Most singers have no idea how good their voice can sound because they’ve never practiced a song thoroughly like a professional. This article provides a guide on how singers should approach song practice to prevent bad singing and to consistently sound amazing!
Here are the items to get out of the way before you begin practicing a song. Getting this right now will save you a lot of time later.
Listen repeatedly to the song.
Learn how the song goes by listening and internalizing it. Don’t sing when doing this step, just listen and commit the song to memory. This will help you with audiation, which is arguably the most important process in all of singing.
Asses the lyrics.
Make sure you understand what the lyrics are communicating. Ask yourself if these are lyrics you could see yourself singing.
Choose the right key.
Make sure you key the song where you are able to sing it, not too high or too low. Also, make sure you select a key that is appropriate for the mood of the song. A rule of thumb is that energetic or epic songs should be sung higher in your range and intimate or laid-back songs should be in the lower part of your range.
Find the BPM and meter.
Identify the tempo and the time signature of the song. This information will come in handy later when you use a metronome.
Map vocal register transitions.
Identify where you’ll be singing in chest voice, head voice/falsetto, and mixed voice. This step will save you from straining and also keep your singing fluid.
Mark your breaths.
Place your lyrics somewhere where you could edit them and take the time to mark where you should breathe. The general purpose of the step is to make sure you don’t ever try singing too much in one breath. Proper breathing also helps to prevent strain.
Expressiveness is multi-factorial, but here are the big three: Dynamics (i.e. where will you sing loud vs soft). Musical articulation (i.e. where will you sing legato vs staccato). Timbre shifts (for example: where will you sing airy vs clean).
Mark the song in free time and a capella.
“Marking” the song is to sing it softly. This preserves your voice while you learn the song. Free time means without a steady rhythm. Sing the song painfully slowly first to make sure you actually know all the notes. A capella means with no accompaniment, just your voice. This will make your practice more accurate because there’s nothing to hide behind.
Mark the song as many times as needed to get every part right. This might take anywhere from 6 to 24 run-throughs before you’re getting every part right.
Use a metronome from slower to full speed.
Now that you know all the parts, turn on your metronome and practice running the song at 50-75% of full speed to make you’re singing in tune, in time, with proper vocal register transitions, breaths, and expressiveness. Start at a speed slow enough that you could focus on multiple factors at one time. Depending on the song, speed up your metronome by 5 or 10 bpm at a time until you arrive at full speed.
Follow the “3 Consecutively Correct” rule. In other words, don’t speed up your metronome if you can’t sing through a song at a slower tempo three consecutive times perfectly.
Practice till you can’t get it wrong.
You’ve probably sung the song 3 to 6 dozen times at this point in the process. Pat yourself on the back and continue doing full-speed run-throughs until the song is so ingrained that your voice almost sings it intuitively rather than consciously. Remember, you don’t want to practice until you get it right, you should practice until you can’t get it wrong.
Warning! Take breaks!
You should never sing consecutively for too long without taking a vocal break, especially when practicing something new. For some of you, this means that after singing one section of the song you should stop for a few minutes and then run it again. For others, this means you should sing through the whole song once and then rest your voice for a few minutes. Listen to your voice and make sure you’re not fatiguing it quickly by doing too many consecutive repetitions.
Respect the Art of Music
Take the instructions from this article as a guide on how to practice songs. You may have your own unique process, and that’s okay! Just make sure that you are respecting the art of music and practicing in a way that brings out the musicality of your voice and of the songs that you sing.
Benny Meza is a Master Associate at Brett Manning Studios in Nashville, TN. He’s taught over 7,000 vocal lessons and has worked with clients from Warner Music, RCA, Universal Music Group, and many others.
Book a Skype or In-Person lesson with Benny today!