Podcast ep 4 – What is practising?

The fourth episode of our new This Is A Voice Podcast arrived on 22nd July. In the previous episode (episode 3, How Do We Learn A Song) Gillyanne and I had shared the best ways of learning and memorising a song. In THIS episode we talk about practising. What it is, what it’s for and how to do it. What’s the difference between understanding how to practise and experiencing how to practise? What does a singer do that an instrumentalist doesn’t? And we chat about the role of neuroplasticity in singing, learning and practising.

We also answer three AMAs submitted by our listeners:

  1. How much time in a lesson is it reasonable to supervise the student’s practising?
  2. How can I stay still when I’m practising and not walk around the room>
  3. What’s the difference between practising and rehearsing?

And we have news of a survey on singing practice aimed at 7-18 year-olds around the world. You can jump straight to the survey here: https://surveymonkey.co.uk/r/S2HXB3G

Below is the transcript of the whole episode – you can listen on your favourite podcast platform including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher and many others. Or jump to our dedicated This Is A Voice Podcast website on https://thisisavoice.buzzsprout.com/


This Is A Voice Podcast episode 4 – What is practising?

Announcer: 0:11
This is a voice, a podcast with Dr. Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher.

Hello and welcome to this is a voice podcast number four. And the topic today is what is practising. I’m Jeremy Fisher, the vocal coach

Gillyanne: 0:31

and I’m Dr. Gillyanne Kayes the vocal technician

Jeremy: 0:34

Singing teacher. Okay, so what is practising?

Gillyanne: 0:38

Oh, yeah, what is it that we’re doing in there, often behind that closed door?

Jeremy: 0:44


Gillyanne: 0:45

Listen, I’ve got a story.

Jeremy: 0:46


Gillyanne: 0:46

Is it okay if I tell the story?

Jeremy: 0:48

Yes, share your story.

Gillyanne: 0:49

I don’t think you’ve heard this one before. This was in my final year as an undergraduate at York University where I was studying a BA in music. And I was preparing for my final recital. And I think I’d done one unit of it already. And then I had another section to do romantic and 20th-century music. And it was a couple of days before the recital, and I went, you know, into room 20, or whatever it was, and, you know, sang my heart out and did my thing. Locked myself in the room, went out, you know, quite happy with what I did. Anyway, I did the recital, and my kind of supervisor said to me afterwards, oh, well, you know, we were all debating whether we needed to come or not, because we’d already heard it the other day.

Jeremy: 1:43


Gillyanne: 1:44

Face drop

Jeremy: 1:44

Where were they?

Gillyanne: 1:46

They were in the room next door. And I had gone through the entire programme. And I should say here that I wasn’t working. I wasn’t rehearsing with my pianist.

Jeremy: 1:56


Gillyanne: 1:57

And yeah, my face dropped. I Didn’t know whether I was getting some kind of a backhander, or what? And it left me a bit flummoxed. And in a way, I think it’s a really neat story to tell in relation to this topic, which is, well, what was I doing? Going through the whole programme? Because was I memorising? I wasn’t rehearsing because I wasn’t with the pianist. What was it I was practising? And then the other thing I thought off, which is, you might be surprised to know, listeners, that Jeremy doesn’t practice much.

Jeremy: 2:37

No, I don’t.

Gillyanne: 2:39

I mean, we have been together for 22 and a half years, and he very rarely practices and he’s a good collaborative pianist.

Jeremy: 2:49

I think we should unpack that possibly a little later because it’s such a little gentle bombshell. You know, I actually work as a professional accompanist, collaborative pianist and No, I don’t practice that much and I can tell you exactly why but we’re going to leave that for the moment.

Gillyanne: 3:05


Jeremy: 3:06

I want to jump straight in, which is something we’ve not done before into the AMAs. They asked me anything’s

Gillyanne: 3:14

and we got a new thing going on with these AMAs haven’t we?

Jeremy: 3:16

We have but just before we do… [plays music] That’s the AMA tin music box. And I really want this to be like Pavlov’s dogs. You know, people hear that music and then immediately they know there’s an AMA coming up. They start salivating for AMAs. Yes, we’ve instigated something new for this one, which is, up to now we’ve been reading out to the AMAs that have come in. But we’ve got a new one, which is people can record their own AMAs and so we have three people who’ve sent in recordings, we’ve chosen three questions which are all relevant to the topic. What is practising? What I’m going to do is I’m going to play all three questions in a row, and then we’re going to spend some time unpacking each question. Okay, I think that’d be really good. Here’s question one. And this is Steve Duguid.

