Have you ever tried to speak first thing in the morning before you had a chance to drink a glass of water and get your body moving? If so, did your voice give you some kickback? You know, sound a little groggy, or come out like a whisper? Or maybe, your voice is always ready to perform at its best. If that’s the case, please share your secrets with me. However, most of us have to get up and start moving before our bodies and voices will fully cooperate. And if you’ve ever been in a gym class, you know that athletes should warm-up before they exercise. Well, vocalists are athletes. As athletes, vocalists must warm-up physically and vocally. In this post, I will talk about the benefits of physical and vocal warm-ups, as well as give several examples that you may want to integrate into your practice routine.

    Physical warm-ups help to prepare your heart, lungs, and muscles for a full workout, and anyone who sings professionally can tell you that singing is a workout. Physical warm-ups help to prepare you for optimum breath management by opening your body up and making it possible for air to flow in an unobstructed way. This easy air flow also promotes oxygenation of the blood, which helps to keep the heart healthy. In addition, physical warm-ups decrease tension in the muscles that can cause strain and discomfort in your voice and allow you to sing and speak freely. These are just a few benefits that physical warm-ups provide to vocalists.

    You may be wondering what warm-ups would benefit you because different warm-ups prepare you for different exercises. Ballerinas warm-up differently than weightlifters. Basketball players warm-up differently than swimmers, and so on. I have listed a few warm-ups below to get you started.

    The main kind of warm-up I want talk about is stretching. No matter what kind of athlete you are, stretching is (or should be) a big part of your routine. For each stretch that I list, you should hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds for it to be effective.

    Chest Opener:

    1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
    2. With your arms straight, clasp your hands together behind your back.
    3. While your hands are still clasped together, slightly lift them away from body.
    4. After holding your position, relax your arms.
    5. Do four or five repetitions of this warm-up.

    Side Arm Stretches:

    1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, and your arms relaxed at your sides.
    2. Lift your right arm, palm facing the ceiling or sky and stretch it up and slightly to the left.
    3. After holding your position, bring your arm down to your side and relax your right arm.
    4. Then do the same thing with the left arm.
    5. Do four or five repetitions with each arm, alternating the arms each time you stretch.

    Neck Stretch:

    1. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart, and your arms relaxed at your sides.
    2. While facing forward, place your right hand on the top of the left side of your head.
    3. Gently, pull your head slightly towards the right side.
    4. After holding your position, relax your arm and put your head right side up.
    5. Then do the same thing with your left hand.
    6. Do about three repetitions with each hand, alternating sides each time you stretch your neck.

    Shoulder Rolls:

    1. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart, and your arms relaxed at your sides.
    2. Lift both shoulders up toward your ears, then slowly move them backward in a circular motion.
    3. Continue until you come to your original position.
    4. Repeat several times in the same direction.
    5. After you are finished rolling your shoulders backward, roll your shoulders forward.
    6. Repeat several times.

    Face Massage:

    This is pretty self-explanatory, but I will give you a few pointers.

    1. Use the tips of your fingers to massage your temples.
    2. Then, massage the area known as your mask.
    3. After that, massage your jawline.
    4. Use your thumbs to massage the area under your tongue.

    In addition to physical warm-ups, vocal warm-ups are a must for optimum vocal health. Just like physical warm-ups help to prepare your body, vocal warm-ups help to prepare the vocal cords and the other muscles involved in singing. Some warm-ups help you with breath management, agility, diction, etc. I have picked a few that have been beneficial to me and my students.

    Lip Trills:

    There are several benefits to lip trills. For example, they help relieve tension in the vocal cords. They can also help vocalists with breath management. In addition, they help to open your throat and prevent vocal strain. All of these benefits point to a healthier voice and a more beautiful vocal tone.

    1. Make sure your face muscles are relaxed. It’s very difficult to do lip trills when your face is tense, that includes smiling.
    2. Put your lips loosely together, because you don’t want any tension.
    3. Then inhale through your nose, and with your lips still together exhale through your mouth.
    4. The air flowing through your lips, will cause them to open and close rapidly.
    5. When done correctly, you should feel a buzzing sensation that will make you want to scratch your nose, and upper lip. (Resist the urge.)


    Humming has similar vocal benefits to lips trills. It helps the muscles in the face, neck and shoulders relax. It also causes the mask (nose, upper lip and front teeth) area to buzz or vibrate, which helps you identify your resonators. Humming for singing is a little different than your everyday hum. To prepare your body to hum, try the following steps:

    1. Sing a comfortable pitch on an “ah.”
    2. While remaining on the pitch, slowly close your mouth and maintain the “ah” feeling.
    3. Your lips should be closed.
    4. Your teeth should be slightly apart.
    5. Your tongue should be relaxed and touching the bottom front teeth.
    6. Your throat should be relaxed, and open.

    A variation of the above warm-up is:

    1. Hum on the 123454321 of a major scale.
    2. Then go one half step up and repeat step one.
    3. Continue this as long as you like without straining your voice.

    Tongue Twisters:

    Tongue twisters get the muscles in your mouth moving and help with articulation. When starting to work on a new tongue twister, take it slow and be sure to pronounce every word. As you become more comfortable with the tongue twister, go a little faster. Continue to increase your speed while making sure that you pronounce your words clearly. I have listed a few of my favorite tongue twisters, but feel free to use some of your own.

    1. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?
    2. Red letter, yellow letter.
    3. Yellow leather, yellow leather, yay.
    4. Rubber baby buggy bumpers
    5. Selfish shellfish.

    As stated earlier, these are just a few warm-ups to get you started. I will add more warm-ups and exercises in future posts. If you have any comments, questions or warm-ups that you’d like to share, feel free to comment below.


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