Intermediate - Short & Easy warmup
160 bpm · 03:48
Intermediate - Chill warmup
90 bpm · 07:39
Intermediate - Essential warmup
120 bpm · 06:04
Intermediate - Breath warmup
70 bpm · 13:29
Intermediate - Glissando warmup
90 bpm · 06:08
Advanced - Slow warmup
70 bpm · 10:28
Advanced - extended range warmup
120 bpm · 12:22
Advanced - pitch precision warmup
240 bpm · 09:07
Vocal Warmups: the fundementals
What Are Vocal Warm-ups?
Vocal warm-ups are to the vocalist what warm-ups are to the professional athletes. Just like athletes stretch and build their physique before, during and after competition, singers use vocal warm-ups to strengthen, condition, improve and protect their instrument. The voice is an instrument, and like any other instrument, it requires maintenance to continue performing at a high level.
Just like a set of stretches or lifts help to prepare an athlete for the big game, vocal warm-ups allow singers to walk through the fundamentals of their craft before the big show. Warm-ups aren’t to be confused with performing or practicing songs, they are a separate set of exercises designed to target and prepare the building blocks of the voice; the sounds and techniques that are required for “actual” singing.
Why are Vocal Warm-ups so Important?
Although it might be tempting to jump right into singing that song you like, vocal warm-ups are of great importance for the longevity of your voice and might even become a fun and productive part of your singing session.
If you plan on singing anything challenging, for the sake of your future voice's condition, you should prioritize a good vocal warm-up and besides, vocal warm-ups are fun, and there’s nothing like going into the studio, rehearsal space, or hitting the stage with the kind of confidence a powerful, smooth, warmed-up voice can give you.
8 Essential Vocal Warmup Exercises:
Here are eight of our essential vocal warm-ups, all of which you can try out above, in the ToneGym Vocal Warm Up Tool!
Humming is considered a quintessential vocal exercise and one of the safest ways to begin your warm-up routine. Adding the “H” sound before the consonant “M” puts less strain on your voice. Benefits of humming include: stretching your vocal chords, releasing tension in the face and throat, and breath support. You can even try humming through entire passages or songs in your repertoire.
Tips for vocal humming:
keep your face and throat as relaxed as possible
try yawning first to release tension
position your tongue behind your bottom teeth
hum with your mouth closed
Added benefits to this exercise are stronger resonance and improved vocal tone.
2. Lip Roll
The lip roll is probably what most people think of when the term “vocal warm-ups” is mentioned, and for good reason. Lip rolls or “trills” engage the diaphragm, relieve tension and help get our vocal cords primed for great singing.
To begin practicing this exercise, simply pout your lips, inhale through the nose, and exhale through the mouth. The exhale should come quickly, and feel like a great big sigh! The resulting sound should remind you of a motorcycle engine, as your lips flap together from the fast moving air. Once you’re comfortable with this technique, you can begin coloring the sound and adding different tones, singing scales, and even practicing melodies.
3. Yawn Technique
Like I mentioned earlier, yawning is a great way to relax the muscles in the face and prepare us for singing.
To practice the yawn technique, begin by opening your jaw and yawn like you’ve just come home after a long day. Tilt your head back, and keep the chin and shoulders at their resting positions. Feel your soft palate raising upward and creating space in the back of your mouth. Once you’ve mastered the relaxed yawn, you can add humming, pitch slides and sirens. The point here is to create sound with an ‘open’ feel as a result of the yawn.
In the ToneGym Vocal Warm Up Tool, you’ll find this technique paired with the “Gii” sound. This sound is helpful in engaging the diaphragm, reducing tension in the throat, and increasing lung capacity.
You can also try incorporating some shoulder rolls into this part of your warm-up. The less tension you have from the shoulders up, the better.
4. Open Vowel
Open vowel sounds (Ah, Eh, Ee, Oh, Ooh) are the foundation on which sung language is built.
See... when singers vocalize, pitch is only carried by the vowel sounds. Consonants are closed sounds, and when voiced alone, only produce “noise”, not notes. Yes, the pitches we sing are ALL sung on vowels. Therefore, developing, practicing and perfecting singing vowel should be a top priority for every singer.
The most basic (and also one of the most difficult) ways to work the open vowel sounds is to sing them all on one pitch.
“Ah, ah, ah, ah…”
This can be especially challenging as monotony is unforgiving. This exercise will challenge you to maintain a consistent vowel sound, tone and mouth shape. In addition, the notes will become pitchy as you run out of air, so you’ll also be required to maintain proper breath support.
Next, you can try singing through scales or triads using each vowel sound, then move on to alternating between multiple vowels, either on a single note, or a set of notes or scales.
The “ng” sound, like in ‘English’, is one of the “nasal” consonant sounds. These sounds help us practice singing through our nasal canal, and also give us great support moving into the following vowel sound.
You’ll feel these sounds vibrate right in your “mask”, the bones near the front of the face, behind the nose. You can try shriveling up your nose like you’ve smelled something bad to over-exaggerate the sound at first.
Practicing single notes with these sounds, paired with the various open vowel sounds mentioned above (Ah, Eh, Ee, Oh, Ooh), can help us to engage the vocal cords, practice control, pitch and improve tone and resonance.
We can then move through scales, triads and other musical passages using the “ng” or “mm” consonant sounds.
