If you’re only warming up your vocal chords, then you’re not fully preparing to sing. Your body is much larger, and your mind controls it all. Before you ease into arpeggios (and the like), start with a pre-warm-up that gets both your mind and body moving.
Here are some easy pre-warm-ups for the body and mind:
- Close your eyes and clear your mind. I like to bend at the waist and let my arms hang. If you like, you can fold your arms. Let go of any stress that has worked its way into your muscles. Don’t linger upside-down too long or you’ll be lightheaded. When you’re ready, very thoughtfully roll up. Don’t rush. Think about whatever makes you calm. When you’re standing, you will discover that you’re taller than you thought you were and you’ll feel more aligned.
- Take in a deep breath and stretch your arms up if you need to. Roll your shoulders back. This is the time to take command of your body. If you are holding tension, people will see it or hear it when you sing. You are not an owl, so don’t pretend your neck is on swivel. I like to gently press my head forward and then back, but never roll it around the world.
- Prepare your stance. You want to feel comfortable. I like to space my feet about hip-width apart. You want to feel confident, but don’t stand like your body is a yardstick. Let your arms hang. This doesn’t mean dropping your shoulders. Nobody wants to see a shlumping performer.
- Take a few practice breaths. Breathing is at the root of singing technique. I know it sounds silly, but what strange tricks haven’t you tried in voice lessons? I’ve balanced books on my head, done squats, and practiced singing on the ground. A few practice breaths don’t seem too bad. Don’t take shallow breaths where your shoulders lift and the lungs aren’t fully activated. Power that open space from your diaphragm and continue with a lifted soft palate and loose jaw. Now that your breath is supported, try speaking a few lines from a song. I like to do this to feel how the vowels naturally form in my mouth. If nothing else, this can help with memorizing a new piece.
You may want to create your own routine when you feel more comfortable. The more personalized the better. Each part of my routine is a prevention. I tend to tense my throat, so I relax my body and practice breathing. Sometimes I produce fake vowels, so I practice speaking first. My tongue can get stuck and spoil a relaxed tone, so I think about tongue placement. Find your singing slips and incorporate corrections into your pre-warm-up. You will find that these slips will diminish, so you can focus on polishing other techniques.
Now your mind, body, and breath are connected. Your vocal chords will feel relaxed and so will you. This doesn’t take more than five minutes, but if you are crunched for time minimalize the routine. Close your eyes, fix your posture, and take a deep breath. At least you will signal to your brain that you are taking control.
Your voice will thank you.