Thursday, August 14, 2014

Week Two: Why You Need to Warm-up First

(This post is part 2 of 10 in my series highlighting my new book, Ten Weeks to a Better Voice, available here .)

"Have you ever noticed that when you try to speak or sing loud first thing in the morning without warming up, it feels (and maybe sounds) like slogging through mud?  Pitches that would normally be easy to reach cause you strain and limit your range.  That's because your voice has been at rest for about eight hours and now you're suddenly attempting to use it to its full capacity.  Your vocal cords are saying, 'I don't think so!' because they are not created to go from no use to full use without some preparation.

That's why it's so important to warm-up before heavy singing (or speaking).  Your voice needs a chance to wake up, just like the rest of your body.  Most people aren't able to pop right out of bed the first time the alarm goes off at 5:30 am.  If you are like me, you start to ease yourself out of bed with a full-body stretch.  If you ease into singing through some gentle vocal warm-ups, your range will reflect it, and you will keep unnecessary tension off the cords. Remember, the goal is to keep you singing healthy now and for the rest of your life.  Warm-ups will serve to prolong your voice, as long as you use them often!" -excerpt from Ten Weeks to a Better Voice

Before going to music school, I didn't think much about warm-ups.  I rarely used them.  Then as I started spending hours a day in a tiny practice room, I started hearing a difference in the quality of my  voice practice when I performed a couple of simple warm-ups.  In fact, I couldn't believe how my range increased and difficult passages in a song became easier after I warmed up.  And it was continued warm-ups that helped me discover the power of my chest voice range.

Warming up is the single most important thing you can do to prolong a healthy singing voice.  And honestly, warming up is fun!  I mean, come on, when else do you get the chance to sing silly, nonsense words in full voice, unless you're an elementary music teacher (guilty as charged!)?

I've worked with a couple of different church choirs in the past couple of years and one of the first things I teach a choir is the process of doing corporate warm-ups.  First of all, it's a great way to start a rehearsal because it breaks the ice and helps people get over their nerves.  And also, it helps everyone get through the next hour and a half of full singing in rehearsal.

And of course, all of my voice students know by now that we will always begin a lesson with warm-ups.  I try to vary the warm-ups we use and tailor them to the needs of my individual students.  If we will be working on a song that uses head voice primarily, I'll include several high warm-ups designed to gently open up the range.  Or if we will be focusing on a song filled with runs, I'll choose a warm-up or two that helps develop agility.

I hope you can see by now the importance of warm-ups.  Here's a little challenge: if you're someone who doesn't usually warm-up before you sing, try adding a few simple warm-ups into your practice beforehand.  If you don't know any warm-ups, search for them on YouTube and choose a few favorites.  OR, if you do warm-up on a regular basis, why not search for and try out a few new warm-ups, maybe some that challenge your voice in different ways.  I will take this challenge with you!  My goal is not only to practice some new warm-ups, but to write some new warm-ups for the upcoming school year.  I'll be sure to share them later on.

As usual, if you would like more information on warm-ups, consider purchasing my new book, Ten Weeks to a Better Voice available on Amazon in paperback and eBook formats.  Thanks for your support!

Happy Singing!

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