Vocal Masterclass: What's Going On? - Part 2

Posted by Faye Streek on 8 June 2016

Any singer knows the benefits of a good warm up but let me quickly run it down for you!

When you first use your voice in the morning, you may find yourself a little croaky, a bit phlegmy (gross but essential) and generally without a perfectly clear voice.
This is quite normal and just means your voice has been resting along with the rest of your body and is equally in need of a good, satisfying stretch, just as our bodies are!

Not regularly warming up can lead to increased hoarseness, more frequent vocal health issues, fatigue and so on. And even if you don’t find yourself with any vocal problems, you are probably capable of a lot more vocal consistency, freedom and expression than you may find yourself giving.
Are you confident in what will come out, when you open your mouth?

Consider for a second how many different facets our voices have. In one day, we may whisper, shout, talk at huge length (one of my problems), cry, sing, shout, scream, hum, shriek and so on.These little muscles work bloomin’ hard!

Start considering your voices as you would your bodies if you were an athlete – you wouldn’t approach anything physical without stretching and training. Equally, your daily warm up also wouldn’t begin with a race. In other words, your warm up shouldn’t just be a song!

Here are a few vocalising exercises to do first thing:
1) Breathing. We will be looking at breathing in next month’s post but it a cornerstone of singing well and should be respected. Gentle, deep, LOW breaths are key. More on that next time...

2) Moving. I will add a physical warm up in also. Singing uses a huge amount of energy and requires a lot of physical engagement so head to toe, get loose! And don’t forget those facial muscles!

3) Vocalising. I want to gently wake up my entire range so I might choose to do lip trills, focusing the sound at the front of my face and feeling the buzzy vibrations on my lips.
Then I hum. Sliding from low to high, ascending and descending, as I feel more able. These are also known as Sirens. Continue these same patterns using different sounds including ‘ng’ and ‘ah’ – these will help you open up your sound.

4) Scales. Even if you don’t play an instrument, try to follow up the sliding sirens with articulated notes. This will help you be more precise in your intonation (hitting the right note exactly when you want to). Think: Do, re, me, etc. It is important to go in both directions too, low to high and vice versa. I might then gently sing a song that uses a wide range before going on to focus on the areas which require more support, such as projection and using different registers – this will be tackled later in the series.

A song such as Amazing Grace is pretty ideal as it involves a fair bit of range. It is also quite wordy which if exaggerated can really help to loosen up the facial muscles and thus improving my diction. It also helps to prepare my heart for the day – doubly awesome!

A constant need whatever the time/place: Hydrate. Don’t get me started on how important drinking water is – just be aware that drinking just before you sing won’t do much good – water always goes to the major organs and systems first! It takes time to get the benefits back to your throat!

This is just the start. If investing in your vocals is something you want to do then I really recommend you read each month but also find yourself a qualified and respected tutor. Also, seek out resources which will help you to continue and grow at home, I have included a couple of links that I use and would recommend.

For beginners (and beyond): http://www.funkynfun.com
For the more experienced: https://vocalcoaching.bandcamp.com/album/gt-vocal-coaching-level-1
Finally, don’t forget! BE KIND – UNWIND!

It is often forgotten but make sure you do a cool down after you’ve sung. You can use similar exercises to those you did in warm up too! And relaaaaax.

We'd love to hear from you! Feel free to comment below.

Faye Streek is a professional singer and vocal lecturer at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM) and is part of the worship leadership team at Kings Church, Eastbourne. www.facebook.com/fayestreek

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