Vocal Warm Ups – Tips & Techniques

Top session singer and vocal coach Kim Chandler shows singers the way to effective warm ups.

She’s known around the world for her warm-up exercises designed for contemporary singers.

If you don’t know her, you’ve have heard her.

Kim Chandler’s voice has been featured in numerous films & TV shows and she can be heard around the world on a multitude of radio stations singing their jingles.

We caught up with Kim to tell us the things singers get most right and most wrong when it comes to warming up their voices.

We’d better start by defining our terms – what’s a warm up?
It’s like the body stretches that athletes do before a training session – but for the voice. Vocal warm ups can start with body stretches, but then when you start using your voice, it should increase incrementally in range & intensity.

What are some of the most common mistakes you see singers making with warm ups?
Spending too much time on it! 5-10 minutes is plenty. It’s only the short preparation phase before a vocal workout, not the workout itself.

Does “too much of a good thing” apply to vocal warm ups?
Absolutely! It’s much more about the quality of what’s covered rather than quantity.

Do you need to warm up just before you sing or can it be 2 or 3 hours before?
Just before singing is best.

When does a warm up wear off?
There is no strictly definitive time that I’m aware of, but I’d be concerned if much more than an hour had passed between the warm-up and a performance.

How high should you go and how low should you go?
This is largely dependent on your voice type and the style you sing. However, I recommend sliding up & down the vocal range in order to give the voice a good stretch out, going lower and higher than you intend to sing.

Is there an ideal place for a vocal warm up?
Most singers warm up in their dressing room or band room. I’ve even seen singers resort to warming up in restrooms or going out to a parked car for privacy. I’ve also seen singers do strong singing into a cushion, towel or pillow to dampen the noise.

Are there places to avoid when you do your warm ups?
Yes, when driving a car! As much as it may be convenient, warming up in the car isn’t ideal because the posture adopted whilst driving isn’t appropriate for singing, you’re also competing with engine & road noise and more importantly, you should be giving your full attention to driving, not be distracted by singing.

If you are singing two shows in the same day – do you need to warm up before the second show?
A little checking in with the voice before the second show would be advisable.

Some say there are 3 warm ups: Body, Mind and Voice – do you agree with this?
Yes! We singers are an integrated whole after all. The mind runs the show – the body & voice follow. All three should all be actively engaged in the whole performing process, including the warm-up.

You recommend warm ups to fit the genre you’re singing. Is there ever a time to ignore the genre you’re singing?
There are many reasons I recommend doing vocal warm-ups and voice-building exercises in a style-specific manner, but the main reason is musical relevance. I want singers to be able to see the point of the exercises and enjoy doing them. It helps with compliance and motivation I find.

Is there a warm up you can do in public without attracting too much attention?
Hmm, yes. I’ve been known to do hum ‘siren’ warm-ups (sliding up & down my vocal range) whilst walking down busy streets on the way to a gig or recording session. Because my mouth is closed, people aren’t entirely sure where the sound is coming from – brilliant!

Not too long ago you had one of the most demanding vocal gigs in the world, singing dozens of songs a day as a part of Sky One’s “Don’t forget the Lyrics” – other than warming up properly what did you do to sustain yourself?
Yep, that was my most challenging gig to date! In the rehearsal phase, we rehearsed 600 songs in six weeks(!) and then went on to record up to three shows a day (12-14 hour days) for three series (37 episodes). I’m pleased to report that, miraculously, I didn’t get sick or ever get a tired voice. That came from being in good vocal condition, having a robust vocal technique to rely on, eating as well as I could, drinking a lot of water and getting to bed at a reasonable time –with the exception of the after-show party of course! (This show is currently being re-broadcast on Sky One).

Kim Chandler is one of the UK’s top contemporary vocal coaches. She has a busy private studio in London and her clients include well-known artists, artists in development, professional singers and other vocal coaches. She is the President-Elect of the British Voice Association, lead coach at Abbey Road Studios corporate events and creator of the popular “Funky ‘n Fun” vocal training series.

  • alexander

    All that you say is true.

  • Guest

    Are you kidding me? blue and white text on a blue and white background? cant see the text people.