For us singers, warming up our voices can sometimes feel like a boring, mundane task. But we must sometimes look past the boringness of warming up and see the bigger picture, and the benefits that warming-up can have on our voices. The truth is, when we warm-up with the right exercises and technique, our voices are going to be more reliable and perform better. That in itself should make warming-up an essential part of our daily routine.
There are a lot of muscles involved in singing, the Larynx, the respiratory system and the other supporting muscles that all need to work well and coordinate in harmony to produce a healthy vocal function. When we warm-up with the right exercises and technique, we help all of those muscles involved to become more pliable and better coordinated, which allows the voice to respond quickly and smoothly to the demands we place on it.
The Benefits of Warming-up
Warming-up helps to prevent vocal injury, reinforce good vocal habits, increase vocal stamina and longevity, increase vocal freedom and helps with the overall development of the voice.
The Physical Warm-Up
Before we get into the vocal warm-up exercises. I want to add that you should always do some form of a physical warm-up before you begin with a vocal warm-up. For me, I go to the gym in the mornings, and I always do a good stretch after my workout. That's my physical warm-up. A physical warm-up should include loosening up the shoulders, neck and back muscles. If you're holding tension in any of these areas, it will have a detrimental effect on the voice.
Vocal Warm-Up Exercises
Okay, so the first exercise is the straw. The straw helps a singer to experience a strong vocal setup as well as generally improving the overall quality of the voice. It can also help with smoothing out register breaks, restoring good breath management and reducing excessive compression of the vocal folds.
Pop the straw in your mouth and hum through the straw on a pitch glide, going from a comfortable low note to a high note and back down again. Ensure that there is no air escaping through your nose or lips for the duration of the exercise. Do this exercise for around 2-4 minutes.
Then take it to a simple scale. A three-tone scale is usually a good one. As you get higher, try pursing your lips in a similar position to that of a fish! Yes, you heard me, right! A fish! Doing this lengthens the vocal tract, which in turn helps to keep the Larynx on the lower side as you ascend the scale.
The Lip Trill
The next exercise is the lip trill. It helps to alleviate tension and pressure of the voice, which makes it a great vocal warm-up exercise.
Take your fingers, place them on your jaw, gently push your cheekbones up towards your nose and then blow air through your lips. With this one, you want to have a loose dopey sound, not a tight squeezed sound. It can sometimes help to think of a dopey 'Buh' in your head while doing the exercise.
You will be starting this one on a pitch glide and going from a comfortable low note to a high note and back down again. Do this for 1-2 minutes and then you can take it to a scale. I love doing the long-scale with this one as it allows me to warm-up through my vocal range quickly, but any scale will generally do!
The Bratty Nay
The last exercise is the Bratty Nay! This one is both great for the singer that pulls chest as well as the breathy singer. It takes weight out of chest voice (for those of us that tend to pull chest...I'm guilty!). And it helps to bring the vocal folds together more firmly (for those that tend to push too much air). Ultimately, it helps to build power in the voice!
With this one, you've just got to get down and dirty with the sound, try not to sing it. I like to imagine that I'm a kid making crazy sounds in the school playground with my friends as it helps me to lose all of my inhibitions!
You will start by saying 'Nay Nay Nay' in the most annoying bratty/witchy voice, you have. Try not to force it. Keep repeating it around different pitches until you feel comfortable. Then take it to a scale. I prefer to begin with the descending octave scale because I'm generally a little more of a chest puller, and this scale helps me to balance out my voice. If you tend to push a lot of air, try working from the bottom with the standard octave scale or three-tone scale.
In conclusion, I believe it essential for us to know our voices and know what exercises work well for us. If you haven't already, put together a vocal warm-up routine that you can do daily. I have a fast warm-up routine that is 10 minutes for the days I don't have much time and a slow warm-up routine that is 25 minutes for the days that I have more time.
I would love to hear about your vocal warm-up routines and what your favourite warm-up exercises are. Please comment or message me to let me know!
I hope you found this helpful.