If you did not assume that it started with this task; stop reading now.
Practice is going to be our key to the kingdom of diva town. I can bore you with all the adages about why practicing is good for you but we are going to focus on solutions. You’ve heard it said that experience is the best teacher. However, learning from sad (and potentially career damaging) experiences is not how you want to gain your diva wisdom. Preparation will help you manifest a training mindset, ward off negative stage-fright, and develop a deeper connection with the music.
Let’s dish about the training mindset:
Dr. Shin’ichi Suzuki, inventor of the international Suzuki method of music education, has oft been quoted as saying, “Practice only on the days you eat.” This is the bedrock of the training mindset. We all know that operas can often feel like marathons. We must train our bodies, our instruments, to welcome that exertion. To that extent, your task for 29 Days to Diva: #1 is to set up a practicing schedule. We meticulously schedule rehearsals for our church jobs, opera gigs, professional choirs, etc. It is time to take that same mentality and use it to set up your own schedule. Download a calendar right now and start planning out the way that you want to practice. If you need some extra guidance on the training mindset, check out this article from Runner’s World: Your Ultimate Half-Marathon Training Plan. Here are some the running training universals that I have modified for our use as singers:
- Rest – We all need it. Give your muscles a little love, especially during tech weeks and during sickness so that everything is primed and ready for the next practice session.
- Fundamentals/Technique – If you’re in a time crunch, let your practice session just focus on technique. Do scales and exercises that bring consistency into the voice and breath.
- The Long Session – Work through an entire role. Or, work through your recital rep. Or, work through your audition package. This is meant to build endurance and continuity.
- Speedwork – Train your voice to move. Coloratura takes a lot of practice and you will be much more marketable with a voice that can show-off both slow and sustained as well as “take-that-Cecilia” fioratura.
Practicing to develop a deeper connection with the music:
Remember that practicing is not just about locking yourself in a room and singing scales and arias on repeat. There is the silent study that goes along with singing. This is often an area in which singers try to cut corners. It is absolutely necessary to understand the translations, the phonetic pronunciation, and the poetic meaning of the music you are rehearsing. Check out some of these resources culled from MusiciansWay.com:
“Effortless Sight-Reading.” An article on The Musician’s Way Blog.
Also see p. 99-102 of The Musician’s Way.
PracticeSightReading.com. Generate rhythm exercises; multiple levels.
“Eye Movement in Music Reading.” A well-referenced article on Wikipedia.
“Sight-Reading,” by Lehmann & McArthur, in The Science & Psychology of Music Performance, eds. Parncutt & McPherson, 135-150 (Oxford, 2002).
“Strategies for Sight-reading and Improvising Music,” a chapter in Musical Excellence: Strategies and Techniques to Enhance Performance, edited by Aaron Williamon, 143-159 (Oxford, 2004).
Sight-reading/sight singing methods for instrumentalists and singers:
Solfèges des Solfèges, by A. Dannhäuser (3 vols.). Free download.
A New Approach to Sight Singing, by Berkowitz, Frontrier, & Kraft.
Rhythmical Articulation, by Pasquale Bona.
See p. 23-34 of The Musician’s Way.
Note Grouping, by James Thurmond (Meredith, 1982).
Read Musical Interpretation, by Tobias Matthay (Schirmer, 1918). Free e-book.
The Rhythmic Structure of Music, by Cooper & Meyer (Chicago, 1960).
The Composer’s Advocate, by Erich Leinsdorf (Yale, 1982).
Baroque Music: Style and Performance Handbook, by Robert Donington (Norton, 1982).
The End of Early Music: A Period Performer’s History of Music for the 21st Century, by Bruce Haynes (Oxford, 2007).
Interpreting Bach at the Keyboard, by P. Badura-Skoda (Oxford, 1995).
Singing in Style: A Guide to Vocal Performance Practices, by Martha Elliott (Yale, 2006).
Deepening Musical Performance Through Movement, by Alexandra Pierce (Indiana, 2007).
Watch videos on YouTube of master musicians teaching interpretation. Search using keywords, e.g., “Pavarotti masterclass.”
Dalcroze Eurythmics. Merging interpretation with movement.
Memorization for Musicians
See p. 82-93 of The Musician’s Way.
“The Four Stages of Memorization.” An article on The Musician’s Way Blog.
“Memory,” by Rita Aiello and Aaron Williamon, a chapter in The Science & Psychology of Music Performance, edited by Parncutt and McPherson, 167-181 (Oxford, 2002).
“Singing by Heart: Memorization Strategies for the Words and Music of Songs,” by Jane Ginsborg, a chapter in The Music Practitioner, edited by Jane W. Davidson, 149-160 (Ashgate, 2004). Purchase from AbeBooks.com.
“Memorization: Psychological Data and Some Practical Tips.” An article by pianist and educator Dr. Scott McBride Smith.
Read the abstract of “The Value of Performing from Memory,” by Aaron Williamon, in Psychology of Music, Vol. 27, No. 1, pp. 84-95 (1999).
“Strategies for Memorizing Music,” by Jane Ginsborg, a chapter in Musical Excellence: Strategies and Techniques to Enhance Performance edited by Aaron Williamon, 123-141 (Oxford, 2004).
“Memorising Music,” by Aaron Williamon, in Musical Performance: A Guide to Understanding, edited by John Rink, 113-126 (Cambridge, 2002).
“Performing from Memory,” by Chaffin, Logan, & Begosh, in The Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology, eds. Hallam, Cross, & Thaut (2008, p. 352-363).
Preview Practicing Perfection: Memory and Piano Performance, by Chaffin, Imreh, and Crawford (Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002). Purchase from AbeBooks.com.
Read the Preface to Guide to Memorizing Music, by Alfred John Goodrich (1906)
You have your mission. Day #1 – Set up your practice schedule. Goodbye, excuses. Hello, prepared super singer. Make sure you join us tomorrow for our next 29 Days to Diva task. (#29daystodiva)
Have any other resources you’d like to share with the crew? Have a training plan that works well for you? Tell us about it in the comments below.
- 29 Days to Diva: The Beginning (sybariticsinger.wordpress.com)
I am only a casual opera singer, but I really love this series and how this entry reminds me that my whole body is my instrument.