Vocal Warm Ups - Let's get your voice working!

Here are some suggested warm-ups that have been used for years by many singers.

The siren - This warm up should be done daily, several times at least. It teaches the singer how to release into the mix voice, creating subconscious pathways for the sonic vibrations to travel through the body, and up into the head. It is a brilliant low-impact exercise and very useful for starting a warm-up session.

Take the word “sung”, and remove the “s”, you are left with “ung”. In this warm up you will be singing through the “ung”, careful not to allow the velor port to direct any sound out through the mouth. For this exercise, all sound should travel out through the nose. (Try pinching your nose during the siren, it should cut off all sound!) Starting with a low note, sing a series of between 3 and 5 ascending and descending sweeps, all the while releasing higher and higher into your range.

Click to hear a siren.

The lip trill - Also known as the lip bray, or bubbling, is a wonderful low-impact warm up, which I will always use at the very beginning or of any warm up, rehearsal or performance session. After opening the mouth wide into a yawn and giving the lips a good stretch, purse your lips and create a bubbling sound at the same time as singing a vocal tone. It is important to get a good balance between air and sound in this exercise, and to work towards increasing the duration of the exercise. Too much air will not allow the full benefit of the lip trill, but will instead be uncontrolled and simply cause the singer to run out of breath very quickly. This exercise can be quite challenging at first, and often takes time to master. If you are having difficulties maintaining the lip trill, try gently squeezing two fingers into the cheeck on either side of your mouth.

The aim of the lip trill is to learn to control and direct the outbreath for the purpose of the development of a quality vocal tone. The lip trill also stimulates the lips and mouth, flushing them with blood, and warming up the voice nicely. Try singing the lip trill over an ascending and descending major arpeggio (1,3,5,8,5,3,1)The Lip Trill Exercise.

Click to hear a Lip Trill

Humming - Another good way to warm up is to hum. Hum a lot. Gently. Allow your lips and cheeks to be soft and relaxed. All the air is directed through the nostrils for this exercise, and the aim is to allow the vibration of the sound to fill the front of the face - the lips, cheeks, nose, etc. The resonating cavities of the sinuses help to bring the sound alive. It’s important to hum in unbroken phrases. Don’t have an “H” at the beginning of each note as this is likely to add to vocal fatigue. Try humming the following exercise.

1 3 2 3 1 3 2 3 1 3 2 3 1

The numbers used are taken from the steps in the major scale. Therefore 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 is the same in Solfege as: Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do. With this in mind, the Humming Exercise above could also be written as:

Do Mi Re Mi Do Mi Re Mi Do Mi Re Mi Do

Click to hear the humming exercise.

Exercise on “ma” - This is a good low-impact warm up would be singing the word “ma ma ma ma ma ma ma ma ma” over the first five steps of an octave.(1,2,3,4,5,4,3,2,1) We are now starting to develop more intensity into our warm ups. The voice is begining to become warmed up and now we can think about more of a work out.

Click to hear the exercise on "Ma".

Bumblebee - This is another well-known warm-up exercise and it continues its build in intensity. The word Bumblebee is sung over the following steps of the major scale:

1 3 2 4 3 5 4 6 5 7 6 8 7 9 8 10 8 9 7 8 6 7 5 6 4 5 3 4 2 1

Or in Solfege:

Do Mi Re Fa Mi So Fa La So Ti La Do Ti Re Do Mi Do Re Ti Do La Ti So La Fa So Mi Fa Re Do

Click to hear the Bumblebee Exercise.

This is just a small selection of warm-ups taken from an almost unlimited range of possiblities designed to train the voice - the larynx, the diaphragm, etc. Begin the exercises in a low to medium position within your range, complete one phrase and then move up a semi-tone, complete another phrase, move up a semi-tone, and so on. (A semi-tone is one key on the piano, or one fret on the guitar!) When you are just starting out, don’t exercise too much too soon. Pace yourself and don’t exercise past the point of comfort. When you reach the top of your range in one exercise, simply turn around and come back down again until you reach the point at where you started, or below.

Never sing to the point of pain. Singing is for pleasure, it is NOT about pushing yourself so hard that it hurts. If it starts to hurt, Stop! THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!

Here are some suggested exercises for the development of control through strengthening the diaphragm musicle.

Strenthen the diaphragm - To learn about the movement that the diaphragm makes during singing, as well as strengthening the muslce, try this simple exercise. Place your hands on your waistline, not your hips, and then quite firmly say:

Sss, sss, sss, sss, sssssss.

Click to hear the Sss,sss,sss exercise.

Don’t be afraid to put some effort into this practice! Repeat this for half a dozen times or so. You should feel the muscles in your waist pushing out against your hands in a sideways motion. You should also be able to feel it in your solar plexus and also in your back, at the base of the ribs. Don’t worry if you can’t feel anything! It may take a little time before the sense of muscular strength builds.

What we can feel here is the action of the diaphragm as we speak,sing, or bear down in any way, and it is something that is beneficial to learn to control. Let’s see if you can control the muscles in the same way, by tensing and releasing, without making the Sss sound. Make the noise initially if you need to, then try to keep the muscular movement going - tense and release, tense and release - without making the sound.

Learn breath and tone control - Here’s another very beneficial exercise which develops muscular strength as well as increasing tone and breath control:

Choose a note mid-way in your range, not too high and not too low. Now, take in a full breath and sing on the sound “ee”. Starting very softly, hold this note and gradually build the note in intensity until the room is reverberating with the power of your voice. Keep your pitch constant, trying not to go sharp or flat. Once full vocal strength has been reached, gradually begin to decrease the volume until you fade out to nothing. Do this all in one breath! This is important! Take your time with this. It is designed to strengthen your stomach muscles and increase your breath capacity and will have tremendous results if practiced regularly.

Try the exercise on various vowel sounds like: Ah, Eh, Ee, Oh, Oo.

Click to hear the Tone Control exercise.