Warming up before you sing is super important to having a killer session.
For starters, it gets you into the right singing mood, and also gets your voice ready to belt out very high-pitch, nuanced tunes.
And this is not just for beginner or intermediate level singers, but for professional artists too. We all need a solid voice warm up routine to get ourselves ready to actually execute!
You have heard of mega superstars like Beyonce and Rihanna going for rehearsals even days before their performances, and on the actual day of their show, right?
Yes, that is how important a vocal warm up routine can be, and you have to ensure you do a warm up before every singing session.
As a comparison...
Right before a physical workout session, you get your body ready first by doing a warm up, right?
For swimmers, this is a couple of stretches to avoid getting muscle pulls in the water, and some easy laps to get their body into the mood and environment for training.
In the same way, getting your vocal chords stretched and relaxed before singing will go a long way, since they are also muscles that require training just like all the others in your body in order to perform at their peak. If done on a regular basis these exercises can increase the abilities of your vocal range, your confidence on stage by reducing your tension, and keep your vocal chords all intact too; you will not have to risk cackling or a voice break on stage.
Another important reason to make sure you get your vocal warm up routine in is to make sure you do not mistreat your voice, then end up having to go in for expensive corrective vocal surgery, or even just altogether losing your voice.
Learning how to sing correctly can be tricky, but having these vocal warm ups in your arsenal can make the process much smoother.
The best thing about these warm ups, is that they are super quick and can take you less than five minutes altogether.
A lot of people fall into the habit of breathing from the top of their lungs, meaning they are not getting the most power possible from them.
The way to achieve a proper breathing technique, is to make sure you are relaxed first, because a tense mood will result in your voice coming off all shaky.
Breathe normally, making sure to have your shoulders and chest relaxed. Hold on to your tummy to feel if it is moving up and down, and not your shoulders or chest.
Keeping good posture is key during your vocal warm up routine, since you get proper air flow into your lungs which are literally your support system as you sing, and therefore give you good sound.
Your head, all the way down to your back should be straight, as if in a line, whether you are seated or standing.
If standing, keep your feet flat on the ground with equal balance on both of them. Each part of your body should be in a straight and congruent line.
In case you are seated down, then do the same thing, but with your back off the chair, as if you are on the edge of your seat.
Yoga is absolutely perfect for you as a singer, and the simple reason is that it is one of the most efficient ways to get your whole body aligned and relaxed.
It also encourages you to get into other healthy practices, which are also beneficial to your vocal chords, for example diet.
Consider incorporating yoga into your vocal warm up routine at least twice a week, and before your shows too.
It is among the only ways to get in a full body work out and stretch that will leave you all relaxed and ready to conquer that stage.
4. Jaw Release
Remember the point about tension messing up your whole sound?
Well, it applies to your jaws too, and is the reason why it should stay relaxed.
Your jaw is where your voice comes from (obviously, right?), so take good care of it. You can do this by massaging it, or exercising it by slowly opening and closing your mouth.
Read Next: Adding Grit and Rasp to Your Voice
5. Drinking Warm Liquids
It is common knowledge that cold drinks can bring you down with a flu or cold, which will cause your voice to become all cracked up and scratch, plus singing will really hurt your throat.
Keep as far as possible from cold things, like ice cream for example.
Instead, take in a lot of warm fluids- since hot ones might burn your throat, or relax your muscles excessively and make your mucous membranes swell inside your pharynx- but warm drinks will clear up your systems and pipes.
Try infusing herbal teas in there, like mints and rosemary, and see how clear your voice will become.
6. Scales Implementation
The same way you do not expect to be super strong on your first day at the gym, or super fast on your first day taking a jog.
First of all, make sure you are breathing properly, and try raising your voice slowly up higher and higher through the octaves till you get to your highest.
Do not force your voice to reach a certain level, as you will only end up hurting yourself.
Definitely one of my favorite exercises for warming up and just getting a better singing voice overall.
7. A Massage Does Wonders!
The massage is meant to relax your body and get rid of any tension you might be feeling, and is mostly for your face (Though there is also no harm in getting a full body massage, the more relaxed the better).
You can start off by slowly rubbing your forehead, going down to your cheeks, nose, then finally your chin and jaw.
All the while, make sure to maintain small, circular movements, and softly cover every inch of your face.
If you are feeling up to it, you can also get up in your hair, and give your scalp a bit of a rub down. Cover all bases of your head for the best results!
8. Head Rolls
Head rolls are meant to ensure that your neck is not stiff at all.
Start by dropping your head towards your chest, then slowly swing it left to right, kind of like a pendulum.
Then push it behind towards your back, and do the same sort of pendulum or swing movement.
You can finish this process off by doing a few round movements, slowly rotating your head in circular motions. Be careful, however, not to bend your head too far back, or front, and end up hurting your neck.
