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I've been singing for years but I don't know why I sing so much better post intense workout. It's like I am truly ready to sing no matter what the notes are. I can hit all those high notes easily and accurately!

I feel like my throat is semi dry down to my lung (even though I drank a lot) and my voice is all sexy after workout despite my limping limbs and tired stomach muscle.

Anyone knows what causes this? And how do I warm up to the same level without sweating a lot?

  • Hi do you mean after a vocal workout or general exercise? – user2808054 Oct 27 '14 at 12:40
  • @user2808054 sorry, it's gym workout cardio + strength. – William Oct 27 '14 at 13:31
  • Interesting!! I don't know why that would be (so can't answer) but I have noticed that if I do two gigs 2 days in a row (I usually sing maybe weekly), the second one is LOADS easier. I'd expect to be tired vocally- I certainly am physically after a gig, but like you say, the higher notes come free and easy. I haven't spotted a correlation between singing and general exercise yet though. But that's mainly because I'm pretty lazy haha – user2808054 Oct 27 '14 at 14:10
  • what warm-ups do you do already? – Alexander Troup Oct 30 '14 at 9:30
  • @AlexanderTroup What do you mean? I want to know what warm ups can I do to reach the same level of vocal easiness that I can get by doing physical workout (strength and cardio) without sweating so much. – William Oct 30 '14 at 10:06
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There's quite an interesting change that happens in your voice when you're healthy. In men, it causes the voice to deepen and become more sonorous, and men with deep voices are perceived to be more attractive and healthy to the opposite sex.

Your better vocals post workout are likely down to an increased lung capacity, and better blood flow. I'm tempted to think cardio has more effect than weight training on this, so I'd suggest going on a run or something similar to get the effect quicker.

Warming up without sweating alot

Any advice beyond doing running pre-gig goes mostly back to the old classics for warming up. I could give a list but really the best resource is on other Questions:

Ways to warm up vocal cords?

How does a man warm up his mixed voice?

also take a look around online for some traditional warm-up exercises to do pre-gig.

Professional warm-ups

Other things you can do to prepare

There are some other things you can do to help your voice pre-gig. Generally avoid beer and dairy, stick to water at least until the show's over. I've found VocalZone's to be astounding at clearing out the throat to get a more powerful sound, and this article on preparing for a gig is pretty good :)

Hope that helps!

  • Aye seems to me that is the intention of doing a 'warmup', just that in this particular case physical exercise appears to be the most effective warmup :) – Darren Ringer Oct 27 '14 at 20:14
  • Thanks for your answer, but going on a run isn't really sweat free...Sometimes you don't have the time for a run before doing a gig. – William Oct 28 '14 at 6:40
  • @William I've edited to try and address some more things you can do :) – Alexander Troup Oct 30 '14 at 13:08
  • @AlexanderTroup okay, I'll try them out and see how those exercises warm my vocal up. – William Oct 31 '14 at 2:55
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I'm going to guess that the major factor is breathing. High notes in particular really need good breath support, and your workout is prepping you to take full breaths and have good posture for breathing. It also sounds like you're coming away from your exercise with an "energized" feeling. Singing is a physical process, but it involves a coordination of things. Mental state can have a big effect on that.

Is there another way? Yes. If there are notes that you can hit with ease after you exercised, you should be able to hit them just fine even if you haven't exercised. The fact that you're not suggests a possible issue with your normal technique. Do you feel like you're straining to reach the higher notes normally? Do you feel like you're "reaching up" to them, or struggling to get them out? If you are, that can be fixed.

I would recommend:

  1. Take in really deep breaths for singing, especially high notes. Practice singing them after breathing in as deeply as your can. Take your time if you need to -- in performance you'll need to take in deep breaths fast and sometimes for lengthy lines of vocals. But for the purposes of practice, focus on supporting the tone -- you want to feel like you have more than enough air for any note you sing.

  2. Make sure your larynx is relaxed. When "reaching" for a high note, there is a tendency to raise your larynx, which leads to less space in your throat and more strain. Your larynx will rise a little bit as you sing higher, but you want to minimize this. From your description of how you feel after you exercise, I am confident that your larynx is pretty relaxed at that point... you want to make sure that's the case before exercise, too.

  3. Try visualizing the notes differently. If you feel you are reaching for them, try imagining that you're floating on top of them. Or that you're grabbing them with a solid hold. Or that you're hitting them right on the bullseye. Or whatever you come up with on your own. It might sound kind of silly, but visualizing can help. You can also try imagining that you have just exercised. Imagine the feeling of power and energy you have. Or, next time you're singing after a workout, pay attention to what you're thinking in your mind as you conquer those high notes. Then try to replicate that when you practice.

