Singing while in a shared space:
How to not drive your household and neighbours crazy during lockdown
Are you in lockdown, stuck at home with your loved ones, and wishing you could sing more? When you’re used to being able to sing by yourself, it can be quite hard to transition to singing in a shared space. Many of us prefer to rehearse while we’re home alone, or even in a dedicated rehearsal studio. But for the foreseeable future, these are not options for most of us! Not singing isn’t an option either though, if you’re like me! So what can you do?
I’ve put together some advice on singing in a shared space. I hope you find it helpful, and that it gives you the tools to continue to sing while you’re in lockdown, without driving your household crazy!
1. Be Considerate
Choose your space
Think about where you practice. Is it a room that can be closed off? If you’re in an apartment building, can you close the windows? How many shared walls are there? You want to choose a room where your sound will be as insulated as possible.
I sing in our living room. It has one shared wall, and I know that the ceiling is under our neighbour’s bedroom (so won’t bother them during the day). I stand on the rug if I’m not at the keyboard, to protect the downstairs neighbours. As much as I love having the windows open as it warms up outside, I always keep them shut when I’m practicing out of consideration for my neighbours. And I shut the door to the rest of the apartment, so that my voice doesn’t carry into the stairwell!
Choose your timing
Communicate with others in your household about when they need quiet. Someone might have a conference call, or the baby might be having a nap. Be mindful of when you’re choosing to sing, and come up with some agreed times that work for everyone.
Think about your neighbours too! While your partner might not mind you singing at 9pm, your elderly neighbour might be in bed. I try to keep my singing (and teaching) between 9 am and 8 pm. Different cultures have different norms, so think about what makes sense for your community.
I am also careful about how long I sing for at once. I do this anyway – you’ve got to look after your voice and cannot sing for hours on end – but it’s particularly important when you’re singing in a shared space.
2. Plan your practice
Quality over Quantity
Planned practice is effective practice. This was drilled into me during my studies, and it’s something I really stand by. I think it’s particularly relevant in this situation though: there is nothing more irritating than listening to someone sing the same exercise over and over for an hour – which is not something you should be doing anyway.
Think about what you want to be working on in advance, and make yourself a wee plan. If you’re not sure, ask your teacher about it. Choose a few warm ups to focus on, preferably ones that will prepare you well for the repertoire (songs) you want to work on. For your repertoire, set yourself a goal for each practice session, for example:
- memorise a section of a song
- focus on your vowels
- focus on your breath
- focus on your character
I usually give my students 3 specific things to work on between lessons. This way, they can arrange their practice so that they know they’ll meet their goals! If you find it useful to have an app to plan your practice, I recommend Modacity.
Your voice AND your household will thank you for your quality over quantity practice. Everybody wins!
How long should I be practicing for?
The short answer is: Don’t practice longer than you can stay focused for. If you find your mind wandering, or your hands reaching for your phone, you should probably stop and come back to it later!
Why is this important?
When you practice, you are reinforcing muscle habits. If you’re doing good, focused practice, then you’ll be creating positive muscle memory. But if you are distracted, or repeating the same exercise over and over without progressing, you’ll probably be reinforcing poor technique, which won’t help you in the long run!
So, keeping your practice session short (10-30 mins is fine!) is good for you, and for your household! If you want to sing more, come back to it later in the day!
3. Sing out
Sing with a full voice
One thing that can happen when you’re singing in a shared space is that you don’t sing properly, so that other people “can’t hear you”. Or perhaps you “don’t want to bother anyone”. You might sing more quietly, or as if you’ve put a roof over the sound. It’s understandable, especially when you’re still learning to be confident in your voice. But this “modification” will ultimately only hurt your voice.
When we “sing down”, often* this results in removing your support, and holding back your breath. Both of these things will create excess tension, and probably bring your voice up into your throat. Remember what I said above about reinforcing muscle memory?
*Professional singers do have a technique called ‘marking’ that allows singing with less than the full voice, while maintaining excellent technique. It’s not something I’d recommend for most people though, as it’s actually pretty difficult to do properly!
4. Sing often
Sing every day!
When so many of our creative activities are cancelled, and morale is low, it is SO important to keep singing. I’ve made a pledge to myself to sing every day of this confinement, and I encourage you to do the same. Some days I don’t really feel like it, but it ALWAYS makes me feel better. Singing is great for you, and will boost your mood. It can help you express emotions you are feeling that you can’t find words for. It can bring you together with your family if you sing together, and create positive emotional connection.
It’s not about singing perfectly, or having perfect voices. Use the voice that you have to sing what you love. No one can cancel singing!
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