Steve Duguid: 4:15

How much time in a lesson do you think it’s reasonable to practice something, make some progress, but say, this is something you need to spend a little time on in your own practice sessions, thus avoiding the lesson becoming paid to watch someone practice? Or do you think that’s part of the job to ensure that practice is good practice in the lesson?

Jeremy: 4:34

It’s an excellent question.

Gillyanne: 4:35

It’s a brilliant question I think a lot of people are going to relate to that.

Jeremy: 4:37

And there’s quite a lot in that question. So we’re gonna unpack it. Okay, so this is question two, and this is Sam Chambers.

Sam Chambers: 4:43

How can I encourage myself to stay still when practising rather than walking around the room?

Jeremy: 4:50

I love this question, and I’ve got a really specific answer for you, Sam. And then question three comes from Pippa Goss.

Pippa Goss: 4:57

Hello, Gillyanne and Jeremy. In your opinion, what is the difference between practising and rehearsing?

Jeremy: 5:05

Such a great question.

Gillyanne: 5:07

Well, that couldn’t have been more timely, could it?

Jeremy: 5:07

It really follows on from your story. Yeah. What is the difference between practising and rehearsing, we’ve got some really great answers for that. So should I go back to the first one to Steve’s? Yes. Okay, I’m gonna read this out because we need to break this down. This is quite a complex question.

Gillyanne: 5:22

Two questions in there. I think

Jeremy: 5:24

how much time in a lesson do you think is reasonable to practice something, make some progress, but say, this is something you need to spend a little time on in your own practice sessions? That’s the sort of that’s the first bit and then avoiding the lesson becoming paid to watch someone practice or do you think that’s part of the job to ensure the practice is good practice in the lesson, and that part two, I think is a really interesting point. So can I start with part two? I want to start with avoiding the lesson becoming paid to watch someone practice. This is a really interesting point because what talking about is what is your job as a teacher. And it may be that when somebody comes to you, they have different expectations of/to the next person for what your job is. For some people, it’s tell me what to do. For some people, it’s share with me what you think I should do. And for some people, it’s like, this is what I’m doing. Is this okay? Or not? And the whole business of being paid to watch someone practice sometimes that is actually necessary.

Gillyanne: 6:29

I agree.

Jeremy: 6:30

I’ve so many people, I mean, if you like the, the people who are less experienced, really don’t know how to practice, they don’t know what practice is. And so what they tend to do is just repetition and that may not be practice and we’re going to unpack what good practice is. But also, you’d be surprised how many professional performers don’t know how to practice, what they tend to do is repetition or they just do the words or they will go over and over and over a phrase or two. And it sounds like the situation the story that you were telling was something very similar to that.

Gillyanne: 7:05

Well, there’s learning.

Jeremy: 7:07


Gillyanne: 7:09

there’s memorising

Jeremy: 7:10


Gillyanne: 7:11

There’s things you need to practice.

Jeremy: 7:13


Gillyanne: 7:15

In between things you need to practice in rehearsal there might be putting it together, or rehearsal might be putting it on its feet and putting it together. They’re all different.

Jeremy: 7:24

Yes they are, there’s context as well

Gillyanne: 7:26

I didn’t know that when I was an undergraduate.

Jeremy: 7:29

Yeah, I worked this out some time ago. But I want to keep that for Pippa’s answer. So the answer to the first question is occasionally, yes, it is. It might be part of your job to be paid to watch someone practice and in this case, what I would suggest is you say, here’s the task that you have, here is the sequence that I want you to do. And that denotes what do you want someone to practice and then you allow them or you encourage them to do that sequence in front of you because this is about physical embedding. This is about actually going through the experience of doing the sequence that you want them to do. Now, there’s two things here. One is that the job of the teacher is to create the sequence. And it’s a sequence that really needs to target whatever the issue is. And if you create a sequence that targets the issue, you then need to get it across to your student, and not just verbally, they need to do it, they need to experience, they need to repeat it. And so in that case, you’re being paid to watch someone practice but in a way, it’s very focused in that you’re showing them what it is that you want them to repeat when they’re at home.

Gillyanne: 8:38

So the sequencing that you’re talking about that the sequence of exercises or excuse me, or maybe, you know, instructions that need to be followed. That’s about skill acquisition.

Jeremy: 8:52


Gillyanne: 8:52

You are teaching the skill.

Jeremy: 8:54


Gillyanne: 8:55

And you need to make it clear to the student what it is that they need to practice.

