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HOW TO GET MOTIVATED TO PRACTICE

I have a confession…I have always struggled to practice regularly and effectively. The worst part was all I kept thinking was ‘What’s wrong with me?! Why do I find this so difficult?!’ And being a singing teacher I feel a strong sense of responsibility that I need to set a good example for my students.

So, I started to seriously think about practice. How I could improve it. How I could do it more consistently. And then I realised, my struggle was not with practice itself. No! The most difficult part of practice was getting motivated to practice. Once I was practising I was fine. I even enjoyed it.

After so many years of training, it is shocking to admit that it has only been in the last three years or so, that I have discovered my strengths and weaknesses and started to learn how to use them to my advantage. It’s still not perfect. I’m always learning something new. It’s always evolving. I’m always improving it. But I can safely say that my motivation to practice is much healthier and I’m a much happier singer.

So, whilst the UK is still in lockdown, if you struggle to get motivated to practice, what’s a more perfect time to find out what your strengths and weaknesses are and how to get motivated to practice.

 

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Hi, I'm Rebecca! And I truly love everything about the art, science, and teaching of singing. If you're looking to build an effective and healthier singing technique so that you can sing with more ease and confidence, then you're in the right place! Here's a few other blog posts you might also like to read:

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One of the biggest struggles I have as a Singer is getting motivated to practice. After some research, I discovered that I needed certain things in place, unique to my personality, that help me get motivated to practice. I wanted to share my tips and tricks to ensuring that you can learn to practice regularly and improve your singing. #motivation #howtogetmotivated #howtostaymotivated #singersmotivation #howtopractice #gretchenrubin #thefourtendencies #singing #practice #improveyoursing

On my journey of self-discovery to find out what motivated me, I’ve explored many different avenues. Some enlightening and some meh!


I’ve taken little pieces from here and there and stitched them together to make a patchwork quilt of strengths and then explored the best ways to employ them.


One of the most enlightening moments was when I am came across Gretchen Rubin, author of The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too), who talked about personality types in a different way.


According to Rubin, there are four tendencies; Obligor; Questioner; Rebel; and Upholder.


I found that by understanding my tendency, and therefore my strengthens and weaknesses, I could finally step in the right direction and help myself be more motivated, productive and achieve tasks and goals with less stress and more satisfaction. If you don’t know your tendency, and you would like to find out, you can take the quiz here.

 

THE FOUR TENDENCIES


You can explore Rubin’s website and books for more in-depth information but for now here’s a brief summary of each of the four tendencies:


OBLIGOR


Those that fall into the Obligor category tend to be very good a meeting external expectations but not their own inner expectations.


To stay motivated and productive, Obligor’s need accountability. They need someone that is going to keep a regular eye on them and help keep them on track.

 

QUESTIONER


The Questioner has a strong connection to logic and efficiency and often enjoys seeking more information, reasons and justifications.


A Questioner needs to set deadlines otherwise they will continuingly seek more information and not progress and succeed at meeting their goals.

 

REBEL


If you’re a Rebel you most likely tend to do what you want and the way you want to do it. There’s no sense of meeting either external or internal expectations.


To good thing is Rebels like challenges and are competitive and thrive on meeting ambitious deadlines.

 

UPHOLDER


At first glimpse, the Upholder may seem like the ideal tendency.


They are very good at meeting external and internal expectations. They thrive on meeting deadlines, following rules and generally have more success at keeping to resolutions than any of the other tendencies.


However, Upholders can be rigid and have a hard time making changes or working in a flexible environment.


Now that you know your tendency let’s look at how you can use this to your advantage and get motivated to practice.

 

5 STEPS to GETTING MOTIVATED TO PRACTICE


STEP 1: Set up your practice environment


Having somewhere safe to practice without being disturbed is vital.

If you have a music room, great!


Make sure that it is organised so that you can always find what you need and you don’t waste time looking for things.


If it’s not organised right now, make some time to organise it the way that will work best for you.


If you don’t have a music room, why not think about organising your practice material in a bag or box, somewhere you can keep it all together.


This way, no matter where you practice you’ll have everything you need and will limit the amount of time you spend gathering it together.


Follow Marie Kondo’s advice: give everything a place and always put it back in its place.


I find that sheet music especially has this way of getting out of order and spread everywhere very quickly, no matter how organised you are.


You may need to think about creating time each week, month or quarter to ensure that everything stays organised and together.

 

STEP 2: Get your practice materials ready


Buy pencils and rubbers (and any other stationary you need) that are for your practice purposes only. Keep these together with your other practice materials.


There’s nothing worse than when you want to mark a reminder on your sheet music and you can’t find a pencil, although you know you have a literally millions!


Also, to help with that unruly sheet music, think about organising your sheet music into folders. I like those expandable ones!


There’s numerous ways you can organise them; by genre; WIFs (works in progress), completed etc.


Find a system that works for you and stick to it.

 

STEP 3: Know what you’re going to be practice


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve finally gotten around to practising and then realising that I don’t know what I’m doing.


So, I end up practising any old thing I can find and I don’t achieve anything.

To combat this, take a note book to your singing lessons.


Write down everything and anything the teacher says that needs work and start there.


My suggestion is always think in advance what it is you’ll be practising that day.

You may find it helpful to keep a practice journal.


You can use the journal to record what you’ve just worked on and what you want to achieve in your next practice session.


So, you’re pre-empting yourself and planning your next practice by building on what you’ve just worked on.


When it comes to repertoire choices, perhaps you already have a selection given to you by your teacher or you’ll need to select your own materials.


I do a mixture.


One of the ways like to keep motivated is by also choosing things I want to learn. I tend to select and plan my repertoire choices for a whole year.


I may even discuss my choices with my teacher to ensure they’re appropriate.


