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Take the Routine Out of Your Practice

It’s time to eliminate practice boredom –says Juliet Russell

Having a set routine really does work for some people, but sometimes repetition leads to boredom and reduces motivation.

If you have grown tired of your routine or feel that you aren’t stretching yourself, here are 5 ways to help you to change it up

1. Practise with someone else

-You learn new exercises and approaches
-You don’t slack off as there is someone else there too – you keep each other motivated
-The social aspect makes practising more fun
-You can add new elements of practice such as harmonising, improvising, duets etc.
-You reinvigorate your exercises by teaching them to someone else

2. Don’t Only Use Scales, Add Song Extracts

One of my favourite exercises for articulation and speech quality is the first verse of Independent Women by Destiny’s Child. It works the articulators and is great for rhythm and phrasing. I usually start this between A below middle C or middle C for female voices and between D to F below middle C for male, then take it up or down in semi-tones. For vocal agility I take runs from e.g. Stevie Wonder songs. Listen to the phrase, break it down and start in a slower tempo if you are struggling to nail it. Then, gradually increase the tempo and range as you become more vocally agile.

3. Work Close to Your Boundary

After warming up well, always include practise that will extend what you can already do. “Close to your boundary” means the area where challenging and achievable meet. If you challenge yourself too much it is easy to become disheartened when you are repeatedly not successful. You want to be able to feel that you are making progress and able to identify a tangible achievement.

4. Mix Theory and Practice

If you find learning intervals, scales and chord theory dry, then try singing the patterns so that they become sonically as well as visually familiar. Singing the notes of e.g. a minor 7th chord is great for chord recognition, developing your understanding of harmony and pitch accuracy.

5. Move Away from the Piano!

Sometimes we practise with the wrong sense. Often our visual sense is dominant and sometimes if we see on the piano or keyboard that we are starting to sing very high or low, we start to struggle. We should rely on what we feel (our kinaesthetic sense) and what we hear. Ask yourself, ‘am I producing a good quality of sound’, not ‘how high am I singing?’ Then come back to the piano and find out which notes you have reached.

My Reactions To This Week’s Peer Review Vids

Christy Castro – Somebody I Used to Know (Cover)

There’s a lovely delicacy and purity to your tone and you have a distinctive, sweet sound in the verses, which suits the poignant lyrics. You increase the volume and strength well in the chorus and you could experiment with a little more dynamic variation in the verses too to enhance the expressive nature of the lyrics and emphasise individual lines. I like how it builds then diminuendos at the end. Work on little bits of articulation and pronunciation especially on “but you didn’t have to cut me off” and “make out like”. Your eye contact and performance are good and I really enjoyed listening to your version.

Jasmine – Apologize (Cover)

You have great sound – a lovely, clear and distinctive tone with nice touches of vocal agility. You accompany yourself well, but I would have liked a bit more vocal performance from you, as the keys seem to be taking most of your concentration. Usually I love it when artists take a cover and make it their own, however this song is so strong and memorable that maybe it would be more effective to establish the melody first before changing it. Lowering the chorus melody rather than building it lessens the dynamic impact, especially as the chord progressions are as the original. In verse 2 there are some lovely melodic ideas and here might be the place to start the changes. You’ve done a really good job vocally, just develop your performance and expressive choices and you’ll be on fire!

-Juliet Russell

See VoiceCouncil’s Feature Interview with Juliet Russell

Juliet Russell has coached Grammy award winners and X-Factor finalists and is a vocal coach on BBC1’s The Voice. Passionate about developing aspiring artists, she co-founded Sense of Sound She has collaborated with artists and companies including Damon Albarn, Imogen Heap, Paloma Faith, Ringo Starr, BBC, Channel 4, Universal Royal Opera House, Greenpeace and Glastonbury, and has written music for film, television and radio. Juliet holds a Masters degree in Music and is in huge demand as coach, vocal arranger and musical director. Juliet is passionate about developing aspiring artists and supporting individuals and communities to explore their voices and creativity.
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