Are ther Advantages to Vocal Warmups?
In short – Yes! There are well over 100 muscles that contribute to the function of the human voice – and possibly more if you are overdoing it. Gentle warmups in the form of physical stretches and low energy vocalising help to get the blood flowing and supply those muscles with the necessary oxygen to function at their most efficient. Just think about it – if you were an athlete (and I’m not saying you’re not) picture the scene as you prepare for the Olympic final of the 100 metre dash. You wouldn’t even consider casually positioning yourself in the starting blocks after having had a good sit down to get yourself ready would you? The same applies for the voice. No matter how long the forthcoming performance is going to last, whether it’s just one song or a 90 minute set, you need to do your vocal warm up exercises.
Ideally, you want to just get all of the vocal components to experience a bit of motion and interaction. So, some light stretching of the body should get the skeletal muscular system awake, gentle neck rolls and funny face pulling in the form of exaggerated mouth opening and closing accompanied by some jaw extensions should help to limber up the facial and neck muscles. Sticking your tongue out and waggling it about a bit will help release any tension there also. Personally, I like to do a few jumping jacks (or star jumps) right before going onstage just to get the overall energy level up - it can be useful to get the heart rate going as this helps with any onset of adrenaline or nerves. Vocal warm ups can consist of some gentle humming, sirening and short, quick scales in the comfort of your range. Once again, we are just looking to link up the interaction of the muscles and get the breath flowing.
If time is an issue (which it often is) then a simple 10 minute vocal workout will be sufficient. I have broken this down into a suggested format at the end of this article.
I often hear this cop out from singers who 'don't want to waste any of my good notes by doing vocal warm ups!' This really does make me chuckle. Firstly, it's a really bad mental approach to think that some of your notes are only available on some subscription or credit system and that you must save them until you absolutely need them. This is the speaking equivalent of not being able to be polite in the evening because you've used up all of your pleases and thank yous earlier in the day.The result of this approach is that the audience gets to hear you do your vocal warmups throughout the first few songs of your performance. Please heed my advice, take the time to do them in private before you go on stage.
Often, time or available space is a limiting factor when it comes to warming up. It can be a bit embarrassing to be heard making strange mating call sounds in the props cupboard or in the support band's trailer! Lose your inhibitions when it comes to this issue. You are going to do your vocal warmups and you don't care who hears you.
Ideally, you want to carry out your warm up routine inside the 30 minute window prior to your performance. If that's not going to be possible at a particular gig then try to plan some kind of vocal practice session into your day. Believe me, you will feel the benefits later.
Remember, the goal of of warming up the voice is simply to get blood flowing to the muscles and to link up the various mechanisms. All of the exercises should be carried out in a gentle manner - try to get into the sensation of what I call 'happy singing'. You know, when you are (unusually) in a great mood, strolling along and your voice is just humming freely much to the joy of passers-by...(I hope that I'm not alone in this)
10 Minute Vocal Warm Up Schedule
Stretching - 2 minutes
Breathing - 2 minutes
Sirens - 3 minutes
Quick scales - 3 minute
My next article will contain the specific vocal warm ups you need to do
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