When you begin learning how to sing, you may come across several styles of vocal warm-ups. Building your breath support is an important part of voice lessons, so spending time on appropriate warm-ups is key. Here’s a great exercise to try, courtesy of Dallas teacher Jacklynn T.:
Singing is a total body workout, and warm-ups as part of a regular practice routine are essential to your vocal health and progress. There are warm-ups for range extension, intonation, breath support and placement, to name only a handful of objectives. As singers, our bodies are our instruments; therefore, I like to begin my vocal warm-ups with some type of rhythmic physical movement to reinforce appropriate singing posture and foster an awareness of the breath.
The following warm-up is fantastic for awakening the body and building breath support at the same time. Greg Jasperse demonstrated a variation of this warm-up each morning at the Vocal Jazz Workshop at the University of North Texas this past June. In my exploration and application of it, I have found that it encourages the internalization of rhythm, reduces performance anxiety and fosters a focused practice/rehearsal mindset.
First, find an open space away from furniture or other potential obstacles. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, chest open, arms resting at your sides, and wrists and fingers free of tension. Inhale slowly through the nose over four counts while maintaining a relaxed and open throat. Draw the breath downward, allowing it to fall deep into the belly. As you inhale, sweep your arms out and up toward the sky so that they are above your head by the fourth count. Next, exhale over four counts with a gentle “shh” sound. Arms should reach up above the crown of the head, down and away from the body while you begin to bend at the waist and fold toward the floor. Then, inhale again through the nose over four counts, gently lifting at the waist (only slightly, not coming back to standing position just yet) while inviting airflow into your lower back. Exhale over four counts making a “shh” sound, and explore folding deeper toward the ground. Finally, inhale to come up, gradually stacking the vertebrae in your spine atop one another and letting the arms come to rest gently at your sides. Exhale over four counts as you come to rest in your original standing position. Repeat for several cycles.
You may choose to exhale silently through the nose if you would like and add the “shh” sound as you become more comfortable with the movement. If you don’t want to “shh” you can buzz (by loosely placing the top teeth on the lower lip) or a “vuh” to further activate the breath. It is also fun to practice this warm up while listening to music of varying styles, tempos (i.e. a slow four count to a ballad versus a fast four count to a pop song) or time signatures.
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Jacklynn T. teaches singing, violin, Broadway singing, music performance, music theory, and opera voice lessons to students of all ages in Dallas, TX. Jacklynn joined the TakeLessons team in July 2012, with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Texas Tech University. Sign up for lessons with Jacklynn, or visit TakeLessons to search for a teacher near you!
Photo by Bengt Nyman.