Vocal Warm-Ups for Better Singing and a Bigger Range
Always Warm Up Your Voice Before Singing
Picture this: you're attending a concert featuring your favorite singer. The show is going well and now the singer is performing your favorite song. You're admiring the ease with which the singer goes from low to high notes when all of a sudden something goes wrong. The voice cracks and the beautiful tone is destroyed. The singer has trouble recovering and you feel embarrassed for the singing star.
Has this happened to you? Could this vocal strain have been prevented? Absolutely. Preparing the voice before singing with a program of correct warm-ups is the best insurance policy against vocal mishaps.
All vocal warm-ups do not fit every singer. In fact, you can easily strain your voice by trying to sing too high or too loud. The exercise must be designed to help the vocalist overcome and correct a problem as well as bring warmth and flexibility to the voice.
One of the biggest mistake singers make is the way they warm up their voices. I've seen this happen for 35 years with vocalists from all genres and styles. Singers who sing for a living absolutely must warm up their voices properly. The success of the show or recording session depends on what type of warm-ups are used.
Therefore, the best step you can take is to learn what the most effective warm-ups for singers and vocalists are and make it a habit to always warm up your voice. Just make sure every warm-up constructed for your distinct voice.
10 Tips for Getting the Most From Effective Warm-Ups for Singing
- Warm-ups vary. While there may be certain vocal warm-ups that work for just about any singer, this is certainly not the case for all warm-ups. Also, another thing to consider is the way each warm-up is sung. This is a highly important consideration in maintaining good vocal health.
- Repetition is key. I have decided to share some of the warm-ups my own students use. Keep in mind the importance of discipline. Repetition is the mother of learning. So sing through vocal exercises several times each day.
- Avoid certain food and drinks. Do not sabotage your singing by consuming dairy products, caffeine, or ice cold water, or drinks.
- Posture is crucial. Be sure to warm up your body before doing vocal warm-ups. The entire body is your vocal instrument and it must be free of all tension, particularly in the shoulder, face and tongue areas. Watch your posture and stand up straight with the body weight balanced on the balls of the feet (not the heels). This will help in keeping the spine straight.
- The neck is a critical area. The neck is a critical area for singers. It houses the spinal cord, nerves, blood vessels, and our vocal mechanism. Also, the neck supports our head, which weighs an average of 20 pounds.
- Hang arms loosely. I am often asked, "What do I do with my arms?" My answer is to simply allow them to hang loosely at your sides with your fingertips lightly touching your upper thighs. Remember that when it comes to your arms, less is more.
- Sit properly. We don't always stand when we sing so it's important to know how to sit properly. Sit in such a way that your back is supporting you. When singing in a choir, switch your position from one posture to another every 10-15 minutes. This will keep your back from becoming fatigued.
- Tighten your buns. Another tip that has worked well for me is to tighten your buns when standing. This will strengthen your abs and the lower back muscles and help maintain good posture.
- Planted feet and unlocked knees. Your feet should be planted on the floor about shoulder's width apart and the knees unlocked (slightly bent).
- Breathe by using the diaphragm (belly breath) for a well-controlled tone.
- Drink plenty of water. Sip on room temperature water during singing.
Now, if you're ready to begin . . . let's go!
Tame The Tongue for a Better Sounding Voice
To create great sound your tongue must be just as relaxed as the rest of the body. The tongue is a huge muscle, in fact, it's the largest muscle in the body. If it's tense it blocks the sound and can even make the sound seem tense and tight. When the tongue holds too much tension, this keeps the sound tense instead of nice and relaxed.
So learn to lay the tongue down flat in your mouth except for when you're forming consonants and vowels. This article will teach you how to relax your tongue as well as the lips and jaw. When you learn to do this - what wonderful difference in your singing voice!
The Lip Trill and the Tongue Trill Exercise
The Lip Trill or Bubble
The lip trill, or bubble, is a warm-up to reduce tension in the lips. The lips form the vowels as you sing. Any degree of tension in the lip area will produce some tension in the tone.
Imagine that you're swimming underwater. As you blow out the water, there will be a 'brbrbrbr' sound as the lips vibrate naturally and easily.
Begin with a short lip trill, supported by air from the belly. Repeat the trill 4-5 times and extend the duration a little longer with each trill. Try not to not purse the lips. Simply pretend that you are blowing bubbles under the water. If you find this difficult to do, it is a sign that your lips carry too much tension.
Keep practicing until your lips begin to trill naturally and without effort, and if you find this exercise difficult to do, you may need to take a bigger breath to help the lips to vibrate without effort. Too little breath pressure will prevent the trill from starting, while too much breath pressure will cause the trill to blow apart (stop). To keep the trill going when singing scales, the breath pressure must remain optimal and fairly steady.
The Tongue Trill
What is the tongue trill? If you can roll your r's, then you can do the tongue trill. Purring like a cat also works well.
