There probably isn’t a singer alive who hasn’t asked himself the question: “Do I really need to do vocal warm-up exercises before I sing? The answer is a resounding YES! “Can’t I just sing my song?” you whine (very mournfully). The answer is a resounding NO! “Why”, you ask? “The birds in the trees just sing, so why can’t I?” There are some VERY good reasons.
1. Your body is your instrument. You are not a piano, or a set of drums, or a violin. Your body is not the same every day. You may have lost sleep, yelled at the football game, be coming down with a cold, be under stress, dehydrated, or using a medication. It could be that time of the month, or you’re pregnant, or your dealing with menopause, or a serious illness; or you’re bored, tired, depressed. Maybe your allergies or asthma or acid reflux are acting up, or your back hurts. And on and on. Warming up can help compensate for all the many things your body and emotions may be going through at any given moment. Singing uses the entire body, not just the vocal cords! Doing proper vocal exercises, in the right order and in the right way, help you to get the best control you can of your vocal instrument, in spite of the slings and arrows of living everyday life.
2. Warm-up exercises serve three main purposes. First, they teach you a skill that you need for successful singing. Second, they help you to develop and maintain that particular skill throughout your singing life. Third, they help you acquire physical strength, stamina and breath control. Singing looks easy, but it is deceptive. You need a good deal of physical energy, coordination and air to sing well.
3. An exercise is a specific task, or unit of measurement. When it is performed during your warm-up period throughout the vocal range, both up and down, it calibrates the entire instrument evenly. It also reveals weak spots or problems in the voice. A song melody is random by comparison, and may completely miss an area that you need to work on! A song can also unduly stress your voice if it is in the wrong key, or perhaps too difficult for you at this point in your vocal life.
4. Warming up prevents injury, and allows for optimal performance.
A singer is a performing artist, but a singer is also an athlete. I hear you
out there— “Who me? An athlete? Are you kidding?” No, I’m not!
You are using your entire body to sing, and tight, cold muscles make
for strained, uncomfortable singing. If you were an Olympic skier,
would you even think about hitting the slopes without warming up your
muscles and your moves first? Singing exercises that get you
breathing correctly, relaxing tension in your vocal tract, and allowing
for the free vibration of the voice will keep you from injuring that very
delicate vocal mechanism of yours, while giving you your best shot at
making the most beautiful and dynamic sounds possible.
5. Warm-up exercises build consistency and a real sense of control.
Many singers think of their voice as some serendipitous creature that
does whatever it wants to, sometimes good, sometimes bad, with a
mind of its own. This makes for bad technique, and underlying fear,
because he/she doesn’t know how the voice operates, or what to do if
it doesn’t cooperate. Warming up trains the voice to be consistent and
dependable, and gives you a sense of mastery over what it can do.
That sense of control is priceless, and a huge part of what gives you
the confidence to put yourself out there and perform!
6. Warming up regularly builds discipline, and develops a good
work ethic. Like any other endeavor, and maybe more so, singing
well requires commitment, time, organization, and goal-setting.
Regularly doing your warm-up exercises, rather than jumping right into
your song, is a form of delayed gratification— but with a good payoff!
7. Warm-up exercises help you to sing longer without fatigue. If you
dutifully do your vocal exercises before you sing your songs, everything
will work better, longer, with little or no wear-and-tear on your voice.
Who wants to get tight and tired after only a little bit of singing?
8. Vocal warm-ups take you out of speech mode, and into singing mode.
Many of us have speech habits that run contrary to healthy vocal
production, so singing exercises reconnect you to good habits.
Have I convinced you yet? If you want to be a great singer, or even just a pretty good one, doing your warm-up exercises will set you on the path to
bigger, better, freer, and more beautiful singing, every time. Birds don’t have the demands on their voices that we do. But if you do your warm-up exercises, you will feel as if you’re singing like a bird, with that same freedom and joyous abandon!