In singing (or just about any endeavor), one must be observant of what goes well and what goes poorly. Arguably, most of this critical observation should be done soon after the activity, not so much during the creative process.
Determine why some things went well. Be grateful for them, and re-create these circumstance and potential choices again the next time.
Determine why some other things did not go well. Rather than use these failure-contributing events or choices as excuses — thus letting yourself “off the hook” — get right back on the hook. Next time, create different background events and/or preparation, so that you can make more desirable choices. In other words, learn from mistakes — including those you did not commit on purpose, or were not even aware of.
A mistake is a choice you make that does not lead to your best outcome; that’s why we are always works in progress, learning which choices to make and which ones to avoid. The person who accepts responsibility accepts the power to affect change.
Learning without application is of questionable value; in a skill such as singing, learning is arguably worthless — unless validated by consistent practice. One does not learn to sing only in the voice studio; vital concepts are introduced there, but the student builds with and upon those concepts/techniques in the practice room (the coaching studio, the opera rehearsal, the choral rehearsal, in performances…). It is important that techniques introduced in the studio be promptly, thoroughly and regularly supported by generous amounts of time in practice.
Practice is also about rediscovering or affirming choices that have previously been identified as desirable. This truth is essential for continuing progress, as one builds a cohesive network of choices that make up technique. As a singer develops and experiences physiological changes in the maturing process, it is valuable to rediscover earlier choices and make subtle adaptations.
Perhaps the most important reason to practice is to develop confidence. If one does not practice to “work out” the technique that is ostensibly being developed, he/she must depend on over-effort and luck. To come to a voice lesson or performance without effective and frequent practice — thus to be constantly “on guard,” often second-guessing oneself — does not allow the singer to make valid, true artistic choices. He/she will not develop the technical freedom that empowers expressive freedom, and will quickly lose faith in the technical approach. The approach that I offer is based on poise, balance and flexible strength — not on manipulation — and the singer must be willing to take necessary risks to develop consistency.
Any activity (such as singing) is more rewarding and fulfilling when one is well-prepared, and has therefore earned the expectation of success. Besides, practicing well is often exhilarating and always good for the soul!
As we begin a new academic year, here is a video clip that dramatically demonstrates the benefits of “courage, patience and control.” You may be upset by what you think is about to happen, but be patient enough to control the urge to look away!