Singing takes you higher, louder, lower and asks for you to stay in those ranges in a way that speech does not –says Jeannette LoVetri
There is no “best way” to warm-up, but it is important to get your voice started before you sing.
The purpose of a warm-up is to gently get your voice ready to sing by sending increased circulation to all the muscles involved in helping your voice do more than conversational speech requires.
Here are some of my top tips:
1. Getting Started
Start in the middle of your pitch range, singing lightly and easily. Sing simple scale patterns (five notes major scale) going up first and then down on vowels.
Do not go to your highest or lowest pitches. Return to the same pitch range again, several times, each time using a new sound.
Lips trills and tongue trills are good but you can also hum as long as it is comfortable.
Change the musical pattern to a slide (glissando) over a fifth, going up and down, ascending in pitch a bit higher and going down lower with each successive exercise.
2. Posture and Breathing
During this time, pay attention to your posture. Make sure you are standing straight and tall and that you feel comfortable in your “tallest” stance.
Inhale with the idea that you are breathing down into the bottom of the lungs, which extended down into the lower part of your ribs.
While you are singing, try to keep your ribcage expanded (it will want to collapse as your lungs deflate) and pull your abdominal muscles slowly in and up. Keep singing while you work on all of this.
3. After 5 Minutes
After you have been singing for about 5 minutes, sing vowels that make you open your mouth (ah and oh) on major triads, or octaves and sustain a moderate volume throughout.
Let your jaw relax as you open your mouth, and allow your face to be comfortable but not “dead”. Look for sounds that feel easy to do and sound are pleasant and unforced. Use moderate volume.
Then, try your highest pitches, looking for them to be light and easy and short.
Also go down to the lower pitches, again, looking for them to be easy and unpressured in your throat.
Any sounds are good, but use all the vowels: a, e, i, o, u and a variety of musical patterns.
You can then go back up and sustain some sounds for a longer duration. Do the same with the low pitches after that.
4. Wrapping It Up
After about 20 minutes you should feel warmed enough to sing a performance.
You can try singing one of the songs from your set and see how it feels. If your voice isn’t happy, do some more easy warm-ups.
Keep in mind that singing takes you higher, louder, lower and asks for you to stay in those ranges in a way that speech does not.
It also often asks for just one person to use the voice continuously, something speech also doesn’t do.
If you proceed slowly and cautiously, gradually going louder and softer, higher and lower, and practice on different sounds and musical patterns, always looking for comfort and a good sound that isn’t strained, almost anything can serve as a “warm-up”.
Be sure to drink water throughout the day and during your performance. Drinking alcohol or smoking is bad for your voice and can make warming up more difficult.
Finally, do something similar to your warm up (but shorter) after you stop singing in a performance, as a “cool-down”.
My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry
Ellie Occleston - Sweet Child O' Mine
Very beautiful, lovely, innocent voice and singing. It’s important to learn how to breathe correctly for singing and explore what your voice can do beyond it’s own natural way of being expressive. The issue is that the sound is always the same, the delivery of each verse and phrase was exactly the same and the pronunciation of the words was lazy enough to be distracting rather than helpful. Keep working on your singing, as you have made a good start.
Jeannette LoVetri is the creator of Somatic Voicework, her method for teaching Contemporary Commercial Music (CCM), a term she herself created which has since become widely used. She has been teaching singing since 1971, arriving in New York City in 1975 and currently lectures and teaches across the world.