Friday, July 15, 2011

The Vocal Warm-up and What It can do for You

Hello fellow singers! I know it's been a while since I last posted, but rest assured, once I begin my new job as a chorus teacher, I am sure to have an array of subject matter and stories to tell you! For now, I want to take a moment to speak on one of the most important parts of vocal health, and that is the vocal warm-up.

Anytime I teach a private voice lesson, I begin with a series of stretches. (Some of these are covered in my previous blog post: Vocal Secret Weapon #3). The concept behind stretching is to let the body know that you're getting ready to sing and also to remind yourself that singing is a full-body experience. It's also simply easier to sing when all the muscles of the body are warm as opposed to tensed up.

After we stretch (and yes, I always stretch and sing with my students; it's unreasonable to expect them to do something that I can't do!), I take the student through vocal warm-ups. This might surprise you, but I spend at least half of each voice lesson on vocal warm-ups. Why? They are so important to helping a singer master the correct technique, and they can also be directly incorporated into the singer's repertoire, or "real life" material, as I like to call it.

The main purpose of vocal warm-ups are to help the vocal cords avoid injury. Aside from that, warm-ups prepare the body for heavy singing, help develop agility in the ranges, and get the singer in the habit of practicing good vocal technique!!! It's a win-win situation all around when you warm-up.

One thing I have to emphasize when talking about vocal warm-ups is that they are just that: warm-ups. You perform them as a preliminary exercise to singing whatever other material you're practicing. Therefore, they shouldn't be perfect or you wouldn't even need to use them! When I was recording some of my own vocal exercises for my students, I actually had not sung at all that day before I began. I used those exercises as my warm-up while recording them! They aren't perfect, but they illustrate the way warm-ups are supposed to sound, and more importantly, they provided the perfect warm-up for my voice that day. When you are performing warm-ups, they should be done with ease and should bring you more energy, not drain it! If the exercise is too strenuous, then it shouldn't be considered a warm-up. You don't want to do the hard work before you've even have a chance to sing a song!

Now that I've hopefully talked you into adding a warm-up routine to your singing, you may be wondering where to find warm-ups. The answer to that is easy. Look around you; they are everywhere! You can easily find warm-ups on the internet. Use this quick guide to help you evaluate if a particular warm-up will work.

1. Make sure the warm-up is easy to understand
2. Make sure you can perform the warm-up with ease to a certain degree and that it doesn't tire out your voice or temporarily decrease your range
3. After you perform it, you should feel "warm" around the throat and articulators. That's usually a good sign that you can begin practicing your other material
4. Make sure the warm-up actually helps your voice develop and grow

Warm-ups are critical to your success as a singer! They will ultimately help you increase your range and memorize what it feels like to sing properly.

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