4 Tips to Improve Your Practicing
Mar 28 2014
Practicing. We all know it’s important (even for working pros!). But sometimes it can feel like a chore… and it’s all too easy to let yourself get lost in a sea of cat videos on Youtube instead of hunkering down with a few knotty scripts.
Why is it so hard to focus on practicing? Well, often you’re doing it wrong. Poor practice habits lead to frustration, because you never seem to see the results you want. We all need to know we’re achieving something, right?
Here are a few tips to make sure you’re practicing correctly – and keeping it fun!
1. Record each take and immediately listen back to it. This serves a dual purpose: it helps you get over that “Ugh, is that really what I sound like?” gut response, and it allows you to hear how your interpretation is landing on the listener. Many times you’ll discover that the way it felt in your head is totally different from how it sounded to everyone else! (Confession: this is still true for me. I’ll listen to a take that felt awesome – in control, carefully crafted, etc. – and discover that it sounds horribly over-acted. Meanwhile, the “tossed away/just for fun” take I did earlier and dismissed? Yup, that’s the one I send to the client.) The bonus of recording each take is that at the end of a practice session you can compare your first and last versions and hear the awesome progress.
Use the Feedback Forum at EdgeStudio.com. I’ve been quite impressed with the perceptive, specific, and helpful advice Forum users offer each other. Don’t be afraid to post a sample for others to comment on – they’re there to help you. Don’t be afraid to comment on samples posted by other users, either. Trust me, you’re all going through the same learning process; why not explore it together?
2. Focus on what you’re trying to achieve. When I ask students to describe their practice sessions they’ll often say something like “Oh, I just pick out a few random scripts and read them through a bunch of times.” Two things worry me in that statement. First of all: “random scripts.” Instead, look for scripts that will challenge you in specific ways – e.g. “I need to practice a casual delivery style on corporate scripts” or “It’s time to stretch my stamina with a longer passage” or “Can I land a punch-line in a commercial?”
But more importantly, “just reading them through a bunch of times” is a huge red flag. If you simply say the script over and over, you’re only treading water … or, worse, reinforcing bad habits.
Avoid this by making choices about each take before starting. What went well on the previous take? What didn’t land correctly? This is another important reason to record each take! When listening back, find at least one thing you loved and want to maintain, and one thing you want to adjust. Record a new take. Listen back. Did you manage to maintain the thing you loved? How was the adjustment? If you’re happy with the result, repeat the process with a new adjustment. Giving yourself something specific to aim for will improve your technique WAY faster than just reading a script over and over. Plus, it will ensure that when a client asks you to adjust one item without changing anything else, you’ll know how to do that.
3. Let yourself be goofy. Is a script starting to bore you? Feel locked into a particular vocal pattern? Get silly! Do the script in a bunch of different crazy character voices. It doesn’t matter how “good” the characters are – that’s not the point. The point is to remind your brain that there are many other ways of approaching the words. The more fun you’re having, the better you’ll feel.
4. Avoid stopping yourself in the middle of a take. I’ve heard people work themselves into a corner by re-starting a sentence five times in quick succession. Pounding away at trouble spots only leads to frustration. Instead, keep going … then listen back to the take. If that sentence truly was a disaster, you’ll hear it – but instead of frantically trying to fix it on the fly, you can calmly find a different way to approach it.
And if all else fails, and you still find yourself procrastinating with cat videos … at least look for ones with fun narration!
Kristin Price is an Edge Studio coach. To book with her, call 888-321-3343 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.