. Practice is a tricky art and having a point by point guide is a huge help!!!

4 years 8 months ago

Great stuff. I know how easy it is to lose awareness of the sounds I make whilst singing and how they affect the song. Putting it right, however, is the tricky bit! This information is invaluable and thought-inspiring.

4 years 8 months ago

This is brilliant. I’ve emailed it out to all my school aged students – I try to hammer these points home and you’ve written it really well. Heg x