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Quick Vocal Warm Ups that Work Wonders

Aug 17, 2007
If you've ever had a recording session early in the morning (many of you who are on-air talent will identify with this), you've really got to warm up those pipes to sound professional and alert.

Coming from a classical singing background and years of 7 a.m. choir rehearsals, I find it really helps if you are up at least one hour before you are expected to perform.

If you're awake 60 minutes before you hit the mic, you'll be alert (hopefully!) and also may have already spoken to someone, using your voice a wee bit to prepare for your warm up. During that interval, you may have possibly eaten breakfast, had a drink, showered, and dressed for the day.

Waking up earlier for an 'early' session does more than stabilize your vocal folds, it gets you in form mentally as well.

OK, so that's getting up an hour before. How about these ones?

Have you ever tried humming?

A loose, gentle modulating hum is a nice way to ease in your facial muscles as well as create space for resonant sound. It gets your resonators going which in turn will help restore your vocal tone quality after sleeping for several hours.

One of the favorites at the Don Wright Faculty of Music was The Hum closely followed by lip trills.

On one occasion, a classmate of mine had to run from her residence at the main gates on Richmond Street over the bridge at UWO doing lip trills in the dead of winter as she scrambled to get to her lesson in the Music Building near Talbot College. She sounded great! Now, that's a feat.

Also, another good trick to open up the passages is to descend on a nasal consonant sound. If you are a fan or student of IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet), you know that there are a number of ways you can warm up your sinuses and nasal passages.

Take the English word onion for example. It's quite nasal, particularly the second syllable. The 'gn' sound, as in the Italian "gnocchi" is precisely what I'm thinking about.

Take that 'gn' sound and lovingly stretch it, slide it, and descend glissando style. Go from the fifth down to the root of a scale on that with an 'ah' sound.

Another favorite warm up is voicing anything that ends in a Z, like buzz or fuzz. Linger on the Z to get resonating as well.

Back to some more ideas.

Articulate, articulate, articulate. This is one of the most important aspects of your performance. If you don't articulate or enunciate clearly, no one is going to understand a word of what you are saying.

Here are five tongue twisters that are old hat for some but may be new to your repertory:

1. Unique New York, Unique New York, Unique New York.... (repeat and speed up as necessary)
2. A big black bug bit a big black bear
3. She sells sea shells by the sea shore
4. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
5. How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

One trick to see if your diction is clear is to ask someone who doesn't know you to listen to you speak. If they have trouble deciphering your message, it's time to go back to the drawing board and really start spitting out those consonants.

Well, that may be good for resonators and articulators, but what about range?

Yawning is a good thing. Yawning naturally drops your jaw and regulates oxygen while extending your soft palate. With more oxygen flowing up to your brain, you'll also find that you are more alert. Yawning is one of those involuntary responses produced by your autonomic nerve system.

Have you ever heard of the 'yawn-sigh'?

You open your mouth as if to yawn and slide all the way down from the top of your vocal range to the lowest grumble you can muster. You'll know when you bottom out. Only do this a few times tops per warm up and never start with this one - leave it until the end when you have already exercised your voice.

Now, those are just a number of things you can do to get going with your voice.

It may go without saying, but a good sleep the night before, about eight hours if you can swing it, and a well conditioned, lubricated voice is the best preparation for warming up at the crack of dawn.

If you're a multi-tasker, you could probably fit your warm ups into your morning shower routine. The acoustics will be great and warm water is also a plus.

Just so that we're all aware, these warm ups are not solely reserved for early risers but for any vocal activity at any time.

Also, please note: The sillier you sound and the better a warm up makes you feel, the more elastic, agile and comfortable your voice will become. Have fun with it!
About the Author
Stephanie Ciccarelli is the VP of Marketing with Voices.com, the voice over marketplace hosting more than 8,000 professional voice talents. Stephanie is also the author of The Definitive Guide To Voice-Over Success.
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