Monday, June 15, 2009

How Do You Practice?

What is practicing exactly?

Travelling with your voice, as we do as singers, can be an extremely helpful thing, but it can also be a giant pain!  Sometimes we forget that being a singer and developing that instrument takes as much integrity as being a pianist or a violinist.  In doing this, we must create a thorough physical behavior to allow for the best balance in our voice.

 We must develop the same focus, diligence, routine, and ritual as other musicians, and frankly, athletics, and perhaps even more!  When we cannot walk up to our instrument or set our instrument down, WE are the instrument and the development of that is acute!

I often wonder what those guys at the gym do all day while there...great trainers tell us that a 45 minute workout if done with the proper guidance, the correct technique and form and exercises that are meant to work with our individual bodies will be all we need. So, we see alot of wasting time 4 hours later! Why would it be any different for a singer? 

Often during our tenure in academia, the talk in the hallway is "how long are you in a practice room a day?"  And we fall for it...we think we need to practice more and more and more.

But what are you DOING really? Do you know WHY you practice? WHAT to practice? WHEN to practice? HOW to practice?

To me, practicing is engaged to acquire physical, emotional and musical behavior.  It requires focus, stamina, realization of where you are NOW and where you are working to BEING and how to get there!  

Physical behavior works with the building of the voice - the technical behavior that will be dressed ultimately by a song!  Technique is to be conscious of none - so we must know the form, the muscles to use, how to use those muscles and how long it takes to develop that behavior! If a new behavior takes 6 weeks to develop and then even more time to develop into habit, then we have much work to do!  But it isn't about the amount of TIME but rather what you DO WITH THAT TIME.  It needs to be time that is uninterrupted, is not multi-tasked, and is focused and realized time.  Why do you do that exercise? If you don't know why, then it is useless for your building of your technical behavior.  Like sitting around the gym.  

As a singer, many of the physical balances of our support can be learned into our every day life - and as we are more and more conscious of that balance as we walk to the car, stand at a walk light, sit at our desk, walk down the street, we become more conscious of the body in our sound when we begin to sing.  Another way of becoming conscious to move to unconscious realty in the physicality of living in our instrument.

Your teacher must work with you in finding out what you need, why you need it and how you do it.  Just because is not an answer; my teacher made me do this is not an answer;  The building of your voice and HOW you practice is COMPLETELY ABOUT YOU.  You need to understanding of how/why/when and your teacher must develop that for you - just like a personal trainer would be responsible to develop a regime at the gym.

And if you don't do it - you won't see results.  None.  You will sit in the practice room for hours and have nothing to show for it but time.  Time you cannot get back!

Practice with clarity of purpose; with reasons; with focus; with goals;  Make realistic goals: recognize the time needed and the work needed to meet those goals, and the practicing becomes true.  It becomes energized. It becomes developmental.  It is then not about spending time, but DOING time.  Building a voice through practice requires knowledge to know what to do, a desire to seek out and develop that knowledge and physicalize it fully.  As the knowledge grows, the practice becomes sleeker, and the virtuosity of the singer can be discovered!

Discover your practicing - and rejoice in it!

1 comment:

  1. Susan!!! When I first saw the plan for an absolute beginner to train for a 1/2 marathon I couldn't believe it: Only three days a week!!

    One day a long run, to build miles gradually, and two days of 30 minutes each. That was it.

    Doesn't it seem like it would take so much more to build a body for a half marathon?

    Granted the author of the plan says it's the minimum you need, but still ....

    Adopting this for voice, having been one of those who thought practicing 4 hours a day (and wondering why I always got hoarse) was going to get me there, I now approach things much differently. A little bit can go a long way, when you know what you are doing.

    Stop. Listen. Observe. Think. It's all there before us if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.