Singers are like musical athletes. And what should every athlete do before a big performance? Warm up those muscles, of course! Whether you're a professional or an amateur singer, you should recognize that your entire body is an instrument, and understanding how it works can improve your performance.
True vocal power comes not from pushing it, but from using the natural power that is already present in your voice. Freddie Mercury, Adele, John Legend, and Stevie Wonder are all legends who make singing with power look so easy! All it takes is practice and the correct singing techniques. Before we get started, let’s understand why exactly we should hone our voice in the first place.
Importance of vocal warm-ups
In the same way that a runner warms up before a marathon or a dancer does the same before a performance, so too should a singer follow proper steps before starting to sing. Our vocal cords are muscles, after all, and just like an athlete, we must prepare our muscles for the workout and strain they will experience during practice, event, or gig. Warming up your muscles allows them to loosen and relax, which can help you perform better. The more you practice your warm-up exercises, the better you will get. Vocal warm-ups can also help singers smooth out their vocal breaks, practice breathing techniques, and broaden their vocal range.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the best methods, exercises, and techniques for strengthening your singing voice.
1. Focus on breathing
Breath control is the most fundamental voice exercise for singers. It’s common to breathe from the chest while speaking. Singing, however, requires breathing from the diaphragm to give your voice more power, control, and expression. Start by standing straight and relaxing your shoulders and chest. Slowly breathe in through your mouth for five seconds. As you inhale, bring the air deep into your diaphragm. Your belly should expand outward. Then exhale slowly from the same position for five seconds. While exhaling, make a hissing sound. Keep your chest and shoulders relaxed. Repeat this breathing exercise several times.
2. Practice the siren exercise
Another great way to stretch your vocals is the vocal siren technique - to transition through different notes and ranges without cracking your voice. Sirens, also known as "octave slides," sound exactly like their name implies - sirens. A siren means sliding on an "oh" or "oo" from your lowest comfortable note to your highest comfortable note and back down again. If you have trouble transitioning from your chest voice to your head voice, this is a great exercise for you!
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3. Humming & lip trills warm up your diaphragm
Humming is a great vocal warm-up because it puts a little strain on your vocal cords. With your mouth closed, place the tip of your tongue behind your bottom front teeth and hum up and down the major scale. Lip trills or lip bubbles warm up the vocal cords and diaphragm, improve breath control, and reduce tension. The technique involves making a motorboat sound with your lips, causing them to vibrate rapidly. It’s a fun and effective technique since it is similar to imitating the sound of a toy car or airplane. Once you've mastered the basics, you can take it to the next level by adding sound to your buzz by singing short and long notes while trilling - or even complete melodies if you're up for a real challenge.
4. Vowel exercises improve articulation
Controlling the shape of your mouth and tone when singing vowels will improve the clarity of your voice. This exercise also helps with the tone, pitch, vowel shape, and breath control. Warming up by singing through your vowels is an excellent way to focus your tone and energy before diving into your repertoire. When we are tired or distracted, our tone may close up without realizing it, so taking a few moments to consciously focus our tone will result in a much more efficient practice. Sing through the vowels "ae-ee-ah-oh-oo," and try to connect each vowel without taking a breath until you reach the next note.
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5. Practice tongue twisters
When singing, it is essential to pronounce words clearly. Tongue twisters train your brain and mouth to handle difficult syllable transitions. Start practicing short phrases that are difficult to say quickly several times. As you get better, try repeating them at different pitches. You articulate sounds with your lips, tongue, teeth, jaw, and palate. Tongue twisters will stretch these muscles, relieve tension, and improve your voice quality.
6. Flex your face
There are ten groups of muscles in your face and neck. It is vital to exercise those muscles in order to keep them resilient and flexible so that you can maintain control over them. Stretching those muscles on a regular basis will help to keep your vocal cords primed for more powerful singing techniques. Yawning, puckering your lips, loosening your jaw, smiling wide, rolling your eyes, and arching your brows are all actions that can help keep these muscles loose and limber.
Warm-ups are essential for maintaining a healthy voice. Vocal warm-ups should be a regular part of your vocal training, whether you're just starting out or at the peak of your career. Simply remember to practice on a regular basis, warm up your voice before singing, stay hydrated, use your diaphragm, and experiment with different techniques until you find what works best for you.
If you’re looking to hone and strengthen your singing voice - we’re here to help! CommonTime’s teaching artists host live, interactive video lessons and give you the best opportunity to put your voice to practice.
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