The human voice is a muscle, and like any other muscle, before exercising it you should take time to warm it up. In exactly the same way you see sports men and women stretching and “limbering up” before running a race or going onto a sports field, you need to do a similar “warm up” with your voice before singing.
How long should warm ups take?
I’ve been in a number of choral societies where the first half an hour is given over to various warm up exercises. Personally I think this is a little excessive. It’s not wrong and certainly won’t do you any harm. But I remain to be convinced that 30 minutes of warm ups will make a significant difference compared to say 10 minutes.
What are the main benefits?
As I said earlier, the voice is a muscle and as such it’s very important to warm it up before you sing as otherwise you could end up damaging your vocal chords. Yes, potentially serious business this whole warm up thing! The main thing is to start off gently. Remember this is a warm up so for the first few minutes you need to do gentle exercises. Effective vocal warm ups don’t take long and can help you to avoid injury!
Do you just need to warm up your voice?
In short, no! Perhaps the most important thing before singing is to do a number of vocal warm ups. However, there is also a lot of benefit in doing some other exercises before you sing. The two most important things to consider when singing, are breath control and posture. A number of exercises which help posture, for example stretching, will not only improve your singing, but also help to “wake up” the choir. After a few minutes of even light stretching and “fun” exercises you should find the choir more alert and therefore ready to learn the music.
What do vocal warm ups involve?
There are an almost endless number of vocal warm up exercises. The most common ones involve humming and scales as well as lots of different types of breathing exercises to help with breath control. Ultimately there are no rules so you can make up your own exercises should you wish to. Incorporating different words and sounds (eg vowels or words such as “zing”) with well known tunes can help to make warm ups more interesting and will keep your choir inspired.
When should you warm up?
Everytime you perform or rehearse, without exception! Failure to properly warm up the voice could inhibit progress when learning how to develop your singing skills and may also lead to injury. However, here lies one of the biggest misconceptions of vocal warmups.
There are choir members all over the country who diligently go through the warm up process before choir practices every week, but I’d be prepared to bet they don’t do it any other time!
Why not? What is it about choir practice which warrants a warm up compared to other times. Remembering the voice is a muscle, then like all muscles it needs regular exercise. On the basis that most people will talk a fair amount every day its probably safe to say the voice gets a fair amount of exercise. I run a ladies choir and, trust me, their voices get plenty of exercise (I will probably be in trouble for saying that!).
However, given this fact, on the basis that you would normally warm up before undertaking other forms of exercise, then it seems only fair to warm up your voice each day. You don’t need a piano, you don’t need any music. Just spend a bit of time doing some of the exercises you cover during choir practice. In the long run this will do a lot of good for your voice and will help you to improve your singing as well as significantly reducing your chance of injury.