Not all that long ago, I found myself sitting and chatting with a friend of mine who operates a robust private voice studio. Teenagers comprise the majority of her students, and we started discussing their practice habits. My friend went into detail about how she structures her lessons and how she assigns a practice schedule to every student. She helps them know what to practice every day and how to divvy up their practice time (5 minutes for warm-up, 10 min working on words, 8 bars of music per day, etc.) so that even if they only practice for 10 or 15 minutes per day they can get some real work accomplished.
This stopped me cold.
As my friend casually spelled out all she had her students do during the week, I did some quick math in my head. Even if the student only practiced 15 minutes a day for a week, and that’s six days if you don’t count lesson days, that adds up to 1.5 hours of work per week. I sat there thinking, did I practice 1.5 hours last week?? The answer was NO. There I was, claiming to be a full-time working singer, and I did not deign to practice even half an hour in the past week. Teenaged singers, the majority of whom have zero interest in pursuing a career like ours full-time, practiced 300% more than I did. That’s pathetic! (on my part, that is!)
The thing is, I didn’t even realize it! So much of my day is consumed with other aspects of my singing business like booking flights to my next gig or sending emails about potential singing opportunities. I felt like I was working on my singing a lot, but I was so caught up in running the business aspect of things (which is definitely important, don’t get me wrong) that I forgot to continue developing the product I was trying to sell: my actual singing.
Whether you are a seasoned pro or just taking voice lessons for fun, you’re going to have to practice to get better. And as a pro, I wanted to make sure I kept getting a LOT better. So that day I sat down and figured out a practice schedule for myself, including a space to mark down how much time I practiced each day. It turns out that needing to write down a number every day for how much time I practiced kept me accountable and encouraged me to practice even on those days when I just wasn’t feeling it (and those days do come, don’t they, my fellow singers?). On my worst days, I just reminded myself that even if I only practiced for 15 minutes like my friend’s students, I’d still get better. And so often, if I only convince myself to take those 15 minutes, they easily turn into 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or more… just from doing a small amount to make sure I had something to track for the day.
Who knew that a little conversation about private studio procedures could have such an impact on my practice life?