Welcome to Vocal Wednesdays!
If you’ve been here before you can skip these beginning paragraphs and jump to the warm-up. If it’s your first time, read on!
Every Wednesday I will share a vocal tip or warm-up. After 17 years of teaching people how to sing I have so many things to talk about and I can’t wait to share them with you every week!
As a voice teacher I am frequently approached and asked for a vocal warm-up for use in a choir or as a soloist. I LOVE warm-ups and think it’s really crucial to use them whenever you are going to sing. It’s an easy step to skip when you are practicing (because who doesn’t want to get to the fun stuff like songs?), but it can also be THE tool that takes you or your choir from average to AHHHMAZING! The trick is knowing which warm-ups you or your choir needs, when to use it and why it works.
That’s A LOT of variables! It’s also the main reason why I don’t like giving a warm-up on the fly. They are most effective when used under the correct circumstances. It’s really difficult for me to explain all these crucial elements in a short amount of time. Hence, the Vocal Wednesdays! Woo-hoo!
Great warm-ups are passed down from teachers to students or teacher to teacher. It’s a lot like story-telling in that way. Teaching voice is both an art and science. Having exercises is one thing, but knowing how to use them is a whole other matter. You will get the most out of your warm-ups if you understand what sorts of techniques or skills it teaches and then use them accordingly. My hope is that Vocal Wednesdays can help you not only find warm-ups you like, but that you learn what skill each warm-up can teach and then be able to use it at the appropriate time.
This warm-up is slightly different from my standard so I feel a small explanation is warranted. This is a BUILDABLE exercise. I have several buildable warm-ups that I use and this is by far my favorite so I wanted to share it with you!
First, you should know that buildable warm-ups start with a basic format and then you BUILD more notes on to it, BUILD more notes around it or switch up the pattern to learn new skills such as singing triplets, duples, turn arounds, scales, whatever your heart desires! Isn’t that fun? Students really enjoy learning a “new version” of the basic. It’s a great way to create new exercises without having to start from scratch. I hope you enjoy these exercises as much as I do! …And now back to the regular format. Enjoy!
IPA: [i-e-o-a] For future reference, I will always put IPA in brackets [ ]. I will also include a pronunciation guide of what it sounds like to me in non-word syllables.
NOTE PATTERN: Basic: 1 123 345 5654321; Long: 1 123 345 567891011 11109 987 7654321; Duples: 1 123 34564534231; Triplets: 1 123 3456 543 432 1
WHAT KEY DO YOU START THIS WARM-UP? C Major for Tenors and Sopranos, B Major for Altos and Basses
1. This is the basic warm-up you can build add to or modify to create more challenging or just different note patterns.
2. This is the “long version” in that it incorporates over an octave. It is SO fun to sing! It is by far my favorite. There is a bit of a learning curve on this one so be patient and learn the notes correctly first before you sing it up tempo.
3. This exercise starts with the triplet pattern, but ends with a duple pattern. It is a great skill to learn, especially to switch back and forth between triplets and duples with ease.
4. Last, but not least this exercise is very similar to the first exercise, but if you listen closely the turn around at the top of the scale is slightly different.
WHEN CAN I USE THIS? The basic exercise is appropriate for all voices, all ages. When deciding whether to move on to the other exercises demonstrated, keep in mind the skill level of your student(s). The long version is the most difficult and has the widest range, it is probably not suitable for children.
WHAT SKILL DOES IT TEACH? First and foremost, these exercises teach flexibility. Flexibility is a useful skill when you have to sing melismas, scales or any sort of fast moving passages. As singers we are called upon to sing a variety of music so we must be able to not only sustain, but also move the sound.
I often compare singing to physical exercise. Any athlete will tell you that working on flexibility is paramount to their performance. It helps you stay loose, improves range of motion and reduces the risk of injury. In the same way, vocal flexibility will help you stay loose, will work on extending your range (how much depends on the exercise) and it can minimize the effects of muscle atrophy and ossification in an aging voice. In short, flexibility enhances every aspect of our singing! Bring on the scales!
- Be mindful the onset of the sound should be BALANCED. It is very tempting to sing this vowel-only exercise with a glottal (hard) onset. Notice in the audio that all you hear is the natural sound of a vowel at the start of each exercise. Glottal onset is not always bad and can be useful (another future vocal tip perhaps?), but this is not one of those times.
- If the vowel order is not working for your student be open to changing it. I have used this order with my male students [a-o-i-u] and it has worked very well.
- BUILD your own! 🙂
Did you try these exercises? How did it go? Did you build on this warm-up? Please share in the comments!