You still have to practice every day.

Last year I wrote a series of posts on practicing, essentially re-visioning the whole process to include score study, breathing work, posture checks, and a host of other things that are beneficial to singing, regardless of where you are or what you’re doing. I don’t want to discount any of those things, but it’s been dawning on me that we could easily use that stuff as an excuse not to practice every day, in the traditional sense.

Why would we want to pay attention to breathing, posture and score study unless we were actually going to put those things to use in singing? If the singing part gets left out, what are we left with? The moment you walk into your teacher’s studio, or the moment you step on stage or in front of a microphone, old habits creep in: your nerves cause you to tighten your throat and your abdomen, and there you are, singing as if you haven’t learned a darned thing.

This is why we call them vocal habits. The way to develop a good habit (or break a bad one) is to be in practice with it every day. Jerry Seinfeld has been known to advise: “Don’t break the chain,” which is to say, write new jokes every day, and mark your calendar accordingly, so that when you look at the calendar you see a continuous chain of activity, unbroken. This is what develops good comedians. And singers. When all is said and done, you still need to carve out some time and space every day to bring attention to your vocal habits and develop them. It’s not something that can be crammed in at the last minute before a lesson or a show.

And it doesn’t matter how experienced you are. If you’re a beginner, you need to spend time daily discovering your voice and how it works best, so that you can develop healthy skills that will get you on the right track early. If you’re a seasoned veteran, you still need to check in with your voice every day so that you’re not tripped up by sudden vocal changes or getting complacent. In fact, the older you get, the more diligently you have to practice so that you can make sure you can continue singing for a lifetime.

It’s not terribly empowering or inspiring; not when you first realize it. But there’s immense power in saying you’re going to do something and then doing it, even for the most mundane of activities. There’s a saying in Zen Buddhism that goes like this:

What do you do before you achieve enlightenment?

Chop wood and carry water.

What do you do after you’ve achieved enlightenment?

Chop wood and carry water.

This is the essence of practicing.

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2 thoughts on “You still have to practice every day.

  1. jamiebobamie says:

    Excellent. So true! I love the saying at the end.

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