A new client told us the other day that when she did a YouTube warm-up, her voice was as tired as if she’d been doing a 2-hour gig. That’s not what a warm-up is about! -says Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher.
The goal of a warm-up is to get you ready to work with your voice, not to launch into a complete voice workout. You want to increase blood flow to your vocal muscles to maximise their potential. The muscles are then primed to contract (for lower notes and power sounds) and be stretched for high notes and crossing the gear changes.
Here are our 5 top tips for warming up along with the goals for each one. Overall these should take you 10-12 minutes to complete.
1. ‘Hello Body’
Do some simple stretches or bends – nothing aerobic and no weights – a couple of yoga moves would work well, some Quigong (chi kung) moves, or simple Pilates stretches.
WHY? The voice is housed in the body – if you are physically tense or over-tired it’s likely to impact on your voice.
2. Breath-Voicing Check-In
Using an FF sound puff out a little air – think of a sighing out action – nothing heavy duty. Do it again but make it a little longer and let the FF morph into a VV. Do the FF-VV routine for a couple of rounds on a comfortably low pitch in your voice. If your voice feels in good shape so far, go on to Step 3 Option 1: Moving your voice.
If your voice feels tired, then do 1-minute bursts of FF-VV 3 times with a rest period in-between and check your hydration. Then go on to Step 3 Option 2: The straw for tired or croaky voice.
WHY? This gets your vocal folds vibrating gently. This exercise helps you check in to the breath-voicing relationship, known as ‘phonation threshold pressure’.
3. Movement-Voicing Check-In
Option 1: Moving Your Voice
Make a “mm-Hm” sound just as you would if you were agreeing with your friend on the phone. Think ‘smiling inside’ as if your friend said something slightly funny. You’ll make a small pitch glide when you do this (covering a few notes in your range). Repeat the sounds so that you extend your pitch-glide until you are able to go the lowest note in your comfort zone, and the highest. Keep the volume small, this is not about powering through you range.
WHY? This sequence allows you start working your vocal range from where you are today.
When you’re happy with this go on to step 4: Finding the spaces inside the voice
Option 2: The Straw For Tired or Croaky Voices
Staff writer Kathy Alexander has already written about the value of using a straw to rebalance your voice if it is tired.
Hum down a straw into a glass or bottle of water. Start with short bursts of sound then build to pitch glides. Pay attention to the size of the bubbles: splashing means you are working too hard so aim for a consistent, gentle flow of bubbles.
WHY? This exercise (called the semi-occluded vocal tract) with water creates an extra ‘back-pressure’ useful for singing in commercial styles, without pushing your voice.
4. Finding The Spaces Inside The Voice
Put your right forefinger in your mouth between your teeth, just right of centre. Make these sounds:
Change hands and repeat with your left forefinger just left to centre of your mouth.
Starting on a comfortable note and working up and down, sing these pairs of sounds:
Make sure you cover the range of notes for today’s songs.
WHY? The first part makes your tongue and soft palate move independently of your jaw, getting you ready for singing words; the vowels in the 2nd part of the exercises are a quick-fire way for you to balance and optimize resonating space inside the mouth so that you don’t push the sound out in performance
5. The Finisher
Using a phrase from one of the songs you plan to work on or perform today. Choose a phrase that sits in your mid-range and sing it with the lyrics. Repeat the phrase moving higher or lower by step to work your vocal range.
WHY? This embeds your warm-up by using ‘real world’ song material.
These top warm-up tools help you keep your voice in shape every day.
My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry
Vangelis Polydorou - Hope There's Someone
Great sound and good control, especially moving between falsetto and chest and use of flips and licks. It’s all there vocally! Try engaging your audience more. Decide who the camera represents (an eavesdropper or a best friend). Either ignore the camera completely to create a scene, or use the camera as an intimate friend that you can look away from or into their eyes for the important phrases. We need to feel the emotion you’re going through, rather than watching you get lost in loving the song. Practise two scenarios – the first is a live gig: imagine you are singing the song to 1 person, then to 3 people spread out in the room, then mentally to a large audience in a darkened stadium. The second is the intimate friend/camera who is 20 centimetres away from you. Whichever focus you choose, the song is intimate and your eyes must draw us in.
Why I chose Vangelis Polydorou as a Finalist
We are choosing Vangelis Polydorou to move ahead in the VoiceCouncil competition because of his excellent vocal control and the successful reworking of the song for his own voice.
Voice experts, authors, team-teachers for 20 years, Gillyanne & Jeremy train performers and their teachers to find the most appropriate techniques to sing their best, whatever the style of the song. This Is A Voice: 99 exercises to train, project and harness the power of your voice’. Speaking, singing (opera, rock, pop, soul, jazz, country and everything in between), beatboxing, finding your voice (and someone else’s).
Special Opportunity! Gillyanne and Jeremy are offering a special 26% discount to VoiceCouncil readers for any of their 18 voice training webinars. There are lots of specific topics like Taking chest voice higher, Finding head voice and Troubleshooting breathing. Just use the code VoiceCouncil at the checkout – and the price will go down to under $30 (£20) for an hour’s voice techniques webinar, available online at any time. Just go here for the offer. The offer runs until the end of June.