At the beginning of each voice lesson I teach the first question I often ask my students is this: How did your practicing go this week? *Cricket noises*
If the student mentions that they did in fact practice I follow up with what pieces did you practice and did you warm-up before your practice session?
Almost always the student confesses that he/she did not warm up… and then I go onto my soapbox about why to warm up before you begin to sing your repertoire. Below is my frequently asked questions I get from my students about warming up.
So why warm-up anyway?
The most important reason to warm up is to address your vocal technique and encourage good habits in your songs, such as articulation and breathing. Without warming up, you have neglected to address your technique and warm-up your entire vocal range before jumping into (in the case of all-state) rangy and complicated professional choral music.
By warming up, you can address any issues or vocal flaws that your voice teacher/choral director has pointed out in lessons while maintaining and furthering progress in your vocal development. Without addressing your flaws before singing, you are not creating good habits, just engraining bad ones. I am constantly reminding my students when they get frustrated in a lesson that they are still warming up and cannot expect their voices to do what they are fully capable of until they are warm.
How long should I warm up for?
You should feel at ease mentally and physically throughout your warm-up. Not taking your time might make you vocally fatigued if you rush into singing the highest part of your range. Take your time and do at least 10 minutes of focused and varied vocalises. If you are sick, I recommend taking a slower and slightly longer warm up of at least 15 minutes focusing on exercises that promote good breath support and well-balanced resonance.
I do not recommend warming up for longer than 15 minutes continuously. The voice is a muscle and if you wear it out before you even get to your repertoire, you could cost yourself valuable practice time while recovering from fatigue.
What should I do for a warm-up? Should I use youtube to find videos with vocal warm-ups?
If you take voice lessons, you should do the same exercises that you work on in lessons to help you grasp concepts in your technique. I suggest writing down your vocalises in advance so you don’t forget during your warm-up or simply Recording your lessons and playing them back. Losing track or making it up as you go along can affect the flow of the warm-up (you don’t want to start and stop). Below is a sample warm-up for those of you who don’t take voice lessons. Using vocalizes your choir director uses that feel good and promote varied vowels, speeds, and articulations are good, too!
Sample Warm-up (raising/lower by half-step on each):
- Fast lip trill on descending 5-note pattern
- Descending stacatto pattern going to upper middle of range and descending to low
- Legato descending pattern on pure vowels
- Legato ascending/descending pattern (vary fast/slow speed)
- Arpeggio (1-3-5-1-5-3-1) or fast scale on vowel sequence
How high or low do I warm up?
You should warm up to the edges of your comfortable range. As I say to my students, warm up a little higher or lower than is easy for you. The highest part of your warm up should happen at the end, after warming up your middle voice, while mostly doing fast vocalizes that range close to an octave in range. The lowest part of the warm up should go to the bottom of your usable range, but not to where you have to fake or croak out the note.
To sum up, yes, warm-up before you start singing your all-state music. By warming up you will be able to approach your music with consistency that gets you into a routine to help you sound your best.