The Importance of warming up for singers
All performing musicians know the value of warming up before playing. It gets the blood flowing, the muscles moving, the breath working and the brain ready for making music.
But I think it’s extra important for singers to warm up. It certainly will do all of the above things with blood and breath and brain, but a vocalist’s instrument is the body, and that deserves special care and attention. The vocal cords create the sound that vibrates through the throat and head like the sound from the strings of a guitar vibrate through the guitar’s body. Creating a big, warm space for that sound to bounce around in takes technique and practice, beginning with the warm ups. Also, plenty of air and breath support is needed, via lungs and diaphragm, to push through those cords and sustain the sound. It’s much like a wind player blowing through an instrument. That requires awareness, and that starts in the warm ups, too.
I always warm up before singing, regardless if it’s a performance or a rehearsal. Always. My sound is better, my stamina is better, and I feel relaxed and ready to perform. Warming up a voice is much like warming up any muscle - go slow and easy, stretching as it feels comfortable but don’t hyperextend. Don't hurt your voice in the warm up!
What types of warm ups do I do? A lot of five-note scales (do-re-mi-fa-so-fa-mi-re-do), up and down, in open vowel sounds. I mostly sing “aaahh’s” because it helps me to drop my jaw and open my throat, which creates the best resonance. I warm up in my “head” voice (or falsetto) quite a bit, even though I rarely sing in that register. I’ve found that the better my head voice is, the better my whole voice is. I incorporate ear training in my warm ups as well, going up and down chromatically, singing exercises with intervals, and changing scales from major to minor. (I do all these a cappella, by the way.) Finally, I do exercises that help relax the jaw. It’s amazing how much tension is stored there. That tension keeps me from opening up my throat and creating the best vocal sound. Those warm ups are done either with my jaw as relaxed as possible or as lip “buzzes”, going up and down the scale while buzzing my lips like a motor boat. I use this last one with my students as well, until my student or I start laughing!
Are you a singer? Do you sing in front of people, in a church choir perhaps, or do you just sing in the shower? Do you have your own warm-up ritual? If so, please share!