Jeremy: 9:00


Gillyanne: 9:01

And yes, you do need to check their practice, in other words, the way that they’re doing it, so that they’re doing it correctly. Because you know what one thing we know about the brain is that if we learn a pattern and we learn it incorrectly, or we learn a skill incorrectly, it’s much more difficult to undo it than if we didn’t know the skill to begin with a tool

Jeremy: 9:22

Well essentially you’re not undoing the skill because when you learn a pattern, you create a brain pathway. You don’t you don’t change that brain pathway. The brain pathway stays where it is, you replace it with a new brain path.

Gillyanne: 9:36

Oh, well now we’re getting into neuroplasticity, which of course, is one of the things that makes practice useful to us

Jeremy: 9:43

and essential

Gillyanne: 9:44

just having a little headphone moment there

Jeremy: 9:46

and essential.

Gillyanne: 9:46

So we’ve got skill acquisition, and yes, teachers, it is your job.

Jeremy: 9:50

It’s your job

Gillyanne: 9:51

to impart skill acquisition during your lesson.

Jeremy: 9:53

Here’s a good one. If your student doesn’t get it, you haven’t done it clearly enough.

Gillyanne: 10:00


Jeremy: 10:01

Your responsibility not the student’s.

Gillyanne 10:02

Yeah, it is it is. And it may be that the student kind of gets it a couple of times in the lesson, but not enough to repeat without thinking about it. So the practising is to take them to the next stage, which is called skill retention. So that’s why they practice it over and again, maybe in stages, and once they’ve got it, maybe they can mix and match with other exercises.

Jeremy: 10:28


Gillyanne: 10:29

And another nice word that we learned from working with speech therapists was generalise it. How did they generalise that skill? So they’re not just doing it in that particular vocalise that you’ve given them, or even just in that song, but you know, they’re going to need that skill somewhere else in another song. So ideally, your job as a teacher is to kind of keep an eye on that progress, particularly if you’re working with a an unskilled or an inexperienced singer.

Jeremy: 10:58

That’s fine.

Gillyanne: 10:58

Maybe to remind them Look, you can use that skill in this song. Yeah. Shall we have a go at that now? that could be something you could do two lessons down the road.

Jeremy: 11:07

That’s very good like that.

Gillyanne: 11:08

So I hope, Steven that that answers that part of your question.

Jeremy: 11:13

So going to the first part of the question, how much time in a lesson, do you think it’s reasonable to practice something, make some progress. But see, this is something you need to spend a little time on in your own practice sessions? It’s a really great question. And my answer is, when you are a teacher, and you’re doing a technical lesson, for instance, you normally have something that isn’t working, but you want them to work, to work in a different way or to make it work differently. So you are teaching them a technique or you’re teaching them a position or you’re teaching them shape to use or hold or a sound to make,

Gillyanne: 11:48

or maybe a pattern of a vocalese.

Jeremy: 11:52

And what you then want to do is, you know, teach them whatever that is, and then get them to repeat it and get them to the repeated model. And this is really interesting because with a lot of teachers, and we’ve been working with a lot of teachers over the last 10 years, people tend to want to move on very quickly to the next problem. And in fact, what we’re saying is one skill at a time. And in fact, you know, one target, and do one target and do repetition. So in answer to your question, first of all, it depends. It’s always context. But I think, honestly, slightly longer than you would think, for somebody to practice something or somebody to repeat the thing. And if you like, you’re still there because you’re still monitoring, whether they’re doing the repetition of what you’ve asked them to do, clearly and appropriately.

Gillyanne: 12:42

And I was just thinking about things like learning patterns, and learning intervals. We focus on getting it right. But in fact, what you could do say the interval is an interval of a fourth or something like that, which is often a difficult an interval that people have difficulty with so and you’re doing it in an upward direction. So do that a few times and then do it in a downward direction then practice that interval of a fourth in different parts of the singers range, maybe practice it legato maybe practice it’s staccato, maybe put a little syllables on it so that you begin to embed it by… embed the pattern by doing slightly different things with it.

Jeremy: 13:26

And this is an interesting question I mean, you know, gosh, we could break that down as well. There’s one thing I want to pick out which is why is it important to do that fourth in different parts of the singer’s range?

