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How do I get my students to practice?

Becoming an accomplished singer doesn’t happen overnight! There is no magic pill that makes us instantly forget all bad habits when we sing. What we need is good and effective instruction by a teacher, and then we need to practice, practice, practice! This way, the new, better voice techniques can eventually become second nature and replace our old, bad habits.

But what if you feel like your voice students are not practicing on a regular basis—or not at all? It can be very frustrating, not only for the student who will experience slow, minimal improvement (even if they come for lessons on a regular basis), but also for you as a teacher. It can be discouraging when you have to reintroduce certain aspects during every lesson when students do not revisit their last lesson’s content.

Here are some tips that will help you get your students to practice more.

Homework and recordings

Many singers have a hard time remembering the exact exercises and scales that were covered in a lesson—and this is normal. That’s why you, as a voice teacher, want to make sure that every lesson is recorded so that the singer can review the lesson at a later time. You can either make it the singer’s responsibility to bring in a recording device, or you can record it for them and save it onto their USB stick at the end of the lesson.

Ask your students to listen to the recording at home in order to hear what the vocal function they felt during the lesson sounds like to the outside world.

Also, give them homework to practice along with the recording on a regular basis. Encourage your students to practice with the recording every day, if possible, but at least three to four times a week. This way, you are making sure that they are repeating the same exercises and scales that you gave them in the lesson. This will also enable them to listen to their own voice and hear your feedback again so they know what to focus on when practicing.

You also want to add things to the homework that you’d like them to watch out for when practicing, like certain bad habits that you noticed during the lesson.

Reflection about practice

When your student comes for their next lesson, ask them how their practice went. Ask them how the different exercises worked for them, which ones were challenging, which ones were working well, etc.

Once you start with the exercise part of the lesson and you notice differences as to how things worked in the previous lesson, acknowledge their improvement immediately and link it to the way that they practiced. This will encourage your student to keep practicing and will give them faster results.

In general, you want to relate frustration to a lack of practice, if appropriate. If a singer is impatient and bummed that they are not getting results fast enough, have a conversation with them about their practice habits and help them find a practice routine that is more effective.

Explain what practice does to the vocal function

Some students might question the benefits of practicing on a regular basis. Be ready to explain how practicing every day changes the muscular function of the voice. Tell them that repetition on a regular basis will help them quickly adopt those new functions into becoming second nature, which ultimately reinforces the new habits that help them improve their singing.

You can relate this to any sports activity that has challenging body coordination and physical demands that require repeated practices to help the body imprint the desired muscle memories. It’s the same for vocalists—practice and repetition are key!

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Stephanie Borm-Krüger was born in 1975 in Munich and has pursued an education in pedagogy and teaching since graduating from high school.

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