Warm up your voice/vocal cords before singing

Edited by Ian Gabriel T. Tolledo, Eng, Lynn, Graeme and 9 others


Skipping warm ups before you sing puts you at risk for multiple vocal problems, and can result in poor vocal health, which equals poor vocal performance. Everyone who sings knows that proper and effective vocal exercises are crucial to maintaining the condition of your 'pipes' and the quality of your voice. The way you prepare your voice before singing can mark the difference between a flop and a perfect performance. This article will discuss the proper steps to performing voice/vocal warm-ups before singing.


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    Before you even start your singing exercises, you must make sure that you are breathing correctly. Always inhale deeply and exhale slowly expelling all the air before you start. Yawning helps to open up your throat and helps you develop good resonance. Below are some breathing exercises you can do.
    1. Breathe out through your nose, releasing all the air from your lungs, once you feel that your lungs are completely empty, try relaxing your stomach muscles. Now open your mouth and let the air flow in. Do this step again" but this time, release the air and put your tongue on the roof of your mouth and let out an "sss" sound. See how long you can maintain it. This exercise will warm up your different vocal muscles.
    2. Relax and close your eyes, spend some time breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. In actual singing, you must inhale through your nose and exhale through both your nose and mouth. While breathing in, imagine the air going down into the deepest part of your lungs, and keep your shoulders relaxed. When breathing out, maintain your inflated shape and breathe out gradually until your lungs and stomach feel as empty as possible.
    3. Count to four and breathe out while bringing your left ear down to your shoulder. Now count again to four, breathe in and bring your head back up to the starting position. Simply repeat with the right ear.
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    Warming up using scales is common for singers and performers alike. It is popular because it works and is not very difficult to remember. Warm up by simply going up and down a major scale, adding new notes over time at the top. Do this until your voice is ready to hit higher and higher notes. This trains your body to remember correct breathing and use of good posture. Never rush into scales. Doing so, will not warm you up faster but will just hurt your voice.
    1. Sing half-scales, and use the vowel sounds "oo", "oh", "ee", "ah", and "eh".
    2. Sing half-scales, and use vowel sounds + h (good for stressed vocal days), like "hoo", "hoh", "hee, "hah, and "heh".
    3. Sing half-scales, and use vowel sounds + m, like "moo", "moh", "mee", "mah", and "meh".
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  3. 3
    Watch liquids
    Warming up requires that you take care what you put in your mouth, especially if you are singing for a long duration. Never drink icy cold water or drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea, etc.) and avoid using nicotine. Moreover do not take any carbonated beverages, or thick fluids like milk and chocolate, as this will impede your singing ability. Try some herbal teas or room temperature water. Lubricating your voice will enhance your singing voice during warm-ups.
    Warm up.jpg
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Dos and Don'ts

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    Here are Some Dos:
    1. Exercise your complete available vocal range, which includes your falsetto if you're a male.
    2. Start by humming sustained notes, using correct singing strategy behind pursed lips.
    3. Warm up your tessitura first. You probably know better than anyone the range you're comfortable with. Stay within your singing range for at least the first five minutes when warming up.
    4. Practice 50 percent scales ("Do" to "So" inside solfeggio), emphasizing your tuning and involving intervals of notes.
    5. Include one or more exercises that will combine the transformation of vowels with consonants. Try the following: "zinga-zinga-zoo, zinga-zinga-zoo, zinga-zinga-zinga-zinga-zoo", and do-mi, do-mi, so-fa-mi-re-do, along with "bahdy-bahdy-beddy-beddy-beedy-beedy-bohdy-bohdy-boody-boody-behdy-beedy-bah". Sing the do-re-mi-fa-so variety with one particular note for each syllable.
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  2. 2
    Here are some don'ts
    1. Don't begin warming up by singing outside your respective range, as well as your own tessitura.
    2. Don't start out at high or low volume; an organic mezzo-forte will suffice for the first few exercises.
    3. Don't spend more than 10 minutes warming up. Overexertion may begin wearing down your voice.
    4. Don't spend a lot of time warming up ahead of a performance.
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Your voice is like an instrument, and you should treat it as such. It works in synergy with different bodily systems to produce the right tone, pitch, resonance, color, range, texture and quality. In fact, experts emphasize that the singing voice should be a combination of mind and body working in harmony to bring out your best voice and your own distinctive vocal quality. Even your bone structure can affect your vocal quality. A vocal warm up or exercise is important in order to stretch and explore your vocal range and eliminate certain glitches or mistakes that could cause poor vocal pitch or sound. There are many singers that possess different styles of singing - some are pitchy, chesty, or breathy. Some of these are actually caused by certain misconceptions in vocal training or technique.

