Since none of us should expect proficiency the first time… We practice!

Practice, practice, practice… If you studied music as a kid, you probably got nagged about this. It probably turned you off to music eventually, because it likely wasn’t very fun. But here I am… Talking again about practice. I have two reasons: first, I want to demystify what I as a professional musician do, and secondly I hope to introduce you to new ways to practice so you and your family can have fun making music, regardless of how ‘beginner’ or ‘experienced’ or ‘capable’ you might feel. Let’s start with a video from my practice today.

I play piano and sing a melody I am trying to learn. While practicing here, I notice difficulties I’m having, like where to breathe, what notes feel insecure, and where my fingers forget what to do.

In this video, you hear me play and sing through the music for this coming week, Sunday, August 23rd. I sing through once making a vvvvvv sound, then again buzzing my lips. I practice this way because it helps me to “bring my sound forward,” a fancy and somewhat confusing thing voice teachers say to us (or in this case, me) when we “sing farther back”, as best as I understand it, leaving the resonance ‘stuck’ in the voice box or elsewhere. Basically, I want to feel the sound in my lips/mouth, not in my throat. I’m not a professional singer; this language is new to me, too. Basically, to practice singing, I don’t just sing the same thing over and over and over. Sometimes I hum. Sometimes I buzz my lips. I might practice just by playing on the piano or organ (my main instruments).

Some suggestions for creative practice:

  • clap the rhythm of a song you know (or the one you want to practice)
  • sing a melody on a neutral sound: as a choir director, I usually assign “doo,” “do,” or “la”
  • put your hands on either side of your mouth and buzz your lips like I do in the video, then sing the melody you’re practicing
  • with a partner (particularly if you’re learning one of these songs with an older child): sing one part of the melody, let them sing the next part, and you finish by singing. Sort of like a game of telephone, but with music (perfection is NOT expected in this exercise 😉
  • step the beat and sing, alternatively, step the rhythm while you sing* (particularly good for teaching music to younger kids who just want to mooooooove)
  • imagine the music in your head without singing it out loud

This all might feel way over your head. But remember, as I said in the video, I definitely do NOT get everything “right” (whatever that means anyway!), right away (if ever…). Music and singing are something you can practice and improve upon regardless of whether or not a teacher/parent/adult once told you “you’re tone deaf”/can’t sing/whatever (you are NOT tone deaf, you just didn’t get the needed support and encouragement. You can do this.). Part of my ministry here is helping you access new ways to make music, even while we’re all stuck at home or otherwise not singing in public. So let me conclude by saying if all you feel up for doing to ‘practice’ music this week is to listen to a song you want to learn several times through… that is enough. When you’re ready to start trying something else yourself, I hope some of the suggestions I’ve given you will be the next launching point for practice. What other ways do you like to practice? Comment below! 🙂

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