Chad Runyon is an award-winning vocal performer, conductor, and instructor.

Posted December 14th, 2010
Filed under Essays

Make Practice and Memory Happen


1) Students who record their lessons progress faster.  It’s a good way to capture foreign language pronunciation and hear the sounds you make in lesson while trying different placement suggestions, etc.  You will be surprised what works and what doesn’t as you listen back. Record!


1) Set aside time to practice.  Treat it like a rehearsal and put  it on your calendar.  If it helps, sign up for a room at a school or church and go there like you would any other rehearsal with a choir, theater or opera company, etc.  It’s a discipline.  If you only practice when you feel like it, it won’t be enough.  Schedule it and do it.

2) Record your practice time.  Talk to the recorder and tell it what you’re trying (modifying the vowel toward “oe” or “u” or “a”, etc.) Then try something different and tell the recorder what you’re doing “that one I was thinking, ‘more forward’ or ‘more inside.'” When you listen back, you can reference what sounds better with what you trying at the time.  It’s easy to forget what you were thinking while recording, so mark your practice with comments.


1) If you need to perform from memory, memorize early, not the night before (or the morning of)!  You don’t have to sing to practice memory.  Speak the words and work yourself up to being able to do so quickly.  Practice saying your text while walking or driving, thereby challenging yourself with distractions.  There WILL BE distractions in performance, so you need to practice being distracted.  A siren may pass on the street outside the performance space, someone may sneeze or walk in the room unexpectedly, the lights may flick or go off for a period of time, a small earthquake may shake the room.  These are all things I’ve experienced in performance, so relish distractions in your practice time.

2) Write out the text without referencing the score.  While writing the first draft, you may have to look at the score almost every word, but make yourself do this.  Each draft will get easier. Do this until you can write out your lyrics without  double-checking. Typing or handwriting is fine–both work.  The pace of writing is much slower than speaking, so you lock in the words and melody (no doubt you will be singing phrases in your head as you do this exercise) into the deeper recesses of the brain.  Also, you are engaging a kinesthetic (physical) connection with the words as you write them out. This also sets the piece into your deeper memory.

In Review

1) Record, Practice and Memorize!