How to Practice Singing - Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Practice Sessions
We’ve all heard that practice makes perfect, but I argue that that idea is a lie. Practice makes permanent. Only perfect practice makes perfect.
That’s why it’s so important to learn how to practice singing in a certain way – the way that gets us the best result the fastest.
So let’s dive in and learn how to practice singing!
Btw, feel free to use the table of contents to skip ahead to the section you find most relevant to you, or listen to a recording of the article I created for you below.
Table of Contents
Why Most Singers Practice Routine Yields Little Progress
Most singers don’t really have a set practice time. Most just decide that they want to sing, then start singing without any warm up, plan or direction.
They usually just sing through one or a group of songs, and tend to linger on parts of songs that already feel and sound good, and often avoid their weaknesses.
That, or they sing along to popular songs and have it turned up so loud that they don’t really even know if they sound bad or good.
A singer can spend months practicing in this way and get little to no results because they’re not really creating new paths for singing success.
If this sounds like you, it’s not your fault. It’s better than nothing, and honestly it’s how most people start off. But the good news is, we can get you into a better practice routine. Let’s talk about how!
How to Practice Singing for Vocal Improvement?
Developing your vocal technique is similar to developing any other skill – we must build the right series of habits.
The easiest way to build habit is through repetition of right action. Once you have enough momentum behind an idea you’re trying to work into your voice, muscle memory kicks in and you don’t have to think about it any more.
By the way, our Singing Lessons App has vocal training videos, warms ups, and a practice tracker to help you improve your voice. Get access to it here – Singing Lessons App.
This is true for nearly all aspects of singing, including ear training, technique, stylistic embellishments, learning lyrics, sight reading, vocal exercise… the list goes on. It’s all about creating the right habits.
So let’s dive into some ideas of how to do that.
A Solid Singing Practice Routine
If you want to get the most out of your practice session, it needs to be structured. Being intentional about your practice helps you focus on getting the result you want.
As discussed earlier, most singers start off on the wrong foot here. They decide randomly that they want to sing, and they do. They spend the whole time bouncing from song to song with no real purpose or focus.
Then, when they’re done, they say, “Oh yeah, I practiced.” But really, all they’ve done is reestablish old singing habits. This keeps many singers stuck right where they are.
So let’s explore how you can be more efficient with your practice and improve more quickly! It starts with knowing where to put your attention.
Know What You Want to Focus On
In order to improve your singing, you must know where you are now, and where you ultimately want to be. Once you define this, you can create a path to help you get there.
This path is a journey, not a step or two. We must develop our technique, our style, our ability to sing in the proper rhythm and pitch, our ability to perform. It’s a process.
But that said, we can’t do all of that at once. So, we need to figure out what aspect of singing we want to focus on during our practice, and work toward improving it.
So for an example, let’s say Tim is having trouble with breath control and perhaps hitting a tricky rhythm in a song. Now those are the two things Tim wants to place his attention on during his practice.
Begin with a Vocal Warm Up
Now that we know our focus, we want to begin with a solid vocal warm up.
Why? It’s important that we carve a path of right habit for our voice to continue down. Using vocal exercises is the easiest way to do that.
This is true for a few reasons. First, practicing exercises helps us stay focused on execution so we’re not getting lost in a song. Second, we can choose an exercise to make what we want to do easier.
If you’re using warm ups the right way, you are choosing exercises that make it easier for your voice to do the right thing.
Exercises are simplified – usually a repeated scale and sound. Not a varying melody line with multiple vowels and consonants to navigate.
So yeah, warm ups are awesome because they are easier for you to focus on what you’re looking to accomplish, and the right exercise sets the voice up for success as well. It’s a double win!
Now, back to our example with Tim and his desire to improve breathing and a tricky rhythm.
He might put more emphasis on breathing during his warm ups, and maybe even choose longer warm ups to challenge his breathing.
As for the the tricky rhythm, we could create an exercise around it, or work on that in the song.
Spend Some Time in Song
Now that we’ve chosen what we want to focus on, and done some exercises to help us get some positive momentum, it’s time to sing our song.
Now most people when they sing a sing, tend to sing it start to finish with the original singer, or they do it a cappella, and often times unknowingly sing whatever sections feel easiest.
However, if you’ve got specific things to work on, I almost always suggest to start off singing In small sections.
When to Practice a Song in Small Sections
If you’re looking to help learn and create new habit, you really should repeatedly practice smaller sections to help build muscle memory.