Gillyanne: 13:39

because it feels different dependent on where you are in your range

Jeremy: 13:42

completely. And as an instrumentalist as a pianist a fourth on on the keyboard is a fourth. You know C to F in front of you is the same as C to F an octave higher is the same as C to F three octaves higher. C two F is not quite the same as D flat to G flat. Okay, you’re on the black notes now, but the actual interval is the same. If you’re doing two black notes anywhere, it’s the same interval. It’s the same distance. But when you’re singing and you’re creating each note as it is, you don’t have a, if you like, a perfectly match range, nobody does. We work to make it sound the same, usually, not always. But it isn’t the same. It isn’t, it doesn’t feel the same, the effects aren’t the same. So working that fourth interval in different parts of your range, will enable you to feel that fourth differently across your voice,

Gillyanne: 14:34

and you feel it differently in your voice. In fact, I learned this fairly late on in my teaching, I’d probably been teaching for about 20 years. And I had a client come to me who was a very experienced dancer. And she always used to have problems with auditions because she couldn’t get through the singing part. And she sort of had one song that she’d worked on with another teacher for years and years. And it was just about Okay, so she was someone who had a real difficulty with pitch matching, she definitely wasn’t tone-deaf. Because if I used to make a sound like “mmm” to her, she would pitch match it perfectly. But as soon as it came to processing it in music, she had a lot more difficulty. And I remember one day saying to her well, but that interval is it that step didn’t use the word interval. That step is exactly the same distance in this part of the song as it in this as it is here. And she said, Well, it doesn’t feel the same. And I thought, Oh, well that’s because you’re in a different part of your range. So we then started working that in in the lessons.

Jeremy: 15:37

Yeah. So that was the long version Steve of the answer. And hope that worked for you.

Gillyanne: 15:44

Goodness, we got a lot out of that one.

Jeremy: 15:46

Yeah. Okay, I’m gonna go on to Sam’s question now. How can I encourage myself to stay still when practising rather than walking around the room? I love this question, and I’ve got a story that’s relevant to this one. Many years ago, I worked with a classical tenor who is now singing lead roles at the Met, and he was a frantic pacer, I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it, he would bounce off the walls when he was singing and that that worked for him. And so I did something fairly drastic with him and I’m not suggesting the same for you Sam but there’s an element of it in there. Which is I got him in a room and I put a whole… I put him in a square of chairs that were about, there’s about six feet by six feet or two metres by two metres. And I said you’ve got to sing the aria now. But you have to stay within the chair of the square of chairs. And so he did that which was a little frustrating for him and then I took a couple of chairs away and made the square smaller and I said now you have to sing and stay within the chairs and I kept taking the chairs away and keeping that square smaller and smaller and smaller until in the end it was just a metre by a metre. And I said okay, so you know, you keep all the same energy, you keep all the same thing and you are allowed to move but you are only allowed to move in that metre you are not allowed to move outside it. And we brought the moving space in smaller and smaller and smaller. So I didn’t say stop moving because it would not have worked for him. He was definitely a mover, but I just stopped him from bouncing off the walls.

Gillyanne: 17:16

You know, I mean, I want to sort of come in from a different direction, which is to say, Sam, why would you need to stop moving?

Jeremy: 17:26

I think that’s a good question. But I mean, I think there are a lot of reasons why you might want to stop moving. Hmm. One is that it’s distracting to the viewer.

Gillyanne: 17:35

Yeah, and it could be that you’re actually distracting yourself from your task. Only it just puts me in mind of, you know, my first singing lessons. I was about eight. I was taught to stand like this

Jeremy: 17:46

yes, hands in front of you linked gently

Gillyanne: 17:48

and you kept still

Jeremy: 17:50

Yes, absolutely

Gillyanne: 17:50

And you were not allowed to move because it was a waste of energy. Yes. So when you sing classical music, you do not move around in a recital.

Jeremy: 17:59

Yeah. I just Want to talk about physical people. Which sounds a very strange thing to say. But I think there are people who for whom physicality is an expression. It’s their primary mode of expression. There are people who do it by sound, there are people who do it by look. And there are people who do by feel.

Gillyanne: 18:17

Now if you’re only listening, you won’t see how much Jeremy is moving his hands.

Jeremy: 18:20

I move a lot. Yeah,

Gillyanne: 18:22

He gestures as part of his form of communication. We both do. Catching Jeremy’s hands, not in motion, trust me is, you know, quite an art.

