Over the years in my teaching experience, students especially early on have pressed me with questions about how to approach their vocal lesson practice, as well as how to measure their progress. Of course the underlying driver of these inquiries is the desire to understand the process and also what to look forward to in terms of time and benefit.
For students of any instrument especially singing it’s easy to fantasize some wonderful end result such as being that star performer on a stage, but how can they measure the progress of their skill development, and then know what they have to “put in” in order to improve. Well perhaps its best to break this discussion down a bit and look separately at the two topics:
How much time should I take for practice? For each person, practice time around voice lessons is variable. It begins with the goals that each student has with music and then the structure of their time and other commitments.
Some folks may have very specified, long-term goals while some just want to be better singers- and have fun with music. Even 15 minutes a day is better than no practice at all, but we know that no matter the endeavor, music or any other, the more time we put in with vocal study- the more we get out. And of course, many moms have said to their children (as my mom urged me many moons ago) practice makes perfect!
How can I measure my ongoing progress in voice lessons?
On this one I prefer to borrow from one of my long-time mentors, musician and educator, Chuck Anderson and his take on music students and progress, from his book, Music- Pursuing the Horizon:
Students at all levels seem to have instinctive awareness of how much there is to learn. The student should realize that comprehension and development involve many levels: awareness, physical and aural development, as well as creative exploration. Most students want all these levels to happen overnight. One level leads to another in a type of evolution. Development in music is similar to adding words to one’s vocabulary, the more words the greater the expression. And the primary goal of music is self-expression and communication. Development has to be measured over a significant period of time. Just ask yourself ‘what can I play/sing today that I could not at a point in the past; therein lies the answer.
Mr. Anderson, you are dead on with that summation!
Practice and the development as a singer is a popular topic with students and I look forward to sharing additional perspectives in the future.