What is a singing warm up? What does it do? It might seem an obvious question, but it’s important that you understand what your warm ups are designed to do, in order for you to make the transition from beginner, through to intermediate, through to advanced.
1. Improve your muscle coordination
First and foremost, your warm ups enable you to improve and coordinate your muscles. It’s just like training for dance or athletics. If you can’t coordinate your singing muscles, you’ll find yourself using tension or incorrect muscles, or too little or too much breath pressure.
When you are practising I want you to think about how you’re coordinating your muscles. Where are you not coordinated? Where is it breaking in the middle? Are you getting into the top stretch of the voice? Where are you off pitch? Are you lifting your chin to the ceiling?
2. Teach you how to tune into pitch
A good warm up practice teaches you how to tune into pitch. Learning how to listen to your inner ear is what warming up is about.
So what is pitch? Pitch is when you say, “I can’t hit the notes”. But where is the note? And where are you going to hit it? We don’t even realise that the language we use is telling us that we are seeing this from an outside-in perspective, when really it should be seen from an inside-out perspective.
You’re not going to find a really exceptional singer with a major pitch problem. Why? Because they know how to listen. They’ve been paying attention. They’ve been doing it consistently. They know what they’re aiming for and they’re developing their oral skill.
Your outer ear is the one that you’re trying to look up to see – looking for notes that live on the ceiling! But of course they don’t live on the ceiling, they’re only ever vibrating and resonating, and living in your own head. It’s just that when you get to hear the sound, it’s already bounced back off the walls around you. That’s the speed of sound in physics. You’re never listening to sound that you’re making. You’re only ever listening to sound that you have created. So let that one sink in as a bit of physics in action for you.
Close your eyes and hum a few notes. Can you hear the sound in your inner ear?
Watch the video for exercises you can use [it will start playing at 03:43] >>>>
3. Help you focus on the sound and the feel of your voice
You learn to sing by feel first, and then develop the understanding to back that up. As a singer you start to know where you feel different sounds. You grow to understand the movements, the feelings and sensations in your body. You’re doing that based on pitch, and feel, and balance. It’s a little like being on a bike: you just know which movements to make (and there’s no way of doing that unless you are actually on a bike). Your warm ups will help you get to a point where you can really feel your voice.
Your aim is to be able to use your voice as a tool – to understand the mechanism and the movement of that mechanism. If you warm up and practice in the right way, if you ever lose your voice, if you understand the mechanism and the movement of your voice, will understand how to get it back.
4. Help you focus and prepare mentally and physically
An effective warm up routine helps you to really get to know your voice, tune into it and focus on what you need to do to improve. It’s a space to remove all your negative thinking and prepare mentally for your practise session.
Your warm up should be working your breathing, working your posture, working your body. It’s bringing your voice into balance. You have to listen, feel and coordinate. That’s the whole point of warm up exercises. The process that you have to do is fall in love with it, so it becomes a joy not a chore. You want to get to a place where that whole thing starts to work into balance.
5. Improve your tone, range and stamina
Effective warms up will help to improve the quality of your tone, your stamina, your range and your strength – over time.
The problem is when you want that in a heartbeat, when you want it handed on a plate and when you want someone to wave a magic wand. This is a process, and there is no fast track to get you there. Regular practise, beginning with an effective warm up, is the foundation you need to build a strong singing voice.
Looking for more support, guidance and encouragement with your singing practise? Join us over at the Online Singing Academy.
I want to talk to you about a brilliant (and funny) post that was put in our Online Singing Academy Facebook group.
Watch the video >>>>>
Or here’s the scannable version:
I started the Online Singing Academy in February last year, and this week I’ve given myself time to sit back and reflect on how it’s going. Who are the people I’m working with? How have they been helped? What are some of the journeys that they’ve gone on? And where are they right now?
And this week one of our academy members shared a very funny post in our private Facebook group. I laughed my socks off when I first read it – and so did everybody else, because not only was it true for this person, but when I shared it with my private one-to-one clients they all smiled a wry smile, and admitted that they often experienced similar.
