Associate Professor of Voice, Shenandoah Conservatory Artistic Director of the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute
There is a TED talk making the rounds on social media about how practice changes the brain and how we can practice more effectively. If you haven’t watched it yet, here it is:
As the video states, effective practice is consistent, intensely focused, and targets weaknesses that lie at the edge of the student’s current ability. Here are a few tips from the video adapted for the voice studio.
Focus on the task at hand by eliminating distractions – i.e. turn your phone off! If using an iPad for reading music, turn it on airplane mode to silence notifications.
Begin slowly and focus on quality repetitions of the exercise. When you are able to successfully complete the task at a slow tempo, gradually increase the tempo but do not rush. Think tortoise not hare.
Taking frequent breaks seems to be a common trait among elite performers. That means it may be more effective to practice in small chunks throughout the day rather than spending extended sessions locked in a practice room.
Also take time to visualize what success will look and feel like. Tell your student that when his voice is tired, spend time throughout the day imagining the process without physically performing the task. For instance, mentally walk through vowel formation without actually vocalizing.
All of these tips fall in line with other research that I have seen at conferences as well as the work of my colleague Marci Rosenberg who applies motor learning strategies to vocal training.
Do you have related tips for practicing that you would like to share? If so, please leave a comment below. If you are not already following the blog, please sign-up on the bottom right of this page to receive an email when there is a new post. As always, thank you for reading! ~ Matt