Singers are athletes. Just as athletes have a daily routine in warming up their bodies before engaging in sports activities, singers also need to have a daily routine in warming up their voices. The primary purpose of warm-ups is to help stretch the muscles needed for singing without causing injury to the voice. It is generally thought that warm-ups before singing help increase the blood flow to the joints, tendons and muscles and also helps flexibility.
Start your warm-ups in the middle part of your range until it feels easy. Begin slowly and sing at a medium volume. Warm-ups can be sung on any vowel, but start with your “best” vowel and work through them all until your voice feels easy to produce. Since singing is athletic and is so closely tied into how your body is feeling, there will be days that it will take you longer to warm-up. Some favorite warm-ups include:
- “Sighing” or “sliding” between notes. Start with a descending slide of a fifth and then continue with a descending octave.
- Staccato on arpeggios
Once the voice is warmed-up, the singer needs to dedicate him/herself to daily exercises, known as vocalises, that work on specific skills. Since one of the goals for a singer is to sing freely and effortlessly, there should not be vocal tension or strain due to incorrect support or breathing. It is during this part of the singer’s practice that a solid technique can be learned and then later applied to the singer’s repertoire.
These exercises should include some of the following:
- Slow, descending scales which will help with consistency of vowel sounds and help the singer learn to sing sustained passages
- Rapid runs to help with agility
- Exercises using nonsense syllables (la be da ti or ma me mi mo mu etc) to help with diction
- Scales sung on the solfege to help with sight reading
They are often sung on triads (13531 or 531) or using major and minor scales. Any and all vowel sounds should be practiced and perfected.
Daily, consistent practice is essential. Just as an athlete can lose muscle tone by discontinuing workouts, a singer can also lose his/her stamina, agility and flexibility. Make sure that the practice period is used well. Don’t just go through the motions of practicing. Concentrate on good habits and proper technique to insure beautiful and healthy singing.