9 Best Vocal Warm Up Exercises
Before you set out on a run, you stretch. Before you sing, you do vocal warm-up exercises.
While it may seem unnecessary, warming up your voice can help you strengthen your singing voice and protect your vocal cords for years to come.
We've put together a guide of nine of the best vocal warmups so that you can start training your voice and exercise good vocal health. Let's take a look!
Why Should You Warm Up Your Voice?
Doing vocal warm-ups or singing exercises does a lot more than prep your body for singing. Here are just a few of the reasons why you should warm up your singing voice:
Improve Clarity and Articulation
Professional singers don't automatically enunciate their words and shift perfectly from a half step to the next. It takes plenty of practice and an understanding of how the shape of vowels and consonants affect the overall sound. Warming up your voice builds more clarity so that your listeners can understand your words and pitch when you're performing.
Having great vocals isn't just about a desirable tone or pitch. It also comes down to having great breath control. Singing exercises can also help you build up your stamina so that you can sing longer passages over time.
Warm Up Your Diaphragm and Vocal Cords
Your diaphragm and vocal cords are built up of muscle. In the same way that a runner takes care to stretch their hamstrings before going on a run, you need to prep your voice. Athletes stretch their muscles to prevent injury, you should too.
Improve Vocal Range
Vocal exercises increase the muscle strength around your vocal cords, making it easier for you to glide from one note to the next. It can also help you hit low or high notes with a clear voice by gradually building up your voice's stamina. Exercising your voice helps you gain a better understanding of moving seamlessly between your chest voice and head voice to keep your vocal tone steady and strong.
9 Best Vocal Warm-ups For Singers
Not sure where to start? Here are several vocal warm ups to prepare you for your next practice session or vocal performance.
The Siren Vocal Slide
As the name suggests, a vocal siren involves imitating the sound of a siren of an ambulance, gliding from the lowest note to the highest note in your register, and back down again. Use the siren exercise to promote proper breath support and warm up your full range for performance:
Solfege and Scale Exercises
Stimulate blood flow and start working through your vocal range by singing up and down the scale using solfege symbols. Pairing each note with the hand symbols can make it easier for your body to quickly get from one note to the next:
The Straw Trick
Singing through a straw can actually help you increase your vocal range and help your voice flow more freely. Take a straw and hum through it, working through the bottom of your vocal range to the top. Another fun vocal exercise is to hum your favorite song through a straw.
A hissing exhale is an excellent way to build up breath support. To do a hissing exhale, you'll inhale on a count of four seconds, suspend for two seconds, and breathe out on a consistent hissing sound for twenty seconds. This challenge will help you get your bearings and become more cognizant of how air moves through your body. You can do this breathing exercise just about anywhere, making it great for practicing while on the go.
Buzzing your lips may seem a bit silly, but it can be an amazing way to release tension and prevent strain in the vocal cavity. Buzz along to notes moving up in a step-wise fashion across the piano. If you don't have keys at your disposal, you can use a YouTube video like this one to guide your practice.
Octave Pitch Glide
One of the best practice vocal warm ups is to glide between an octave or two. Start by playing a note on the piano, and then the note an octave above. For instance, if you start on C4, play C5. Sing with a relaxed tone, gliding seamlessly from one note to the next keeping your head steady. Move up and down the piano until you reach the limits of your range. You can sing the glide on a vowel sound like "Eee" or "Ah".
Elocution Tongue Twisters
A simple tongue twister can help you with elocution, or the art of expressive and clear speech. You might try classics like "Sally sells sea shells on the Seashore.", "A proper cup of coffee from a proper copper coffee pot.", or "Four furious friends fought for the phone." This exercise can be done anywhere and helps you build an expressive tone by building clarity.
Jaw Loosening Exercises
Take time to loosen your jaw before you start singing to reduce pent-up tension. Open and close your jaw, and practice singing different vowel sounds that create different shapes with the jaw. For instance, you might sing an "E" and then open up to a tall "Ah" moving up and down the musical scale.
The yawn sigh is an excellent vocal warm-up because it stretches out your jaw and facial muscles along with your vocal muscles. To do this exercise, yawn while making a high to low-pitch slide with your voice:
The yawn sigh helps you prevent putting too much strain on your voice and relaxes any preexisting tension to set you off on the right foot.
Other Ways To Improve Your Voice
Remember that voice training isn't the only way to take care of your pipes. Use these strategies to take care of your voice day in and day out:
Your voice needs to stay well hydrated in order to make vocal folds and switch seamlessly from one note to the next. Drink room-temperature water, not anything that's overly hot or cold. Keep a humidifier running to provide your voice with additional moisture.
Warm Up and Cool Down
Have favorite vocal warm ups and cool downs. A vocal cool down helps bring your voice back down to the speaking register and can help protect your throat muscles from strain:
Take Rest Days
Your body needs time to rest and repair. It's a good idea to take a vocal break in between performances to fully repair your voice. On rest days, hydrate, limit speaking, and try not to talk loudly or strain your voice.
Fuel Your Body
It's important to stay well-fed when performing. Not feeling your best will show up in the quality of your voice. Before singing, avoid foods that may cause excess phlegm like dairy.
Avoid Smoking or Other Obvious Strains
This may sound obvious, but avoid any activities that may place unnecessary strain on your voice like smoking, talking loud, or pushing far past your range in an unhealthy way. To keep your voice strong, you need to take care of your body.
Sing With Others
Learning how to tune your voice with other singers and instruments is key to your success. Join a local choir to continue your music education and hear your voice amongst different types of tone. If you don't have access or time to join a group of singers, record your voice at different pitches and practice layering on top of what you've already created.
Singing lessons are also an excellent investment if you want more individualized attention. In any case, vocal warm ups are important. Try to warm up every time you sing.
Vocal Warm Ups FAQs
Want to learn more? Check out these common questions and answers around vocal warm ups:
Do vocal warm-ups work?
Vocal warm ups certainly strengthen your voice and lay the framework for good vocal habits. Committing to a vocal warm up routine improves breath control, pitch, and can help prevent straining your vocal cords.
Is humming a good vocal warm up?
Humming is an excellent vocal warm up that can get your vocal cords in action without putting excess strain on your voice.
What is the best vocal warm up?
There isn't one perfect warm up, but it's a good idea to do several that feed into the different components around a healthy voice. For instance, you might do breathing exercises, and more pitch-focused vocal exercises before your singing session. You want to warm up your body as well as your vocal cords.
Is it better to sing on an empty stomach?
No, how you feel physically is directly tied to your vocal performance. Take care to stay hydrated, well fed and rested before anticipating any important vocal performance.
Vocal warm up exercises are important for all singers, whether you're a touring act or a casual musician. Use this guide to protect your voice and expand your vocal training to strengthen your skills as a musician.