One thing I always communicate to my clients is that vocal warm-ups and vocal-exercises are not the same. Yes, vocal exercises do warm up the voice but not every exercise is there to simply warm up the voice.
When you start singing you want your body, in particular your upper body and the muscles of the larynx and jaw/tongue to be warmed up.
It’s like going to the gym and working on lifting weights. You warm up with some cardio exercises and stretches, then move on to the workout.
Same for our voice, we warm up by connecting the airflow to our voice on a low volume.
Just like you wouldn’t start your fitness workout with heavy weights.
Then move on to adding more volume without losing the techniques we applied in the quieter exercises. In our gym equivalent you would still maintain good technique for your squats even when you add weights.
Roll your shoulders, warm up your neck muscles, stretch your neck, jaw etc.
When you start to vocalize, start in low volume, with a great amount of airflow. This allows the voice to be connected to your airflow, without tensing up any additional muscles.
I already consider the warm-up exercise as a vocal exercise. It is not a simple exercise if done properly but releases tension in the tongue and larynx and is a great building stone for freedom in the voice.
Once you’ve connected your airflow to the sound production of your vocal folds, you cant start increasing the buzz or vocal fold vibration by gradually allowing the vocal folds to adduct (close) more.
What happens anatomically in your larynx when you start adding more volume/buzz is pretty interesting. By allowing more Thyroarytenoid muscle activity, more mass of the vocal folds starts to vibrate, and therefore you create a chest voice-like sound, which is also louder.
In addition your sound can be amplified by properly using your resonance space (your pharynx, oral cavity, occasionally nasal cavity).
Start with increasing the vocal fold vibration on vowels, then move on to syllables without loosing the freedom or interrupting the airflow.
Next, apply the principles of the exercises to a song. You can create exercises to the melody of the song. For example, sing difficult phrases of a song on the ‘aaa’ vowel just like you did with the siren sound exercise. The feeling should be the same, make sure your jaw and tongue are relaxed and your airflow is consistent. Then add different vowels and eventually add back the consonants and sing the phrase with lyrics. Make sure to continue the airflow, even when the consonants might want to stop it.
Why are Vocal Exercises important?
Back to the initial question, if vocal exercises are in fact warm-ups. Answer: Yes and No.
Yes, they do warm up the muscles which are important for singing but I consider this to be a side effect.
The main reason we are doing exercises, is not to simply warm up the voice but to create new habits in your voice and find balance.
Vocal exercises train the tiny muscles in your larynx, and your articulators new muscle coordinations and implant new habits. That’s what going to make you a better singer.
It is easier to create good habits on vocal exercises than jumping right away into songs.
Most of us have a lot of habits accumulated and not all of them are beneficial for singing. When we sing songs it is more likely to go back to bad habits than it is when you do vocal exercises since you probably have sang more songs than done exercises.
So, don’t skip your vocal warm-up and definitely don’t skip the vocal exercises. They are going to create the good habits you need to become a better singer.
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