The hardest part of working out is, for me, getting started. But once I’ve dragged my complaining butt to the gym, I simply——

I was about to write that once I get to the gym, I jump into a fantastic workout. But the truth is more like this: I wander around for a bit, considering the machines, the free weights, the stretching mats, the elliptical machines, feeling a bit overwhelmed and unsure of what I’m doing there.

<sigh>

Eventually (this normally happens within a matter of seconds), I just start doing SOMETHING—any old stretch or exercise will do as a starting point—and before you know it, I’ve completed a workout. And usually had a fun, invigorating time. And I leave feeling refreshed and ready for whatever my day will bring.

Do you have a similar relationship to practicing your singing? Do you get bogged down by the seemingly onerous task of getting to work? Or, once you’re actually in the practice room, do you get bogged down by  what-on-earth-am-I-doing-here? The former is relatively easy to overcome: just put yourself in the place where you practice. But, unlike a gym, your practice room is probably not outfitted with an assortment of gleaming machines designed to work you out in multifarious ways.  Right?

Well, no, actually. Your MIND is a gym outfitted with an infinite variety of creative, highly effective approaches to exercising your vocal chops. Just start wandering around in there and play with whatever presents itself in the moment. One exploration will lead to another (if you allow your curiosity to be stronger than your self-judgment) and, before you know it, you will have practiced. You will leave your practice room a little or possibly a lot more skilled than you walked in. Over the course of your singing life, the cumulative effect of all these curiosity-driven sessions will have honed you into a brilliant, one-of-a-kind singing artist.

If you’re like me on an average day, your mind-gym is initially elusive. [Where is the entrance to this darn place?] I find, however, that I can borrow someone else’s entry point, which, like a magical wardrobe, somehow flings me into the Narnia of my infinite creativity. (I am not special in this regard. All of us have a well of infinite creativity to draw on. Yes, even you.) So, I start with literally anything at all—it can be a sound, a movement, a breath—and see where it takes me.

I’m going to give you 10 entry points that have given me access to my inner Narnia. Try them out and see what you discover that bubbles up out of your infinite creativity. Remember that curiosity fuels creativity and learning and that self-judgment throws a big wet blanket of repression onto your art. You are here to have fun and discover stuff, not to strive for perfection.

10 Ways in to Your Practice Session

  1. Exhale on an extended f consonant. Add a vowel (sung or spoken) to the next one: fa or fo or foo.
  2. Raise your arms as you inhale. Let them come back down as you emit nonsense syllables.
  3. Hum a note. Close your eyes and hum the same note.
  4. Sing a phrase of music without the consonants.
  5. Sing the same pitch first in falsetto, then in chest voice.
  6. Sing a phrase of music in a funny cartoon voice. Now in a different funny cartoon voice.
  7. Sing a scale or arpeggio while sitting, standing, lying down, walking, twisting….
  8. Sing something while performing different yoga poses.
  9. Explore the “edges” of a vowel by moving your mouth parts around until the vowel is no longer recognizable.
  10. Play a drone or chord and improvise over it for 5 minutes. Or improvise without a background sound.

The only rule here is that you pay attention with at least one of your dozens of senses while you perform the entry point.

Eventually, you will likely prefer to come up with your own entry points into practice. If, at the top of your practice session, you simply get quiet in yourself (in whatever way works for you), a perfect starting point is likely to present itself. But if on a particular day nothing seems to be coming, borrow a starting point from my list. In all honesty, I very often start with something borrowed I’ve recently learned in a class or lesson or conversation with a colleague.

We can all share our favorite entry points, since the infinite well of creativity we are seeking is universal, belonging to none of us and to all of us.

3 Comments

  1. ils says:

    How I love your curious explorations!
    As you describe your gym, it reminds me of a big playground for adults.
    In my vocal playground I recently found a fun entry door: thinking about the space between the vertebrae, allowing my spine to lengthen. And then: Sing! 🙂

    • Michael Hanko says:

      I love your entry door….I’m trying it out now as I type this! Will also try it out when singing. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. t says:

    loved this thank you

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