Practicing speaking, singing or any other musical instrument takes discipline and commitment. When you take voice lessons, it’s a given that you need to practice what you’ve absorbed in the lesson. That’s how our voices improve and grow. So, how does one create practice sessions that knit the need to practice technical concepts, which might seem tedious, with what inspires?

First, discover what you enjoy about singing or your speaking tasks. Some folks (like me) are endlessly fascinated by the body and the play of vibrations while singing. Others love the theater of singing, the poetry and the acting. And for others, singing is a means to delve into the psyche, explore emotions and heal the past. And, speakers who use their voices professionally may enjoy exploring what singers take for granted, the flow of breath, vowel shapes, etc.

Give yourself permission to bring in a sense of “play” into your practice. For instance, let’s say you need to work on consonants. We know they can both help the flow of the breath or stop it. How about making up your own vocal exercise for consonants? (I created a Harry Potter diction warm-up that’s now caught on in the Marin schools.) Or take a portion of your practice session to just work character or expression. Use the lyrics of the song as a monologue. It’s a great way to learn your words. I believe that in order for you to be inspired to practice, the session has to connect deeply with why you turn to voice as a form of expression.

Third, gather the tools you need. If you don’t play piano, ask me to record exercises tailored specifically for you. Have accompaniments recorded. I’m happy to do that for all my students.

A caveat: Singing through songs or simply reading through text is not practicing. Some part of the session has to address the technical challenges that come up in your lessons.

And a few tips: We are a greatly distractible society. Before practicing, take care of anything you absolutely must do that day – pay your bills, do homework, return calls. Then, turn off the smartphone, close the door and give yourself to your art. Have a place where you can sing without feeling you have to hold back because you might be bothering someone. An hour is great. Half-hour minimum. 20 minutes for the young ones. Professional singers often split their time into 20-minute chunks throughout the day. Whatever you do, make it your own.