A Voice Student's Best Home Set-up
So what do you really need to practice singing at home and prepare for your weekly lessons? Sure, you can get by with just your voice and a piece of sheet music, but if you can have a set-up that gets you excited about practicing and makes learning to sing more productive and fun, wouldn't you want that for yourself? Of course you do! So keep reading...
First, you want to find a space in your home that is free of distractions (like or blaring TVs or screaming children - maybe I exaggerate) and preferably somewhere you can shut the door so no one interrupts your practice time. Hopefully this space has some lovely natural light from windows and you are not shutting yourself in a dark closet where the sound will be muffled by all the fabric. However, if the closet is the only space you can find privacy, then so be it! Most importantly, the space needs to be a place where you feel comfortable experimenting with all the glorious (and not so glorious) sounds your voice is capable of making.
Now, what do you keep ready to use in that space? Here is a list of items I have found useful for productive and fun practicing!
1. #2 Pencil
- To make notes for yourself on your sheet music or lyrics sheet. ALWAYS use a pencil and never a pen, because who knows when you will change your mind about something!
2. Erasable Colored Pencils
- Whether or not you are a totally visual learner like me, having colors to indicate form or important reminders you need to jump off the page are fun and super helpful! Crayola Erasables are my favorite!
3. Music Stand
- Posture! Posture! Posture! Whatever you do, DO NOT put your music or lyrics sheet on the bed and hunch over it to look at it. You could hold the papers in front of you, but a stand takes care of that for you and saves your arms from getting tired before your voice does! Also, when set at the appropriate height, it encourages YOU to stand up tall too! Although they are the least expensive, I do not recommend the portable, collapsable stands. Get something sturdy like this that won't fall over the day you decide to put a heavy book on it.
4. Piano Keyboard
- Quality here is not important (unless you are planning to sing AND play). However, having something that is in tune is vital! If you have an acoustic piano (lucky you!), make sure it is professionally tuned at least once a year. Singing along with something that gives you incorrect intervals and wrong notes will NOT be helpful! If you are not able to invest in some sort of digital or acoustic piano, then download this piano app. Having the visual of the relationship of notes and being able to give yourself a starting note for warming up or working on a section of a song is an important skill when it comes to being an independent musician!
5. Digital Recorded-Music Player
- If you are not planning to accompany yourself on keyboard or guitar or another instrument (autoharp?) you will most likely be employing someone else to create the background music to your solo voice. Since it is not always convenient to work daily with this other musician, it is wise to have a backing or accompaniment track to sing along with so you gain comfort with the song as a whole, not just your part. We are so lucky to live in the digital world that we do today where there are many options for playing tracks out loud. As long as you have one of the following devises, you can access a digital track from anywhere!
6. External Speaker
- Sure, you can play the accompaniment tracks through your little phone speaker and hear it okay, but when you try to sing along, it's not really loud enough. A quick hack is to place your phone in an extra large ceramic mug or pot and it will help amplify the sound. However, a better solution is to connect your device to an external speaker that's main purpose is to amplify sound. It is a necessary investment for quality practice when working with tracks. Here are some options you may already have in your home:
Speaker through digital keyboard
7. Another great App - ASD (Amazing Slow Downer)
- Import the accompaniment tracks of any song you are singing into this app and it will allow you to change the tempo without changing the key or change the key without changing the tempo. It is a LIFESAVER when first learning a really fast song or realizing the original key does not show off you best vocal qualities!
8. Digital Recording Device
- Record yourself and play it back to self-assess your greatness! If you are preparing for a stage performance, the video camera on your phone is a great tool to be able to see what others see! If you are focusing on the audio only, download a voice recording app like this one. Even better, if you have a MacBook or Apple desktop and an external microphone, Garage Band is another great tool! For your ears only...unless you want to share of course!