How to best practice singing in a way that is nervous system informed
When I started to learn about the nervous system, it turned my vocal practice upside down. I must admit, changing my old ideas and ways wasn’t easy, and it sometimes still isn’t, as our Nervous Systems’ needs often collide with the speed and expectations of modern culture and society. But going against the grain has been well worth it. It has made practice fun, effective, more spontaneous, and surprisingly relaxing – something I really look forward to! 🤩
Here are my tips for better singing practice.
1. Instead of maximum go for the minimum.
This often means doing less and going slower. In our fast-moving society that values productivity, this can feel like a hard thing to do. But if we want to retain a skill or even learn at all, we need to respect our nervous systems (NS) capacity for learning and integration.
Signs you are past your NS capacity show up as physical mental and/or emotional symptoms, such as lightheadedness, dry mouth, frustration,
over-analyzing, rampant inner-critic…just to name a few.
Stop, take a pause and try scaling down your practice. Make the exercises more simple, shorter, and maybe try doing them sitting or lying down. Also, your NS doesn’t read the clock: instead of fixing an hour for practice, try listening to your NS signs on when you’ve had your “minimum effective dose”.
2. Instead of “getting it right”, opt for exploratory experiences
Even if well-intended, focusing on fixed outcomes can make our nervous system (NS) feel less safe. This inhibits access to the higher brain structures where fine and complex skills such as singing are learned and retained.
Engaging in exploration and play makes learning organic, fun, and best of all: it sticks!
If practicing has been feeling “unsafe” to your NS, improving learning outcomes might start with finding resources for your NS to feel safer, so play and exploration can emerge organically.
3.Train for Resiliency
Singing is a contextual skill. If you ever wondered why your voice seems to react differently in different places – such as in the shower, versus rehearsal room, versus in front of an audience – this is why.
Performance resiliency from the perspective of the nervous system (NS) means tolerance to changes within ourselves and in our environment, so we remain calm, focused, and engaged.
We can train our NS and brain by singing in different body positions, room settings, lighting, musical arrangements, accompaniment, noise, venues, and audiences. But don’t jump onto a big stage head-on: it’s important to sequence and pace our training in a way that respects the capacity our NS has NOW.