Singers! - Optimize Your Practice Habits, Technique, and Flow State!

Let's say the voice is like an unorganized attic filled with piles and piles of information. How we choose to organize this information into boxes is how we percieve our voice to functon. You can tell a lot about how a singer will sound based simply on how they organize this information.

Over the last 3 months I realized I could organize & simplify my entire voice into only 2 boxes. "Box 1" has a certain intensity/sensation/timbre and "box 2" has a certain intensity/sensation/timbre. The trick to my model is opening the right box for the given vowel, pitch, & volume level. As long as the right box is open at the right time you will sound good.

Every time I sing a new note I'm mentally going into the attic and picking out the information needed to sing that note from that box. If I choose the wrong box I will make a mistake. If I organized poorly and pick a piece of information from "Box 1" that should have been in "Box 2" I will make a mistake.

In my opinion, a lot of singers are using way too many boxes. Some have 64 boxes each with 12 sub-boxes. A lot singers have a lot of unnecessary information that needs to be thrown away. Worst of all, a lot of singers haven't organized their attic at all. Many don't even know they have an attic!

Ultimately, though, It doesn't matter if you want 2 boxes, 4 boxes, or 64 boxes. As long as you believe you have organized them in a way which is optimal for you. You need to know what is in each box, where each box is located, and which box is most appropriate for a given phrase. These boxes need to be readily accessible.

Flow State
Unfortunately... most of us spend our lives in a pretty zombie-like state of low confidence. It's just human nature. It's difficult to accept things for how they are.. it's really easy for us to question our capabilities. So when we step into the practice room... a lot of the time we assume that our voice isn't going to listen to us. We take on a defeated attitude; forced to struggle through another practice session. "Singing is too hard" we think to ourselves.

"Some of the challenges to staying in flow include states of apathy, boredom, and anxiety."

Honestly, I have wasted SO MANY freakinpractice hours not really committing to practicing. Just going through the motions and then wondering why, in my low consciousness state, I sang with "Box 2" instead of "Box 1." I told my voice to use "Box 1"... it didn't listen to me. I get more frustrated and continue to question my ability to access the right co-ordation. No one wants to listen to a whiney, unconfident, insecure brat give orders... especially not our voice.

    I meditate before i practice now. I take 5-10 minutes to sit still and focus. To make sure I am 100% present. To check in with my voice.. to remind myself that all I need to do is communicate the right intention and to do so with confidence. I am my voice and there is no disconnection between us so long as I am present with it.

    "Jeanne Nakamura and Csíkszentmihályi identify the following factors as encompassing an experience of flow.

    1. Intense and focused concentration on the present moment
    2. Merging of action and awareness
    3. A loss of reflective self-consciousness
    4. A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
    5. A distortion of temporal experience, one's subjective experience of time is altered
    6. Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as an autotelic experience"
    7. Immediate feedback
    8. Feeling that you have the potential to succeed
    9. Feeling so engrossed in the experience that other needs become negligible"

    Taking breaks
    You mention also that you've been making progress from practicing less. This is important too =). How many times have we been stumped by a particular problem only to have the solution come to us after we've walked away from it for a while?

    A lot of high-level athletes will have tremendous spikes in performance just following an injury. It's not the injury that causes the performance spike... but the time spent away from the task. Maybe relaxing, maybe reflecting, maybe mentally refining techniques, or mentally executing difficult maneuvers. Many of us spend too much time doing... some problems are better solved with inaction.

    "Pavarotti's first six years of study resulted in only a few recitals, all in small towns and without pay. When a nodule developed on his vocal cords, causing a "disastrous" concert in Ferrara, he decided to give up singing. Pavarotti attributed his immediate improvement to the psychological release connected with this decision. Whatever the reason, the nodule not only disappeared but, as he related in his autobiography: "Everything I had learned came together with my natural voice to make the sound I had been struggling so hard to achieve.""