How do you spend your time and energy when you practice singing? Do you have a method of practicing that doesn’t take much time, but breaks the singing process into its individual components which helps you set up the entire structure both mentally and physically for singing? Do you start this process by first focusing only on these few technical components or just continually run through you pieces while your mind is off somewhere else? Or maybe you feel it just isn’t necessary to do any practicing at all, but more important to always be trying new pieces. Maybe you feel if you sing for a half hour or hour every day, it’s enough.

Everyone seems to be in such a rush to get on the next thing, that we rarely take or make the time to understand the basics of anything one step at a time before we jump into the pool with both feet often sinking and then wondering why. When you can understand each piece of the puzzle, then and only then does it make sense to try putting the whole thing together. Even when you have a solid vocal technique, you will fall off the horse occasionally when it comes to using that technique within a piece of music. The only part that really counts is if you choose to look and learn from the fall and how you choose to get back on.

“Never confuse motion with action.”  – Benjamin Franklin

There is an art to practicing. I’m sure you went through the trials and errors of learning how to ride a bike, drive a car, and use the computer, skateboard, or cook. The process involved was often frustrating, but you kept at it. You continued to practice, make mistakes, learn from them and because you wanted a particular outcome quickly were able to be very present, mindful, and determined knowing you would eventually master each step of the process. There was nothing else on or in your mind except your ability to concentrate solely on the task at hand. Each tiny success spurred you on to finally reach your end goal. If you fell off your bike or skateboard or messed up with the driving, cooking or computer, you thought about where and what went wrong, made some adjustments and were willing to try one more time. Thus, each experience at mastering the skill was rewarded in a positive way. You probably didn’t think about it at the time, but your progress could actually be measured. Each time you perfected one step of the process you gained the confidence to continue moving to your goal of being able to do whatever it was with ease, self-reliance, and joy. It gave you a particular kind of freedom and self-esteem. The next time you had a skill or project you wanted to achieve, even if it didn’t relate to what you had done in the past, there was some history of how to accomplish a goal and the conviction you could do it. You had a map to follow. Sure you will have to continue to make the necessary adjustments as you figure the process out. Because you have experienced how to learn from what didn’t work, you now feel confident in sharpening your accelerated learning skills. Now each time you want to learn something new or expand your learning, all you have to do is remember how to practice step by step. The more you use it, the more firmly this process becomes embedded in your memory banks making it a very useful habit.

“You will never plough a field if you only turn it over in your mind.” – Irish Proverb

To my way of thinking, it is a great idea to spend time figuring out the parts involved in, the individual steps involved in practicing. anything. It’s important to break it down into the individual components. It is so much easier to practice each individual part separately first, so you can see, hear, feel, taste, and smell how it works. Perfect it. Then move on to the next part perfecting that until you understand and can coordinate intellectually and physically that concept. This is how you create a habit or default system that allows you to execute the process without having to put much thought into it. It permits you to focus your attention on what’s immediately at hand.

When you don’t use your time and energy in this manner, but just run everything over and over again in a mindless manner, you are also creating a habit, one that becomes harder and harder to change if you find you don’t like your current outcome. Wishing for something is useless. Waking up and realizing that what you are doing presently is not working is the first step to recovery. And yes, you might have to totally stop performing and auditioning for awhile so you can successfully change direction. However, know that mastering each step before moving on to the next, will accelerate the learning process exponentially. It will also give you a certainty and self-assurance as the steps within the process quickly become secure and strong.

“Success seems to be connected to action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.” – Conrad Hilton

We all possess a zone of accelerated learning in our brains. It’s called the “myolin zone”. In his book “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle, he lays out the latest brain science and reports from the periphery where high performers are made, not born. It’s not about talent but it is all about how great skill comes only from practice, deep practice, deliberate practice for many years – going slow and learning through the mistakes and because of the mistakes we make. Coyle points out that nothing worthwhile can be learned without serious and deliberate effort.

The ingredients he suggests for accelerated learning are:

  • Practice, practice, practice – Repeating an action actually helps you build myolin (the brain’s white matter). As myolin gets thicker, brain cells fire more in sync, which means you’re able to do tasks better and faster. (C.K. – This is how we build habits both good and bad. It’s up to you what kind of outcome you get.)
  • Great coaching – Good coaching is about giving small, really intense corrections, getting people into the zone where people can deeply practice. (C.K. – This means find a great voice teacher or coach with whom you have amazing communication and understanding. You have tested and totally believe in the technique he/she teaches because the results speak for themselves.)
  • Total concentration – You need to stress your skill sets (finding and fixing) in order to improve your talent. (C.K. – You have to be focused, mindful and present during your practice sessions making adjustments as you work.)

“I hear and forget. I see and remember. I do and I understand.” – Confucius

Cognitive science tells us that we assimilate new concepts only if they are within a small reach of what we already know – within the zone of proximity, as they say. This is why it takes so long to learn a new subject – we have to do the learning one step at a time, and each step has to sink in before the next can be built upon it. Learning appears to be a sequential biological growth process. We are not, for instance, all adept at learning by reading, or by listening or doing; nor can all of us use the big overview or the nitty-gritty details equally as well when planning. All of us have a particular set of patterns as far as inner language, belief systems, and other traits are concerned, so everyone will have to experience this particular learning system for him/herself. It will be unique, even though the components may be the same.

“We make our habits and our habits make us. Practicing bad habits over a long period of time can ingrain attitudes, beliefs and feelings so firmly that escape seems impossible. In such cases, you must exhibit change – do it, perform its outward manifestations – before you can learn to believe in it. You will find that by learning and repeating new behavior patterns you can change your habits and your life.” – Denis Waitley

Daily vocal practice requires mindfulness, commitment, and focus. Getting the process set up once you have the components down, will require no more than 10 – 15 minutes of your time. To me that means the space in which you sing, breath, and making sound. Then you will have positioned the foundation on which all good singing takes place. It’s an amazingly simple way to create and build a solid habit and default system. If you have a glitch while performing, you will automatically revert back to the default system. It’s a great skill to have spent the time learning. It’s a great tool to have in place by using it each and every day as part of your practicing process. It’s practicing smart.

Avanti and Ciao until next time,

PS – Keep your suggestions for subject matter coming and if you have questions about career building or comments, send them along as well.

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