professional vocal warmup

Professional vocal warmup – 5 effective exercises

A lot of singers don’t want to waste any time with boring warm up exercises. Practicing scales up and down, don’t make any sense to them, when they “just want to sing”.

If you take singing more serious and want to progress and achieve certain goals, I can only advise you to start your singing every day with a professional vocal warm up.
Not only will you perform much better, but you will also protect your precious instrument.
In this article I will talk about the best warm up exercises I know and how you can put them into practice right away.

It’s optional to be professional

james hetfield vocal warmup

When you take a closer look at professional singers, you will find that most of them do vocal warm-ups before every show. In order to fulfill a tight schedule with 100+ shows per year, there is simply no way around keeping their voice healthy and well-trained. Those who don’t, often end up seeing their surgeon.

James Hetfield from Metallica, for instance, blew his voice singing hard metal over the years. After facing massive vocal problems, he hooked up with a vocal coach for the first time in his life. In the documentary “Some kind of monster” you can gain some insight into his warm up routine, he uses from then on. Suffice to say, he’s still on stage touring around the world.

Even, if you’re not (yet) a professional singer, you should set the highest standard for your vocal success.

Benefits of a proper warm up routine

If you can discipline yourself to a warm up routine, the benefits will follow instantly. Firstly, singing with a well warmed up voice is so much fun. It’s like surfing on a perfect wave than swimming for your life.

  • The muscles, you use for singing, are sufficiently supplied with blood and oxygen.
  • Your vocal chords are stretched.
  • Your palate is flexible and you have an increased vocal resonance.
  • What you actually feel is, that your voice have a much better placement and singing is easier.

Beyond audible vocal benefits, singing warmed-up helps to protect your voice and keeping it in good shape for the rest of your career.

That’s how you gonna do it

A comprehensive, professional vocal warm-up should comprise various exercises to address different aspects of the voice. I recommend practicing 5 exercises in the exact order:

1. Humming: If you’ve never done that before, think of the sound of a bee. When humming, you should feel a breezy sensation in your throat, mouth and nose. Do it very lightly over a scale of 1-2-3-2-1 (e.g C-D-E-D-C). Start at the bottom and go higher to the middle of your voice and back again.

2. Buzzing: This exercise is a real secret to improve placement of your voice. It’ll take a while to get it right, but it does so much for the voice placement. Try to imitate a robot. If you do it right, you’ll make a very nasal sound. Take this sound and do the same scale as in humming exercise. Be careful that the robotic sound only comes from your nose and not your throat. That’s key.

3. Vowel exercises: Now take this buzz-feeling and connect it with a vowel. Start with “i”, continue with “e”, “o”, “u” and “a”. Sing a scale of 1-3-5-3-1 (e.g C-E-G-E-C). Start at the bottom of your voice, then go higher to the middle.

4. Krah-Krah-Krah: Another exercise you won’t find very often in any singing course. Aim of this exercise is to stretch your palate and open up your throat. Key is that you produce the r-sound with your hard palate at the very back end of your throat and not your lips. For imagination, think of the sound of a raven. Again, it’s important to do this very lightly. With every “Krah” you try to go more and more backward your throat. Scale is 1-3-5. Go as high as you can, to the very top of your voice. Switch into your head voice as soon as necessary.

5. Octaves: That’s the last one. Choose your favorite vowel (mine is “A”) and sing a scale of 1-3-5-8-5-3-1 (e.g. C-E-G-C-G-E-C). Start at the bottom of your voice and go as high as you can in your full voice. If your voice breaks or flips, go back down again.

singing scales

Congratulations, if you’ve made it through your first professional vocal warm up!
Take a rest, drink a glass of water. Now sing your favorite song and enjoy it.

Quick and dirty

Even if the whole routine should be your standard warm-up, sometimes it happens that there isn’t enough time for all exercises. In such a case I would recommend reducing the routine to

1. “Humming”
2. “Vowel exercise” using only the “i”
3. “Octaves” using only “A”

If you don’t have any time at all just do the “Humming” as an absolute minimum warm-up

Conclusion

Implementing a vocal warm up routine as a habit every time before singing, will serve your voice in many ways.
Besides resulting in improved singing abilities, your voice will also keep in healthy shape throughout the years.
I can only highly recommend sticking to it and therefore pave the way for a bright vocal future.

What’s your favorite warm-up?

4 Replies to “Professional vocal warmup – 5 effective exercises”

  1. I was in chorus as a kid for a few years and I remember the vowel exercises and octaves. To this day I can’t through a song without yawning. I listen to my daughter humming all day, she loves to sing and loves music. I’ve heard of singers blowing out their voices and having to cancel concerts. I think a vocal coach is essential and I’m surprised that they don’t have one as part of the crew. My favorite warm up is the vowel exercises. Where can I find the documentary “some kind of monsters”?

    1. Great to hear about your singing daughter. She can be happy that her mum can show her some good stuff 🙂
      Keep encouraging her. It’s always sad, when children stop singing at some point. I’ve linked “some kind of monsters” in the text with the Amazon page, where you can buy it. It’s a very interesting documentary that shows a fragile and sensitive side of Metallica you would have never expected. It was a changing point in their career, after bass player Jason Newsted left the band and they were struggling with producing a new album. Really liked it!

  2. This makes so much sense. Warming up for singing is really no different than warming up for working out, or playing sports. You need to ease into it a bit, so you don’t injure yourself. I am honestly surprised it took James Hetfield so long to hire a voice coach, I would think that is pretty standard practice with musicians. Especially someone like him who is probably pretty hard on his vocal cords. It’s great you are providing a resource for people to follow here, I can tell you are very passionate. Very interesting read, thank you for sharing your insight.

    1. Hi Steve, thanks for your comment. I think that especially in the Rock genre, when young singers/bands become famous, they don’t care about singing technique very much. Often they are natural singers, who never had any training, because the voice is there. After some years heavy touring takes its tall and they’re getting problems. Finally, they have to re-learn singing. Besides Hetfield that also happened to Axl Rose, Scott Stapp and many more.
      And yes, you’re true. There are many analogies to sports in particular. Warming-up, training, using they right technique.

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