Vocal Warm-ups

Baby, it’s hot outside!  

But if you exercise regularly, you know how important dynamic warm-ups and cool-downs are to the success of your workout.  They help to reduce the likelihood of injuries, enhance flexibility and comfort, minimize fatigue, and enhance overall performance. 

Warming up your voice can have the same benefits. Before presentations, meetings, other public speaking tasks, or even simple conversations, a quick warm-up is essential.

 A 10-15 minute vocal warm-up will help you speak with a loud, clear, and pleasant sounding voice. You don’t need to be a professional singer. Just find a cool, quiet space, and give these simple exercises a try.

Just breathe:  Breathe gently and slowly in through your nose, and exhale slowly through your mouth. Feel yourself letting go of any tension in your body. Imagine you are trying to get a candle to flicker. To encourage diaphragmatic breathing, imagine that your nostrils are in your belly! In your mind, say“just ...breathe,” or “let... go,” on the inhalation and exhalation. If you have trouble coordinating belly breathing, place your hands around your rib cage. Feel your back widen on the inhale, and contract on the exhale. Try to make your exhale longer than your inhalation. Be careful not to hike up your shoulders, or tense your neck as you do these exercises. Repeat ten times.

          Benefits: Abdominal-diaphragmatic breathing fuels your voice, allowing you to project and sustain your voice without trailing off at the end of a statement. Simple breathing also helps you focus and concentrate by increasing oxygen to your brain; it can also relax any jittery nerves. 

Yawn and Sigh: Open your mouth wide and start with a slow relaxed yawn, followed by a gentle sigh, "ah."

          Benefits: This exercise opens up the space in your mouth and throat. It exercises facial muscles, lifts the soft palate, and releases the jaw. It also increases oxygen to the brain. 

Lip trills: Gently touch your lips together.  Breathe in softly, and as you release the breath vibrate your lips quickly making a “raspberry” sound (it sounds like a horse!). Try these five times without using your voice, and then try to make a “b’ sound as you produce the lip trills. Finally, glide up and down the scale as you make the voiced trills. Repeat five times. 

          Benefits: Lip trills with our without voice helps to relax your lips and minimizes tension in your vocal cords. 

Tongue trills: Gently put your tongue behind your upper front teeth and make a trilled /r/ sound. Make sure you keep your voice engaged. Try five times and then make the trilled /r/ sound as you glide up and down the scales like a siren. 

          Benefits: These exercises relax the tongue and help with articulation and oral flexibility. 

Sirens: Start at your lowest comfortable pitch, and glide up saying “ooo,” or “eee” to your highest comfortable note, and back down again. Sustain your voice the whole time. Repeat five times.

          Benefits: Sirens improve your pitch range and strengthen your vocal cords. It will help you speak with more variety and inflection. 

 Hum: Say, Mmm-hmm (like you are agreeing with someone). Feel the tickle (vibration) around your nose and mouth; you should not feel it in your throat.  Repeat five times. Now hum “Happy Birthday.” Next hum up and down a musical scale. 

           Benefits: Humming helps you to create resonant vocal quality and take the tension away from your larynx. It allows your voice to sound rich and pleasant vs. whiny and thin. It also helps you develop vocal variety (pitch changes) when speaking. 

 Tongue Twisters: Say the following tongue twisters five times in a row as fast as you can. 

Dave dives daringly into the deep, dark, sea.

Karl came to cry about Cara’s cavalier cavorting. 

Cheerful children have chubby cheeks.

Please pass the pink peony to Penelope.

Billy brazenly broke a big, blue balloon.

My menacing mastiff meanders through the mire every morning.

Let’s linger over a laugh and a latte before leaving.

Fred fried fritters for his family of four.

Red leather, yellow leather

          Benefits: These verbal agility exercises develop flexibility and help you clearly enunciate sounds for more understandable speech.

End with the breathing and humming exercises described above. 

 If you would like a more challenging workout, check out the 10-minute vocal warm-up for women on YouTube