Practice is often a word we feel intimidated by... maybe because we know that practice means hard work; hours and hours of slogging away at the same thing just to make a small change. The idea of locking ourselves away in a room, isolated from everyone else is something that immediately springs in to most peoples minds when they hear the "P" word.
So what is "Proper Practice"? Is there a difference between this and so called "Regular Practice"?
Allow me to explain the difference and show you how practice doesn't have to be a hugely daunting and repetitive task...
The main difference between regular practice and proper practice or efficient practice- whichever you prefer- is one will actually achieve something and the other won't... can you guess which one will achieve? You guessed correctly, proper practice wins!
Let's take working on your singing voice, for example. If you need to work on breathing through a particular song, you need to work on having enough breath to sustain various notes and phrases, then why would you spend two hours just singing the song over and over and over again without actually focusing on the thing you need to practice? Wouldn't it be far more efficient to spend 30 minutes of detailed practice, focusing on your area of weakness, which in this case is breathing whilst singing? If you were to spend 30 minutes breaking down the song, bit by bit, finding the places you need to breathe and working on how you can sustain your breath using various exercises set by your vocal coach to achieve this, as opposed to just singing the song in the exact same way without making any changes for hours and hours, you are guaranteed to see far more improvement.
Ever heard the phrase "Little and Often"? That phrase has never been more apt when it comes to talking about proper practice. Our brains can only process so much at a time, therefore we need to give it small increments on work to focus on, not try and cram everything down its throat all at once. If we have several things we need to practice and/ or work on, then break them down and work on them one by one over the course of time.
Maybe you could come up with a practice schedule.... Monday you practice breathing, Tuesday you practice harmony, Wednesday you focus on diction and projection and so on... That way, your brain will be able to give far more focus and attention, as opposed to trying to get everything done at once.
Another thing to note, as humans we instinctively like to do things we like doing... we are lazy in this respect. When we go to the gym, the only way to build more muscle or become more cardiovascular efficient is to challenge what we can already do in each session; our bodies don't really like doing this... Our bodies are far more comfortable sticking with what it can already do. It's exactly the same with practice! When it comes to practicing a song or a speech, we instinctively go for the section that we are more comfortable with... instead, challenge yourself. Work on the weaknesses first. If breathing is your strength, then focus on your diction first... Conversely, if diction is your strength, then focus on your breathing first! Challenge yourself to do the things that are going to be far more beneficial in the long term! And like I said, you don't have to spend three hours a day doing it... remember, "Little and Often"! Take breaks in your practice, go and do something else for a while if you feel overwhelmed or frustrated, then come back to it, ready to go again! This is far more efficient!
Practice shouldn't be a breeze... there is no escaping that. If it was easy, everyone would be able to achieve the skills you are working towards. But, isn't that the exciting part? You're pushing yourself and challenging yourself to reach your full potential! Imagine how great you are going to feel when you finally achieve your goals because you put the hard work in! It's exhilarating and addictive! When you start noticing the changes, you will understand the importance of practice and you will become hooked, I promise!
Ditch the excuses! The effort it takes to come up with obstacles as to why you don't want to practice or can't practice is far greater than the effort and time it takes to actually just practice! You can easily spend 30 minutes moaning about how much practice or work you have to get done; but that's the 30 minutes you could've spent practicing! So, how come you have time to moan, but no time to actually work? Hmmm....
Talent isn't everything... I hear this a lot. "But I'm already talented, why do I need to practice?" I hate to break it to you... but loads of people in the world are talented. LOADS! But, there are two types of talented people in this world. The talented people who think they can just rely on their natural talents and abilities vs the talented people who realise that they need to develop and refine their natural abilities by learning proper technique or develop an understanding of their craft. Which group do you think is going to be more successful? It's down to you!
A teacher can lead you to water, it's down to you whether you want to take a drink... You can't rely on a teacher to spoon feed you. It's the teacher or coaches job to show you the ways you can better your self. They give you the necessary tools and tell you how to use them, but at the end of the day, they can't force you to ACTUALLY use them. That decision lies with you!
So, don't be daunted by practice. Be excited by it. Because once the practice is done, the rewards are truly spectacular and guess what... practice never stops, which means one more thing... your potential is never ending.