You may use practice in small sections to help you nail down harder aspects of the song – this may include tricky lyrics, melody, rhythms/entrances, practicing where to breathe, getting used to a track, etc.
Also you, definitely want to use small section practice to help build habit in basically all aspects of vocal technique and style – ie vowel shaping, consistent support, moderating pressure, adding runs, dynamics, unique phrasing, tone texture, etc.
Once you get some momentum with any of these, you can start to expand into bigger sections. Or, stack another element on top of the other in the smaller section you’re practicing.
With our Tim example, we’d definitely work on those tricky rhythms specifically, singing no more than the line before and after where that tricky rhythm appears. Then, drill it until it’s easy.
For those breathing issues, we’d definitely want to focus on the areas giving us the most problems first. Practice keeping the breath easy, and free of tension. Know where we need to breathe – write it down if necessary. And practice those sections until it is second nature.
At first, it will take some time for this to turn over to habit. You may have to really focus for 5-10 mins on the same small section. Heck, you may need to revisit it in the next practice session or two depending on how hard it is.
But the more you practice this same idea in different songs, the faster it gets. And before you know it, this idea will be natural for you.
Do this with a few habits at a time over the course of a few months, and you’ll be shocked how much better the quality of you’ll sound will be!
But it all starts with the right focus, and the right action.
When to Practice Singing the Whole Song
You also want to practice singing the whole song. You may do this the first few times you sing a song, just to get a feel for the piece as a whole. Then, I’d break it down into sections.
I’d return to practicing the whole song once I have some good habits in place. I prefer to practice it how I’d perform it, so often with an instrumental track (or a band, group, accompanist – whatever your situation might be).
It’s important to practice the song as a whole to know you have all the kinks worked out. You want to feel comfortable with all the transitions and how the song flows from a emotional feel perspective for performance.
For Tim, we’d want to make sure the breath and rhythm are still solid singing the whole song. This is important because we have much more to think about.
Reflect & Plan Your Next Practice Session
Once you’ve completed your practice session, it’s time to reflect on it. We can do that by asking a handful of questions.
What went well? What do you want to make sure you remember for next? How focused were you? How could you be more focused? What can you do to improve your next practice?
The more you reflect on your practice, the more you take away from it. Reflecting on what worked, what didn’t, and how you can improve next time is key to getting the most our of your practice routine.
Then, you want to make a plan to schedule your next practice time. At first you may want to only practice 3-4 times a week for a short 20-30 minute period. Advanced singers might commit to a daily practice routine at the same time.
I argue you don’t need to practice daily, but you need to be consistent. Shorter, consistent, & focused practice sessions will get you better results than practicing once a week for a few hours.
Either way, once you reflect on your previous practice, schedule your next practice time. Then, If you want to be really committed, schedule a time that you’ll practice if something gets in the way of that practice. This way, you have a back up plan when life gets in the way.
How to Know What to Practice
Different singers have different voices. Building an awareness around where you are and knowing where you want to be vocally helps tremendously in accomplishing your goals.
When you know where you are and where you want to go, you can plot a course to take you there. You can focus on what steps you need to take to become the singer you want to be.
Let me give you a couple of examples.
Example 1 – Sally
Sally is a beginner singer. She loves singing, but hasn’t spent a single day performing on stage, in a choir, or anything like that. Her hope is one day that she can confidently get up and sing for her friends and family in a small group or maybe at church.
So all of this is very doable. Now, let’s talk about what she likely need to focus on practice wise?
Because Sally hasn’t spent much time singing with any structure (choir or to a track), she probably needs to focus on making sure she’s singing in tune, and able to sing notes in the right time and pitch along with an instrumental track.
Next, she may need to focus on breathing and resonance to ensure that she has some of the foundations of vocal technique down just to help her unlock some of her potential.
Finally, she needs to start getting used to singing around more and more people. This could be in a choir, or auditioning for a show. Singing in a group is a great way to get started building confidence and using your voice.
Then, once she feels more comfortable, she may want to practice and audition for a scenario where she can step out on stage and sing for others. For this, she may want to practice some of the ideas in our How to Sing Confidently article.
So some of Sally’s focus points between where she is and where she wants to be include:
- Being able to consistently singing in the right key and rhythm along to a track.
- Building good habits around breathing and resonance so that she sounds her best.
- Getting used to singing in a formal setting. Joining a choir or group or maybe even just doing karaoke could help.
- Build confidence around singing in front of others.