To execute the tongue trill, try flapping your tongue against the roof of the mouth (the hard palate). Hold the sound steady and keep the breath connected for the count of 5 - 10. As your endurance improves, you can practice these tongue trills for more extended periods of time.
Once you have learned the trills, practice them on a full scale. Support the trills with plenty of air.
Watch the video below to see how this is done.
Lip and Tongue Roll
Humming is an excellent beginning warm-up because it stretches the vocal cords like a runner stretches the legs. Some things to keep in mind as you hum, though, are:
- Keep the lips loose and relaxed. Avoid pressing them together. You want to feel the vibrations occurring in the lips as you hum.
- Open the mouth as if you are singing the vowel "ah." Then, slowly bring the lips to a gentle close for the humming position. This will keep the space open inside the mouth to provide resonance as you hum.
Good vocal training begins with properly executed humming exercises which help your vocal chords to resonate freely. The vibrations generated by the hum is the fastest way to relax your face muscles, and when tension exists in your face and tongue, your singing tone will also have tension. This can eventually ruin your voice.
- Follow the notation in the picture below as you hum. You are humming the C Major scale. Modulate in half steps when repeating the scale. Do not sing higher than is absolutely comfortable and easy. This rule applies to all exercises.
Open Vowel Warm-ups
The open vowels for singing are: Ah, Eh, Ee, Oh, Oo. Mouth position is crucial to fine singing. This is a whole other lesson which I will write about later. For now, concentrate on the 'Ah' vowel position by dropping the jaw to project your sound. Maintain a nice two-finger space between the top teeth and the bottom teeth.
- Begin with the 'Ee' vowel and sing on a comfortable but energetic tone, sustaining the tone for five seconds. Using good breath support, repeat and hold for 10 seconds. Be sure to keep the open mouth position the entire time.
- Repeat this exercise using a different tone.
- Now repeat the same exercise using 'Oo,' then 'Oh,' 'Eh,' and finally 'Ah.'
- Using the photo above, sing these vowels in any order you like. You'll be stretching your voice and increasing your range as you warm up.
- When you are finished, you will be ready to use the arpeggio warm-up (shown below).
Correct Mouth Position for Singing 'Ah'
Drink Plenty of Water During Vocal Warm Ups
Your throat and vocal bands require moisture during singing. You want to prevent dryness to the voice and the best way to do this is to simply drink your water. Keep a bottle or glass of room temperature H20 handy and have a sip or two often.
Notice I suggest "room temperature" water. Why? When we drink cold or ice-cold drinks the cold temperature actually restricts the vocal folds. This is the last thing we want to happen when we sing.
When the vocal folds are restricted then so is our tone. We lose the warmth and flexibility that is so vital to good singing. So drink up my friend. Water is free!
Protect Your Voice With Room Temperature Water
In Conclusion . . .
Some important things to keep in mind:
- Seeking an instructor. An entire book can be written about vocal warm-ups alone. There are hundreds of exercises available. Some are right for a particular singer while another can be all wrong. Singing the wrong warm-ups can even be damaging to the voice. This is why I always recommend seeking a qualified vocal teacher.
- Children. Children must be given careful, light exercises and not adult warm-ups. And young men going through puberty is another whole dimension of vocal training and must be left to the highly skilled instruction of an expert. I sometimes recommend that boys this age should not sing at all until they are through puberty.
- 10-20 minutes. Effective vocal warm-ups for singers and vocalists should be around 10-20 minutes at each session. I hope you enjoy these introductory exercises.
- Some vocal warm-ups may be a bit challenging to sing but they should never feel uncomfortable. If you experience a sore throat or hoarseness following your warm-up session this could signal a red flag.
- Use your warm-up sessions to test your vocal technique and skills. Concentrate on breath control above all.
Lastly, don't forget that the most important thing you need to be a singer is a desire to sing. You may encounter obstacles. Keep singing anyhow and let your desire fuel your discipline. Follow your dream.
Do you know the correct answer?
Singers should warm up the voice
Questions & Answers
I love singing but whenever I reach a high key my voice cracks. How do I fix this?
Your voice cracks when you force the tone as you sing high notes. Keep your sound the same when singing from low to high. Be sure to use enough breath pressure by breathing from the low part of your body (belly breathing). These two tips will prevent your voice from cracking.Helpful 9
Lately, I've been having trouble singing the lows and mid-lows as my voice cracks. How can I fix this?
Practicing the "siren" exercise will teach you to connect your vocal registers without the crackling sound happening in your voice. You’re going to make the sound of a siren by sliding up using an Ee. Beginning with your lowest comfortable note slide all the way up to your highest easy note and back down again. Remember to take in plenty of air just before starting this exercise and lighten up your sound as you approach the vocal break. If you struggle with a smooth transition from your chest voice to your head voice, this is an excellent exercise for you!
Go slow and don’t rush through the siren. If you can’t quite make it, sliding up and down on one breath, just practice going up – take another breath – then continue going down.
This exercise may seem a little silly, but it’s incredibly effective.
© 2012 Audrey Hunt