Do you love practice? Not many would answer “yes, wholeheartedly”. That’s a problem, because us getting better at singing depends on us practicing, so what if we end up not wanting to do that?!

You might think: Well, tough luck. It’s apparently not meant to be. But what if there was a way to make practice less of a chore and more of a fun, productive experience? 

You guessed it: I wouldn’t be writing this article if I didn’t have a way. I will give you  an overview of of how to go about your practice from 3 approaches.

1. How often and how long to practice?

More is not always better in the case of voice practice. Our vocal cords are like other muscles in some ways, meaning they need training over time. But they are not like other muscles in the sense that they are much more limited in their endurance, for most of us, then other muscles.

There is only so much you should sing in a day. If you practiced piano or violin your teacher would maybe tell you you need up to 8 hours of practice per day. Holy crap, if we did this to our vocal cords... I don’t want to think about it.

Having said that, different students at different levels can use different plans for their practice. I have heard the recommendation from teachers that 1 hour of singing per day is the way to go. I beg to differ. It MIGHT be the way to go for some. But not for all.

The question of how often, though, is a lot simpler in my opinion:

Practice should be regular, because we are dealing with muscle memory. We want to replace bad habits with good ones. But what does that entail exactly? Should you practice every single day?

Some would say yes. I say: at least 1 day off a week. Most athletes also follow that rule. You need to give your muscles at least a day off to restore. From here: anything between 4 and 6 times a week I would consider regular. Every other day is very good, your muscles will still remember and be able to take things to the next level.

Provided that you are having a good period with no drastic mental issues which require taking things slow: the closer the frequency is to 6 times a week - the better progress you will have.

How long should your practice session be?

And now, for what I consider the more critical question: How long should your practice session be?

Beginners

​If you are starting out, not only are your muscles not used to singing, they are also not familiar yet with singing RIGHT. Moreover, you might not be aware of whether you are in fact “doing it right”. So practice should be relatively short, to prevent you from reinforcing wrong technique. I usually recommend around 15 minutes of singing for beginners.

Later I will lay out the structure of your practice, which doesn’t only involve singing, so it is ok to dedicate 15 minutes to the singing itself, and additional time for the other activities.

Intermediate singers

If you already have some lessons under your belt, you are more able to tell if you are doing something harmful or making an effort with your voice. So you can make your session longer without risk. Say 30-40 minutes, depending on how your throat feels.

Advanced singers

You can practice for an entire hour. I know some people are more than happy to sing longer than that. If you insist, and if you are sure your vocal instrument is doing alright - go ahead. But I actually wouldn’t recommend it. Even the best of us fall into the trap of overdoing it. I believe the regularity is more important than the duration of your practice session.

General rules for session length 

Once you are in the session: pay attention. Mind your throat mostly, how it feels. Is it difficult to sing, are you making an effort? Mind it while you sing and also after you have finished an exercise or a phrase. If you feel an effort - use the technique you’ve learned to try and correct it. If it doesn’t work and you keep feeling the effort after a few times - stop. Do a different exercise, a different song. If that’s still no good - get back to it in a few hours, or another day.

2. What a singing practice session should be like

And now, for what I consider the more critical question: How long should your practice session be?

Of course, you can keep going as you do, just go into your practice room and start the chaos:

  • Start singing
  • Be dissatisfied with the sound
  • Shake your head/make a disappointed face/yell at yourself
  • Just give it another try
  • Try to remember what the teacher said you have to do (about 15 things simultaneously)
  • Try again
  • Repeat the cycle

I will go out on a limb and say - all this is not going to get you far very quickly. And by that I mean: that is a waste of your time. And it adds all sorts of blockages and obstacles to a task which is already not very easy - improving your singing.

Positive thinking and productivity go hand in hand. If you are anything like me, then a term like ‘positive thinking’ may sound a bit “new age” to you and raise an eyebrow. But it is in fact very practical.

At the end of the day you will be discouraged and often fruitless in your efforts to practice. You then will be less and less likely to want to do it again.

To make practice less frustrating, more enjoyable and therefore more productive, we have to go about it the other way around.

For a more productive, hence more fun experience here are some things to understand about how voice training works.

