Taking the time to warm up your vocals ensures you sound great on every note. It ensures you hit the right pitch on each note, while avoiding the embarrassment of your vocals cracking and straining in the middle of a song. The more often you sing the more important vocal warm up exercises are!
The Importance of Warming Up Your Vocals
Vocal exercises are very important when singing because you are using a range of muscles and soft tissues that are very delicate, so they must be treated with care. Not taking the time to warm up your vocals may result in injury and possibly losing your voice.
When singing you use vocal cords to produce sound in your larynx (voice box), with vocal cords being a soft tissue consisting of muscles, ligaments, and a mucous membrane. These need to be stretched and relaxed to ensure your vocals sound at their best, and regular singers use these exercises to help maintain their voice over the long-term.
Think of vocal warm up exercises like any other type of warm up exercise. If you go for a run, it’s important to stretch and warm up various muscles for better performance and recovery, the same can be said warm up exercises before doing weight training exercise.
By warming up your vocals before every singing session, you ensure that all the important vocal muscles are warmed up and ready for singing, helping to reduce mucous and the chances of damaging your voice.
It’s a good idea to dedicate around 10-20 minutes to vocal warm up exercises to prepare your voice for singing and to keep it sounding good!
Different Types of Vocal Exercises
One of the great things about vocal warm ups is there is a plenty of exercises to try out. Some are simple and straight-forward while others require a bit more effort, but they all help to effectively warm up your vocals before singing.
While many vocal exercises warm up the vocal cords and larynx, some are used to stretch and relax other important muscles and ligaments used in singing, such as your jaw, mouth, lips, tongue, diaphragm etc.
We’ve outlined ten vocal warm up exercises that cover everything you need to warm up your singing voice. Some are easier than others but if you take the time to complete each of these prior to singing you will certainly notice it in your performances and as your voice recovers.
1. Breathing Exercise
Your breath is the driving force behind your vocals, so it helps to complete some basic breathing exercises to get things warmed up. A benefit of breathing slowly prior to singing is that it releases tension that may otherwise affect your voice during singing by radiating through the voice box.
Relax your shoulders and chest and then take a deep breath into your diaphragm – your stomach should rise slightly as you inhale.
Exhale from the same position, making sure the shoulders and chest remain relaxed – your stomach should go flat as you exhale.
Continue this simple breathing exercise for 1-2 minutes, focusing on engaging the diaphragm as you breathe. After this, do the same breathing pattern but try using your mouth to produce a ‘ss’ sound as you exhale, doing so for another minute.
2. Jaw Exercise
Not all singers release how much of an impact a tense jaw has on their vocals, so it’s a good idea to exercise the jaw and mouth to help them relax and release the tension. It couldn’t be easier to do either!
Start by placing the palms of your hands just below the cheek bone and then open your jaw naturally. Slowly massage muscles around the jaw and face for a few minutes, rotating your palms to help ease tension in the muscles.
3. Posture Exercise
With better posture comes better vocals, so take a moment to get proper posture before singing. The best posture for singing is relaxed shoulders and neck, which helps to avoid accidental straining when hitting those high notes.
So, stand upright, engage the core, shrug your shoulders and hold for moment. Release and repeat a few times and your posture should be nice and relaxed. This can be repeated during other vocal exercises to ensure you maintain a relaxed posture.
4. Humming Exercise
This humming exercise helps to produce vibrations through the facial bones, teeth, and lips, reducing tension and gently relaxing them. It also works as a good breathing exercise too!
Begin by making a hmm noise in the throat. Keep the mouth shut and slowly exhale while continuing to make the hmm noise, lowering the range as you breathe out. Repeat this about ten times.
Now, do the same exercise but keep your mouth open this time. The sound should be more like an ahh rather than a hmm.
5. Lip Trills Exercise
Great for warming up your tongue and vocal cords and reducing tension, lip trills are also a lot of fun because of the rather ridiculous noise they make. Basically, you’re going to be blowing a raspberry just like little kids love to do.
Start by closing your lips and then slightly pout them, keeping them closed. Exhale through the lips while trilling, which should make the raspberry sound. Maintain a steady breath when exhaling and making the trill sound.
If you want to challenge yourself during a trill exercise, try to adjust the scale of the trill while exhaling by making a b sound using your mouth.
Try starting at a high note and go lower down the scale before going back up, but be careful and don’t push it too hard, sticking with a scale you are comfortable with.
6. Tongue Trills Exercise
This one is similar to the mouth trill exercise but focuses on the tongue, keeping it relaxed while also helping to warm up your voice and breathing.
Place your tongue in the roof of your mouth behind the upper set of teeth. Exhale and trill the tongue so that it produces an ‘r’. Maintain the sound as you exhale and try to change up the pitches if you are comfortable doing so.
7. Siren Exercise
The siren exercise is a great way to gently warm the vocals up prior to singing. It’s very easy to do and will ensure your voice doesn’t over-exert.
To do this exercise, start by practicing making an ‘ng’ sound through the nose. This is easily done by saying the word sung, then focusing on the ‘ng’ sound at the end. Continue practicing this sound with your mouth closed.
Now, make the noise again but this time try to make several pitch sweeps. As you go up and down be sure to match your voice with the appropriate range, practicing both a higher or lower pitch range with the ‘ng’.
8. Tongue Twister Exercise
Articulation exercises such as this tongue twister exercise helps to avoid mumbling so is well worth doing. It’s also good for practicing different pitches and volumes, both of which are a good vocal warm up.
You can choose any classic tongue twisters including:
- She sells seashells by the seashore
- Peter Piper
- Red leather yellow leather
- The lips, the teeth, the tip of the tongue
9. Octave Scale Exercise
By doing two octave scales your vocal cords are fully stretched, preparing them well for prolonged periods of singing. It’s all about starting in a low pitch and going slowly up the scale.
You can use various words for this, but we enjoy using the ‘me’ sound for progressing up the scale.
For going down the scale, you can use either an ‘e’ or an ‘oo’ sound, or a bit of both to really give your vocals a good stretch!
Make sure not to go too hard at the top or bottom of your range – this is about gently practicing your range as you scale.
10. Sustaining Exercise
If you are singing a more advanced song with sustained notes, then it really helps to complete an appropriate warm up. Not being ready for sustained notes is a quick way to fail holding the note for its duration, so practice is certainly helpful to achieve the full note.
For this, you want to start by working on your posture just like with the exercise listed above – keep shoulders and neck relaxed.
Engage your core to keep your lower belly held in and try to expand your ribs.
Now, slowly inhale as you maintain your posture. As you inhale, the goal is to expand your throat and chest. It often helps to open your arms in the same motion, as if you’ve just reacted to being surprised.
Maintain the open position after taking in a breath and stay relaxed. Remember your positioning and posture here as it’s the same as you should be using for a sustained note. Relax and breathe out when you’re ready.
Now, repeat the exact same exercise but this time add in a note. It should be comfortable for you to use, somewhere in the middle of your range, singing the note and sustaining for as long as possible.
Always make sure your throat is open and that your posture is relaxed to help hold the note! Singing Training