Developing good habits takes time – in fact, they say that you need to do something 100 times before it actually becomes a habit.
That does seem daunting but it doesn't have to be.
Start small. If you want to get in shape and you've never exercised, it's not the greatest idea to say, “I'm going to start to run 5 miles every day.” That is a habit destined to fail if you haven't done anything before. You start by walking to the end of the block and back. And you do that for a couple of weeks. And then you increase the distance little by little. And eventually, getting out of your house and actually moving becomes the habit.
I have broken down some daily, weekly, and monthly tasks that every singer should do to support your singing, your musicianship and your art.
1. Vocalize – You don't need to spend an hour or longer to “practice.” Just put aside 10 minutes a day to sing vocal exercises MINDFULLY to get your breath moving, your cords vibrating, and your resonators….well, resonating! Vocalizing mindfully is not just good to keep your singing voice in shape but it also ensures that your speaking voice stays healthy and fresh throughout the day. And if you need a little guidance on how to vocalize, check out my new mini-course, Voracious Vocalizing.
2. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day – OK, this is not a surprise and not a mystery as to why it is important. Just do it.
3. Do one thing that supports your art or your artistry – Practice your repertoire. Listen to a song you've never heard before. Learn a musical term you didn't know. Learn how to play a harmonic minor scale on the piano. Learn or experience something new every day that is related to your art. It will inspire you to learn more.
4. Plan out your day the night before – This is something I learned with a new planner I was gifted. It encourages you to spend 10 minutes every night to plan out your tasks and goal action steps for the next day. I find that when I do that, I am much more likely to actually get up in the morning and tackle that list. Make sure you schedule your tasks like an appointment – with a time and a place.
1. Learn a new song and practice it – This is one I'm going to do this year. Sometimes it's hard to practice if you don't have a goal, like an upcoming performance. So challenge yourself to learn a new song of any genre each week. But don't just learn the notes. Actually practice it. Get it in your voice as if you were to perform it. By this time next year, you will have 52 new songs in your repertoire!
2. Sight read something on the piano at least 3 times in the week – Whether you are an advanced player or have never played the piano before, sight reading is the best thing you can do for your musicianship. Start easy. It doesn't have to be a Beethoven sonata. Maybe you just sight read 8 measures of your favorite pop song. But do it!
3. Sit and listen to a piece of music you have never heard before – Did you ever see those young guys on YouTube who probably usually only listen to rap and hip hop, play a Frank Sinatra song for the first time ever and give their live reaction? It's fabulous! You can see it here. Discover music that you've never heard before – even outside of your genre. But don't make it background music. Actually sit and listen to it. You will never know what will inspire you!
4. Exercise – Yep. I said it. Remember that singing is a total body experience. The more you get moving, the more your voice will thank you for it.
1. Take at least one voice lesson – I don't care if you are 16 or 60. If you call yourself a singer, you should check in with a voice teacher at least once a month. We can't trust our own ears all the time. And as we get older, our voice changes. We all need a check in from time to time with a teacher to inspire us to keep working toward healthy singing. If you are a working or amateur singer, a teacher will keep you working toward your vocal goals. If you are a voice teacher, besides keeping your own voice healthy, working with a voice teacher can inspire you with new ideas to share with your students.
2. Go see a live performance – Let's face it. There is nothing like live performance. And I find nothing more inspirational than seeing musicians performing live. I'm not saying you have to spend a lot of money to see the opera, or a Broadway show, or the symphony. There are lots of opportunities to catch live performances – a nearby university with a music program has performances all the time, there are community theatres everywhere, the bar down the street might have live musicians. But get out there and catch a live performance.
3. Read an article or book about some aspect of your art or watch a documentary or instructional workshop/masterclass – Or put another way, be a life-long learner. There is always something to learn about your art – pedagogically, musically, dramatically, historically. The more you learn, the more you grow, the more you appreciate your art, the better artist you become.
4. Connect with other singers – Meet other singers socially on a regular basis. Talk shop or not. But be a part of a singer community. Singers understand singers. When you are struggling with something, when you are celebrating something, you feel closer to your art when you are communing with people who know exactly what you are experiencing.
That's it! None of those things will take up much time. But doing even some of these things on a regular basis will make a HUGE difference!