During workshop Q&A sessions and in one-on-one sessions, we’ve had clients ask us what may seem like a simple question: “how do I practice this?” Knowing that we’re all busy adults with professional and personal lives, the busier we are, the harder it becomes to find time to practice.
If you do manage to carve out time to sit and practice with the tools we’ve given you, you might feel overwhelmed and wonder where exactly to begin.
Today, we’re sharing a few thoughts on how to put all these ideas and skills to use in your own practice.
When and how long should I practice?
How long should you actually be practicing? As silly as it might sound, you are practicing every time you open your mouth to speak. Each time you use your vocal cords and breath to produce sound, not only are you practicing, you are ingraining habits into your muscle memory. With this in mind, we’d note that the key to practicing is to speak with intent at every given opportunity.
Now, if you are looking for concentrated or prescriptive voice time, we suggest creating a habit stack. What’s a habit stack, you might ask? We encountered this term when we read Atomic Habits, by James Clear.
Clear’s work invites us to take an existing habit we have, and add a new habit we’re hoping to add to our daily routines on top of that habit.
For example, maybe you wake up every morning and brew a pot of coffee. Stack the new habit of practicing breath work or SOVT exercises with the established coffee brewing habit and routine. Similarly, you could choose to practice inflec
tion while washing the dishes after dinner. Do you read aloud to your children before bed? Try playing with different resonances through character voices during that reading time!
The key to sustainable vocal change is frequency. Finding any amount of time that allows for consistent practicing is far more important than the length of time. We encourage frequent and short practice sessions throughout the day, rather than one large practice session a week.
How exactly do I organize my practice time?
Now that you have figured out when and for how long you are going to practice, what will the actual practicing look like? We suggest making a list of the exercises and vocal traits you want to focus on as you develop your vocal toolbox.
Once you’ve created your list, figure out which exercises or traits can be practiced in shorter chunks of time (e.g. while doing the dishes), and which ones require a bit more focused time. SPOILER ALERT - there’s no right or wrong list of vocal attributes - this is all about the changes you want to leverage in your body and voice.
Once you’ve drafted your list, and identified exercises we or any other vocal teacher or coach has shared with you, it’s time to practice.
We suggest reading aloud – whether from a book or a presentation – as a great way to practice. Why? Because this way you don’t have to think of content while practicing and you can more easily track your progress.
We love using Harvard Sentences as a starting place. Compiled in the 1960’s, these sentences are phonetically balanced, providing you with diverse (albeit many times silly) sentences to help practice a wide range of vowel and consonant combinations.
Once you feel comfortable reading through these short sentences, you can move to longer passages. When you do, we encourage you to pick text that is stylistically and tonally reflective of how you communicate in your everyday life. We all love Shakespeare, Jane Austen and James Baldwin, but the syntax they use isn’t representative of how we speak today and is therefore not as helpful in developing your current speech pattern. Memoirs tend to be great options as they are written in the author’s own voice.
As much as we love reading aloud for practicing, it is important to integrate voice work into your daily life.
We suggest selecting one vocal attribute a week that you want to focus on, and every time you speak that week, practice integrating that vocal characteristic! If it helps, write that trait on a post-it note that sits on your computer, set a reminder on your phone, or add to whatever calendar system works best for you. This is a great way to incorporate the work you do reading aloud into your daily life. Trust us, it will help!
In the end, there is no “right way” or “wrong way” to practice. The key is that you do it consistently, finding the practice style that works for you!