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Vocal Warm‐ups
By Daniel K. Robinson (2010)

In my last article “Bare Essentials” I discussed many issues that a singer can’t
do without; among the list was Vocal Warm-ups. Actually I’d put it at the top of
the list! Why? Well a vocal warm-up has so many pay-offs for the singer that it’s
hard to ignore as a ‘must do’ discipline.

Now before we tackle the ‘whys’ and the ‘hows’ let’s get something straight –
Warm-ups are a professional discipline. Many singers feel intimidated by their
instrumental peers when conducting a warm-up. I know that when I do my
warm-ups it draws snide remarks (often in jest) which can leave me feeling a
little bit nerdy. I have even had colleagues remark, “Who do you think you are?
Pavarotti.” This friendly banter can intimidate the less secure vocalist into a ‘why
bother’ approach. Unfortunately, when a singer doesn’t warm-up everyone
suffers. The singer suffers because their voice will have reduced agility, stamina
and health; and the band suffers because their singer will simply not perform at
their optimum. The fact remains that your audience orientates to the singer.
Simply stated – if your singer gives a lack-lustre performance then your
audience might think the whole band is off its game.

So what should a warm-up look like? Firstly, it doesn’t need to be fancy. Over
the years there have been many cool exercises ‘do the rounds’ but just
remember that the more complex the scale/exercise the more challenging it is to
do well. Always apply the KISS theory – Keep It Simple Stupid!

A good warm-up will take approximately 15-20 minutes starting with an easy
scale covering a perfect 5th. Choose a vowel such as Ah or Ee and work the voice
over an octave. As the voice starts to condition (you should actually sense a
warmth in the neck area around your larynx) move beyond an octave. You can
use an arpeggio (root, 3rd, 5th, 8ve ↗↘) to do this; and just to mix it up a bit
alternate the vowels between Ah and Ee.

After about 10 minutes of this kind of work (and there are countless
scales/exercises that fit the bill) introduce some sirens using an NG [Sing]. Try to
work the siren through your complete vocal range travelling through your
register transitions (for some singers these little passages might present as gaps
where the voice cuts out altogether).

After about 15 minutes (and only after the voice has been stretched and
conditioned for use) sing through one of your easier songs. Try to pick one that
does not have overly challenging or extreme notes. If you don’t have an easy
piece in your rep list – sing the National anthem! All of this, including the
National anthem should have been done in a relatively quiet space.

© Daniel K. Robinson - 2010 Page 1 of 2


Djarts Voice Coaching ~ www.djarts.com.au

Important point: singing through songs during sound check does not constitute
as a warm-up! If you want the sound check to be representative of your
performance level output (and I can assure you that this is what your sound
engineer is after) then step onto stage for the sound check with a fully warmed
voice. Incidentally, this will also go some way to helping you achieve better
foldback levels during the gig!

Finally, and you’re not going to like this very much, NEVER warm-up in the car!
Bummer. Why not? Well two reasons actually. Firstly you are not in a good
position for singing when seated in a car. Your sitting position reduces your
physical ability to access your entire instrument’s muscular support and the
result of this is reduced breath management which may cause increased vocal
labour. Secondly, and most importantly, the aural environment of your car is
relatively loud. In order for you to hear yourself over the audible levels of the
car you need to sing 20dB louder. My van, while idling and with the radio turned
off, registers 57dB which means I need to be singing at least 77dB to hear
myself. Sustaining this level is counter to the ideals of a good warm-up which
necessitates a slow, even and gradual stretching of the muscles. Singing above
75dB won’t assist those ideals!

Warm-ups aren’t simply a bare essential – they’re an absolute must! A good


warm-up will stretch the muscles and direct blood flow to the larynx. When done
consistently throughout a vocalist’s career warm-ups lead to prolonged stamina
and go a long way towards insuring against vocal damage. Do you regularly
warm-up? Does your band’s singer regularly warm-up? Make it a priority…the
bands reputation may well rest on it!

© Daniel K. Robinson - 2010 Page 2 of 2