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.
IPA: [a:i no, a:i no, a:i no, a:i no] IPA is the International Phonetic Alphabet and is used by singers and teachers of singers to have a standardized guide to pronunciation. 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. If you are still unsure, listen to the audio below.
Pronunciation: I know, I know, I know, I know
Note pattern: 18, 85, 53, 31 or do do, do sol, sol mi, mi do
What note or key do you start this warm-up? I like to start in B or B flat Major. I do this mainly because the first jump is an octave. It can get high in a hurry! The only time I would start it higher would be if I was working with sopranos or tenors only. In that case, I would start it in C Major or D Major, depending on the singer.
WHEN CAN I USE THIS?
This is a great warm-up to do towards the end of all your other warm-ups. I say that mainly because it includes a large leap (octave) and also because it’s difficult to sing when your voice isn’t warmed up. It can be used for any age or technical ability.
WHAT SKILL DOES IT TEACH?
This is a great exercise to learn the sometimes-challenging octave leap. If you know you are going to sing or teach a song that has an octave leap be sure to add this exercise to your warm-up routine. Aside from the octave, the pattern “do sol mi do” is the foundation of learning to sing and hear the basic intervals of a chord. This warm-up also helps singers learn how to connect the breath for a larger leap. Be sure to read the tips below on how to make that happen for yourself or your singer(s).
- If your singer(s) are having trouble with pitch accuracy, try switching to solfege until they are more successful then go back to singing on words. It may take them a couple of tries to learn the solfege, but I promise it will pay off in the end. I find it helpful to write it on a white board so they can see it and follow along at the same time.
- If you are from the Midwest, then you may be prone to adding a diphthong at the end of the word. Be mindful to end the [o] with the lips relaxed and not rounded.
- Be a good listener and make sure your singer is not shouting the upper note. If they are, have them practice singing it at different dynamics beginning with p and working towards f or mf. Remind them frequently that the sound should never be forced or tight.
- To help your singer(s) connect the breath, especially in the octave, have them hold an imaginary ball in their dominant hand and throw it as they sing the octave leap. Do not let them get away with a “girl throw” or a “shot put throw”, it must be full body. This encourages them to engage in whole body singing. The before (not using the ball) and after (using the ball) can be quite dramatic. ….in a really awesome way!
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s warm-up! I would love to hear what your favorite warm-up is! Please share in the comments below! You may even be featured in an upcoming Vocal Wednesday!