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 share 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 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 in non-word syllables.
Pronunciation: nya (the vowel as spoken in the word ‘cat’)
Note pattern(s): 54321
Solfege: Sol Fa Me Re Do
WHAT NOTE OR KEY SHOULD I START ON?
Start in the key of C which would make your first note G.
WHEN CAN I USE THIS?
This is appropriate for all ages.
WHAT SKILL(S) DOES IT TEACH?
- I primarily use this exercise to help find a more forward placement or resonance, particularly when singing musical theater. Most modern musical theater and pop songs are stylistically sung with a brighter, more driven sound compared to classical art song or opera.
- The [ae] vowel brings the tongue forward, thereby raising the larynx. Singing with an elevated larynx is one of the traits of modern musical theater/pop singing and helps produce the ‘belt’ sound associated with that genre.
- the [n] brings the sound into the nose. Sometimes a slight ‘twang’ can offer a brighter, more driven quality to the vocal tone. It also makes it easier on the vocal cords.
- if you are working with a choral group their tendency will probably lean towards a ‘pretty’ [ae] vowel. Don’t let them get away with it. It is meant to be ‘ugly’ sounding. It is merely an exercise. Let them have fun with it and be ‘ugly’.
- in this particular exercise, it’s okay to spend a little more time on the glide [j].