It is not unusual to see a sportsperson using certain exercises to get his/her body ready for a grueling event. Similarly, vocal warm up exercises are important for a singer to get his/her vocal chords conditioned for a singing session. Even though singing and listening to a good song are surreal experiences, most people fail to accept that singing is akin to any other physical activity. You are using your vocal chords, muscles, jaw, larynx and lungs to produce the different sounds, tones and scales. Putting these organs through an arduous singing session without a warm up session will stretch them beyond their comfort zone causing pain and some instances even damage to the delicate nodes. So a good relaxing session is imperative for seasoned singers and beginners alike regardless of the style of music that you practice.
A good warm up regimen is like a soothing massage it affords the singer the opportunity to prepare for the act not only physically but also mentally. It helps to loosen and coordinate the various muscles which are responsible for vocal production. However it is important to make the warm up session an enjoyable and leisurely event. Rushing through it or trying to warm- up in a hurry just before a show will prove to be counter productive.
Warm up exercises can be classified into various categories depending on the effect they produce and the organs that they condition. However there isn’t an ideal mix of exercises and the regimen you follow should suit your specific requirements. It should be based on your physical, mental and emotional well being. The exercises can be segregated into the following categories:
Relaxation Exercises: A relaxed mind and body are crucial for good singing so many singers include yoga and tai chi in their daily exercise regimen. Start with a few simple stretches to alleviate the tension from the neck, back and shoulders. Tilt your head from side to side like there is a marble in your skull. Bend your head forward trying to touch your chin to your chest and then bend it as far back as you can and also do some shoulder rolls
Breathing Exercises: Breathing correctly and breath control are essential for singers. Start with long deep breaths to warm up the diaphragm. Correct Breathing for singers should include the use of the lower part of the lungs and the diaphragm. A simple exercise to achieve this is deep inhalation and exhalation. Inhale; filling your lungs to the maximum capacity, feel your rib cage and back expand and hold for 4 counts before exhaling. Expel all the air from your lungs by exhaling for 4 counts. Deep breathing is important to give you good support of the voice
Jaw Exercises: The simplest jaw exercise is yawning, do it a couple of times to relax the jaw, tongue, palate and throat. Next you can start with the vowel sound ‘aah’ and sing it in a simple musical scale. Once you have completed the upper and higher notes you can go to the other vowel sounds like ‘ooh, ae, ii, uuh etc and follow the same procedure.
Vocal Strength Exercises: Start by humming to relax the vocal chords. Place your hands on your cheeks and press in gently, the insides of your cheek should touch your teeth, now purse your lips together and start humming the sound ‘brrr’. Try to achieve an even sound for two minutes. Your lips will vibrate but your throat and mouth will relax. Coupling the sound of the consonant ‘M’ with vowel sounds ( Ma, mi, meh, mu, mo)and singing this group of five sounds across scales is another good way to warm up the vocal chords.
Pitch Exercises: You should always start vocal warm up exercises at a pitch that is the most comfortable for you; this is usually the mid range. Singing at the extremes of pitch lowest or highest call for good voice support, substantial airflow and increased pharyngeal space so it is best to start at the mid range and then gradually move towards the extremes. Start by singing a vowel sound in the mid range and moving up and down the scale several times. You can also try slurring between the notes. This will also help you to improve voice strength.
These vocal warm up exercises, if done correctly will warm up the different sound generating organs and muscles and help you to reach your potential as a singer.