Whether you're a member of your local choir, hardcore opera diva, or simply a person who enjoys singing, learning how to correctly warm-up your voice will enhance your singing and prevent vocal damage. In this blog post, I will take you through a few warm-up ideas which can help you to develop your own routine!
These ideas are written in order and should be used in a gently progressive sequence throughout your warm-up
Singing is a full-body activity and requires clever use of the breath. Try placing your hands on your stomach and feeling it expand outwards like a balloon as you breathe in. You will feel your bellybutton draw back towards your spine as you exhale. Try not to move your shoulders up and down as you breathe as this can cause tension in your upper body which won't help your singing!
Try this exercise: Breathe in for 2, out for 4, in for 3, out for 5, in for 4, out for six all the while feeling your balloon expand and contract. This is your abdomen working to support your breath (it does the exact same thing when your are singing too!)
Semi-occluded vocal tract exercises....yes that sounds long and complicated but don't be scared! This term simply refers to extended rolled rs, lip rolls, puffy lips, or blowing raspberries and vocalising (singing) at the same time. Try some sirens (starting from the lowest end of your range and sliding upwards to the highest) while filling the space between your teeth and your lips with a centimetre of air. Then try them using a rolled r sound & while blowing a raspberry. These gently warm-up your voice while applying positive back pressure to cushion your vocal folds.
Once you have completed your breathing exercises and SOVTEs, it's time to move onto some actual singing. Try some easy major scales, start on the fifth and on a nice open 'Ah' vowel move down to the tonic. Do this exercise moving up a semitone each time until you begin to feel warmed up. You could also try some full scales and arpeggios at this point.
Now it's time to warm up your lower and upper ranges. Use the same scale ideas mentioned in no. 3 and try and challenge yourself with how high and low you can go. Now is also a good time to switch to other vowel sounds such as 'oh', 'ooh', 'eh', 'ee' etc. Try to keep your jaw dropped and relaxed while doing so.
This is an optional step, however if you sing in a mix-belt/head voice, these exercises will help to bring your resonance forward in your face and give your voice a clearer more 'pingy' quality. Keeping the jaw relaxed, sing 'nyeh' in a tiny nasally tone. It should sound horrible like a squeaking mouse or something removing paint from the wall. Keep the sound in your nose and do some 123454321 major scale exercises. Try 'yah' also. If it sounds ugly and doesn't strain your throat - you're doing it right!!!
Finally, if you suffer from jaw tension/tongue root tension you are not alone! These are very common issues for singers and can be eased by performing the following exercises during your warm-up.
A simple jaw massage in circular motions using your hands can increase bloodflow to the area and encourage relaxation of the muscles.
A great exercise for both tongue and jaw tension is to imagine that your tongue is a toothbrush. Keep your lips close and swirl your tongue in circular motions around your top and bottom teeth as if to clean them. Do 10 rotations clockwise and switch to do 10 anticlockwise - you will be surprised as to how much of a workout this is!
There you have it! 6 steps to the perfect vocal warm-up. You are now ready to sing in a healthy beautiful tone!!