Welcome to Vocal Wednesdays! 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: [vo-vi-vo-vi-vo] 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.
Note pattern: 564534231 or sol la fa sol mi fa re mi do
What note or key do you start this pattern? I like to start in C Major. The number 5 (or sol) would be G above middle C (also known as G4).
AUDIO –just FYI: I didn’t get a pitch before I recorded this audio so it does not start in C.
WHEN CAN I USE THIS?
I created this warm-up about 7 years ago to use with my High School students and my Freshman and Sophomore college students. However, this is one of those exercises that is good for anyone at any age. It’s kind of like the marching-in-place warm-up before working out in that you can use it every day. So eat your vegetables, march in place and sing [vo-vi-vo] and you are golden! lol!
WHAT SKILL DOES IT TEACH?
I primarily use this exercise to train the vocal cords to completely close. When singers are young, they are not able to completely close their vocal cords due to the muscles not being fully developed. What ends up happening is there is a little opening towards the back of the vocal cords that allows air to pass through (kind of like a leaky air mattress). It’s so common it was given a name, “mutational chink”. It sounds so alien-sounding, doesn’t it? Like some mutant is hanging out in your throat or something! ha ha! Though I use this exercise on the young singer, it can be used to train any singer to bring the vocal cords completely together and seal any ‘leaks’.
The voiced (pitched) consonant [v] helps bring the vocal cords firmly together. I like the vowels [o] oh and [i] ee because [o] is more open and [i] closed and [o] is a back vowel and [i] is a front vowel. Switching between the two is helping warm up the articulators, mainly the lips and the tongue. You are also teaching a melodic pattern that is both step-wise and leaps, albeit small leaps.
Make sure your singer(s) is getting lots of sound on their [v]. Sometimes it can sound like an [f] and that will not have the same effect at all. I tell my singers to make it a ‘fat’ [v] or to make sure their lip is tickled by the teeth. If they don’t feel the tickle or the vibration they aren’t using enough sound on the [v]. If they really struggle to get vibration, I have them do the whole exercise on [v] alone. Just the buzzing. Then I go back and add the vowels back in and see if they can carry the buzzing into the ‘word’.
That’s my vocal warm-up for the day. Do you have warm-ups that you use every time you sing or teach? I would love to continue the ‘story-telling’ and have you share your warm-ups!