Jeremy: 18:33

It is actually interesting people I do say to people, if they want to take a photograph of me when I’m presenting, you’re gonna have to move fast because I very, very rarely stand still. But I think the interesting thing about physical energy if you are a physical energy person, and I do know Sam and I do know that she is and then the physical energy is actually a manifestation of you and your persona and your your energy and your personality. And I think what we’ve got to do is not to say you must stop. I think what you do is contain but don’t stop. And that’s what I was doing with my tenor, was I was not saying you must stop moving, but I was saying basically contain it into a smaller area, you can still do all the movements, you can still make all of those gestures, you can still pace around if you want to, but it will be a smaller area to do it in. And what that means is that your energy becomes more contained and more focused. And I think that’s the biggest thing is that whatever you do with that stopping moving thing is that the energy doesn’t stop, but it becomes more focused on the job and what it’s what it’s required to do.

Gillyanne: 19:43

I mean, I’m guessing it’s because, you know, particularly if we’re aiming to think technically or we’ve got complex melodies to do, that there’s a lot of intricate work going on with the laryngeal muscles that we can’t feel we can’t sense and we need to find ways of processing what we want to say through the music. And I think the gesture helps us with that. So my response may be to Sam would be gesture with intent. Hmm. You know, you can move your hands around in order to express the shape of a phrase. You see singers doing this when they want to expand with the sound

Jeremy: 20:23

It’s a sort of lifting their elbows and opening, it’s an opening gesture

Gillyanne: 20:26

Yeah, yeah. There’s also the sense of elongation that you have with a long phrase, you can use that as a way of learning. So I’m using gesture a lot more with with my singers and asking them to use it with intent. And it makes an incredible difference. And then I think you go if you need to be standing still, then you learn to do it smaller. Of course, you simply learn to remember that gesture. And that then becomes part of your performance and there’s a that’s a whole area of work that’s being looked at right now. I love that. I mean, I will say to people make the gesture, make it full-blooded make it really, really clear to yourself and then fine it down. And then I may say, think of the gesture that you’ve just done, but don’t actually do it and you somehow you’ve got a physical manifestation of it inside, even if we don’t see it outside. It’s actually really important. I do that a lot with my students. Yeah, that’s, that’s hopefully Sam that will have answered your question, Sam, Can I say that for those of you who have this problem, you know what, what? Maybe you’ll see it as a problem with your own students… Try to find out what does the movement buy them? Is it giving them some kind of an advantage? Ask them? How does it feel when they do it without the movement? How does it feel when they do it with the movement and then maybe help them to do the movement more purposefully? Yes. And so you make use of it.

Jeremy: 22:02

There’s something else that I wanted to bring up which is connected with that. And I see this a lot in classically trained singers, particularly the classical singers who’ve been to a music college or Conservatoire that they are absolutely rooted and there’s there’s a simile, they’re absolutely rooted to the spot from the waist down. And then they’re doing all sorts of movements and swaying and indications and gestures from the waist up. And it’s like if anybody’s seen the the musical Sunday in the park with George, where Dot the leading actress is in a crinoline, that then opens up and she steps out of it, and the crinoline stays where it is. That’s actually the image that I get with some of the singers. And it’s like you’ve been told that you must never move. And that moving is you must never move because it’s all about voice. And I’m going well, no, actually, it’s all about you, the singer and what it is that you do and that includes your entire body. So the first thing I would I would look at if you like is if your movements are, are if you’re thinking that your movements are too big or, or too obvious or too energetic, look at which part of your body isn’t moving. Because it could be that you’re rigid somewhere and then moving flailing your arms around in compensation for it.

Gillyanne: 23:18

I think that’s a very good point. And also I want to say there is nothing worse than a singer standing stock still with rabbit in the headlights eyes you know? It’s not a good experience for the audience.

Jeremy: 23:34

Yeah.No, it is also fascinating. I’ll give you one more example and I actually write about this in the book. Why do we need a vocal coach? Where I tell one singer, this is very early on in chapter one. I tell one singer that we’re going to do the performance that is close-up filmed. And so basically, she’s singing the song and televisually it’s full close-up. So it’s full head, you can almost see nothing else. And based on what I said to her is, if you move at all, you will go off shot. So your head will go off screen. So you need to keep your head exactly where it is. And she was a very physical singer. And it worked incredibly well for her because she was so focused. The performance was so extraordinary when we did that, because she had a very specific instruction to follow.

Gillyanne: 24:28

Great, wonderful.

Jeremy: 24:29

Yep. And then the third question came from Pippa Goss. Hello, Gillyanne and Jeremy, in your opinion, what is the difference between practising and rehearsing? It’s like, this is like my favourite question

Gillyanne: 24:41

You need to start with that one.