I’m sharing the post with you here with the author’s permission. I think it will probably speak for itself, in terms of:
- The mind games that we play with ourselves
- The incredible power thought has in shaping our reality.
This is what the Academy member posted:
I’m so grateful that this person posted this. Because isn’t that the mental journey that all singers are on, whether they are being coached one-to-one, or learning online?
Now what caused that song to actually work well in the end? Was it just the exercise?
Not necessarily. What exercises do when you’re practising (a bit like when you are exercising your body) is that you are able to become more aware of when things are tense. When things are free. The tone changing, clearing up, improving, becoming more precise. The top notes changing. You become able to actually control some of the functions and mechanics of your singing voice. How you listen. How you feel. How you hear.
But exercises are not the magic wand.
The secret is in the the power of thought.
This person was able to just allow their thoughts to be present. They didn’t try and get rid of the bad feelings. They didn’t try and only have good feelings when they were practising. They didn’t hate the exercises, or love the exercises. It was neutral.
Even though they felt like it was the exercises that did it, it was only because they brought themselves to the exercises. They brought their presence. They brought the commitment and the consistency and the just the getting in there and doing it. They didn’t have to bring good feelings.
If what you need right now is permission to rediscover your voice, or to allow your thinking to settle down and to get back in the game, then take this as your permission slip today to do just that!
Until next time, keep getting out there. Keep singing. Keep sharing. Keep showing up.
One of the things that I’ve found with the Academy is that it’s very much about discovering – or rediscovering – your voice, and finding the right way to bring it out into the world.
The magic is not in a guru. The magic is not in a set of exercises. The magic is in supporting each other on the journey that we choose to take when we begin to work on our voices.
We are creating a community of singers that have the courage and vulnerability to share their journey and their struggle with others. And to find affirmation that you are not alone.
If you’re ready to take the next step on your singing journey, click here.
Today, I want to talk to you about singing higher.
Now, I’m not coming at this from a usual angle, so bear with me. What I want to talk about is why we struggle with singing higher – what’s really going on.
Go on YouTube and you’ll see so many videos telling you how to sing higher.
How to belt your notes.
How to sing this, how to sing that.
So much about singing higher and increasing your range.
And yet, you’re still struggling.
With such a huge amount of information out there, why are you still struggling with singing high notes? Because fundamentally, you’re not looking at high notes with the truth of what they are.
When we think of high notes, one of the biggest problems is that we’re imagining all our notes outside ourselves. We hear our sound inside our bones, and as an echo back from the walls around us. We don’t always come to things with the perspective of physics or the perspective of how things really work. But unless there is something physically wrong, the capacity to be able to actually stretch the voice out and increase range is common to all humans.
So, what can you do to prove this to yourself?
1. Lose the baggage
There can be a lot of baggage around the jargon of singing. Even the phrase ‘high note’ has some baggage around it: we imagine that something that is high is out of reach. So what are we likely to do to try and bridge that gap? We’re going to make some effort as if we’re lifting heavy weights. We’re going to strain and stretch.
But is the note actually out of reach? Well, no it’s not.
You need to rediscover how you can make singing easy for yourself by understanding some ways that we use our voices outside of singing. Understanding how the voice works and bringing simple exercises into the mix can help you understand singing in a different way.
2. Do these exercises
Watch the video from 04:23 for the exercises.
When you do these exercises, you notice things suddenly feeling so much more doable – because there’s less thinking. You create those sounds all the time, every day, in your talking voice. Because we don’t think it’s difficult, we allow the voice to work as it was naturally intended. We think the thought; the voice responds and moves into position; we create the sound. We’ve learned it by habit, by copying, by nature.
3. Stop striving
When it comes to singing, you need to stop striving.
Are your high notes really high? Or are they just a new space? Are they just new positions that you need to feel and find and experiment with?
Allow your perspective to shift towards listening from the inside out, and shaping and creating those sounds from the inside out.
Once you’ve got a handle on that and you’re not striving and straining for something outside yourself anymore, you can start to harness your voice in a more artistic and creative manner. And a more healthy one too.
So, until next time, have fun experimenting with your talking voice, with different sounds, and allow that to inform a new perspective on your higher range notes. I’d love to hear how you get on!