As a singer, you may have come across the thousands of vocal warmups on the internet. But are all warmups equal?
In other words, would you say that singers can potentially just get any warmup exercises from the internet somewhere and expect great results?
The answer is NO. The reason for this is that all voices are different with their needs and tendencies. What makes for the best warmup, is that it creates the right conditions for YOUR voice and it’s particular tendencies.
For example, if you are aiming to gain more power, control and cutting edge (all potential descriptive terms for more vocal cord closure) in your singing, then you won’t achieve that if you are continuously warming up using a breathy tone. In fact, you are likely just ingraining that breathiness right in, even more. Or if your voice has a tendency to strain, and you do exercises with an over-compressed sound, and a scale pattern that lifts up into the area that tends to cause you to strain, then guess what? You are teaching your voice to strain, even before you have started singing.
I tend to come across this a lot, where singers feel that they are warming up their voice, but they are actually getting the conditions wrong – placing unnecessary strain on the voice, when the warmup should be encouraging the best possible balance, flow and coordination.
This is why until now, I’ve never released a generic warm up.
It’s important to develop an understanding of your own voice, and it’s particular needs. This happens when you work with a coach, and also as you become a more advanced and aware singer.
Obviously though, we can’t have our voice coach with us at all times. This is where you must be able to act as your own coach, discovering what feels right and what adjustments might be needed.
If that sounds daunting, you can always simply be guided by what feels good on your voice.
Here are the 5 words you need to think about
When singing, you want your voice to generally feel:
BUZZY, OPEN/FREE, STEADY, FLEXIBLE and NATURAL.
Let’s look into those words further, which will help you be your own detective and warmup in the best possible way…
If your voice lacks “BUZZINESS”, then that likely means you need more vocal cord closure. So exercises such as humming, and use of hard consonants that naturally press the cords together like “gug” and “bup”. That feeling of “press” (rather than push) through your range and really “guiding your voice out” as you sing can help.
Mmmm – motor boats
If you feel that your voice isn’t “OPEN/FREE” then perhaps you need to look at strain reduction and range extension. Let your voice siren on a “Weee!” up into the upper register and exercises that gently place on the top note and come down, using softer consonants like “Wo” and “Wun”. You could even try one of my favorite exercises – “Agh” with your tongue all the way out and using a long scale, all the way to the upper register – this is a strong exercise, but can really free and open the voice.
Wo – Release (female register)
Yawny Yum (male register)
If your voice is feeling wobbly and not as “STEADY” as you’d like, then increasing vocal cord closure might help. Also looking into the voice making the proper adjustments for pitch increases through the range. “Ge” and Witchy “Nagh” and “Nay” ascending through your range will help with keeping a firm, direct sound (vocal cord closure), yet allowing the cords to decrease muscle mass as adjustments for pitch increases need to happen.
No – strengthen and steady
If you’d like your voice to be more “FLEXIBLE” with fast movements (such as Ariana Grande’s riffs and runs), then we need to look at getting the voice to adjust for pitches, starting with keeping a nice edgy tone and carrying less weight as the pitch increases. Try Vocal Fry on a siren and then letting the voice go to more of a Hmmm on top. Then try it on an arpeggio scale, increasing the speed to test and build your agility. Apply a “creak or a “cry”
Mum – elastic voice (female range)
When the voice isn’t feeling “NATURAL”, then that likely means something is stifled. It could be down to strain, such as gripping the notes too tightly, excess tongue or jaw tension, too much nasal resonance, or perhaps not connecting fully to the chest voice register where your spoken voice resides. Focus on the exercise “Bluh Bluh Bluh”, on a downward sliding scale – really aiming to relax and let go on the note – speak on the pitch.
Bluh Bluh Bluh – let it go
My Best Warm Ups
Even though I prefer to work with a student one to one, so that I can hear and make necessary adjustments, I also recognise the need for simple exercises that anyone can do, anywhere. I’ve been asked for this by students, time and time again.
So, I’m sharing with you here my best vocal exercises that tend to work for every singer!
Within these warm-up exercises I aim to create the conditions required to encourage the voice to be more buzzy, open/free, steady, flexible and natural.
I believe in creating balance in the voice by exercising it in opposing ways – for example, an exercise to create more edgy strength and steadiness from increased vocal cord closure, followed by an exercise to relax the muscles and tissues of the voice and lengthen the vocal tract. This allows for regular resets to take place within the warmup session, in case any strain does come up unnecessarily during a particular exercise. So the voice is always stretching and moving in different ways.
I also feel the male and female warmups should be approached slightly differently, so the exercises have been arranged differently in subtle ways and the scales have been placed into the correct key centers to encourage the best vocal conditions.
Coming Soon: "Hone Your Craft" Course
Coming Soon, within my “Hone Your Craft” Online Mini Course will be:
- Exercises for Mix
- Exercises for Strain Relief
- Exercises for Power
- Exercises for Flexibility
- Exercises for Range Extension
- Exercises for Falsetto
- Exercises for Rhythm & Diction
- Exercises for Improvising the Melody
- Exercises for Dynamics
Plus Much More. Stay tuned, announcement coming soon!