----------This is a mirror post from Doreen Fryling
Congratulations! You’ve now been told for the millionth time to
practice your music for your next choir rehearsal. But if you are
someone who hears that and thinks, “I don’t play piano. I can’t do this
without someone helping me,” here are some ways you can practice on your
own and improve your singing.
Grab your music and a pencil. Many of these steps can be done in a
public place. No need to head to the practice room (stop using that as
- Start with the text. Make sure you know what you
are singing. Think about the text. Find a translation if it is in
another language. Write the poetic translation above/below the lyrics.
If you want to go deeper, use a translation site to translate word for
word (especially if there’s a word that you sing over and over again.
You should know what that specific word means). Do you know who wrote
the lyrics and why? Can you put the piece into historical context?
- Listen to a recording. We live in a time of
unbelievable access to recordings. Find them. Listen to more than one
recording and compare them until you find one or two you really like.
Follow along with your score. Listen while paying attention to all of
the parts. Listen while paying attention to just your part.
- Analyze your music. How is the piece organized?
Does it have sections? Are there repeated parts? Does your part occur in
another voice part? Are there key changes or meter changes? Is there a
repeat sign/first and second ending/coda? How would you describe the
organization of this piece to someone who has never heard it?
- Find your starting pitches. For every entrance you
have, figure out how you are going to find the starting pitch. Maybe
another voice part just sang the note. Maybe it was just in the
accompaniment. Do you know what note of the chord it is (e.g. I’m
singing the root of this chord)? There is nothing worse than “sheep
singing” (blindly following what the person next to you is singing).
Take responsibility for being able to enter on your own.
- Don’t just sing through the parts you already know.
You’ll be wasting your practice time. Identify problem areas, analyze
why you’re having a problem with that spot, figure out ways to solve the
- Solve the problem area. Break it down to something
you CAN do. Then add something to it. Practice with repetition, but only
if you’re sure you’re doing it right! Start with just the pitches
slowly (dare I say on solfege syllables?). Then add the rhythm to the
pitches. Next, add in the lyrics. Make sure you slow down the tempo each
time you add another layer. No need to practice with dynamics,
articulations, and breaths until you have mastered pitches, rhythms, and
- Work backwards to forwards. How many times have you
felt great about the beginning of a piece, but completely unsure of the
ending? During your own practice time, work on the ending section and
progressively add sections, each time going through to the end. If you
think of your piece as “ABCDE,” practice E, then DE, then CDE, then
BCDE, and ABCDE.
- Audiate your part. Sing your part through in your
head. Do this while you are walking somewhere. Do this in your car while
you’re waiting for someone. Do this before you go to sleep. Do this ALL
OF THE TIME. (Friendly reminder: Audiating is virtually impossible if
there is other music playing. Carve out some quiet time in your life.)
- Use your pencil. Mark your score while you’re in
rehearsal so you remember what was giving you problems. This will save
you time when you plan out your next practice session.
- Just practice. 99% of the time I don’t want to
practice. No one does. But 99% of the time, once I start practicing, I
get stuff done. I stop when I lose focus or I run out of time. I NEVER
regret spending a little time practicing something. Do yourself a favor
and make it part of your daily routine.
You have the ability to do these ten things. Do them. You will reap
the benefits of being more confident with your part, which will allow
you to contribute to the ensemble in a more meaningful way. And your own
vocal technique will improve, because you’ll be able to concentrate on
how you sound instead of always worrying about how your part goes.
You’ve got this.
-Doreen Fryling (lifelong practice avoider)