Updated: Dec 28, 2021
Warming up your voice before singing is crucial to giving your best performance. Just like professional athletes warm up their muscles before practices and games, singers need to warm up their vocal folds to improve the quality of sounds and prevent vocal injuries. So, whether you're about to perform on stage, go into the recording studio, or just practice on your own, here are five quick warm ups to put your best voice forward.
1. Relax Your Breathing
Adjust your posture to make sure your chest and shoulders are nice and relaxed. Then take a normal breath followed by a steady exhale. Repeat this inhale/exhale several times to ensure your breaths are focused low in your abdomen and that there's no chest, shoulder, or neck tension or stiffness.
This warm-up will release any strain in your breathing that can otherwise interfere with your vocal quality.
2. Relax Your Jaw
Massage your jaw muscles by working the palms or heels of your hands directly below the cheek bone and slowly placing pressure inward and down from the cheeks to the jaw.
This jaw muscle massage releases tension in the mouth and jaw during singing.
First with your lips lightly closed and your jaw relaxed and released, take a slow breath in then exhale while saying "hum". Start with higher pitch gliding into low pitch akin to sighing. Repeat this several times until your voice box feels steady and warmed up. Be sure to keep your breathing calm, and your jaw and mouth relaxed.
This warm-up is a good segue into our next step.
TIP: This humming exercise is also a great cool-down practice after singing.
Making the "ng" sound, start at the low end of your range and slide up and through each note to the top of your range. Do this several times until is sounds steady, then reverse by starting toward the top of your range and working your way down.
This vocal exercise expands on engaging your voice box, but before incorporating more mouth movements as in the next warm-up.
5. Sing Your "Me's" on Two-Octave Scales
Sing the "me, me, me" sound beginning in a low pitch and slowly climbing up the scale. Do not strain too high or low on your range, though you should try increasing the range ever so slightly each time you do the scales. Before reaching your maximum range, reverse the order by going down the scale from top to bottom singing an "e" or "ooo" sound.
Warming up with two-octave scales is a literal stretch on the vocal folds.
About the Author: Paloma Ramos is a vocal & singing instructor currently based in North Hollywood, California. She has been been professionally singing since 2001, and has more than 10 years teaching experience--first having taught at the Keith Holland School of Music in the San Francisco Bay Area, then moving to Los Angeles and opening her own studio.