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.
This week I am continuing the theme of singing intervals with a warm-up to sing a seventh.
The most important thing to remember when singing sevenths is the relationship it has to the tonic or ‘do’. It’s only a half step, but it’s such an important half step! This warm-up feels very Sondheim-esque. You may even find yourself humming it around the office or at home, like I did. Enjoy!
IPA:[si fo i], [si fo a]
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: see foh ee or see foh ah
Note pattern: 178
Solfège: Do Ti Do
***** Download Printable Warm-Up HERE
Sample of [si fo i] for middle register for women and all registers for men
Sample of vowel change in upper register: [si fo a]
WHAT KEY OR NOTE SHOULD I START ON?
I would start in the Key of C or B.
WHEN DO I USE THIS?
- To learn how to sing the interval of a seventh
- For ear training when your singer, choir or small group is struggling to sing a seventh
- Teach a half step
- To train singers on breath management for larger intervals (air moves faster the higher the pitch)
- To teach men to close their vowels as they move towards head voice
- To teach women to open their vowels as they move towards head voice
- For accuracy, keep the tempo slow
- Because of the large interval, the singer has to think of the energy/breath it takes to sing the upper note and have that same energy on the tonic. Again, the higher the pitch, the faster the air rate. There isn’t a lot of time to make adjustments so the singer needs to anticipate the energy. This ‘brain work’ will make the warm-up significantly easier. To practice this concept: sing on lip trill/buzz many times before adding words. Listen for stops or hiccups or anything in the lip trill that might suggest the breath is uneven. Once you have achieved a consistent lip trill/buzz, then move on to the words.
- Play around with dynamics and note values – so much can be taught with only three notes! You could sing it on staccato, the first note could be an 8th note pick-up note, you could try to start loud and decrescendo, etc.
- For a challenge: You could hold the seventh and do a <>, (called a ‘messa di voce’). Or you could just sing a decrescendo from the 7th into the upper ‘do’.
- Play around with vowels and beginning consonants to suit your singer(s). I used consonants that promote air [f, s], you could also use [k] or [p] to lift the soft palate or [m], [n] to promote forward resonance.
- Singers may need to modify the vowel as the pitch ascends (depends on the vowel you start with)
What vocal warm-ups are you using this week? Are you struggling with a technical problem? Write in the comments or message me on Facebook and I’d be happy to help you.