As an emerging opera singer, you may be laser-focused on perfecting your vocal technique. While mastering your craft is essential, it's not the only variable in the equation for success. At Living Opera we're reading two books right now, "Decisive" and "Switch," and we've found they offer valuable frameworks for making better choices and managing your time effectively, which can directly impact the quality of your practice sessions. Keep in mind, these books were written mainly with businesses in mind, but we can all learn from some of the principles laid out in the book!
A Framework for Better Choices in the Practice Room
The book "Decisive" outlines a four-step process for making choices, which can be applied to your practice sessions. The WRAP model—Widen Your Options, Reality-Test Your Assumptions, Attain Distance Before Deciding, and Prepare to Be Wrong—can help you make more informed decisions about what to focus on during practice.
Widen Your Options: Don't just practice the same arias repeatedly if you feel they aren't really working for you. We know it's tough when the recommendation comes from a trusted coach or teacher, but ultimately you're the one standing on stage needing to deliver. Consider exploring different composers, languages, or even vocal exercises to diversify your skill set if you're repeatedly running into a wall.
Reality-Test Your Assumptions: Before dedicating weeks to mastering a particular aria, perform it in a low-stakes setting, like a masterclass or a lesson, to validate its suitability for your voice and artistic goals. This will save you weeks of frustration, even even more importantly, can mean the difference of being hired for a job or not!
Attain Distance Before Deciding: If you're feeling frustrated or stuck, take a step back. A brief pause can offer a clearer perspective on what needs to be adjusted in your practice routine.
Prepare to Be Wrong: Even the best-laid practice plans can go awry. Be prepared to adapt and pivot, whether that means adjusting your vocal technique or revising your repertoire choices.
Small Wins for Big Vocal Improvements
"Switch" emphasizes the concept of small wins, particularly relevant for opera singers who often tackle complex pieces that require significant time and effort.
Shrink the Change: Instead of attempting to master an entire aria in one session, break it down. Focus on the recitative today, the cabaletta tomorrow.
Celebrate Small Wins: Each time you nail a difficult passage or sustain that high note a little longer, acknowledge it. These small victories build your confidence and fuel your motivation.
Practical Tips for better time management
1. Be Specific in Your Practice Goals: Instead of a vague plan to "practice more," aim to "master the cadenza in 'Sempre libera' during this week's practice sessions."
2. Apply the WRAP Model to Repertoire Choices: When selecting new pieces, use the WRAP model to evaluate how each choice aligns with your vocal range, artistic identity, and career goals.
3. Embrace Small Wins in Vocal Technique: If you've improved your breath control or pitch accuracy, celebrate these small wins as steps toward becoming a more accomplished opera singer.
In summary, while vocal technique is crucial, it's not the sole determinant of success in the opera world. By applying the principles of effective decision-making and time management to your practice sessions, you can elevate not just your voice but your entire artistic career.