Those things should help with technique. The other major thing to think about is your vocal warmup. You mention doing hisses, lip trills, humming, and scales, and all of those things are good, but the first three things are probably not specifically very helpful for high notes (or capturing that seize-the-day feeling). I think scales are the most relevant. When you're first warming up I'd recommend starting conservative, but then expanding to really go across your entire range. (For example, my range is about D3-D6, but I start with a round of exercises going from about A3 up to F5 or so, then I come back down to F3, then go back up to A5, then down to D3, then up to C6. If I go up too high too early, I strain myself a bit and lose the low notes.)

Another thing to think about is length of warm up. Experiment with warming up for different amounts of time... and with different exercises, across different ranges. You might decide to have some practice sessions where you only sing warmups the whole time. Or, you might just do a few exercises then go right into songs. Songs are less boring than exercises, but also not as good for things like working your way up to the high notes. But you might discover that certain songs are particularly helpful to you for practicing certain things. (For example, I have a friend who tended to struggle to not go flat with a B4 in one song, but he could soar up to an E5 no sweat in another. Clearly, it wasn't the fact that the B4 was "high" that was the problem, even though he had the subjective feeling of it being high. The B4 in this case was much, much longer note that required a much bigger breath at the beginning and more skill in sustaining the note evenly. The E5 was good practice for his higher range. Both songs were good practice in their respective ways.)

That's about all I can think of for the moment, but hopefully it's given you some things to think about. If you can identify what you're doing differently when singing before and after a workout, you can certainly get to that point much faster and with less sweat.

Edit: One more thing. If you don't currently have a vocal coach or instructor, I'd definitely recommend one. The immediate feedback you can get on your singing can be invaluable!

  • Hi, thanks for your answer. I do use vocal techniques when I sing. And I can hit those high notes without working out, but after workout I hit them with ease, I can even hold them long enough and make fancy riffs afterwards. No I don't have problem with breathing and switching vocal registers. However I do often have problem with phlegm in my throat, it makes my voice less sonorous. And after working out my throat is "dried out" and I can sing more freely and sound more rich. – William Nov 4 '14 at 5:15
  • @William, if you need to dry out your throat, try gargling with a Listerine-style mouth wash, as deep in your throat as you can (head back, 30 seconds), and then trying to hock out the loogies. – Codeswitcher Nov 4 '14 at 7:21
  • @William Ah, well, in that case, getting dehydrated probably helps. But I think the more important question (which I don't know the answer to) is why do you have phlegm in your throat? This could be caused by something like chronic reflux or chronic allergies. These things are treatable, but if you haven't already, you should consult a doctor to find out what's going on. – MysteriousWhisper Nov 4 '14 at 14:16
  • @MysteriousWhisper that's the problem, I don't know. But usually after doing vocal warm ups it gets much better. It's worse in the morning or when I get lack of sleep or when I consume chili peppers. – William Nov 4 '14 at 17:31
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    @William I'm glad to hear that at least it gets better with vocal warm ups and exercise. There must be a reason for the phlegm -- a physician is in the best position to help you figure it out. You should get it checked out, because if it is reflux, it can damage your throat over time. But regardless of what it is, it sounds like getting it treated will help your singing... and your quality of life. – MysteriousWhisper Nov 4 '14 at 23:23
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Short answer: singing is all about breathing, and thanks to working out, you've just given your lungs (and all the muscles around them) a very good warmup.

Long answer: There are a lot of muscles involved in singing; I had a voice teacher who was fond of saying 'if you're not a sweaty mess by the end of a concert, you're doing something wrong'. A big part of classical voice training is developing a greater awareness of the different muscle groups you're using-- from the intercostal muscles that help expand and contract the rib cage, to the abdominal muscles, which help stabilize the diaphragm. When you're doing an intense workout, you're using a lot of these muscles to help with breathing, because you're moving a lot more air than you usually do; after the workout, you'll sing better simply because those muscles are being used more.

  • So I should workout to get to the same level or is there another way? – William Nov 1 '14 at 12:22
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You are aware of your musculature, feel it. And you are body-proud, don't need to suck your stomach in and inflate your chest. You breathe effectively rather than impressively.

My own experience is actually that stuff like running right before singing is not helpful, but then I am a bass baritone singing as alto, so I have specific vocal problems not common to everyone. For me, doing it the evening before works better, but of course everybody has to figure out how his own body works. Probably you can figure out some procedure (like with situps and stuff) that will be a quick simulation of what works for you close to concert.

Here is a cheap recipe for being aware of your stomach muscles and breathing into them in concert without "stomach anxiety": wear a solid belt, slightly tight. Keep your breath pressure against it when singing. Feel it, be aware of it.

It's actually a trick used by a few classical singers.

No, it won't do all that an hour of exercise does. But it's much less of an investment.

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