#28  Learning Theories and Practicing

One of the aspects of cultivating our singing skills is fine tuning our ability to practice well and develop our potential.  

Where we practice, our purpose for  practicing, how effective we are as we practice, our sense of what we accomplish when we practice and our attitude in general  about our talent are all vital contributors to our capacity to advance our skills.     

In the November-December NATS Journal there is an interesting piece by Robyn Frey-Monell on learning theories and motivation, what the causative factors are for how singers learn best and how those theories apply in the study of voice as well as in the rehearsal and performance setting.  Frey-Monell’s article is wide-ranging with a number of significant  points which I found thought provoking from the standpoint of being  a singer myself as well as a teacher and a music director.     

Practice Environment

When teaching privately or rehearsing a group there is a concise amount of time spent working together and, then, often a larger amount of time that the singer spends working  on their own  relating the information from the lesson or rehearsal into acquiring news skills that are applicable.

An important part of a singer’s success working on their own is dependent on them  having a good practice environment. 

There are a number of elements that contribute to a good practice  environment.  Salient features include easy accessibility to the space, privacy, a setting where concentration is enhanced, and availability of a keyboard or piano. 

Extrinsic Motivation versus Intrinsic Motivation

How well the singer accomplishes their practice depends a great deal on whether their motivation is extrinsic (external) or intrinsic (internal). Extrinsic motivation comes in the form of pleasing others: the teacher, the director or the audience. Intrinsic motivation comes in the form of an inner drive connected to personal growth.  It’s proven through research that intrinsic  motivation contributes the most to improvement. 

Considering what our inner goals are for singing can be clarifying and inspiring.        


Self-efficacy develops as a result of a collaborative  effort in  the studio or rehearsal setting which then encourages and supports the singer in exploring their own abilities to problem solve in the practice room.

It’s important that the individual feels competent in the tasks that they are assigned. 

Make sure that tools in the practice setting are readily available such as explanatory materials on notation or recordings of accompaniment.   

Attribution Theory

Attribution theory refers to what a singer thinks is the cause of their success.

The more we  recognize that we are the master of our  own accomplishments, the more enthusiasm we are likely to generate towards working on our own.  


Success is also proven to be strongly correlated to mindset:  is my success because I’m brilliant, which is a fixed mindset, or is it because I work hard, which is a growth mindset. 

A singer will have a harder time motivating themself to practice with a fixed sense of themself.

A singer who realizes they have potential for growth and is encouraged to work to develop themselves is much more likely to be successful in their efforts.

Try this:

1.       This week consider your practice setting.  Is it conducive to your accomplishing your tasks?

2.       Think about your motivation for singing.  Is your motivation intrinsic or extrinsic?

3.       Take a moment to consider your goals.  Do you think you are capable of achieving your goals? 

4.       Examine what you’ve accomplished thus far.  Can you give yourself credit for what you have achieved?

5.       Do you consider your singing as a work in progress?   If you say, “yes,” you’re on the right track! 


According to those surveyed in Frey-Monell’s article,  singers want their teachers,  conductors and directors to …

 ”listen and respond,  provide a safe place for learning, treat them fairly, help them freely define their goals, provide feedback and provide encouragement”


Sing Pretty,