Jeremy: 24:43

I love this. And this is when Gillyanne said at the very beginning, Jeremy doesn’t practice she’s quite right. I don’t do much practice at all. What I do is absolutely pin-specific contextual. So let’s assume, I’ll tell you what my thinking about playing piano, piano pieces piano parts, I’ll tell you what my process is. I will do my best to sight read through the piece or the movement. And it will be a stumble-through if necessary. And what I’m doing is I’m noticing what I can play without too much difficulty and the bits that I can’t play. And I will go back and work the bits that I can’t play. Everything that I can already approximately play as far as I’m concerned is done. So I’m absolutely pinpoint specific on what are the chords that I can’t find what are the shapes, the patterns, the semiquaver runs that I can’t find. And I’ll work those and I’ll work them for about two minutes, maybe three minutes, and then I’ll go back a bar. So I’ll put them into context and then I’ll go back another bar. So I put them into a bigger context. And I’m constantly working backwards from the point that I I need to know. And again, there’s a little story. This is when I just left college and I worked at I was one of the official accompanists at Brereton School, which was the international summer school. And I worked with a classical saxophonist called Eugene Rousseau. And it was phenomenally difficult music because obviously late 19th, early 20th, mid 20th, late 20th, covering all the ranges of classical style in that period, really difficult pieces to do. And he said, What amazes me is you can go into a room, not being able to play this piece and come out 20 minutes later and be able to play the piece.

Gillyanne: 26:39

He’s not making this up.

Jeremy: 26:41

I’m not making this up that I had actually have a letter from him saying that was what amazed him. And, and that was yes, I know exactly how to practice. I don’t know what to do. I know what the goal is, I know what the job is, and I know all the bits that I can’t find. And so I am just going to work on the bits I can’t find and the rest of it will work.

Gillyanne: 26:59

Right. So what you’re saying is there’s no need to practice the bits you can already do

Jeremy: 27:02

No! Waste of time lovely for you make you feel great, you know make you feel like you’ve accomplished something, but what a waste of time.

Gillyanne: 27:11

Really interesting. I think the other thing I want to say, for singers because so much of it is internalised but although I’m guessing it’s the same for instrumentalists. If you’re perhaps looking at your music, or you’re thinking through the song, and you’re thinking a pitch, did you know that that already fires or all the, you know the neural centres that are going to work those muscles.

Jeremy: 27:36

I remember years ago, there was a television programme with Deborah Bull, the ballet dancer, and they put her in an MRI scanner and they made her mentally rehearse one of her roles,

Gillyanne: 27:47

I’ve seen it

Jeremy: 27:48

And they said all of the muscles fired in exactly the same way as if she was doing it.

Gillyanne: 27:53

So if you imagine yourself singing the song, then that is a form of practice.

Jeremy: 27:58

It is

Gillyanne: 27:59

Obviously you’ve got To know it first. And the other thing is that when you hear a pitch or a pattern, it can have the same effect. I’m just this is a total sidebar, but I’m thinking about those situations when you as an audience member, you listen to a singer singing in a way that you can’t do. Maybe using their voice in a particular setting or growling or screaming or something. If you’re not used to that or maybe a classical singer listening to belting. Maybe you hear that and you don’t have any kind of neural memory of how to create those sounds. So you reject it as that must be bad, that must be wrong. I’m just throwing that out there.

Jeremy: 28:44

I think it’s a good point, and an answer to Pippa’s question, what’s the difference between practising and rehearsing? I’m gonna say context. And in this format, when I’m rehearsing, I have a much bigger context so I might be playing half the pieces. Or I might be playing multiple phrases together. Or if I’m working with somebody else we might be doing even the top and tail where you play the beginning of the piece/ movement and the end of the movement to go into the next movement and play that or something like that. Practising for me is pinpoint specific it is here is a problem. I can’t do it yet. What is the sequence that I need to do? And actually, we’re going back to Steve’s question as well, what’s the sequence that I need to do to get me from not being able to do this to being able to do this? And that’s not context of the whole phrase or context of the whole song. That’s usually what do I need to do to get from this note to this note, or from that word to that word?

Gillyanne: 29:40

So this is about being context-specific, isn’t it?

Jeremy: 29:44

I’m glad you have difficulty with that as well!

Gillyanne: 29:46

Context-specific, yeah, because I think particularly singers tend to fall into mindless exercises. They think if they, you know, they travel up and down the scale, all the way through the range, you know, 50 times Then they’re doing some practising. They’re not actually mindless practising because of neuroplasticity is in fact a really bad thing. Yes, we need to have specific targeted practice. Context could be what’s the skill you’re needing to learn at this point in your training? context could be what are you working on at the moment?