Vocal tone and quality should be clear, well modulated, defined, and steady, which requires proper postural balance and alignment, as well as correct breathing. Although many people think certain raspy or irregular sounds make a person's individual style and tone distinctive, but certain breathy sounds actually can be damaging and unhealthy for the vocal cords. Inflammation and redness can be observed on the vocal folds with the wrong voice alignment. This is also the culprit for vocal fatigue experienced by some untrained singers.

Tips Tricks & Warnings

  • Do not put too much pressure on your vocal cords, as this will hurt your throat.
  • Singing is all about relaxing your throat and upper-body muscles.
  • Don't rush into warming up. Let your vocal cords warm-up naturally.

Questions and Answers

How do you know when you are effectively singing in your tessitura?

The tessitura is a musical term that generally refers to the most comfortable voice range of any particular singer. Within this range is when a singer's voice is at its best timbre and tone quality. Simply put, these are the notes a person is most comfortable singing. Here are the signs that you are actually singing in your own tessitura:

  • Consistency of the timbre of your voice.
  • Strength behind the notes being sung and projected.
  • Fuller, less strained and more open sound in the quality of voice.
  • Most comfortable singing, with no strain and stress for the singer in reaching the low or high notes.
  • Most pleasant sounding voice; usually strong and dynamic.

During the tessitura your voice will sound completely perfect with no cracking or dropped notes during your singing. The only person who knows this comfort zone is you. While your are singing within your range, all the notes will be easy to sing - both the low and high notes, and you won't be straining your voice to reach them.

What does it mean to empty your lungs during a vocal warm-up?

The breathing mechanism of the body works on its own, but with singing, it must be perfectly controlled. Here are some tips on how to properly empty the lungs while doing vocal warm-ups:

  • Check proper body posture. You must have proper back and hip alignment, legs are straight and feet apart, abdomen should be flat, shoulders down and chest up, and face forward. Having the ideal singing posture not only allows you to produce the right notes, but also makes you look fabulous on stage.
  • Control your breathing. Breathing while singing is different from the routine in and out breathing throughout the day. You should be consciously in control of your breathing mechanism when doing vocal warm-ups. This is begins with inhalation, followed by suspension, exhalation (phonation), and then the recovery stage. You must control your breathing until it eventually becomes a conditioned muscle reflex after some time.
  • Open your mouth wide. Different song arrangements require specific vocal energies and controls. It is ideal to open your mouth wide to allow proper release of sounds and enunciation. This is done by relaxing your throat by imitating a yawn.

Many vocal coaches, experts and singers recommend you do vocal warm-ups and sing with the use of 'empty lung technique'. It is important to breathe properly and steadily in order to provide maximum support and hold necessary to produce the appropriate vocal sounds. Every inch of muscle fiber is important for vocal stamina and power. Emptying your lungs is important, so that the vocal folds are piped together and minimal air is released which produces the ideal singing voice. It takes a great amount of discipline and constant training to be able to perfect this vocal technique. The diaphragm, larynx, throat, trachea, mouth, lungs, and vocal cords work together to enhance your vocal string. The breathing in and out mechanism when emptying the lungs is highly vital for proper voice intonation and dynamics.

It is a method of breathing out the air that is in your lungs. You can do this by simply breathing air using your mouth to empty your lungs, or specifically the air in your lungs.

To empty your lungs simply means to speak or breathe all the air out of your lungs, until you cannot push anymore out. To see what I mean just exhale air from your nose or mouth until there is nothing left to push out. Now when you feel a slight pressure in your chest you can stop, they are almost entirely empty, no need to push it any further and risk injury.

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