Taking voice lessons last year taught me a lot. One of the most fascinating things I learned was that singing is a mental exercise! You have to be thinking the entire time!
Practicing takes the thinking away as you make techniques habitual, but during the practice, it takes a lot of mental energy. My main improvement did not come in any changes to my voice—improvements happened in my brain. I now think completely differently than when I first started singing.
I used to just… sing. I’d search for the note, and when the pitch matched, I’d let ‘er rip! What came out of my mouth was not always pretty, that’s for sure!
As time progressed, my diaphragm might have gotten stronger… maybe. My range might have increased through experience… a little. But, really, my voice didn’t change all that much.
Once I started to think while I sang, everything changed. I had to think about placement, cutoffs, inhaling, exhaling, rests, crescendos, decrescendos, pressure, vowels… you get the idea. After a rehearsal, sometimes your brain hurts more than your voice!
All that is to say this: concentrate. While you sing, think. Take notes to help your poor brain—it has a hard enough time remembering all the rest of the stuff it needs to remember. Use your pencil to help you think.
Think about placement, rests and breaths. On top of all the vocal stuff, think about the message of the song. Think about your facial expressions. Think about communicating well. It’s a lot of work! Enjoy it.