Friday Practice Tip: Approaching the New Song

When students are given a new piece of music, several ineffective practice habits can sneak in.

Some singers will work only beginning of the song leaving the middle and last parts to languish.

The singer might only start their practice at the beginning of the music.

Some singers may only practice the parts that they like OR that they have already mastered.

Other singers will practice the WHOLE song every time, in effect giving a performance in every practice session.

I grew up on a farm in Peculiar, Missouri, and my mother and father used to show American Saddlebred horses. My young life was spent at horse shows (I was deathly afraid of horses and am still uncomfortable around them). One of the things that always fascinated me with horse shows was that each horse wore blinders. This prevented the horse from becoming ‘spooked’ because it limited the range of eyesight and kept the focused on the ring. So, by limiting the vision of the horse, the animal was able to perform more effectively.

The singer can modify this concept of ‘blinders’ and only work on the music that they can see.

To utilize this concept, the teacher can take a fresh COPY of the music in question, and CUT the piece apart into smaller component parts. The teacher or singer can cut out phrase by phrase and allow the singer ONLY to work on those specific sections. Since the singer can only SEE the particular cutting that they have in front of them, their focus in practice will only be on THOSE measures.

For the more adventurous teacher, an entire song/aria can be cut into small sections (8 measures or so) and given to the student in each lesson, so that the music is slowly being given and digested over time. This allows a REAL microscopic understanding of the aria, and lets the student and teacher CATCH bad habits in smaller sections which might go unnoticed when the music is performed as a WHOLE.

You can also create specific cutting ‘themes’ for each aria or song – for example, intonation, diction concepts, musicality, phrasing, legato, staccato, coloratura, easy phrases to hard phrases, etc. There’s no limit to the functionality of using these cuttings!

Hopefully this practice tip will help focus your practice time and make the most of the invaluable time in every singer’s life!


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