Luck –when preparation meets opportunity
You have applied for your auditions and are expected to present specific repertoire, or have got the role and need to learn it. Get practicing your rep now to get ahead of the game. Here’s our method. Adopt what suits you and leave what doesn't. ‘Cherry picking’ is an important and time-saving skill in itself!
1. Discover your learning style
Spend five minutes taking an online test to see if your learning style is visual, auditiory or kinaesthetic. Knowing can help you build a more effective practice routine.
Are you a visual learner?
2. Read the libretto
Understand what is going on and your character in relation to others.
3. Prepare your score
Studies have shown that colours such as orange, red and yellow are more attention-grabbing compared with colours such as grey or brown. This means that information written or highlighted in these colours may have a higher chance of being remembered.
4. Learn the text
A great way to memorise text quickly is to build it up word by word. Not only will you quickly commit the words to memory, but also savouring the prose one word at a time enables you to absorb the meaning of the language, discovering new ways to give life to the text as you go along.
The cat sat
The cat sat on
The cat sat on the
The cat sat on the mat!
If you find it difficult to learn a role in a foreign language, learn the word by word translation as well as in the given text in order to ensure you understand the nuances of exactly what you are saying. Use actions to help you remember the individual meanings of words.
5. Speak it in rhythm
You may be able to act the socks of the text spoken naturally, but can you do it justice within the constraints of the rhythm? Experiment with your interpretation of the text whilst respecting what the composer has written. This can be particularly challenging when working with translations, and so the more you work with the spoken text, the more you will be able to connect the two in a plausible way
6. Learn the notes
Groveling around for notes, rhythm and words all at once can create a myriad of bad vocal habits. Learn the notes on a vowel to enable you to concentrate on a free flowing sound and learn the music correctly. Make it all about the line and then when you bring the text back in, the fun begins. Struggling to pitch those intervals? Attach a tune you know to help you.
Schoenberg made easy! George Michael had taste
7. Practice the tricky bits in isolation
How often do you sing a piece of music and just practice it from beginning to end again and again, fudging over those difficult passages thinking you will get them right the next time. Focus on those tricky passages. If learning them isn't working one way, try something new. Break them down into smaller chunks, slow it all down, work out what works for you and before you know it, those tricky passages could become your favorite phrases. Better to sing them correctly at half tempo once than incorrectly at tempo ten times.
8. Don't beat yourself for not having memorised an act in an hour
Learning takes time but sometimes we have to do so quickly! Instead of thinking 'I will never manage to do this', zero in on a small section. Nail it. Move on to the next small section. Nail it. The accumulative positive effect of this will help you to push forward and before you know it, you will know more than you don't! Reward yourself for what you have done.
Now that you have learnt the correct notes, inflection and text, for many repetition is a vital part of the learning process. Keep your approach to tempi and other musical aspects flexible though. Who knows what the MD & director have in store for you!
10. Practice it as you would perform it
Many singers think they will switch on their performance mojo when they hit the stage. In reality, does that really work? Practice as you would perform. Knowing that you can remember the role/aria under any circumstance, the chances are that you will forget to be nervous! There is a lot to be said for the old adage “An amateur practices until they get it right, a professional until they can't get it wrong".
Over to you... what are your tried and tested practice tips?