Warming up is essential before beginning any physical activity, and make no mistake about it, singing is a physical activity. Vocal warmups loosen and relax muscles, thereby preventing strain and optimizing performance. Here are five vocal warmups every singer should know.
The Lip Roll
Sometimes referred to as the lip trill, the lip roll wakes up and prepares your lips, pharynx, cheeks, and vocal cords. Did you ever make a motorboat sound underwater as a child? That's a lip roll. The idea is to close your lips and then push air out in such a manner that your lips open and close quickly. This should be done approximately ten times without sound and ten times in two or three sets while humming.
Warming up with scales is a great way to wake up and engage the diaphragm while also increasing your flexibility and ability to hit and sustain pitch. Begin with your major scale of choice and slowly ascend and then descend one octave utilizing any vowel. Do this two or three times, then extend to two octaves. Continue the vocal warmups using every vowel and if you're motivated, repeat with your choice of minor scale.
Arpeggio warmups are fabulous for loosening vocal folds and flexibility. Begin with four-note major arpeggios ascending and descending chromatically, then extend to two-octave eight-note arpeggios, making sure not to rush. Depending on the length of your vocal warmups session, you may repeat with minor scale arpeggios, always focusing on clarity and proper support.
Long tone vocal warmups can be incorporated with your scale or arpeggio work, depending on the amount of warmup you deem necessary. The idea is to sing a note and sustain it as long as possible and then move on to the next, but make sure the diaphragm is thoroughly engaged and has no throat strain. Long tones awaken and prepare every muscle used in singing, and when done consistently and adequately, greatly enhance the singer's ability to vocalize longer, with more power, and without injury.
If you speak a language that calls for the use of rolled "R"s such as Spanish, Arabic, Italian, or Portuguese, then you know how to do a tongue trill. Tongue trills are excellent for loosening the tongue and jaw, cleaning up articulation, and are essential for classical or operatic singers. Relaxation and patience during these vocal warmups are imperative. Place your tongue behind your upper teeth, inhale through the nose, and while exhaling, encourage the tongue to vibrate while rolling the "R" sound. Do it initially ten times for five seconds without humming, then two or three sets humming the vowel of your choice.
Vocal warmups make every singer's life easier; use them to fulfill your potential.