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Maximizing Practice Time

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Hey all, how do you maximize practice time? I have noticed that myself and a lot of beginners get worn out with the vocal cords inflamed after one hard workout session. This is partially due to the fact that we are stretching the voice beyond its normal comfort-zone.

The question is simple, what techniques have you found successful in practicing for LONGER without wearing/tearing the vocal cords. For example, lets say I'm doing head voice sirens for 20minutes - after that it's game over lol! the voice feels very tired/forced if any further exercise is attempted.

Another concept which may bring out some ideas is, practicing in short-bursts throughout the day. If i'm doing exercises in the upper register for 20minutes a session (then wear out) is that better or worse than doing 5 minutes 4 or 5 times a day?

Hope I can get some insight in maximizing being more efficient with practice! I want to practice more without "wearing down" :)

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For me, I used to feel the same way. After one demanding song my voice could already feel tired. Then I got a very good teacher who taught me the basics, support and placement. After spending quite some time exercising those at quite low ranges I can now extend both my practice times if I wanted though I seldom have the time, but also sing a lot more demanding songs without bad effects afterwards. It's now come to the point where I recognize my own strain a lot sooner than before, before I would simply have pushed through and gotten hoarse.

I guess what I'm aiming at is the old.cliche, its not quantity but quality. Get the basics really worked out and your foundation will not fail you. You will feel when you sing in a more pushed and bad way which would leave you with a worn out voice, and stop doing that :)

cheers!

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I tend to follow the same exercise philosophy I follow for any exercise specific to technique development.

Long training sessions or long demanding workouts are for conditioning and endurance. However technique begins to breakdown once fatigue sets in. You're body learns (muscle memory if you like) by repetition. it begins to burn the image into your central nervous system and it becomes ingrained. You need to send the right message. Good technique. Once you fatigue and your technique starts to break down, which many times you won't even realize, you are now...by repetition....sending the wrong message and ingraining poor technique into your so called muscle memory.

Short, quality workouts. Multiple times per day is fine. As long as you have no pain or aren't overly fatigued to begin with.

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Thanks guys, quality over quantity for sure. It's just sometimes I feel I'm not doing "enough" but I guess it is the the only way until I build a solid foundation.

I always choose more frequent smaller practices over the single longer ones. Especially not marathon trainings.

Diminishing returns imo.

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20 minutes of sirens (or any exercise for that matter) is way too much. no exercise should be longer than 3-5 minutes..take a 5-10 minute break and go at it again.

you want to exercise in the first couple of years around 25-30 minutes, 5-6 days a week...that's plenty till you build up some stamina and strength.

strengthen your breathing and support.

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quality over quantity.

Steven Fraser once said, and I cannot forget it, that (paraphrased) 30 minutes of the right stuff is better than an hour or more of the wrong stuff.

Which is not to say that you should only practice 30 minutes a day, lest anyone thing I am advocating a lazy approach. Far from it.

Concentrate. Focus. Pay attention to what you are doing. Whatever you do, don't do it mindlessly. Don't do "repetitions" just because repetition often leads to condition. Which it will. You can, in fact, condition the wrong things.

Make the practice of the right thing. That will build the good habit faster than just trying to stop the wrong habit.

According to the three books I have read on Enrico Caruso, he had an "imperfect" vocal organ. And he was prone to congestion caused by allergies, smoking, the high life that he lived. Which is not a justification of doing those things. Sheesh, I have to qualify every statement to anticpate every "yeah, but". What set him apart was his intense focus on whatever he was doing at the moment.

Which definitely means quality over quantity. And you may not fix everything in each lesson or practice. And the focus, at least for me, may change each time. One day, it seems my onsets are crap because I am trying to articulate the same way I would talk. Other days, I need to work on keeping the breath mobile. Etcetera.

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Just a side note. I don't really set a time in stone for my workouts. I try to train daily but times vary. Sometimes 15 minutes sometimes 20 or 30 sometimes an hour. But I change gears throughout. I will do a warmup and then certain exercises for about 15 or 20 minutes or at times 30 depending on what I am working on. There may be a few different things in one session. But what makes it last 45 minutes or an hour is that I then move into song practice. I may be practicing a song I'm working on but mostly and more importantly I make sure to take whatever I was exercising and applying it to actually singing. I sing two or three songs a couple of times each. Or one a few times...whatever. I mean, it's like, what's the sense of practicing the perfect punching technique over and over and never trying it under pressure or in a fight and then try altering the technique on the fly "in action?" So I apply what I practiced (or try to) in song. Then I do a cool down then I rest.

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Quality is important. Quantity is also important, since its the ammount of repetitions that causes the coordinations to build.

Quality comes from attention to details, patience, centering on achieving results via comfort rather than force, a solid plan of action, understandment of the task, not rushing through it, total focus in the activity, and so on. After support is trainned and working, the trainning begins to tire you much more mentaly than physically (although it makes you work quite a bit for it). Quality also comes from how well you rest, and how well you prepare yourself before beginning to train. Are you relaxed and feeling well? Do you warm up carefully? Do you drink enough water through the day (a huge bottle of water right before the session will do little to hydrate the folds)? Are you resting (sleeping) well?

Sleep quality is just as important as the trainning quality. If you are not getting enough sleep, the learning process will suffer and the folds will not be able to heal (even when totally comfortable, even when you dont feel absolutely no alteration, there is a natural stress on the folds, and they need to recover).

Quantity comes from discipline and commitment on trainning not 5 hours straight, but 30 or even just 20 minutes everyday, but really doing it with quality and not skipping over sessions. More sessions on a day surely helps, but, If you are trainning 2 times a day, 3 times in a week, its better that you did it 1 time each day, 6 days in a week. Its the same ammount of trainning but you will be more rested, and will benefit fully from the sleeping hours.

Quality is planning and attention. Quantity is discipline to following the plan. And resting is what consolidate the coordination.

The most important thing I think you need to have is patience. Results with quality will take time to appear, it may be frustrating to place too much effort and commitment into doing ALL you can every single day, hopping for a sudden change of state, and getting tired from it, it will take just the same ammount of time, and if you are getting tired, as Tommy pointed, you will start to work against what you want to do and will only delay the process.

So set yourself to achieve the goals regarding singing in a few years, its a very reasonable time spam. As in any other activity we are trainning to do with quality, its not a few months of trainning that will render what you want. Man some songs, that on the technicall aspect are quite simple, take me a month or more to understand and plan the interpretation, dont expect less of each technical fundament, and know that you will refine everything, from the basics of breathing and support to passagio and placement for a quite long time.

Short term partial goals are important to. Control over a fundament is something that will take less time to come, but must come and must be solid.

Also know that if you stop doing at least exercises to maintain the conditioning you have, even after you are singing with quality, you will see that the performance of your voice will start to decrease. So as long as you want to sing with quality, you will be trainning, so its something that will be following you for quite a while Im afraid :).

I second Tommy opinion on the importance of immediate practical application (as long as you are being able to do it with a degree of success on the exercises of course).

Overall: dont think of maximizing the ammount of time you practice each day, just make sure that you do train everyday, and improve the efficiency of your trainning.

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And a corrollary to what Felipe was saying. Give time to learn a song, as well. It needs to fit into your voice. And that can take some time. Even phrases at a time. Experiment, discard what does not work, use what does work. Then practice that set of ideas for the song, until it is like breathing, literally, and figuratively. Then record it. The biggest key to recording is having the song already worked out, rather than trying to fix it in editing.

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