We all go through periods of time when we haven’t sung enough to stay in shape. As a busy teacher, wife and mother (and now blogger) it happens quite often. Unless I have a concert appearance or recital coming up my practicing can get pretty sketchy at times. Unfortunately, once a week at choir doesn’t really keep me in shape. Are you trying to get back in shape after some time off? What do you do if it’s been say…3 months since you last did some serious singing? Don’t worry, I’ve got ya covered. Try this 2 week plan and you will feel raring to go. 🙂
Begin by warming up for 10 minutes every day. I find it best to do it in the morning before I start my day for two reasons. First, I want to make it a priority or it won’t get done if I wait till later in the day. Second, warming up my voice before talking all day helps me to use my voice more mindfully the rest of the day.
Follow this series of warm-ups in order. Spend 10-15 minutes a day on this series for one week. As you are doing these exercises keep this in mind: don’t push your range too much at this point. Only go as high as comfortable- even if you know you can sing higher/lower -you can challenge yourself more in week 2. We don’t want to introduce tension as we are regaining strength and flexibility. You CAN challenge your breathing in exercise 1. If it’s to easy at 5, bump it up to 6 or 7 and go up to 10 or 11.
- Breathing Exercise: 5-5-5 – to re-train your intercostal rib muscles!
- Busy Bee – to warm up the middle voice or speaking range
- Kyaw-Cue-Kee-dee-kee – to strengthen the soft palate
- ee-ay-oh-ah – to re-gain flexibility
- Ha-ki-ki – to warm up the head voice or upper range
- Giddah Giddah Giddah Gah – to warm up the chest or lower voice
After week 1 you should feel like your voice has opened up a little and is ready for something more challenging. This week is a good time to incorporate the following things:
- Challenge your range. If your voice feels free and open, try and add a half step or whole step to your top and bottom note. Use the buildable warm-up ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. Pay attention to what it feels like – if it continues to feel strained or tight, let it go.
- Add scales. Lots of scales. Flexibility is key.
- Try incorporating messa di voce (crescendo/decrescendo) exercises into your scales. Maybe even sneak in a held note at the top of the scale with a messa di voce.
- Sing old repertoire. Muscle memory works in your favor! Sing through a song that you remember feeling really good about. If it’s a challenging operatic aria – you may want to save that for mid-week. Start with a broadway, art song or a choir song.
- Up your practice time to 30-40 minutes a day this week. You will see a SIGNIFICANT improvement by the end of this week.
You are back singing daily and the voice is feeling great so you might be wondering how much singing you have to do to STAY in shape. I think it really depends on each person’s voice and also what level of shape you want to be in.
In general, 10-15 minutes a day of vocal warm-ups will keep you in shape. You will feel comfortable in choir and if someone asked you to sing a solo in church – you’d be good to go.
20-30 minutes a day will ready you for singing broadway, art songs, concert and opera arias.
35-60 minutes will prepare you for a recital or upcoming concert.
These are all estimates based on my own personal practice time as I am preparing for various singing gigs. I tend to lean on the over-prepared side of things because that is where my comfort zone is. I know MANY singers who practice less and still perform well. You need to understand the needs of your voice and the kind of performer you are to judge the amount of practicing time you need to feel secure in your technique.
If you have not been singing due to vocal injury or surgery it is of paramount importance that you return to singing under the guidance of a well-trained teacher and maybe even a speech therapist. I do not recommend attempting rehabilitation on your own.
Are you going to try the 2-week plan? If so, please share in the comments below and I’d love to hear from you in 2 weeks to hear about your experience and if you made any tweaks for your voice.