Practice Makes Permanent…Not Always Perfect

Singers in general have almost invariably lost ‘aural touch’ with their voices and cannot exercise on their own without resorting to the physical sensations and though processes which prevent spontaneity. It is of course unrealistic to expect a singer to remain mute between lessons. I suggest two compromises. The first is experimenting with some of the exercises experienced in lessons, with the proviso that they are approached in the way that all exercises should be. These exercises should only last a few seconds at a time so as not to encourage imbalance and should not be practised. The second compromise is singing spontaneously (with the pupil feels like it), not in a studied fashion, not forcefully or insistently, but with animation and joy. Emotionally expressive music with a lively pulse should be chosen. Certain vocal elements can be practised once sufficient progress has been made and the teacher is satisfied that the pupil understands their purpose and knows what to listen for.

Old habits can be reinforced by singing, and occasionally it’s necessary for a pupil to stop singing for a while. François Couperin gave half hour lessons every day, then locked the harpsichord, so as to minimize negative effects of undirected or purposeless practice. It seems strange that singers think they can improve their instrument and their use of it by singing for hours at a stretch with no real idea of what they’re doing. In the absence of Papageno’s padlock, a singer must decide for himself how disciplined he is prepared to be in order to attain his goal!

Harrison, Peter T. The human nature of the singing voice: exploring a holistic basis for sound teaching and learning. Dunedin Academic Pr Ltd, 2006.

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