10 minutes? 20? An hour or more?
I often get questions from people who want singing help about the best amount of time to practice a particular singing exercise or exercises.
Recently, jeanpaulfelix on Youtube asked me these three important questions (thanks jeanpaulfelix!):
- How long do we have to practice like this everyday?
- Any number of optimal sets that we can do?
- Is something too much and can hurt you in the long run?
He asked those questions in regards to my “Slow Leaky Tire” exercise for improving breath capacity, which, of course, improves ease in singing for longer periods of time. On the page linked above, I suggest repeating the exercise 2-7 times.
However, I have a more detailed approach that I would like to share with you here.
It is an approach that can be applied to any singing exercise and it is based on your singing mindset as well as how you best learn something.
For instance, some people like to be random in the way they approach something. They might ask questions about practicing but then go and do their own thing. This works best for them and is not a wrong approach. Others thrive with more structure. They want to know if they should practice something a certain amount of time for the best results. Other people don’t want to be told how to practice at all.
In the end, how you practice any of my singing exercises (or any others that you utilize) will depend on how you best learn. And that depends on how well you know yourself.
So, in this case, I would answer the above questions (thanks again jeanpaulfelix!) like this:
- The amount of practice time (or sets) is not as important as the type or quality of practice time.
What do I mean by that?
Simply put, it means that a few minutes of practice in which you know yourself—have fully focussed awareness of your muscles, your mindset, your intentions, your obstructions (tension anywhere in your body or mind)—is better than a longer period of time or number of sets in which you are distracted or not paying full attention to what is going on.
Often, we are so hurried or stressed about the results we want (right now!), we actually miss the clues our body/mind is giving us and end up unwittingly sabotaging ourselves. We don’t mean to, but we do.
The Best Way to Practice Singing
The best kind of coach or teacher will tell you that there is no “one size fits all” for any pursuit in life. In other words, what works for one person may not work for another person. That is the reason I insist on personalized attention with the people I help. It is why I am answering jeanpaulfelix in a detailed blog article rather than a short Youtube blurb.
I want you to learn to have what I call “Fearless Voice Power.” That term fearless means being unafraid of doing what it takes to discover how you best “tick.” It means pursuing something with every ounce of energy you have inside yourself to dream big about yourself and take down all barriers about what you “should” or “should not” do.
If you learn basic principles that work for you about “how much,” “how long,” “how many” of a singing exercise, you will get the best training possible.
Now the big question is how do you do that? How do you find out what works best for you?
Become an explorer, a detective, an observer of your human nature, your body, your thoughts, your beliefs about yourself and your place in the world. In other words, delve deeply into what your body/mind tells you when you are doing a particular singing exercise. Observe what happens with your muscles and thoughts. In particular, notice when your tongue or throat or belly muscles being to tighten or relax. And when they tighten, hold back a bit until you figure out how to adjust a muscle here, a thought there so that you can go further without tension.
And imitate no one. Well, you might, at first, while you are getting your feet wet, but when you are at the point where jeanpaulfelix is—where you are asking excellent questions and hoping for excellent answers—it means that you have already begun your exploration.
And so, jeanpaulfelix, here is what I suggest for you and all others who read this:
- Take as many minutes per day as you need to become keenly aware of your muscles and your thoughts while you are doing the singing exercise.
- Close your eyes and feel what is going on inside of your belly, your throat, your tongue, your brow and even your toes!
- Most of all, follow your thoughts. Are you frustrated? Impatient with yourself? Feel like you can’t take the time? Think you will make a mistake?
- Next, relax.
- Next, relax more deeply.
- Observe what happens if you let go of the tension that may be occurring anywhere in your body or mind.
- If you learn best by keeping track of practice time or sets and that works best for you, note on the first day how many times doing the exercise at one sitting (or standing) worked best for you. Jot it down if that helps. Stop doing the exercise when you feel like you are starting to strain something.
- The next day, observe whether practicing the same amount of time/sets is comfortable for you or not. You may be able to do more or you may not feel comfortable doing as many.
- Continue observing and making notes to yourself about what works best for you, gradually increasing the length of time or sets that you do each day until you are fully comfortable.
And finally, the only time doing an exercise is “too much” is when you sense your body/mind telling you to stop and then you don’t stop. You must learn to trust yourself, to pace yourself, to do what works best for you!
Be absolutely true to what you discover about your best practice time and you can’t go wrong!