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In the limited about of vocal warm-ups I've done when singing in amateur choirs, etc, I normally sing pretty quietly and it seems others do to.

Should a warm-up focus at all on volume and if so, how should volume vary over the warm-up? I'm guessing "start quiet and get louder" but how quiet, and how loud? Should you be belting out those "oohs" by the end?!

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Warmups, among other things, help increase the flexibility of your vocal cords. Singing too quietly won't properly warm them up, and singing too loudly can damage them.

Your instinct to start a bit quieter and gradually increase the volume is probably a good one - it mimics any other kind of physical stretch. That said, you should seldom be belting in a choir setting in the first place, and almost certainly not during warmups.

I would suggest that during warmups, unless you have a specific reason (usually an explicit direction), you should sing in a comfortable middle dynamic, mp or mf. Depending on your section, this middle dynamic might be a bit variable (in a typically complemented choir, for example, there are many more altos than tenors, so altos tend to have a quieter "middle volume" than tenors).

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This is just from 2 years of class voice at the uni, so if there is anyone better qualified to answer, take their answer over mine.

The different warm ups do different things.

Most warmups stretch range, and you certianly don't want to belt at the end of those, because you're already at the top (or bottom) of your range, and belting at the edges of your range can hurt your vocal chords. In fact, at the highest pitches of your range, you should be soft enough the notes are almost "breathy," because pushing can cause nodules to form.

So, most warm ups are done "at a comfortable level." You should never push to note and/or volume that has you straining.

There are warm ups for dynamic range, and these should be done at the volume intended. Typically the involve staying on the same pitch in the middle of your range with a cresendo and decrescendo or to hum or buzz a simple melodic pattern (typically arpeggios).

"Lip trills" or "buzzing" are also meant to increase the breath support and thus the volume, but it doesn't need to be loud as the second set of vibrations created forces you to push air like you were belting without actually belting.

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  • I'm going to disagree with you on one very important point: breath support doesn't strictly correlate to volume. Extra support is often needed when singing very quietly, otherwise the sound "breaks up". Warm-ups focusing on breath support don't need to (and probably shouldn't) focus on volume. – Greg Jackson Mar 9 '15 at 23:48

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