Practicing and Preparing a Vocal Piece for Performance or Audition
There is no definitive way to practice or prepare material for performance or audition. I’m fairly certain that most singers have tried different ways to go about learning their music. An important first step is knowing your learning style. Whether you’re a visual, auditory, kinesthetic or reading/writing learner, it will be useful for you to determine what learning approaches and techniques have been the most successful in past experiences. You might even find other types of learning styles that contribute to your successful experiences. From there, you can begin to create a plan for preparation.
Here are a few additional things to consider when learning a vocal piece:
Instrumental Tracks or Accompaniment
Having a recorded accompaniment (without the vocal) of any kind is invaluable in learning a piece of music. Maintaining focus on your voice and singing is the primary goal when learning a piece. If you are having to hustle, keep up with another vocalist, or play an instrument on a piece of music, it will be difficult to learn the piece well. It will divide your attention between instruments, and you won’t be as effective.
Depending on the difficulty of the piece, you might want to slow down the faster sequences of the music. This will help you focus on pitch prior to applying it to fast-moving notes (ie:1/16s, rifting, coloratura, etc.). Once you are solid on pitches, gradually speed up the sequence you are working on until you can do it at tempo.
Phrasing and Sequence
Consider breaking up the act of the show, aria, or song you are working on into different sections or sequences for learning. Never start in the same place when learning a musical piece. Here’s a tip… Work on the sequences or phrases that are most difficult for you first. If you do separate the piece into sections or sequences, practice the sequences until you feel confident that all are easy to negotiate from memory and all are equal in applying your vocal technique. If it’s not easy to sing through any part of the piece in practice, it will not mysteriously get easier in the performance of the piece.
Dynamics and Syncopation
When the piece is heavily syncopated, you might consider speaking it in syncopation and in tempo until you are secure with the syncopated phrasing before applying singing. When you are practicing, sing through a piece repetitiously in order to secure it in your memory. Attempt to keep the volume down and the dynamics up. This way, you won’t leave your best notes on the practice floor; and you won’t have to relearn the piece because you were not practicing with expression after the many times you’ve been through the piece.
It's imperative to engage in expression while learning the piece so that you will more easily be able to add dynamic detail to your piece through fine motor control. If you don’t add artistic detail or expression to your singing while practicing the piece, you might find it difficult to add expression after practicing it many times without.