9. Shoulder Rolls
Shoulder rolls work almost the same as head rolls, in terms of the technique and logic behind the exercise.
Make sure your shoulders are relaxed, first, then move them up and down in a circular motion, or in a back and forth way.
Get rid of all that tension in your shoulders and general chest area. You could stretch out your whole body like this too.
10. Motorboat Sweeps For Muscle Loosening
You can make a motorboat sound by pressing your lips together and then letting air escape through your mouth (we've all done this at some point).
Make sure to do this in one relaxed breath too, and make the motorboat sound as you exhale.
Repeat this exercise three times, increasing and decreasing your pitch on each one. Start on a different pitch with each sweep, and test out the higher and lower part of your vocal range.
11. Tongue and Lip Trills
A tongue and/or lip trill is done by placing the tip of your tongue on the back of your top teeth, then as you breathe out, let your tongue vibrate.
Follow the steps explained above for the motorboat sweeps for mouth muscle loosening, and warm up your range as a whole as your tongue loosens!
12. Tongue Twisters
You know how sometimes you can stumble on your own words as you sing, and end up ruining the sync of the whole performance, even though you knew the words perfectly?
Well, there is a way to make sure this does not happen to you. Tongue twisters...
You know, those sayings that school-children love to drone on with? Yes, those annoying tongue twisters - they're actually amazing for warming up your vocal chords!
Get some that are fun and easy to say, then you can practice on them wherever you are, on the train, in the shower, etc.
Go from easy short ones to some that are a bit longer and more complex.
You can find tongue twisters in many children’s books, or even online.
The logic behind this vocal warm up routine is that if you can say the tongue twisters with ease, then your lyrics should really be a breeze.
13. Exhale On a Hiss
Exhaling on a hiss is a breathing exercise that helps you regulate your breathing, and make sure it comes from your diaphragm and not your shoulders or neck when singing.
What you do is inhale for a certain amount of time, then exhale making a hiss or 'sss’ sound.
Try doing this on different timings so that you can fully regulate your breathing pattern and learn to control it while singing, especially when hitting those tricky high notes.
14. Straw Technique
The straw technique is also another way to regulate, as well as train, your breathing patterns.
You simply exhale or hum through a straw, with your body completely still so that you focus on your breathing.
You can follow the hiss pattern, or hum, along to a song you know.
Feel free to inhale through the straw, but in case you feel light headed, do it outside.
You can try to hum a song you will be performing soon, and trust, after you are done with this vocal warm up routine, you will be good to go.
Also do not bite on the straw, but instead place it between your lips so that the air you breath out leaves through the straw.
15. Lay on Your Back Technique
Lie on your back, then try breathing.
Slowly, at first, and once your pattern is regulated and you feel that you are doing it from your diaphragm (this position will force you to anyway), then start singing.
This way, you train yourself to always breathe from your diaphragm, even when singing in an upright position.
16. Vocal Warm Ups - Specific Sounds to Mimic
'aa- ee- ii- oo- uu’
Using your vowels to practice is a good way to get your vocal chords in shape.
It helps you get your tones and energies focused.
Feel free to start from any vowel tone, and work your way around to the others.
Try not to breathe till you get to the next vowel, and so on.
Appergios serve two purposes as a singer; being a solid vocal warm up exercise, and also to help assist you in ear training.
As you sing them, focus more on moving from one pitch to the next smoothly.
You can sing appergios on vowel sounds, or you can add in your own phrases or syllables.
• Ha- ha- ha
Ha ha ha! Yes, just as easy as laughing.
This vocal warm up exercise is especially perfect for singers looking to improve their chest power and endurance, and increase their vocal range.
Allow for spaces in between each note, and sing them from your chest.
Remember to try and improve your range each time!
If you need any help with learning how some of these vocal warm up routines are done, then I suggest you look at some more articles on my blog or check out some tutorials on YouTube, and learn how to do them well.
Again, as I like to hammer home constantly - practice makes perfect, most especially for crafts related to music.
If you really want to take your music and singing seriously, you could employ the use of a vocal coach to help you perfect your tune mastery.
But just like with every warm up or workout, the biggest piece of advice I can give is that you do not push your body.
I am not telling you to overdo anything, and I really suggest a gradual implementation of singing training. Don't be doing these vocal exercises all day, or you'll have a bad time in the long run!
Now, with this in mind and all these tips at your disposal, you are most definitely ready to get serious with your vocal training and trust that your vocal chords will hold you through till the very last tune.
James is an ex-writer for Music Grotto who focused the majority of his writing on the musical skill development content on the publication. His 20+ year career as a singing and vocal coach provided insightful content for the website, and his continued thirst for development in guitar and piano playing helped create some excellent skill development content for the publication.