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: [budi budi budi budi zama zama zama zoo] 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: boodie boodie boodie boodie zahma zahma zahma zoo
Note pattern: 87654321, do, ti, la, sol, fa, mi, re, do
What note or key do you start this warm-up? It depends on the voice. For lower voices such as basses, baritones and altos I typically start on B flat. For higher voices such as tenors and sopranos I start on C or C#.
WHEN CAN I USE THIS?
I find this exercise is best for men. That doesn’t mean I don’t use it for women because I do. It’s just that the vowels tend to work best for men. The [u] (ooh) vowel is a great vowel from middle C-F/G4, basically as they approach their upper register.
This warm-up works for women too, but I would recommend keeping it below F Major unless you talk to them about modifying the [u] vowel towards an an [a], (ah) above G5. Some singers make the adjustment instinctively and others need a gentle reminder.
WHAT SKILL DOES IT TEACH?
When using this for men, it teaches them to use closed, rounded vowels as they near their upper register which keeps the larynx low and can help prevent the “shouty” sound that sometimes happens when they sing notes above middle C.
The consonants used in this exercise are all voiced consonants which means they have pitch. Voiced consonants are helpful in training the vocal cords to come fully together, creating a clear tone rather than a breathy tone.
It teaches the descending scale of an octave which tends to be more difficult for singers than the ascending. I don’t know why that is, but it’s just an observation.
- Many singers have a tendency to hum right before the [b] in [budi]. Nix that as quick as possible to train them to have a clean onset (start) of sound.
- Sometimes the [b] consonant can inhibit airflow. Encourage your singer(s) to let the air flow through the [b] or change the first consonant to [f] or [s] to encourage airflow.
- If you notice any sort of neck straining, have them sing it while shaking their head ‘no’, keeping the head in constant motion.