Jeremy: 30:19

Yes. Can I bring in words? Because singers have words. Other instrumentalists don’t have words.

Gillyanne: 30:27

We do indeed.

Jeremy: 30:28

So a lot of the the sequences that I’m doing as pianist will work for you as a singer, but specifically, you have words. And there are articles, again in the book that I’ve written, which are… there’s one called Belting the Money Note, where I break down what the issue is with somebody who already has high G’s in their voice high As in their voice. But there’s about note on a G that he says is just impossible to do. And what we broke down was that it wasn’t the note. First of all, it was the approach and secondly, it was the word. And so what are what if this is I see this is practising and not rehearsing. Rehearsing would be, what is my sentence? What is my motivation? What is my character doing in the whole of this paragraph that’s context. Practising would be why can’t I sing the word go on a high G? What is it about the high G that makes that word go difficult because I can sing AH on a high G with absolutely no problems at all. And you look at that and you go, let’s take this apart, so

Gillyanne: 31:33

you haven’t you’re breaking it down

Jeremy: 31:34

I am breaking it down. We’ve got a stopped consonant to start with. So you got go, which is the G. It’s also a voiced stopped consonant

Gillyanne: 31:43

and it’s positioned towards the back of the mouth.

Jeremy: 31:46

Absolutely. So you got to work out is the G causing the problem? If it is, you don’t, can you first of all, can you change it? Can you make it unvoiced? That’ll make co which is slightly odd but could work or can you pitch the G lower down specifically, “go” so that you do a jump

Gillyanne: 32:05

Ah, so you glide up. Yeah.

Jeremy: 32:06

And that might work. Can you pitch the G on the note? So you actually have to arrive at it before you get on the vowel. That might work.

Gillyanne: 32:14

So you could pitch the G on the note before or what depends on the context again, doesn’t it?

Jeremy: 32:18

Yeah, but basically taking that G and practising that in the context is good. Then you’ve got a diphthong. So you’ve got oh uh, so where do you change the diphthong? And there are so many singers I hear not doing diphthongs they do this sort of weird hybrid vowel that isn’t one or the other, but sort of sits somewhere in the middle and then don’t do anything with it.

Gillyanne: 32:42

Well, to be fair, that could be genre-specific

Jeremy: 32:47

Yeah, more likely to be classical.

Gillyanne: 32:49

No, it could be a genre choice. I wasn’t going to say it

Jeremy: 32:52

I will!

Gillyanne: 32:53

it could be a genre choice. So I don’t want to say that it’s necessarily bad that you don’t do the diphthong.

Jeremy: 33:00

No, mostly is bad, but not necessarily. I like to hear the words!

Gillyanne: 33:06

Well, if you enjoy kickback…

Jeremy: 33:09

So, let’s say that you are going to sing the diphthong. Well, first of all, let’s say that you aren’t going to sing the diphthong that you’re going to do a hybrid vowel does that hybrid vowel work for you? Every time in my sessions, I have heard people do a hybrid vowel, I’ve gone can we do the correct vowels that you want to do in this genre, which is two vowels. And every time they’ve done it, they’ve gone oh that’s so much easier. And this is an interesting one. I am not… Composers are very clever people. I’m not going to give them completely that they know exactly what word goes on. Because sometimes you get ridiculous words on high notes. But quite often, something is written for a specific effect. And if you put the vowel that should be there, on that note, Lo! it gets much easier. And then the next question is, if it is a diphthong, where are you going to change? Are you going to change? Are you just going to miss the second vowel out completely. Are you gonna put it right at the end? Are you going to transition slowly through it? What are you going to do with it? That’s practising. Because that is pinpoint specific. And then you put it into context and it becomes rehearsing.

Gillyanne: 34:16

And can I just say, it’s not practising? If you simply try and sing that note over and over again, in context, if you haven’t worked with someone to unpick what’s going on, so that you break it down, and you create a gradient to achieving that skill. I think that, you know, the trap that we fall into and inexperienced singers fall into, Oh, I can’t sing that note. It should be in my range. And so they sing that phrase over and over and over again, and they get vocally tired, and then they start to embed a negative pattern. I’ve done it myself, and I’ve heard singers doing it. When I’ve been working in studios, which is enough.

Jeremy: 34:53


Gillyanne: 34:58

Oops. Okay. Right. So where do we go next?

Jeremy: 35:02

I have no idea. where do we go next?

