Time for voice lesson and my young student is so excited to perform the song that she’s worked on all week long. She has memorized the words and has been practicing with her CD and she knows that she can hit all the notes perfectly. It’s a song with a lot of range and we’ve gone through several exercises to be able to sing it right, and finally she gets to sing it for me to let me see how much she’s progressed.
I sit on the piano place my fingers on the keys as her eyes light up in excitement waiting to hear the first chords of her new song, already breathing deep so she knows she can muster up the breath needed to last through her first long phrase. I turn to her and say, “Open up to your warm up page, we’re starting with exercise 3.” Her face drops to a horrified expression as she lets out an audible, “Awwwww, but do we need to?”
Time Is Always An Issue with Voice Lessons
As expected, most voice students do not warm up before voice class. This is expected. We all have busy schedules and sometimes we forget how to warm up our voices. Admittedly, it can be a little boring if you can’t remember exactly what to pay attention. Then it feels like your humming or singing “la la la” forever. Maybe it’s because you just came from soccer practice or school or maybe just forgot. We all must remember that the voice is a machine of muscles, tendons, and air. The voice is not a piano, a trumpet or violin; it is an organic machine that needs to stretched and prepared like dough for a perfect pizza. A weight lifter wouldn’t tackle a 300 barbell without getting his body ready, and neither should a vocalist.
Like Lifting Heavy Weights When You Wake Up!
Trying to sing without a proper warm-up can cause damage to the voice. That damage is not always immediately seen. When the voice is not warmed up, we try to sing through the obvious tension that hasn’t been worked out, which can tire out our vocal cords and make the tension that much harder to release. We’re never supposed to sing with tension on our throats. Tension is what you feel when your neck tense up while singing. If you sing too long with tension on your throat, your voice will become tired. Also, with too much tension for too long, your voice can form nodules, which are like the calluses on your fingers when you write for a long time. This is why warming up your voice is important. And more importantly, that you warm up in a comfortable tone and sing easy on your voice.
Save Time With Warm-Ups
A warm up takes a smaller amount of time when done properly. Just like when you exercise you want to start easy, not forcing yourself into high notes or uncomfortably long phrases. The best way to start is with a hum in a comfortable range, breathing and changing notes slowly. This helps make sure that your ear is listening and your notes are level, not changing while you try to sing. Climb up slowly until you reach the first signs of that tired feeling, stop and breathe. This is how warming up should begin, becoming more difficult as you continue.
The warm up is important because it allows you reach your full range and helps remove tension and whatever else is stopping your voice from being its best.
As always, keep practicing.
Article by Burdett Rice, Atlanta Music Teacher.