Tending The Garden hero

Tending The Garden

Posted Friday, December 9th 2016 by David McCall
I don’t have time to practice, and I don’t want to bother my neighbors.

I don’t have time to practice, and I don’t want to bother my neighbors.

I’ve heard it over and over again from singers. With day jobs, early mornings, late nights, and constantly shifting schedules, there’s hardly time to do the singing practice that you want. We have to wait for a holiday, an unexpected pocket of ‘found’ time, or the appearance of Shangri La to do the singing practice necessary for improvement.

Let’s face the facts. Singers have to maneuver through an already packed schedule hoping to find a spare fifteen minutes to merely warm up, let alone practice a song fully. Over time, we get into the dangerous frame of mind that less practice is acceptable. But if you didn’t have the time to water your houseplant or wash your clothes regularly, over time your plant would shrivel and your clothes would become more and more disgusting. We cannot afford to neglect our voices! For singers, it’s our joy! But if faced with the challenge of paying rent or practicing voice, practicality wins.

There is always a solution

What can you possibly do when your living arrangements and schedule aren’t conducive to daily practice? If you’re fortunate enough to make New York or another metropolitan area your home, you can rent a small rehearsal space at a reasonable cost. Elsewhere, there are still options, though you might have to get creative. Perhaps a church, school, or neighbor with a piano can help. Whatever the hassle, your voice is worth it!

Tend the garden

What if you’re in a situation in which you absolutely cannot practice? You’re too busy one week, not feeling your best physically or emotionally, or traveling. The garden must be tended. There are still ways in which you can rehearse your singing without vocalizing a note.


Sleep is one of the most overlooked, yet essential aspects of a healthy singing life. Our body makes repairs, rejuvenates, and restores itself during sleep, but only if we sleep long enough uninterrupted. The National Sleep Foundation suggests seven to nine hours of sleep every night for adults eighteen years old and up. You may have to cut your Netflix binge a couple episodes short from finishing, but you can dodge spoilers better than you can function on too little sleep. Make sleep a priority. Add it to the top of your to do list.


I know, I know – if you don’t have time to practice, then you absolutely don’t have time for working out. Singing is a physical activity. Your body is your instrument, and whatever helps the body helps the voice. Aerobic exercise is the greatest for singers as it increases heart and lung strength and improves endurance. It’s crucial to plan for at least twenty minutes to an hour a day of jogging, swimming, or brisk walking.
Even more beneficial are neuromuscular coordination exercises, like yoga, climbing, or Tai Chi. Such exercises help develop the body control singers need while eliminating body tension.


You are what you eat. Your food choices are key to a healthy body and, therefore, voice. Vegetables and fruits are a must for energy, vitamins, and minerals. Make sure you’re taking in protein as well, either from plants or meat.
Pay attention to the foods that cause you adverse reactions. Acid reflux can sidetrack your practice. Likewise, keep your caffeine and alcohol intake modest, and drink plenty of water. Drink plenty of water. Drink water.

Listen to Your Music

You are what you listen to. Though you can’t always practice your music, you can listen to the singers who are singing your music or the singers who are doing what you want to be able to do and still learn. You can only produce sounds you’ve heard, so listen to the singers you aspire to emulate.

Oh, heck, listen to as many singers as you can! There are more platforms for new music than ever, many of which are free. If you’re in or near a city, go see some live music. Support your local artists. Form your opinions while keeping an open ear. Take recommendations from friends and acquaintances.

Seek Inspiration

What gives you joy? What authors fire up your imagination? What people make you laugh? Practicing your joy is so important for your health. A life without enough time to sing can lead to depression, anxiety, and other emotions that can stifle our creative drive. It’s ok and necessary to feel them from time to time. Learning how to cope, manage, and rise from darker emotional periods isn’t just good for singing, it’s good for your continued health and happiness.

It doesn’t take any extra time to look on the bright side, problem solve, or take pride in the work you are doing. Listen to yourself. Approach each day with a sense of humor, a healthy dose of realism, and the joy of knowing your life is yours. No matter what trials and tribulations you feel holding you back, their grasp isn’t as tight as it may feel.

Your voice is inseparable from your physical and emotional life. It’s all you. All one. Having very little time to sing doesn’t have to keep you from growing as a singer and artist. You can still improve, grow, and tend the garden.

David McCall

Senior Voice Teacher, Head of Vocal Development

David has become one of the leading instructors of Contemporary Voice in New York City, with clients ranging from Broadway singers (Billy Elliot, Matilda), Classical and sacred music singers, cantors in New York City Synagogues, to Professional Rock and Pop artists, some of which have toured and been signed to record contracts, appeared on shows like The Voice and American Idol, and performed at venues such as SXSW. Additionally, David has taught as a Master Teacher of Contemporary Voice for the NYSTA Comparative Vocal Pedagogy series.

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