When working on your voice and learning how to be a better singer, it can sometimes be a frustrating process. You feel like you’re not making any progress, maybe you are stuck in a rut, or sometimes just going back to your old habits.
Think of this a little bit like a dieter who initially notices big weight losses and gains in fitness. But when they reach the middle ground, the weight loss slows down and they don’t see as big of a gain as when they first started. It’s easy to want to give up but, perseverance is the way forward! So how do you motivate yourself to keep going when its not working out?
Let’s take a look at 5 common mistakes singers can make that could be holding you back with your vocal development and talk about how we can help you to avoid them and get you back on the path to vocal success.
1. Not practising enough
Self explanatory, but if you don’t practice, then how do you expect to get any better? There are no magic wands in singing I’m afraid! Iit takes hard work and dedication to get to where you want to be.
Say if you have lessons every two weeks, but don’t practice in-between, then you won’t make any progress. What’s more, you end up wasting your money!
Every lesson you go to, your teacher has to work to get you back to the level they left you at your last lesson. So rather than moving forward with your vocal development, you just end up at the same point all the time, and get more and more frustrated with it.
Meanwhile, your poor teacher begs and pleads with you every lesson you go to, to just spend 5 minutes practising every day! They tell you that you’ll really notice the difference, and guess what? It’s actually true! We don’t just say it for the good of our health, you know!
Just five minutes of practising every day will make a massive difference to your voice (not to mention make your voice teacher positively giddy with delight!) Check our recent blog post “How often should I practise singing?” for some great ideas.
2. Practising too much
“So, first you tell me I’m not practising enough, now I’m practising too much! Please just make up your mind!”
Just as not practising enough is a problem, practising too much or for too long can give you vocal problems as well.
When you are learning to sing or have been taking lessons for a while, it takes a bit of time to develop strength and endurance in the muscles used for singing. Inside the larynx there are lots of muscles that are responsible for different actions. Some of the muscles involved are tiny (imagine the size of a pin head), so its very easy for them to become fatigued very quickly.
That is why we take regular breaks during your lesson, we need to let the muscles relax and rest so that we don’t cause vocal fatigue.
Our article “How often should I practice singing for best results?” has some great tips on how to practice well for the best results.
3. Not paying attention when you do practice
So you practise every day for 5 minutes, and its still not going well. You wonder why, but then you realise that every time you practise you are balancing on top of a set of ladders changing light bulbs, or putting the washing on, or dressing the kids.
Rather than being focused on what you are doing voice-wise, i.e. paying attention to your vowels or the volume or if you have the right temporary sound, your mind is focused on the other task and not your singing practice.
So, you are just on auto pilot, singing along with your CD. But you have no idea if its the right vowel, what it feels like or whether you are actually doing it right at all.
That is how you develop new bad habits that we have to then un-pick in your lessons and replace with good habits.
Mindful practising is what you need. Find a quiet spot in your home and spend 5 minutes doing your practising, paying attention to:
- what you are saying
- the scales
- whether it feels right
- whether it sounds right.
I bet you will notice a big difference in a short period of time just by paying attention to what you are doing.
4. Setting goals
Like anything we do in life, we often experience more success when we work towards achieving a goal or specific outcome.
When we coast along with no idea what we are actually trying to achieve, it can be hard to keep your motivation up. Before you know it, excuses creep in and then you give up.
Can you imagine trying to learn to drive without the goal of learning to drive, or trying to lose weight without the goal of losing weight. Sure you may have some initial success from the “fluke” factor, but how will you know when you have achieved what you set out to do?
Setting a goal like, I’m going to loose 5kg, or I will pass my practical driving test, are obvious as you have either the weigh in that proves you have lost the weight, or you have the certificate to show you passed your test.
Singing is the same – without goals its hard to motivate yourself. And even with goals it can be hard too.
Work with your teacher and set specific goals like, “I want to be able to sing this song without cracking on the chorus”, or “I want to have a stronger tone in the bottom of my voice”. This type of goal is fantastic because you know what you are working towards and you can monitor your progress during your lessons and practice time.
When you can see your progress and recognise your achievements, it gives you a boost to work towards your next goal or target.
A word of caution though, set realistic targets for yourself!
If I taught someone for the first time who had never sung before, and their goal was to be Mariah Carey in 3 months, I may find a polite way of telling them it will take a lot longer than 3 months to achieve it. I may even have to tell them that they may never achieve it, but I will try and work with the singer to find a manageable goal.
5. Monitoring your progress
So, now that you’ve got yourself practising right and have a realistic goal to work towards, we need to set up a way for you to monitor your progress so you can see how close you are to your goals and targets.
The best way to do this is record everything you do. Record your practise sessions at home, record yourself singing the song you are working on and listen back.
Some people can find it very uncomfortable to listen back to themselves singing, but it’s one of the best ways to get accurate feedback on what you have just done. The other option is having lessons with a teacher who will be honest with you. (Remember – we will give praise where it’s due but we’ll also tell you when it’s not right too.)
If you own a smart phone, then you will have or can get a memo recording app which is perfect to record your lessons and practise sessions. If you don’t then you might consider getting yourself an inexpensive dictaphone that you can use to record yourself.
I particularly like doing this, as if there is anything I miss in my voice when I’m singing, I can hear it on the playback and do the exercise again to correct it.
Plus, you build up a catalogue of clips that you can look back on and reflect on the success you have achieved as a singer! Without it, it can be difficult to chart your progress accurately.
It’s easy to make mistakes when you are singing, after all we are human! But with some thought, and a bit of planning you can really make a difference to your voice, and really make sure you are treading right down the middle of the path to success as a singer.
So there you have it 5 common mistakes singers can make, how many of them are guilty of? As always we’d love to heard your feedback and comments. Get in touch on the website, or connect with us via Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.