Let’s be honest: practicing songs is fun. Practicing scales…not so much. The thing is, those vocal exercises are a very important part of our progress as singers. It’s the vocal workout that we need in order to build the skills necessary to sing songs more effectively. If you skip your scales in order to get right to your song, you could be missing out on some very valuable opportunities to progress as a singer. Don’t get me wrong, there are benefits to practicing songs on their own. But a singer who only practices songs without putting any work into their singing technique is like someone wading into a tropical beach without first learning how to swim – it will probably be fun, the water will be nice, and you’ll get a good tan…but you probably won’t get very far. You might even end up hurting yourself in the long run.
There are many things we do on a regular basis that we don’t particularly enjoy: brushing our teeth, making the bed, doing the laundry…the list goes on. Yet we do these things on a regular basis not just because we know we have to, but because it’s become a habit. When it comes to many of these day-to-day tasks, our bodies have become so accustomed to the routine that we don’t even think to argue or reason our way out. What if we could do the same thing with our scales?
A few years ago, I started a practice I like to call “piggybacking”. Simply put, I lumped in my vocalise with other tasks that I know I already do everyday. Personally, I have a pretty consistent morning routine – exercise, shower, floss, brush my teeth, get dressed, put on make-up, dry my hair. One task flows into the next, and it happens every day. So I decided to add an extra 15-20 minutes to this routine just for my vocal exercises. This ensures that I have an allotted time for my scales, and the other daily tasks work as a trigger so that I am less likely to forget or put it off. It’s important to note that this is just the bare minimum. I’m not doing any song applications or working on more advanced things like improvisation. This is just for me to work on mechanics – focusing on the specific vocal skills that my vocal instructor and I laid out at my most recent lesson. If I need more time, say to practice for an upcoming performance, to work on riffing, or to complete a song I’m writing, I’ll work that around my schedule for the rest of the day because I know I’ll have enough motivation to make it a priority. But at least the work of doing my vocal scales gets accomplished at least once, rather than getting lost in the mix of my other activities.
If you’re someone who is struggling to build a daily habit of practicing your vocal scales, try this strategy. You don’t have to do this in the morning like I do; you might have a more consistent routine in the afternoon, or in the evening. You might even miss a day or two (or more). Don’t give up. Keep at it! It is very possible to make a habit out of practicing your scales daily. All it takes is a little strategy and a whole lot of persistence.