Ma uses another nasal consonant sound, “Mm”, to practice control, pitch and tonal resonance. This sound combines the nasal consonant with the open vowel sound “ah”. “Ma” can be especially helpful for loosening your jaw and mouth. This can be beneficial in the short-term as well as the long-term. As you incorporate these exercises into your warm-up routine, you’ll be better equipped to hit higher notes over time, and increase your overall vocal range.
Use this sound to ascend and descend through triads and scales. You can also push air out from the diaphragm (stomach) on each syllable to over exaggerate and engage the diaphragm quickly.
Other “Mm” nasal consonant + vowel sounds that you can practice are “Mah, Mee, May, Moh, Moo”.
The “ney” sound is another nasal consonant paired with a vowel sound. This exercise helps with resonance, control, range and especially with a special tone called ‘Twang’. This is crucial for singing high notes with power in your voice. To achieve this ‘Twang’ tone, try sounding like a witch with a long and pointy nose.
Like the other exercises we’ve reviewed, this sound can be used to sing everything from single notes to triads and scales.
Glissando is a continuous slide, upwards or downwards between two notes. This can be used as a warm-up in myriad ways, and is one of the most powerful tools in your warm-up arsenal.
One way to incorporate glissando into your warm-up routine is to practice vocal sirens. Vocal sirens are connected wails that serve to open up the voice, relax the throat and smoothen the voice throughout different pitches.
Tips for performing vocal sirens:
yawn first, relax the face
open your mouth wide and exhale continuously
now try coloring the breath with pitch
start high and let your voice fall down naturally until you can’t go any lower or you run out of air
start at the lowest note in your register and let your voice rise continuously
the effect should sound like a fire engine siren, rising and falling
You can try this exercise using any one of the warm up types mentioned above with the exception of “Ma” in which the jaw movement can be problematic for continuously moving through pitches.
One thing to focus on with this exercise is singing over your “break”. The break is the place in your register where you are no longer comfortable singing in a full voice, and flip into a falsetto as you ascend. This break can be smoothened and eliminated over time through proper training and warm-ups.
Whatever you do, don’t push past the comfortable point in your range. When you push into discomfort at the end of a siren, you’re also lacking breath support. Although it might be tempting, this can lead to vocal strain and limit your ability.
While the nasal consonant exercises above help us to practice control and pitch, sirens help to create a smooth and connected voice. You may have heard terms like “chest voice”, “head voice”, “falsetto” and “mixed voice” before, but these are now considered passé. Human beings really have one voice, and with proper training and regular warm-ups, can connect those different registers seamlessly. Adding glissando to your warm-ups is a great way to achieve complete vocal command, control and connectedness.
How long do you need to warm up your voice?
For total beginners, you should spend 5-15 minutes warming up and your total singing session should be around 30-60 minutes. As you strengthen and improve your muscles, lung capacity, and breath support, you can increase your practice time to between 1-2 hours. In this case, you can warm up for up to 45 minutes.
Best Way to do Vocal Warm-ups
Using the ToneGym Vocal Warm-up tool, you can choose from pre-selected exercises, or craft your own custom warmups, customizing everything from BPM, vowel sounds and repetitions, to articulation and projection type. These exercises can be saved as scenes and ordered into a playlist for future practice.
The importance of proper hydration for a healthy voice
Make sure to drink plenty of water when warming up and rehearsing, and make sure it is at room temperature. Cold water can shock the vocal cords and create unnecessary tension that limits your range and can cause damage.
Contrary to popular belief, hot water (or tea) is also potentially problematic for vocalists. Hot water increases the production of mucus and can create inflammation, producing similar effects. Even adding lemon can also affect your cords, as the acid can drain your cords of moisture. Stick with plain, room temperature water.
Whatever you do, don’t drink alcohol. Alcohol and musicians are seemingly ubiquitous, but some of the greatest singers alive refrain from drinking the juice. Alcohol not only dries out the vocal cords, but it also acts as a depressant on the vocal cords and folds, leading to bad cord compression and poor breath support, which in turn makes you sing flat.
Additional ways to warm up your voice:
1. Try warming up in the shower. The moisture and heat/steam created by the shower is great for the voice and helps with releasing tension. Dryness causes friction, so humidity is your friend.
2. Lay on the floor. This might feel strange, but it will force you to engage the diaphragm and improve your breath support.
3. Add some tongue twisters! Tongue twisters are beloved by actors and vocalists alike, as they help to warm up the facial muscles and mouth, and improve articulation. Make sure to start slowly, as the benefit actually comes from performing the tongue twisters with great accuracy and diction, not from performing them as fast as possible. Here are a few for you to try:
Unique New York, Unique New York, You Know You Need Unique New York
Red Leather, Yellow Leather, Lavender Leather
After a long session of singing, you want to make sure your voice can get back to its best condition. Do so by gently and softly singing in a limited range - no more than 2 full steps (Major 3rd). There are a few vocal cool-down sessions available above, in the ToneGym Vocal Warm Up Tool.
A vocal cool-down is important to make sure your voice recovers properly. In addition to doing a proper cool-down, you should simply practice silence. Recent findings show that silence is the best medicine to combat vocal fatigue, tearing, and stymie the development of nodes and stippling.
The voice needs adequate time to rest after use, even with proper technique. Try to rest 10 minutes for every 60 minutes of use, and don’t push yourself to perform at high intensity, all the time. You’ll likely want to give between 60%-80% during most practice, only amping it up for one run-through, dress rehearsal, or set of takes, and save yourself for performance.
In-depth vocal warm-up explanations:
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