Example 2 – Sami
Sami is a seasoned singer. She’s sang in several musicals, and wants to continue performing in a more and more professional capacity.
Because of her experience, she has good instincts and can hold her own while singing with an instrumental or a band. She needs to focus on more deeply developing her skills.
Sami knows that if she can expand her range, she can audition for more parts. So developing the middle part of her voice, aka the mix, is a big focus point.
And while she has a great sound, at times she can be tired after singing. So, she knows to keep up with performing nightly, she needs to release tension in her voice and build up vocal stamina.
She also knows that directors are always looking for performers who can help audience members experience the story. So she knows she has to be able to sing in a way that makes her audience feel something.
She already feels confident on stage and in auditions, but expanding her audition would help her have more options when in auditions.
Knowing this, some of Sami’s focus points to get from where she is to where she wants to go could include:
- Better balancing her voice, and working on developing her mix.
- Releasing tension while singing, and developing greater vocal stamina.
- Diving deeper into style, and learning how to create a more compelling sound.
- As her talent grows, she needs to expand her to include some of the best songs to show off her newly found high notes and that are similar to parts in a play she’d want to be in.
As you can see, Sally’s and Sami’s paths are very, very different. They need to focus on different things to accomplish where they need to go. And the same is true for you.
That said, take some time to figure out what steps you need to take to get you from where you are to where you want to be vocally. Know that developing your voice is a journey, and should be fun.
If you don’t know the whole process, don’t worry. Most people don’t. Just take the next step.
And naturally, if you want more guidance on the things you need to focus on to be successful, feel free to reach out and book a lesson with one of our coaches.
What to Do Next (Time for Action)
If you’re looking for some ideas of what to practice, we offer several free warm ups that compliment our bigger articles on this site. You can access them by signing up here.
Also, don’t forget about our 30 Day Practice Challenge. We want to help you transform your voice and become the singer you want to be. To do that, you must develop the habit of consistent practice.
You can sign up for our 30 Day Practice Challenge here.
Finally, there are a few questions we’ve received based around practice. I’m including a few of them below just in case you’re curious about them as well.
I hope this article has helped, and look forward to seeing you in the 30 Day Practice Challenge!
~ Vocal Coach Ken Taylor
I’d argue you should practice like you perform, and perform like you practice. That said, I understand for some, home isn’t the best practice space.
If this is the case, I’d suggest finding a practice space where you can sing comfortably (maybe a car or in a uncrowded park).
There are many ways. But if you’re asking this, you’re probably fairly new to singing. So, start off by singing along with the artist.
Make sure you’re hitting all the right pitches, entrances, and rhythms. Then, move onto an instrumental track and ensure you’re still doing that.
Once you can comfortably sing your song, you can focus on things like vocal range, lung capacity, and adding more songs to sing.
It depends on what type of music you like and what you’re looking to accomplish with your singing voice.
Usually I like to start people off with songs that are mostly within their abilities and range. I also like to make sure songs are in a genre of music that they like.
Singing isn’t just about hitting the right note, breathing in at full capacity, or using the vocal cords in the right way. You want to make sure you tell a story and make someone feel something.
Music is art, and art isn’t perfect. It’s real. It’s an experience. So instead of trying to be perfect, connect more during your performance and having fun. Do this well, and your audience will enjoy it more and you’ll be creating art.
Set a daily practice time and know what you’re going to practice.
Good singing happens after we’ve created habit through exercises and applying those ideas in songs of our choice.
Great singers come about from building one habit at a time, one song at a time.
Have fun, stick to the training, and play with your voice.
For sure. Read the article above and it’ll give you wonderful guidance on how to become a great singer, singing whatever type of music you like, all on your own. You can even sign up to receive some free vocal exercises.
Nobody became a Grammy winner by perfecting the lip buzz exercise. We must take what we’ve learned and apply it to song.
Get in the routine of practicing in smaller chunks first until you’ve stacked all the habits (technique and style wise) that you want, then start practicing more like your performance. Exercises are great, but training yourself to sing songs requires more.
Sing fast, lol. But if that’s not working out yet, your exercise should be to sing that phrase or section more slowly to help your voice get used the feel. Then, speed it up little by little until you are in the normal tempo.
Side note, it’s harder for some voices to sing faster. This is often because of hold in the root of the tongue.
So if you’re still struggling after playing with the idea above, speak the consonants forward and keeping the tongue loose. This will likely help.
For sure. Practicing and learning what to spend your time on is key, as well as committing to doing it. It’s all about taking right action.