How to practice singing in a pandemic.

I started having voice lessons again recently, which is kind of embarrassing because we singers and aspiring singers should really all be having regular voice lessons, to grow and get better.  Especially us teachers, but I get it, life bla bla.

Anyway, I’m having lessons with an amazing teacher in Utah, right now and she’s helping me work on my healthy belting technique. It’s SO MUCH FUN! I’m belting higher and louder and more easily than I ever thought possible, but there is a side effect that I hadn’t really considered when I signed up.

I’m  REALLY loud.

And …  we’re still sheltering in place at home, so my husband is on work calls in the garage and my son is taking a summer calculus course in his bedroom. 

I however, was exhilarating in the freedom of ‘The Man that Got Away’, ‘The Trolley Song’ and ‘Maybe This Time’, oh yeah, Judy and Liza all the way.

It didn’t take long before I noticed my usually very supportive husband scrunch his face up a little, and my son put headphones on and closed his bedroom door.

Ouch.

Over the years so many of my voice students have come to me saying they just can’t practice at home, because they didn’t want anyone to hear them. And here I was finding myself in the same situation. 

I stopped practicing, and when I did, I was full of advanced warnings and apologies.

Before the pandemic, when I wasn’t teaching, I was home alone for most of the day with only my dog to bother. It’s true she would scratch at the door to go into the yard for peace and quiet, but hey, every terrier is a critics.

So how do we practice singing in a pandemic when everyone is home, either in our house or in the apartments next door?

I’ve had a think and have come up with my TOP 5 Tips,  because singing really is SUCH good medicine right now and we should all be doing it.

  1. Practicing with a voice straw or straw and cup is actually very quiet. You can warm up and practice your songs and no one in the next room would know. www.thevoicestraw.com
  2. Explain to your family that you know you might be loud, but tell them how important it is to you, for your mental health and for your vocal health. Find a time when they can watch TV or listen to the radio with headphones on, or go to the store or walk the dog etc. Scheduling in advance works really well for some people.
  3. In an apartment, practice in the room with the most upholstery, carpets and cushions to absorb the sound. Make sure all the windows are closed and be reasonable about the time of day. You might also drop your neighbors a note if you don’t know them already and let them know you’ll only practice between such and such a time for 30 or 45  minutes. If they can hear you through the walls, they’ll feel respected and be able to relax knowing the serenade is finite. If they’re not ok because they work nights, you’ve opened up the communication so they can let you know and you can work out a better time.
  4. Practice in a closet if you’re lucky enough to have a walk in. Or pin duvets or blankets to a wall in a room you’ll designate for practicing.
  5. Now that some beaches and open spaces are opening up, go at quiet times of day and sing your head off. This last one is my favorite, even if it doesn’t happen often.

So I’m practicing again. It turns out that my husband is not a big fan of Judy or Liza (I know right?) but he doesn’t mind Idina Menzel or Shirley Bassey 🙂 I don’t  practice when he’s talking to his work colleagues or has just complained of a headache, but I am practicing. The lovely thing is this negotiation has also empowered my son to ask for time to practice the piano in the living room, which is actually lovely.

The most important thing is, don’t clam up and shut down just because everyone is home. Be flexible, be honest, negotiate and find a way to make it work,

because ‘singing medicine’, is the best medicine.

Stay safe out there everyone!

Love Julia