I’ll then incorporate anything my singing teacher thinks I should learn or anything that’s required for an audition or performance.


Have the sheet music ready.


If you want to be super organised get all the sheet music ready and organised for the whole year. That way there are no excuses!

 

STEP 4: Set up your practice schedule


Firstly, thinking about which tendency you are and plan your practice accordingly.


If you didn’t find out your tendency earlier, here’s the link again to Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies quiz. For example, if you’re the Obligor type and you don’t have any external deadlines to work towards, find someone that will help you keep accountable to your practice schedule.


This can be a fellow musician or a close friend or family member that will be dedicated to keeping you going. If you’re the Questioner then set your own deadlines.


I’m a Questioner. Until I read about Gretchen Rubin’s four tendencies I struggled to understand why I could learn repertoire when there was a pending audition or performance date but left to my own devices I struggled to get motivated. Now I know! So, I set my own deadlines, and I tend to give myself at least one new piece of repertoire to learn each month. This change has drastically improved my motivation to practice.


If you’re the Rebel, you may want to set yourself challenges like, ‘how many pieces of repertoire can I learn in a month or a week’, or alternatively, if you have a likeminded friend, set up a friendly competition.


If you’re an Upholder, you probably don’t have much problem sticking to practice schedule. But the voice behaves differently each day, so the Upholder may need to work on incorporating more flexibility into their practice schedule.


By thinking of your strengths and weaknesses and planning your repertoire, setting yourself goals and/or deadlines, you can then create a practice schedule that will work for you. You’ll be more motivated and start to achieve those long-term goals with ease. But be realistic!


Take some time to consider your circumstances and commitments. How easy is it for your practice? When times best? Which days are best? When are you most productive? When are you most motivated?


You can create your schedule digitally in iCalendar or you can get a little more creative. I would suggest that you create long-term goals and/or deadlines but schedule your practice on a weekly basis. This will give you a degree of flexibility to consider additional or unexpected commitments and your vocal health.


Weekly planning also helps me identify practice days that I’m most likely to be most motivated and productive. I find that sticking to a strict routine each week doesn’t work for me (the Questioner), but perhaps would work for the Upholder. Try different things. Experiment. Find out what works best for you.

 

STEP 5: Create a practice routine


It’s your practice so tailor your practice routine to your needs. I always start my practice routine by making a cup of green tea with honey and filling up a bottle of water. This sets me off on the right track. I then like to do at least 10-minutes of semi-supine.




I like to do this with my eyes open because I’m not trying to get into a relaxation state, I want to release any tension that has built up throughout the day before I start practising.


I will then do some vocal exercises. I tend to start just below my lower passaggio (break) and work around this area for a while. I do this because I know this is a sticking point in my voice. It’s the first thing to go wrong and it usually takes the longest to get back into shape.


I’m targeting my vocal exercises and working the weakest part of my voice before I start expanding outwards. I will then take a little break. Too much on the voice at one time is not good for your vocal health.



I will use this break time to do some research. I’ll research the background story, character arch and/or composer. I might even look up translations; if I’m working with repertoire in a different language. I consider research to be part of my practice.


Once I’ve had a break for about 30-45 minutes I’ll either do more vocal exercises (depending on how out of shape my voice is) or start work on repertoire.


For me to get motivated to practice, I need to already have a specific goal in mind when it comes to repertoire practice. Like, sometimes its rhythm, pitch, breathing, vowels shapes etc. these are just a few examples. I already know which bars cause me problem, and which need more work. I break it down into small manageable chunks.


By doing this, at the end of my practice session, I actually feel like I’ve achieved something, even if I only sang the first verse but I nailed the breathing or whatever my focus was. In the next practice session, I can concentrate on the chorus and so on. This is my practice routine. I (pretty much) always do it in this order:

  • Drinks (it’s important to stay hydrated while you practice!)

  • Semi supine (10-minutes)

  • Vocal exercises (notice I don’t use the term ‘warm-ups’? Speaking will warm my voice up. The aim of the vocal exercises is to target problem areas and continuously build the foundations of vocal technique)

  • Break – perfect time to do research

  • Repertoire practice.


I tweak it accordingly. I try to maintain a degree of flexibility so that I’m working with the voice and how it is behaving. It’s important to also take regular breaks so that you are not overusing your voice. This is just one of many examples of how you could structure your practice routine.


This works for me. It might give you an idea about how to structure your practice routine. These may also seem like excruciatingly small steps. But...by focusing on one specific task at a time increases the likelihood of improving the performance of a piece, and your singing technique.


Rather than if you are mindlessly singing the same song over and over again without any focus. Identifying small problems areas and activitvely working to correct them is also called effective practice. You should also be striving for effective practice.


By being super focused and knowing or picking one specific thing you want to work on at a time, and working to get it right, will give you a sense of achievement rather than defeat. The key to motivation – is the small wins!


It’s that sense of achievement each time you practice, that feeling that you’re improving in some small way, which leads to those bigger goals. That, I’ve noticed, keeps me more motivated to practice regularly.


Take some time to step back and plan your singing practice in accordance with your tendency and what works best for you. There are lots of considerations to make when trying to create the best practice schedule and routine.


Don’t be afraid to discuss different strategies with your singing teacher or other musicians, and don’t be afraid to experiment. Keep the ones that work for you and discard the ones that don’t.


 

I have three hopes:


Firstly, I have given you a glimmer of hope that if you’re struggling to practice, you’re not the only one, and that you can learn how to improve.


Secondly, that I have given you a small understanding about how you can individually tailor your practice to your strengths and weaknesses.


And, lastly, that you can see the benefits of taking the opportunity to redesign your practice so that you are much more motivated to practice…and keep singing.

 



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- a 14-day plan to help you improve your voice!




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