It occurred to me just recently that we often talk about how to improve our rehearsals as a cappella groups yet when it comes to recording, we most often call on singers to record individually.
And without fail, we always discover during the recording process that a few of our fellow singers have been relying heavily on their fellow section members to be able to perform their parts.
Singers in general do not develop individual practice habits at an early age. I’m thankful that a good number of high school choir directors are changing this by teaching theory, sight singing, and giving voice lessons to their students. For the amateur singer joining an a cappella group in college or as an adult, they are flying blind when it comes to individual practice.
Here are some suggestions for improving your individual practice habits especially if you are the casual amateur singer singing in a group for fun.
1. Rhythm and Time
Singers struggle with rhythm. Rhythm and time are crucial for being a great musician. Download a good metronome app to your phone immediately and start poracticing your music with an appropriate subdivision playing. 8ths, 16ths, etc so you can feel where your notes occur. Before you even start to learn your notes, start by speaking your parts so that you get the rhythms internalized.
2. Basic technique
If you can’t afford voice lessons, invest in a basic vocal pedagogy book. Learn about your anatomy and physiology. Start working on basic exercises and use them at the beginning of each practice session. Start to build your instrument before you try to throw difficult parts at it.
3. Part tracks
If you can’t play piano, get part tracks for the songs or get music notation software that can play the parts back for you.
4. Make a plan
Pick 30 minutes at least twice a week that you can practice. Then plan that session. 5 minutes for warm up. 10 minutes to learn rhythms. 15 minutes to learn notes. Etc…
4. Get an accountability buddy
Find someone else in your section who you can meet up with every few weeks to rehearse together outside the group rehearsal.
Your individual voice is important to the make up of the group. If you are just coasting along relying on others to get your part right, you are not adding anything to your group. You’re just noise. Own your ability and improve your instrument. Be a leader.