Wondering if there are some secret practice routines out there?
Here’s the truth:
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
Some practice routines for singers are a result of generations of careful study and reflections by other successful performers.
The hard work is done.
And here’s some more good news:
Below I have dissected “the best practice routines for singers” and want to share what a typical practice routine looks like.
This will help you take the next step to improving your voice.
Free PDF Download: Click here to download The 8 Secret Singing Tips, which offers some easy ways to improve your vocals right away!
How Important Is a Structured Practice Routine?
I assume you know already you cannot improve progressively enough as a singer without consistent practice, so I will not discuss the importance of practice itself.
What you may not have cared much about – until now – is why every practice session needs to follow a clearly structured outline.
Designing a routine you stick to is all about planning. And we all know what the consequence of failing to plan is.
Just like any good plan, an important benefit of setting a solid practice routine is predictability.
You know what you are going to do before you even set foot in your practice studio. No ‘shooting into the dark and expecting to hit something’ kind of practice sessions.
To simplify a skill, and ultimately master it, establishing a structured, exhaustive practice routine should be your first order of business.
Benefits of a Solid Practice Routine
An article on bustle.com shares some of the benefits of a solid daily routine.
These can easily be adapted to practice routines for singers:
You eliminate bad habits and unnecessary distractions, as the sessions are timed for specific items.
You pack more into your practice sessions, as you have less distractions, leaving time for relaxation and other things.
You avoid procrastinating on important practice items as everything is pre-set at specific times of the session.
You don’t waste time and energy on unimportant things, which ensures consistent patterns for sounder, restful sleep – all great preparation for the next practice session.
History’s most successful artists all had daily routines they stuck to without fail. The Podio website published an excellent infographic on the daily routines of famous creative people.
We can’t pick the brains of most of the legendary creatives cited in the article as they are now late. But we can glean some powerful nuggets from what they have said.
Provocative French writer, Gustave Flaubert, had this to say about routines:
Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.
Flaubert’s daily routine had reading newspapers and mail, taking a bath, having a light breakfast with an almost identical daily menu, outdoor stroll with family, teaching history, writing and reading, family time (talking with mother), writing (between 10pm and 3am), and sleep all rigidly set into a daily routine.
Others like Charles Dickens, Mozart, Vladimir Nabokov, Voltaire, and Maya Angelou all vouched for the importance of a clearly structured daily routine to a thriving artistic career.
Note that all of these people lived their work. Even what would seem like leisure items on their daily routines could be used for some form of practice.
For example, strolls through the garden or mundane chores like walking the dog can all be valuable time for brainstorming and fleshing out ideas.
A Typical Practice Routine For Singers
Segment 1: Vocal Warm-Up
Everyone needs to warm-up.
Every singing instructor out there will advise on warming up.
There’s a whole lesson in Christina Aguilera’s singing course dedicated to it.
Some professionals may suggest preceding your vocal warm-up with a body warm-up. They reckon it is equally important to wake your other body muscles, as opposed to just the vocal chords.
That is well and good. But you can combine the two as the body warm-up should be nothing more than a few gentle stretches to release body tension. It certainly shouldn’t be anything too grueling.
Generally, a body warm-up should work and relax your abdominal muscles, jaw, and shoulders.
Gently parting your jaw, massaging the space left in the center of both your cheeks with your fingers should be good enough.
Measured stretches, bends, and squats should do it for your shoulders and abdomen.
For the voice:
- Lip trills will exercise the lips and prepare them for the exertion to come
- Hums will warm and prepare your throat
- Humming a few notes from the back of your tongue is also good warm up
Doing a few reps of these voice warm-up exercises should help you transition your speaking voice to a singing one without strain.
Segment 2: Breathing Exercises
Instrument players may not feel breathing exercises are important to include in their practice sessions. But I feel these are important for anyone whose occupation puts some physical demand on their body.
Whatever your own thoughts on breathing exercises are, I encourage you to never discount their importance.
We recently published a more thorough resource on breathing exercises for singers. You may want to check it out.
Segment 3: Vocal Technique
If you are taking lessons, which we encourage, it is likely you will have a program your teacher has designed for you. Consider reviewing our top choices for online vocal instruction here.
It is important to practice the particular areas you are currently working on. This will help you master those specific areas while the lessons are still fresh in your memory.
Ideally, if your lessons are fast paced, your practice sessions must be scheduled at a later time of the day, after each lesson.
Even if you only take one lesson a week, it will be helpful to work on what you would have learned in your last lesson for whole succeeding week.
If you are not taking any lessons at the moment, you could practice any one of these:
- Sight reading
- Ear training
It may be a good idea to do a quick recap on the techniques you practiced last at the start of this segment, just to refresh and check how much you still remember. Spend no more than 5 minutes on the recap.
Again, if you don't know what vocal technique to practice, you should probably consider getting some lessons.
Segment 4: Practice Your Songs
The section on vocal technique will likely be the most intense as you should want to have the specific area you are working on mastered before your next lesson.
In this segment, you relax a bit, doing something perhaps more stimulating. Have a little fun to close the practice session with some positive energy.
Here, you will practice your own compositions, or even a piece you want to make a part of your repertoire. You could focus on all or one of the following:
- Memorizing the lyrics to the song
- Polishing on the vocal style
- Familiarizing with the rhythm and melody of the song
- Practicing the accompanying dance routine
To cap the practice session, record yourself doing a final take on the technique and song you were working on.
Doing this enables you to keep a record of your practice sessions.
Use the recording to do a quick recap on the start of your next practice session. This is also a great way to evaluate yourself and the progress you are making as you can sit down in your spare time and critique yourself.
This is also a recommended step in preparing for singing performances.
A Quick Note On Practice Session Duration
I deliberately left out the detail on the length of time I prescribe for each item in your practice session.
As circumstances and available time will differ from one singer to the next, practice sessions can’t be the same length.
Some musicians will have longer practice sessions interspersed throughout the day. In between will be other activities that may not be related to music.
If you are a student, this may not be practical as the greater part of your day will likely be taken by other things, like a day job or socializing.
You may then just have to make do with a few minutes’ breaks in between segments of your practice sessions. The session itself can be 30 minutes, an hour, or two hours long, depending on how much time you can budget for music practice.
Importantly, breaking your practice session into segments does not mean the segments must be the same duration. It will depend on how quickly you want to master a specific technique or the song you are working on.
As reported in an article on the Good Practice blog, legendary jazz saxophonist, Charlie Parker, used to spend between 11 and 15 hours every day practicing his fantastic technique.
Every Singer Needs A Structured Practice Routine
Singing careers are not for independent spirits or people who hate organization.
There are just too many things to stay on top of in a practice session alone. Without a solid practice routine you stick to religiously, it is extremely difficult to do all these things and still keep your sanity.
Without an ordered format, practice sessions will quickly prove to be unproductive and chaotic exercises out of which nothing of real substance can be achieved.
Practice sessions must be clearly divided, with timed segments assigned to specific areas like warm-up, breathing exercises, song study, and vocal technique.
Granted, even the best practice routines will have to evolve as your skill level upgrades and life circumstances change.
But it just won’t pass for a practice routine if it changes every day and has no established structure.
What does your own practice routine look like?
Hopefully you found something here that can improve your current routine.
My singing routine started from following advice from my singing coach, and I built on that structure to fit into my life.
If you need a bit more help getting started, then consider reading about my coach and his singing program here.