When students start lessons, we often hear the question, “How much should I practice at home if I really want to see my voice improve?” — and while acknowledging first that all singers have varying goals, work ethics and voices, there is one principle that holds true regardless: frequency is more important than length.
Seriously though, if I had to choose between my singers working their voices out for: a) 10 minutes twice a day vs. b) practicing for 3 hours once a week, I would choose option a. EVERY TIME, even though option b. is more time singing!
Our 3 reasons why frequency is more important than length:
1. Your brain learns better.
This doesn’t just apply to singing – rather learning in general! This concept is called “distributed practice” and studies have shown that we retain new skills better when studying a few minutes frequently vs. cramming it all into one long session less often.
2. Quality Matters.
Shorter sessions allow you to focus on the quality of your practice. All practice is not created equal. In fact, when it comes to singing, if you aren’t thinking – it is easy to fall back into old habits and then you end up reinforcing the wrong patterns! This is why it’s so important to be focused when you practice singing – and shorter, more frequent sessions make this a lot easier.
3. Vocal fatigue.
You don’t want to end up tiring yourself out! Not singing for weeks, then jumping into a 3 hour session can cause fatigue or worse, edema (swelling of the vocal fold tissue). Our vocal folds and the muscles around our vocal tract are just like any other part of our body, in that they can be trained to get “in shape” by slowly building up healthy technique and regular voice usage. But just like you wouldn’t start running by jumping into a marathon, instead you would start with jogging a mile – give your voice the same attention.
I find that reminding myself of the Frequency > Length rule helps me to practice more. It’s easier to commit to 10-15 minutes daily than to worry about how to structure and block off time for a huge practice session.
So what are you waiting for!? Get singing!
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