I started singing for many reasons but the main one was it was just purely and simply fun. I started singing at the age of 6 at the local church choir and formed my first band at the age of 13. This led me to the United States to study my craft for 4 and a half years from the age of 18, performing extensively and song writing. I have trained with some of the worlds most sought out and renowned singing teachers.
Vox Singing Academy has been established for 20 years and I have taught many prominent and successful students with major label record and performing contracts including Dead Letter Circus, Rob Mills, Airbourne , Gyroscope, The Panics, Paris Wells, The Butterfly Effect, Dream On Dreamer, Cut Copy just to name a few. As you can tell I can teach a very broad spectrum of contemporary singing, from screaming to crooning and everything in between.
I’m always looking for new ways and techniques to build and improve our vocal coaching syllabus. “There’s not a day that goes by that I am not developing new and different innovative techniques to push the boundaries of singing and vocal tuition and I want to share as much of my knowledge as I possible with you in these future columns.
How do I warm up my voice?
So let’s start this column with one or most frequently asked questions, how do I warm up my voice?
In simple terms, your instrument, your voice is physical, you are like an athlete, and you use muscles to make a sound. Your vocal chords are two white tendons brought together, then when air is passes through them they vibrate together to make a sound. They oscillate approximately 440 times per second, that’s 26,400 times per minute, and that’s only when speaking, if singing in your higher vocal range the vocal cords can oscillate more than 1000 times per second. That is an amazing 60,000 plus times a minute.
We at Vox Singing Academy gets so many people coming in with incorrect technique and damaged vocal chords, which purely and simply could have been avoided by correct warm-ups, scales and breathing techniques that can be taught in a very short amount of time! This is why it is very important to warm up and cool down before and after you sing, perform or do scales. Just like you would stretch, limber and warm up before and after you play sport and the same thing should be done with you as a singer.
Stand up when singing or doing your scales workout in a relaxed posture. If you are sitting please try to keep your upper torso relatively straight and relaxed. Let’s start by taking a conversation sized breath into the V of the rib cage or what’s known as the diaphragm area. If you feel this area move out slightly that is fantastic, but if it’s not moving that’s fine as well. As we will be covering breathing techniques in depth in next month’s column. It will greatly help you out if you can look into a mirror when you’re doing your singing, scaling and breathing to see and monitor what you are doing.
Stay hydrated, drink room temperature water before, during and after scales and singing. Room temperature water will keep your vocal chords lubricated as we have already spoken about, they will be vibrating together at an extraordinary rate.
For beginners and intermediates I recommend warming your voice by gently humming with the lips closed. Personally in my classes I would do this with a major 5th scale and start at the lowest point of the students range and work my way all the way through to the very highest falsetto (false voice) until the voice naturally stops. If you do not have access to a piano, guitar, teacher or a program that can play this, I recommend that you hum at the lowest point of your voice and begin raising & sliding up slowly towards the top of your for vocal range then come back down your range again in a circular motion. This circular motion is also called in singing in terms “sirening”. Please keep the sound very light and pure. Do not force the sound down or onto the throat. As you go higher gradually tighten your stomach a little bit to support the sound and let the sound resonate (vibrate) to the back of the head or in between the ears as you are going higher.
Please do this for 2 to 5 min. After you do this you should feel that your voice is warmed up, invigorated and stretched out, as you would feel if you stretched are and limbered your body for playing sport. After this I would highly recommend doing some open mouth vowel scales, such as Art, See or Soul. Again on a major 5th or a triad down (5, 3, 1 scale). Do these until you feel YOUR voice is warmed up. After you feel your voice is warmed up, eased into a song.
For my Advanced/ professional students I recommend that you spend 5 minutes doing some mild stretching and limbering up of the body. As we are going to be using most of the muscles in the body when performing. The stretching will consist of some light stretching of every major muscle in the body, but let’s spend a little more time stretching the abdominal and core muscles and loosening up and stretching the neck and shoulder area.
Then I would start with the Ung warm-up exercise for as long as is necessary and until your voice feels limbered, flexible and warmed up. The Ung exercise is the same as the humming exercise except we will block off the back of the uvula (throat) with the tongue to make a light Ung sound. This exercise resonates and circulates warm air around the most important parts of the vocal cords which are the true and false vocal chords.
Then you would continue to do some scales that are going to warm up the specific parts of the voice that I’m about to use in my performance. E.g. if you are going to use a lot of falsetto , do more falsetto exercises, if you’re mainly singing in your higher register, use some higher range scales like crying scales, if you are mainly singing down lower, do some lower range scales, if you’re screaming, do some screaming scales. Warm-up what you were going to use.
Then 10 min before I go on stage would have another light limber and stretch of my body, then very importantly I would proceed to sing the 1st half of the 1st song I am about to sing on stage so that I know I have complete confidence in what I am about to do in 5 min. Then the bottom line is get up on stage and have some fun. That’s what it’s all about in the end, is just having some fun and enjoying what you’re doing.
After the show I recommend a light body stretch and vocal cool down with the hum or Ung vocal exercise, with plenty of water.
Thank you for taking the time to read my 1st column. If you have any suggestions for subject matter that you would like to know more about for write-ups or any questions regarding singing please have no hesitation to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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