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.
IPA: [ha a ki ki] 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: (ha-a- kee kee)
Note pattern: sol do sol mi do; 58531
What note or key do you start this warm-up? I usually start in D Major and move up by half steps.
WHEN CAN I USE THIS?
I use this primarily with women. If you wanted it to work well for men change the words to [hu-u ki ki]. The round, closed vowel works better for men in their upper register whereas the [a] works better for women. In a choral situation, it is perfectly acceptable to ask the men to sing one vowel and the women another. It sounds weird at first, but if it helps everyone get the best sound who can complain, right?
WHAT SKILL DOES IT TEACH?
It is a great exercise to teach women how to access their head voice. The [a] vowel trains them to open the mouth for the high note and then close their mouth and focus the sound forward as they descend into the middle voice on the vowel [i].
- Have the women imagine the sound is going out their forehead until you reach G major, then the sound may feel like it is going out the top of the head. Keep in mind that the sound isn’t actually GOING there, it just has the sensation of it.
- If you take the women above B5, have them change the [a] vowel to [ae] like in the word ‘cat’. This will bring the tongue forward and thereby the larnyx moves up. This change may feel weird at first, but it is essential to get clarity of sound in the whistle register. As they approach the upper ‘do’, it may be helpful to have your singers stick their tongue out of their mouth, like a frog. I say this just because the tendency is to want to move the tongue back so bringing it forward seems ‘wrong’ at first. I always tell my women that it is simply an exercise and not one I would make them repeat in public. 🙂
- If you are using this exercise for men, have them imagine that the upper ‘do’ is grounded at their feet.
- For either men or women, having them do a squat as they go to the upper ‘do’ reminds them to sing with their whole body. Sculpted thighs is a nice by-product of the process! boo-yah!
Did you try this exercise? How did it go? Do you have favorite warm-ups? Please share in the comments!