[This is a guest post by Sheri Gould, vocal coach and consultant]
As anyone who works out regularly knows, it’s important to warm-up before getting into a vigorous work-out.
Why? It helps to prime the muscles for optimum performance and to avoid injury. We can apply the same concept to our vocals.
Why do I work out? You know the answer already, but I’ll tell you just the same: I want to stay in shape! In fact there have times in my life when I needed to get in shape, or get back into shape. Working out was the only way to get there.
Your vocal cords are essentially muscles. When we remember this and treat them as such, we do better in terms of taking the proper care of them. It’s important to take the time to warm up the vocal cords every time you sing.
By gently stretching and working the muscles, we can get the peak performance out of them. This includes a better range, agility, control, better intonation and less vocal stress.
Today’s post is all about warming up and working out your vocals. Here we go:
Your warm-up routine should start with the essential “relax and loosen up” moves. I always suggest that students do any vocalizing, including warming-up, in front of a mirror. In the same way that a vocal coach can give you instant feedback, a mirror can act as your coach in the absence of a real one.
1. Check Your Posture – You can start by raising your arms far over head and reaching as far as you can. Get the feeling of your ribcage being lifted off the diaphragm. As you bring your arms down to your sides, keep the rib cage high but relax your shoulders. This is important for maintaining proper breath control. When the rib cage sets on top of the diaphragm, movement is limited.
2. Relax Your Muscles – Make sure that every possible muscle in your face, neck and shoulders is completely relaxed. Roll your shoulders forward and back. Drop your head gently forward and roll from left to right. Place your hands on your cheeks and move them around until there’s no tension anywhere. Blow air through your “loose” lips like a horse and make sure your lips are relaxed.
3. Breathe – Take a few deep breaths and slowly let them out. Remember to always breathe in through your nose whenever possible. This will warm, moisten and clean the air that flows over your vocal cords. Once you are tension free you are ready to start the vocal part of your warm-up.
Start slowly when warming up the vocal cords. This is important because anything stressful to the cords, i.e. too much too quickly, can cause an abrasion to the cords.
This will most likely result in phlegm. Phlegm’s job is to act like a band-aid to cover, coat and protect the cords until they heal. If you find that you often have phlegm after singing awhile, this could be the reason.
1. Hum – Always start with a hum. Now if you’re getting ready for church on a Sunday morning the bathroom is the perfect place to warm-up! Start by gently humming a five note scale downward. Always use caution to not go too high or too low when first warming up.
2. Diaphragm Kicks – After a couple of minutes of gentle humming, try some gentle kicks from the diaphragm—still on a hum—on a five note scale up and back down. You may progress a little farther into your range with this exercise. As you do this, watch your posture in the mirror and make sure you are still relaxed and using the proper muscles allocated for breathing.
3. Exercises – You can continue on from here to include your favorite warm-up exercises as long as you don’t stretch too far too fast. Once you’ve spent 10-15min warming up you can then move to the work-out phase.
Work-out phase one
If your desire is to take your voice to the next level, you need to routinely be (properly) pushing yourself vocally. By this I mean to attempt new and better things.
- If you aren’t crazy about your tone…then try vocalises that will help you to create a better tone and resonance.
- If you are looking to expand your range…then try vocalises that will enable you to relax more and reach farther.
- If want to build vocal endurance…then you need to be spending longer periods of time vocalizing and singing.
Whatever your goals are vocally, this is the part of your vocal routine where you actually work-out and ‘push’ your voice.
Another valuable tool is a recorder. Nothing beats a vocal coach sitting right next to you pushing you properly and giving you feedback and direction—just a like a personal trainer during a physical work-out. But when this is not available, doing “self checks” is the next best thing.
Work-out phase two
You are ready to sing!! Once you’ve completely warmed up and vocalized, you’re in the best shape to sing.
Sadly, many people skip the warm-up and “work-out phase one” not realizing that singing is actually a vocal workout! If, for sake of time or other necessity, you must skip something—skip the “work-out phase one”.
This can be done on the days that you have time set aside to work on your voice. But warming up should never be skipped before singing. Enjoy singing and take care of the voice God has given you!
Question: What other vocal tips would you add? Do you have any questions? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
[This post is part of a brand new blog series, “Your Guide to Practicing the Essential Skills of a Worship Leader“. Check out the other posts here.]