Advice for my 21-year-old me


If I could go back some 15 years and give myself advice - well, it would be a lot of advice - I have made many mistakes in my life, specifically when it came to my singing.

But I could have said one crucial thing: practice cannot be a burden.
Practice is not a duty. As a 20 something year old, I would be a bit incredulous of that. So being given a formula which I can exercise every time I practiced - that would be a game changer. I would have seen the results for myself, and that would have motivated me to keep going. That’s what I am hoping to do for you.

  • Most of our vocal issues have to do with tension, muscle tension. And most of us are usually tense somehow. So it is almost futile to try and sing with a stuck and tense body.
  • While singing does require some coordination, most of us are very bad at multitasking, so we better focus on one thing at a time first, then find a way around that multitasking task.
  • Learning how to sing HAS to mean you will sound bad sometimes. We have to accept that, otherwise some of us will not allow ourselves to explore our voice.
  • Voice training is muscle work as much as it is musical and mental work. That means it takes time to learn a new physical function, and even after you have succeeded, it is likely to work sometimes and sometimes not. At least in the beginning, before results get more and more consistent.
  • Working on vocal technique, as fascinating as it might be, will probably get frustrating at times, no matter what we do. Accept this, understand this is human, and don’t allow yourself to only think of technique. Because that’s a recipe for you losing your mind.

The formula to a productive, fun practice session

1. Crucial - Start with a bodywork routine.

Get the body nice and loose, with a nice posture, before you start.


The routine may change with time, according to what your body needs to relax. An overall routine might be a short yoga/pilates/alexander session, or even a few rounds of the sun salutation (yoga).

2. Warm up.

Like any athlete begins their practice session with basic movements, so should we. You can use my basic warm-up, or any other you like.

3. Practice on a song.

Do one or two phrases at a time, and focus on one technical element at a time. You can learn more about how to improve your technical elements and how to multitask them in my online course Make Singing Click, but we’ll also go into some more details later on here.

4. Crucial - Sing through at least for a few minutes.

Remember I said don’t think only of technique? Just sing. Sing for the joy, think of the lyrics, of the music, do some performance exercises, and come what may. That will remind you why you are doing this in the first place. 

Whatever you do, please don’t skip step 1 and 4. These are the best way to ensure minimum anxiety and mental problems around your practice. 

More about my system

In my course you get the full system of practicing effectively, including what I call 'machines', which will leverage the effect of your practice sessions.

3. How to improve your technique while you practice

How often have you heard people say “You simply have to practice. Practice makes perfect. Practice, practice, practice” ?

Yeah, yeah, but how?! What? Practice should not be a random thing, when you throw darts blindfolded, sometimes hitting board. I hope not…

Drill it into your system

So to show you exactly how you get better at something, What I mentioned earlier is what I call “drill it into your system”. Might sound a bit gibberish? Not for long. 

  1. 1
    Choose one technical thing you have learned from your teacher/youtube tutorial/whatever. For example: relax your jaw.
  2. 2
    Sing an exercise, or one/two phrases from a song, without pausing.
  3. 3
    Rate your performance regarding this one technical thing you chose. That thing only. Give it a number from 1 to 10.
  4. 4
    Decide on a higher number from 1 to 10. That will be your goal in your next try. Goal doesn’t mean it will happen. But it’s probable that you will hit somewhere on the way there. And that’s how you get better.

Only at this stage of practice I recommend being harsh and giving yourself a lower score rather than a higher one.

When you think about it, if you say “that was an 8, or a 9” what you’re saying is: “I can’t do much better than that”. And that’s actually being harsh and negative. If you give yourself a 5, that makes the potential 10 much more exciting.I can’t wait to hear that 10 🙂

Follow these steps in your practice and report back: is it helpful for you? 

About the author
Linor Oren

I'm an opera singer and (online) voice teacher, based in Amsterdam. It took me more than a decade to overcome my share of mental and physical issues and reach a professional level as a singer. Because of this background, and my 10+ years of teaching experience, I believe I can speed up your learning curve as a singer.

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Eye-openers, tips and stories. Also content that I don't publish on my website.