Practice Practice Practice...
Something extremely important that I have learned at Juilliard is the correct way to practice as a singer. Unlike instrumentalists, vocalists have a much more limited amount of vocal time. This means that in order to successfully have a solid practice session, it is important for singers to spend a large portion of practice time first preparing their learning of their music.
Before opening my mouth, the first thing I do is look up the history behind a work of music in order to understand the origins of the piece and the back story behind a creation. After this research, I will translate a piece, word for word, using a dictionary if it is in a different language. Then I usually go through all of the words and complete the next important step which is IPA. IPA stands for the international phonetic alphabet and the function of this alphabet is to have the tools to be able to correctly pronounce all of the words in each language. Next, I put the translated words in an order that makes sense because languages can end up translating a bit out of order. After I understand a meaning of a piece, I will go through in the original language and circle and underline important key words that allow me to create a phrase which moves and flows within the music when I am singing.
After all of this work is done, I begin to start marking in rhythms and plunking out notes on the piano to hear certain intervals, chromatics, and the way the notes flow and follow one another. Once I begin to sing, I start gently finding one passage at a time in order to be more confident in the notes with my ear. (When singing, I have learned that the voice tires more when someone searches for their pitches than when the pitches are already in the ear before vocalizing them). Once I go through all of the passages, I then begin to put all of them together and go through the vocal line with a pianist or instrumentalists in order to hear the line that I am singing within the harmony.
All in all, this is the best way that I practice and get the best result for my performing. Of course after all of the technical information is learned there is lots to do with phrasing, interpretation, etc.
Till next time!