I have also developed a practice process for singing. It’s a bit of a different animal from playing the piano.

First off, there are a couple of additional score study steps:

1-I generally ask my students to mark their breath plan and mark the word emphasis before starting to sing at all.

2-In addition to translating that foreign language text, I write in the IPA (international phonetic alphabet – basically a pronunciation guide) for any unfamiliar words or any words I am unsure of how to pronounce.

3-If I am looking at a choral work instead of a solo, I mark what other parts are doubling my notes so that I know who to listen to and when to match someone (particularly if the note is an odd leap in my part or if someone else’s part is handing my note to me/ending on the note that I need to enter on).

Then I’m ready to launch into the actual practice process:

1-I lip trill/buzz the melody while I play it on the piano. The goal here is maintaining consistent air speed and feeling the vibrations in the front of your face.

2-I choose a vowel (usually whatever I will be singing on the highest note of the piece) and sing the whole melody on that vowel. The goal here is maintaining consistent tone and placement as you navigate through different registers. If the piece is challenging enough, this step may need to be repeated with various different vowels.

3-I sing on the written vowels (no consonants). The goal here is to continue to be able to maintain that consistent tone and placement even with the added difficulty of navigating changing vowel shapes.

4-I sing as written (consonants included). Hopefully the work done on the previous 3 steps have carried over into this one. Otherwise, back to step 1, rinse and repeat.

Just like in my piano practicing process, by simplifying in the early steps, I am allowing myself the time I need to really ingrain the music into my body, and to really process as much as possible at once. And just like in my piano practicing process, I have other tactics and tricks that I rely on when I need them, but this is the basic process that I use 95% of the time. Unlike my piano practicing process, I have found that while practicing under tempo has its uses (for particularly tricky, quick passages, for example), generally it is unhelpful to practice singing slower than 75% of the actual tempo since singing slower than that usually requires large adjustments to your breath management.

If I’m memorizing the piece, that adds a few steps to the process: I typically write out my words and sing from words only, and then I write only the beginnings of phrases/hint words and sing from those. This way I am gradually weaning myself away from looking at the sheet music. Even after the song is memorized, I tend to continue to write out the words from memory – that’s a nice way to be able to practice without actually having to sing.

If I’m working on a choral piece, that also adds a few different steps to the process: after I’ve gotten my own part into my body, I’ll practice singing while playing my part +1 other (I’m an alto, so this is usually B+A, then T+A, then S+A), then my part +2 others (ATB, SAB, SAT), then all 4 parts. Then I’ll go back through the same process playing only the parts that aren’t mine so that I have to hold my own against those other parts. This is where piano skills REALLY come in handy.

Piano skills also really come in handy when I can play my own accompaniment while I’m singing, too. 🙂