Five things to include in your vocal warm up for maximum benefit.
Updated: Apr 21, 2022
"The greatest musical instrument given to a human being is the voice".
Why warm up?
Would you run a 100m sprint without first limbering up and stretching the muscles? Of course not. Yet we often launch into singing or a day of speaking without warming up our voice. Warming up for 15-20 minutes is important before any sustained singing or speaking activity. An effective warm-up prepares our voice for the challenges ahead, whether it's an important speech, the start of your teaching day, a choir rehearsal, or a solo performance. The goal of the warm-up is to prepare for the range (highs to lows), the dynamics (soft to loud) and get the vocal folds working optimally. Personally, I sing a lot better when I do a good warm-up beforehand.
The first thing - stretch, energize and release tension!
Our instrument (our voice) is contained within our body. Unlike a violin, we can't hold it, touch it or see it. Our instrument is completely surrounded by muscles, tendons and ligaments, not to mention the human with all our emotions. The most important part of a vocal warm-up is tension release. Tight muscles, particularly in the neck, shoulders and jaw, are the enemy of effective voice use. If you're already into yoga, pilates or the Alexander Technique, you are in good shape, but for everyone else, let's firstly STRETCH!
Stand and reach with one arm for something high above your head. Keep the air flowing in and out of your lungs (often we hold our breath when stretching).
Swap arms. Now raise both arms in the air, lock them above your head and do a gentle lean to one side. Feel a gentle stretch on the opposite side? Repeat on the other side. Arms down slowly as you exhale. Chin toward sternum and do a roll down. Let your head and neck completely relax. Breathe. Roll up slowly to a sustained 'sssss'. Standing now, slowly look all the way up to the ceiling, down to the floor and to the left and right. Roll your shoulders slowly forward then back 4 times each way. Massage your neck. Release any tension. Imagine you have water on your hands and you are flicking it off, get that shaking happening in your hands, then involve your whole arms, chest, tummy, back, buttocks and legs. Have fun 'shaking'!
The second thing - getting the natural breath going / unvoiced sounds
Grab a ball or an exercise band if you have one of these. Move the ball around or pull slowly on the exercise band (one end under your foot) as you exhale to 'ssssss' then
'sh...........' change it up, do different things as long as you are moving! Sit and lean forward slightly. Looking towards the floor, imaging a group of noisy ants. You need to 'sh.......!!' them. Do this 5 times in a row. No worries if you don't have a ball or exercise band, just MOVE as you breathe.
The third thing - voiced sounds that are natural, instinctive and organic
The human voice is most optimally produced when initiated by natural, organic, and instinctive motivations. The aim is to switch off our 'thinking' brain and make sounds that are instinctive because these are the freest and easy to do. Think of the last time you were watching your team score a goal and you did an instinctive "Woo-hoo!" That's what we mean by instinctive. A vocalized yawn is also instinctive. Do this now. Yawn with a full-body stretch and let your natural 'yawn sounds' come out with it. If you're a singer or a speaker, do these types of natural vocalisations first before singing scales. Then you don't have to 'think' about your warm-up so much as to enjoy the experience of it! Nothing is forced. The sounds you make should feel easy and NOT be uncomfortable or painful. In fact, you should feel 'nothing' at all in the region of your voi