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5 Warm Up Mistakes Singers Make

Woman singing

Leading vocal coach Kim Chandler shows how you can avoid problems and reap the benefits from warming up your voice the right way.

As a vocal coach to professional singers and touring artists, I’m often surprised at the misunderstandings surrounding how to warm-up effectively. Here are the most common ones I encounter:

Mistake 1: No warm-up at all

Singing is an athletic activity. Not warming up at all can be a bit of a shock to the vocal cords (folds) and there is a risk of strain. I’m also convinced that more cavalier singers who go into a performance “cold” are not necessarily singing to their best capacity at the start of their performance.

A warm-up [of 30 minutes or more] is a work-out and not a warm-up

Mistake 2 Warming up for too long

The more conscientious singer can be prone to overly “warming-up” for 30 or more minutes before a performance. I would argue that a warm-up this long is a work-out and not a warm-up. This approach risks wasting too much energy that’s best saved for the performance itself. “Quality over Quantity” is key here.

Mistake 3 Warming up too softly

Let’s face it, vocal warm-ups can sound a little strange and even silly to people who haven’t heard them before. So as not to “annoy” others around them, shy singers can be prone to warming up too softly when the gig they are about to do requires high intensity singing. While it’s better than nothing at all, it’s still not ideal preparation.

Mistake 4: Going in too hard, too fast

Impatient singers, who just want to know where their voice is at straight away, can sing too high and too hard too quickly in their warm-up. This can be a bit of a shock to the folds. It’s almost like a gymnast getting out bed first thing in the morning and doing the splits! Treat your voice like a “lady”; get it into “the zone” in a kind, vocally-friendly, respectful way.

Singing classical-style exercises to prepare for non-classical music is like doing ballet warm-ups for breakdancing

Mistake 5: Using warm-ups in the wrong style

The vast majority of vocal exercises are classical. While they’re tried, tested & proven over centuries of usage, they’re not designed for singing pop music. So there’s little point singing classical-style exercises to prepare you for singing non-classical music. It would be the equivalent of doing ballet warm-ups for breakdancing! It’s best to warm-up in the musical style you’re about to sing.

What is the best warm-up?

A short, effective physical stretch followed by around a 5-minute vocal stretch that starts gently in a comfortable range & volume. Increase intensity & range as you feel the voice opening up and giving you permission to extend further & further.  Personally, I recommend using sirens on various semi-occluded sounds, e.g. lip bubbles, tongue trills, to achieve this as they are not key nor pitch-specific and they don’t require any accompaniment so can be done anywhere, any time.

Kim Chandler’s Voice Cross Trainer App is available for iOS and Android. It’s based on her popular “Funky ‘n Fun” vocal training series.

Also by Kim Chandler: Twist Your Vocal Warm Up and Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs

Kim ChandlerKim Chandler is one of the UK’s top session singers and industry vocal coaches. She’s coached diverse charting artists such as Courtney Love, Paloma Faith, Jess Glynne, Birdy, Katy B, Laura Mvula, Betsy, Marlon Roudette, Josh Franceschi (You Me At Six), Oli Sykes (Bring Me The Horizon), Mikey Chapman (Mallory Knox) and more. Kim has worked on two series of “The Voice UK” and is a regular as a vocal coach at Abbey Road Studios. In the academic world she presents at workshops, master classes and national & international voice conferences. Her work can also be found in TC-Helicon’s The Ultimate Guide To Singing and Springer’s “Teaching Singing in the 21st Century”. See her Website.


    I like to use a sort of gargle sound, vibrating the vocal chords, and do a few minor pentatonic scales to get ready for rock. And then again using vowel sounds. It’s about 8 – 10 mins and seems to get my voice ready to go without overdoing it. Sounds a little like what you are saying here.

  • Michael Vaughn

    Obviously, each voice is unique. My voice warms up slowly. Always has. I do 15 minutes of lip trill sirens, and 25 minutes of singing scales. This gets my range really open and loose, including the high “scream.” Being a rock singer, I need to get a little grit going, that’s about another 2-3 more minutes. Then I’m ready to go. Range, power, high scream are all there. Call it a work out if you like, but this is what works for me.

  • Vocal warm ups are not style and genre biased. Interesting that lip trills are recommended in this article for presumably, styles of singing other than classical, but at the same time its pointed out that some warm ups have been with us for centuries, lip trills,
    for certain. As well as sirens which are referred to as “glissando” in the classical world.

    Anyways, semi-occluded phonations on nasal consonants are preferred because they tilt the cricoid and set the voice up nicely for vocal twang and sob mode. Two essential modes for any kind of singing.

    I also recommend warm ups that stretch the vocalis muscles and fatten their closed quotient. That would be glottal attacks on vowels and onsets utilizing plosive consonants.

    Nice article Kim. I am in agreement on the first four, but point #5 seemed a odd and slightly contradictory to me. Oh well…

  • Kim Chandler

    Thanks for your input Robert and for caring enough to comment :-) Actually, point 5 isn’t contradictory and I hope to explain it a little more here to clarify the point… As the final paragraph outlines, I personally advocate SOVT exercises as warm-ups, as I imagine you may too. But many singers warm-up with a range of different exercises like scales, arpeggios, riffs/runs, parts of songs etc and it’s this approach that I’m generally referring to in the 5 points. Does this now make more sense to you?

  • Yes, well enough. Hope all is well for you. I still remember riding in your car years ago. Sitting on the left side, so weird.

  • Kim Chandler

    It’s the opposite for me now since moving to Spain! ;-)

  • Interesting. Why did you do that? Do you speak Espanol?

  • Kim Chandler

    Claro que si! Hay que hablar un poco de español si vives aquí :) It’s quite a long story how we ended up here again but we love it here. It just means I have to commute back to the UK (and other places) a lot, but that’s fortunately easy to do from here and most of my coaching is now online…

  • Mi espanol es mucho poco caca. Sounds cool. What part of Spain?

  • Kim Chandler

    Marbella – the “jewel” of the Costa del Sol in the deep, dark south! We see the coast of Morocco from our closest beach :)

  • I live in the city now in a sky rise. Was in Munich in February.

  • Hi,

    Thanks for such an informative article. Being a vocalist its very important tips for me . Appreciate your work. Keep Posting!!!

  • Rob

    They don’t post anymore. They quit. I do see that Kim’s page sells weight Lose products now. Why are these people selling weight lose products? Anyways, I produced a warm up course and it has sold over 22,000 copies in 162 countries. Here is where you can learn more about that. http://bit.ly/WarmUps20

    Thank you VC, your so awesome.