Starting a rehearsal : Vocal warm ups and exercises

Jules Addison - Choirmaster

If you come across any website which talks about singing, at some point there will be a discussion about vocal warm ups.  I’ve even known some singing teachers to say you can suffer a serious injury if you do not properly warm up the voice.

Broadly speaking when you are putting together a set of warmups, there are three elements to consider.  The body, the breath and the voice.  I usually approach all warm ups in this order.

1. The body

Anyway who has seen some of the recent Commonwealth Games in Glasgow will have probably seen athletes doing some sort of warm up before their event.  Often you see runners stretching or perhaps running up and down on the spot just before the race.  I’m quite sure they will have done a lot of other warmups prior to a big event but that last bit of stretching is all part of it.

It’s the same when singing. A choir rehearsal is actually quite physically demanding – or at least it ought to be!  So it’s therefore a good idea to prepare your body physically for what’s about to happen.  And actually, if you’ve come from work or are a little tired from the day’s events, it’s even more important to have a proper warm up.   There are any number of exercises you can do at this point from simple stretches to light aerobics to increase blood circulation and energy.  

2. Breathing

Breath support when singing is incredibly important.  You should think of breath as the power supply for your voice.  A very simple breathing exercise involves taking a deep breath in and then repeating the invoiced sounds of th, ff, sh, or ss. These are known as fricatives. You can also slowly relase to any of these sounds too. This will help breath control when singing.

3. Singing

The third basic element of the warm up is the voice itself.  There are almost any number of things you can do at this point. Starting by humming then moving onto short scales, arpeggios. These can incorporate a variety of sounds, vowels, open sounds, closed sounds and neutral syllables such as mah or lah.

To conclude the warm up it’s sometimes a good idea to sing through a known song so the vocal muscles are completely ready for the rehearsal.

Summary

The above is just a very brief overview of the warm up process before a choir rehearsal.   Probably the most important thing to consider is adopting some of the warm up techniques you learn in choir rehearsals at other times.