Gillyanne: 35:03

We duck. We duck apparently. I’m not sure that we need to say any more about what practising is. I mean, I feel we’ve unpicked it rather nicely,

Jeremy: 35:15

hopefully. I mean, if you have any more questions about what you think practice is or you want us to answer a bit more, or

Gillyanne: 35:22

if you want to share your own thoughts,

Jeremy: 35:24

absolutely, then please comment on any of the podcast apps that you listen on. We are now listed on I don’t even have the complete list: Apple podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Deezer, Google Play, we are listed on all sorts of things iHeart I think is coming. So I think we’re listing on about nine or 10 platforms already. Drop us a comment in there or you can email us as well.

Gillyanne: 35:52

Oh, now there is something that we want to say about practising, which is the survey.

Jeremy: 35:57


Gillyanne: 35:58

So the final question that we have Pippa Goss, who is in fact one of our accredited trainers –

Jeremy: 36:03

We’re very pleased that Pippa this question. And she has put together with us, in conjunction with us a singing practice survey. And this is specifically aimed at seven to 18-year-olds in school or college who are having singing lessons. And it’s designed that the information is designed to help Pippa find out how we can support you better in your singing practice, if you are seven to 18. And data collected from the survey is anonymous. It’s going to you be used to inform the teaching community on ideas to help work out what practices how you can improve your practice. And ironically, some of what we’ve been talking about today, which is the difference between practising and rehearsing. So the survey can be found…

Gillyanne: 36:47

can I just say that because of the time that we’re living in at the moment, that we also made a decision to include some questions about how practising habits might have changed during the pandemic.

Jeremy: 37:00

Yeah, absolutely. So when I think is the last three questions are COVID-19 specific.

Gillyanne: 37:05

I really hope we’ve had a lot of responses already.

Jeremy: 37:09

And she does say I think this is fair, please complete this with a parent or a carer if you’re under 16. So the survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/S2HXB3G. And we’ll put that link in the show notes as well. So please do fill in that form. And it doesn’t matter where in the world you are because there is a question about where in the world are you because the other thing that might come out of this is whether there are differences by country or continent

Gillyanne: 37:42

Geographical difference.

Jeremy: 37:44

Really interesting. So please do fill that in, pass that link on to other people as well for them to fill it in. I think we are coming to a nice close.

Gillyanne: 37:56

I’m gonna go off and practice.

Jeremy: 37:59

I’m gonna go off and rehearse. Okay, the today’s today’s episode has been sponsored by Vocal Process. And the featured resource today is our continuing professional development webinar. What’s in a Warmup? This is an hour-long professional training video that you can download and watch. So check it out it is on https://store.VocalProcess.co.uk/Webinars

Gillyanne: 38:26

And those of you who are performers and/or teachers, you will find it extremely useful during this time when you may still feel the need to be socially distanced from in-person lessons. So that you can really purpose warmups for your students.

Jeremy: 38:44

And we also make the distinction between a warm-up and a skill acquisition exercise. And by the way, a warm-up is not practising, a warm-up is what you do before you practice.

Gillyanne: 38:56

That’s another podcast

Jeremy: 38:58

It is. If you Want to drop us an AMA an asked me anything question please do if you go to https://SpeakPipe.com/Vocalprocess, and you can record your AMA we would love to include more recordings more AMAs on the podcast. And we usually announce a few days before we record what the topic is on social media. So join us if you haven’t already on twitter.com/VocalProcess, facebook.com/VocalProcess, linkedin.com/VocalProcess, Instagram, Instagram @VocalProcess, everything is @VocalProcess. And we are… Oh and also something we forgot to say so far, which is please do join our mailing list. Because we send out newsletters and free resources we have offers we have all sorts of things,

Gillyanne: 39:52

Articles, blog,

Jeremy: 39:54

Yeah, lots of articles that we have that we share with you, and also the famous Vocal Process, build your own tilting larynx paper template that you can download. If you go to https://vocalprocess.co.uk. You can either just join straight on there to a newsletter thing or you can go to the blog section, no, the free resources section on the website pulldown menu and see larynx template and you can fill in that as well.

Gillyanne: 40:20

That’s a lot of URLs.

Jeremy: 40:21

That’s a lot of URLs, but

Gillyanne: 40:22

I’m impressed

Jeremy: 40:23

They’ll all be in the show notes. So we will see you next time. Thank you very much. Bye

Gillyanne: 40:29


Announcer: This is a voice, a podcast with Dr. Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher