How to Do an Effective Vocal Warmup Routine
A solid vocal warmup routine will have many advantages. An effective vocal warmup will prepare both your body and mind for singing, and could prevent vocal strain and injury. A good warmup routine can be exciting not boring. Singing uses more muscles in the body than just the larynx (and yes, the voice box is a muscle). It is of utmost importance that you warmup your entire body
Stretching exercises. Put your arms straight out in front of your body, lock both of your hands together and stretch. Place both palms outward and raise both arms over your head while keeping your fingers intertwined. Lean slowly from side to side returning upright, first one side, then the other.
Relaxing exercises. Start with what is called the “rag doll” exercise. Stand upright with your feet about hip-width apart. Bend forward from the hips allowing your head, hands, arms, and upper body to loosely hang. Shake your head and arms a little bit, then allow them to dangle again. The next step in the “rag doll” exercise is to stand upright and do some neck rolls from side to side. Roll one side, roll forward, to the other side, roll forward, and back. If you’re practicing with a choir or group, it is helpful to give each other brief back rubs although it is a good idea for men not to touch the women and vice-verse.
Follow the “rag doll” exercise with a posture aligning exercise. Take a firm stand with your feet flat on the floor, again about hip-width apart with arms by your sides. Quickly raise your arms up and across your body in a circular motion. Keep doing this until your arm are over your head. Stretch up onto your tiptoes and take a good, deep breath as you raise your arms up. Start to slowly exhale as you bring your arms back down to your sides, and return from your toes to flat feet once again. Be sure that you keep your shoulders back and your chest up as they were at the top apex of your stretch after you bring your arms down.
Breathing exercises. Every vocal warmup routine should include breathing exercises. Breathing for singing is different than breathing for survival. When you breath for singing your shoulders should never rise up you should, as you no doubt have heard over and over, breath from your diaphragm. When breathing from your diaphragm it is your stomach not your chest that is expanding and again, your shoulders should not rise.
The first breathing exercise is interval breathing a modification of the Fontanelli exercise. You will breath in, hold then exhale. Start slowly with 4 second intervals, breathing in for 4 full seconds, hold that breath for 4 full seconds then exhale for 4 full seconds. Don’t just gulp a breath in hold it and then just let the breath out all at one time. The point of this exercise is to help regulate your breathing and enhance breath control so be sure you are breathing in for the full interval, holding for the full interval AND exhaling for the FULL interval. Once you are comfortable with 4 second intervals add 2 seconds and move to 6 second intervals. Once you have conquered 6 second intervals comfortably add 2 more seconds and try 8 second intervals. Once you can accomplish 8 second intervals move up to 10 second intervals. Once you reach 10 second intervals you are halfway to your goal. Your goal is 20 second intervals. That’s inhaling for 20 full seconds, holding for 20full seconds and then exhaling for 20 full seconds. This will not be accomplished overnight or in one session it will take months maybe even years. Don’t rush it and don’t move on to another interval until you are comfortable and have conquered your current interval. As with any exercise check with your personal physician before embarking on these exercises (especially if you have asthma)
The next breathing exercise is a simple but beneficial exercise. In this exercise take a deep breath while expanding your midsection then exhale slowly while making a hissing sound Try to keep your midsection expanded as you exhale. Do this several times.
Tone Building Exercises. Do some vocal sirens or yawn-slides. To do a vocal siren, start at the bottom of your range and slide to the top, then back down, on a hum. You can also use the vocal siren on a diatonic scale, I recommend starting on Eb or F and vocally “slide” up the scale trying to slide on each note of the diatonic (the do, re, mi scale) without stopping on any one particular note and then back down. Do this several times each time changing keys a half-step higher. When you feel you have reached the top of your range, start back down changing keys a half-step down until you reach the bottom of your range. To do the yawn-slide, inhale like you are yawning then exhale while making a “hoo” or “hee” sound starting at the top of your range and sliding quickly to the bottom of your range.
The next tone building exercise uses a technique is called many different names. It is sometimes called the buzz, bubble lips, lip roll, lip trill, the brbbb, the motorboat. To do this exercise exhale through puckered lips so that they vibrate. It should sound a bit like a motorboat or a “raspberry” or the car sound children make while playing with cars. Use the buzz to do a fifth-slide. Start on the fifth tone of a scale and slide down to the base (so-do): in C major it would be G to C. You can also do an arpeggio doing the 1, 3, 5, 1 of the scale changing keys a half-step up each time.
Vocalization Exercises. There are many different vocalizing exercising. Here are a few of the best.
The Diatonic scale. This is a very simple, just sing through the diatonic scale (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do). You can use either aah, ooh, do, re, me, or numbers – 1, 2, 3, etc. Another good vocalization exercise is arpeggios. This is a simple broken chord up and down: do mi so do so mi do, or 1, 3, 5, 1, 5, 3, 1. Move upward by half-steps key changes you repeat each arpeggio. Use the buzz, your favorite vowel sound or syllable.
Up – down arpeggio. This is singing the 1, 3, 5, 1, 5, 3, 1 or do, mi, sol, do, sol, mi, do of the scale doing half-step increments. You can either sing the numbers, the do, mi, sol or aah.
This is another variation of the diatonic scale which concentrates on intervals. Sing the diatonic scale starting with 1, sing 1, 2 return to 1 (1, 2, 1) (octave you started on). Then move on to 1, 2, 3, 1, 3, 1. Then 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 4, 1. Then 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 1, 5, 1. Then sing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 1, 6, 1. Then sing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 1, 1, 7, 1. Finally sing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, ,7 1, 1(octave you started on), 1 (high octave of the scale). Basically you are singing through the scale each time returning to the low 1 (or do) of the scale then singing the interval that you are on (1-2, 1-3, 1-4, etc)
It takes longer to describe this warmup routine than it actually takes to execute it. On average, you should be able to do it this in about ten minutes. You will find that it pays off and is worth the time. You will be able to sing more easily with less vocal fatigue and you will find that your singing sounds better. Always take the time to warm up.
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