I talked in a previous blog post about the importance of warm-ups and how they help us prepare, practice, and protect us from physical injury with our instruments and voices. Before I do any singing, I will warm-up. This gets my body ready to sing, whether it's for a performance, or just a practice. Why would I need to do that? I've already been breathing and talking already, doesn't that count? The answer to that is – no. Like talking, singing does involve your voice and breathing, but uses a larger range than just talking.
With our speaking voice, we only have a few pitches that are used (unless you are squealing in delight or fear). Our singing voice on the other hand, needs more pitches - some higher and others lower - to sing a song. Also, our singing voice requires sustaining (or holding) pitches, whereas our speaking voice usually does not.
So how do we warm-up to prepare for those pitches and sustain them? When I warm-up, and when I warm-up students, I always start with breathing. Breath and air are the foundation of what we need. Start out by focusing on your breathing. Breathe in and out. Take good, deep breaths. Focus on the feeling. If you want, include some mental counts. Breathe in – 1, 2, 3, and out 1, 2, 3.
The next thing I have students do is hum. This is a gentle way to start because you are only using limited pitches, you can't hum too loudly, and you won't need deep breaths. Keep it simple. Start with just a few notes, begin on a lower, but comfortable pitch, and then move up one pitch, back to the starting pitch, then below by one pitch, and finish by returning to the starting pitch. Then move up or down one pitch and repeat the exercise. Keep your mouth closed and your teeth apart a bit. Go as high or low as is comfortable for you. Once you reach pitches that are less comfortable, move back up or down. Relax, and similar to breathing, focus on how your body feels.
The final step is singing on vowels – you could sing a melody you know but instead of the words, sing it on a vowel sound. You could also just use simple exercises like moving up 3-5 notes, then back down. On lower or middle pitches“ooh” or “eee” are comfortable, and for higher pitches, an “aahh” or “ohh” sound is more open and comfortable.
Three things to remember with warm-ups:
1. Do them slowly. Take your time. This is not when you want to be doing vocal gymnastics. You need to be able to focus on you, your body, and how things feel.
2. Do them with intent. Again, the important thing is to focus on how your voice and body feel. If something doesn't feel comfortable or sound right, try it again and see if it feels better.
3. They are important for your vocal health. Like warm-ups for sports, they will help you prepare and practice for singing, and protect you from injuring your voice.
Interested to learn more about how to sing? Schedule a free consultation today and learn more about our course offerings at the Music & Language Learning Center.
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