I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard the phrase “practice makes perfect.” It’s something that is drilled into our heads from childhood. Do you not throw a ball well? Practice makes perfect! Didn’t master violin immediately after you began playing? Remember, practice makes perfect!” The problem with that statement is that its mostly false.
Now of course, when you practice you’re going to make mistakes. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have a need for practice. The important thing is how you go about fixing those mistakes. Even more importantly, once you have fixed the mistake, you go. back and figure out all the little reasons that you made the mistake in the first place and how you came to fix it.
This seems like a lot of work. In truth, it is. Practice can sometimes be a necessary evil. Practice can be tedious. Practice can be VERY frustrating. Ask anyone that has been within listening distance of me practicing. You would think that every opera in the history of mankind contained shouting the F-word in completely random places, probably near high notes and in the middle of runs.
So how do we fix these mistakes, and fix them permanently? First of all, when you make the mistake, stop. Stop, figure out what the mistake was (be it pitch, rhythm, words, something else, or a combination of all). There are several different strategies you can employ. Go back a few measures (or wherever a good place is to get into your trouble spot). Slow it down. Work without the actual words. Work the consonant combinations. Work the pitches without rhythm. Start a couple beats AFTER your mistake and slowly work backwards, beat by beat, until you eventually sing through the whole phrase without mistake. Then repeat the phrase a few times. Get it locked in.
The fact of the matter is that when you practice, you are reinforcing what happens in the practice room. So if you’re not fixing those mistakes and just reinforcing them, that’s what you’re going to do. Get it until its perfect. And above all, remember that as frustrating as it can be, everyone has been in your shoes, from beginner to professional. If this was easy, everyone would do it.
Keep singing, friends.