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Practice tips for busy singers

my article in ising! Magazine:

Nurture your voice by taking a consistent approach to practice and tackling bite-sized goals every day, writes top performance coach Michelle Cohen.

Do you battle fitting everything you want to do into your day? For musicians especially, finding the time to warm up, practice and learn new techniques, let alone perform, can seem impossible.

When faced with the daunting reality of the many hours needed to dedicate to their craft, it is understandable that so many singers find that they throw themselves all into something for a few days and then lose momentum or interest because they can’t keep up.

What’s a performer to do?

Treat yourself. Huh? Did that stop you in your tracks for at least a moment, curious to find an answer? Did you just get excited wondering what this special treat could be? Perfect. What if there was a way to have that every day in your life – a quick pick-me-up that takes moments out of your day and when done builds into valuable results?

Think about it. Everyone is more likely to repeat an action if it is fun, entertaining and stimulating. And if it is done in small, easy steps, it has a better chance of being sustainable.

It has been proven that to absorb information in little segments is a powerful device. Richard E. Mayer, an educational psychologist states that, “People learn better when a complex continuous lesson is broken into separate segments…The learner’s working memory is less likely to be overloaded with essential processing when the essential material is presented in bite-size chunks rather than as a whole continuous lesson.”

Strategies that work

I get hired a lot to work on movies sets. Needless to say, I don’t let a lot of time to nurture myself while working 16 to 18 hour days. As an acting coach and “Magic Fairy” on set, I basically look out for people who are either falling over from exhaustion or about to explode. I need to be quick, strategic and effective in a short amount of time to quickly diffuse a situation or re-energise them.

To my astonishment, the easiest and best technique I developed on the film sets was going up to an individual and quietly asking them to put out their palm. I would then place several Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses in their hand. Their faces would light up. And as they took a second to devour the morsels, I would gently remind them to breathe, and perhaps give a word of advice or wisdom. By the time they had swallowed, they were transformed, ready to get back to work, completely perked up from this golden nugget treat.

How can we translate this to the everyday singer’s life? Here are some ways to nurture and further your goals by giving yourself manageable, bite-size gifts:

Tips for the morning

  • As you wake up – start humming. Let this be the first warm up of your day.

  • Make faces at yourself in the mirror while brushing your teeth – getting the lips and muscles loosened up.

  • Breathe deeply while washing yourself in the shower.

  • As you scrub different parts of your body, release the tension in it.

  • Go over lyrics in your head while getting dressed.

  • As you raise your arms to get into your sleeves – imagine you are acknowledging the roar of the crowd.

  • Look at how much you have already accomplished before breakfast!

Tips for the rest of the day

  • Sometimes tackling an entire song is daunting and too much to ask. How about working on those three measures that don’t feel comfortable yet? Go over them in your head while waiting in line somewhere. Belt them out in the car instead of fuming over traffic.

  • Songs are traditionally three to four minutes long. I bet you can find three to four minutes within your day to sing it through at least once. Get that muscle memory working.

  • If you are in a bad mood, select a song you love and do it in the silliest manner you can imagine for a quick pick me up.

  • Take a brain break and imagine yourself in front of the audience nailing your number. Athletes do it all the time – programming the win into their psyche.

  • Yeah, go ahead, have a bite of chocolate. Then hit that high note with the same passion.

  • Why not do these things every day? Way more interesting than just worrying over when you are going to get laundry done.

Little steps really do build up cumulatively and make a difference before you know it. It is worth the extra effort of reaching out a hand and receiving a gift that could last a lifetime (or at least until lunch). Then when you find you have more time and bandwidth, you can work on your voice in a longer and deeper way! Want to learn more?

Want your very own golden nugget singing treats delivered by the Magical Fairy herself? Michelle Cohen has created a unique approach to developing better singing techniques. Her Of Course You Can Sing! Vocal Coaching Programme offers tangible support to help release your artistic talents. It gives over 30 short recorded messages plus a bonus workbook that allows any level of singer to build powerful vocal habits and unleash their extraordinary music in the world.

An all-inclusive tool, the first half of the program builds the vocal instrument and confidence while the second half enhances interpretation and performance abilities. Each message is comprised of easy assignments wrapped in unconditional inspiration, encouragement and plenty of laughs.

Of Course You Can Sing! puts the power of making music in the palm of your hands.

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