(How to get the most from your voice)
you rap, sing, belt, scream, croon or perform spoken word, you
will get more from your voice if you warm up first.
thereís no avoiding it. Those who feel itís unnecessary, or
silly, are simply warming up as they sing rather than before.
There is a huge difference, however, when you gradually work
the body up to performance level. Your pitch, range, power,
expression, and most important, your longevity will greatly
in any muscle activity raises the bodyís core temperature. Shocking
the body into action from a cold start triggers protective muscles
to brace against the prospect of injury. Neck, jaw and tongue
muscles lock in place requiring a vocalist to exert extra air
pressure to sing. The tension creates friction which causes
the vocal folds to over heat and swell. Translation: Punching
out the first few songs of the set will make you blow out quicker
and stay blown for most of the next day. Temporary vocal fatigue
might not seem to be much of an issue when youíre gigging once
a week. But what happens when your music "hits"?
the schedule of Emerson Hart, singer for Tonic,
when the bandís song, "If You Could Only See," shot up the charts.
Management kept the band on the road for well over a year, working
five nights a week with plenty of thirteen-dates-in-a-row stints.
Often, Emersonís day began at 7:00 AM with an unplugged song
for a morning-drive show. Then, it was off to various promotions
and afternoon interviews, finishing with a 90 minute set at
midnight. When Emerson called me, he was satisfied with his
vocal abilities; but nervous about surviving his success. I
devised a warm-up plan to prepare him for the daily routine.
sing to warm-up is not as important as how. I recommend the
simplest sounds. Your attention should be on physical freedoms
rather than quality of sound. Release your breath with several
long, low volume hisses. Then, loosen your face and neck while
humming with a wandering, siren-like, motion. Donít allow your
face to change to reach for pitches. Alternate the hums with
an extended zzz sound and gradually change this to an EE vowel
and then an AH. Keep your melodies sweeping. I donít recommend
singing songs quietly because there are usually tensions programmed
into them. As you loosen up, turn up your volume -- but not
before. As you get louder, stay with an EE or AH. The point
is to wait until the body gives you permission to increase the
load. The length of a warm-up should be in reverse proportion
to the need. Long gig -- short warm up, but if youíre doing
a single song on The Letterman Show, you should warm
up and then sing for an hour for that, trusted, middle-of-the-set
part about warming up is making the time and finding a place.
I used to be embarrassed to make the funny sounds required in
front of others hanging in the back room -- if there was one.
Now I choose the dirty looks over the frustration of having
a set end just as my voice is waking up. Be inventive; head
out to the car or van in the warm months or, in winter, hang
in the bathroom or stand in the middle of the crowd if thereís
a band before yours. No one will hear a thing -- I do it all
the time. If youíre running late, warm up while driving to the
gig or rehearsal. The best routine is to warm up slowly all
day. Every chance you get, lightly vocalize on hums and zzz
sounds. Just remember, for any style singing, starting with
a loose, flexible instrument will allow access to your full
potential. Where you take your voice from there, is up to you.
Baxter is a vocal therapist
who offers private and video lessons. To contact him, call:
(800)659-6002. Visit his website at: www.voicelesson.com
with the kind permission of Mark