What are some safe ways to get my vocal cords without over using them before a practice or performance?
There are several things you can do to warm up your vocal cords properly.
- Sing half-scales using vowel sounds ("oo","oh","ee","ah","eh")
- Sing half-scales using vowel sounds + h (great for rough vocal days) ("hoo","hoh","hee,"hah,"heh")
- Sing half-scales using vowel sounds + m ("moo","moh","mee","mah","meh")
- Hum scales and half-scales.
- Do neck rolls (these are great for relieving upper-body tension)
- Do shoulder rolls
- Sigh from the bottom of your range to a couple steps from the top (without "breaking")
The important thing when warming up, is to not put too much pressure on your vocal cords. Singing is all about relaxing the throat and your upper-body muscles. Don't add tension, just relax, sing softly and let your vocal cords warm up naturally.
Here are some "do"s:
- Do exercise your entire available vocal range, including (if male) your falsetto.
- Start by humming a sustained note, using proper singing technique behind closed lips. This easy first step gets all the air spaces in your chest, throat, and sinuses resonating, cleaning out any junk and tuning the whole instrument.
- Warm up your tessitura first. You probably know better than anyone the notes you are comfortable singing. Stay within this range for the first 5 minutes or so of warming up.
- Practice half scales ("Do" to "So" in solfeggio), concentrating on your tuning of intervals from note to note. If you will be singing in minor key, try it that way too.
- Include at least one exercise that combines changing vowel sounds with consonants. Two of my favorites are "zinga-zinga-zoo, zinga-zinga-zoo, zinga-zinga-zinga-zinga-zoo" on do-mi, do-mi, so-fa-mi-re-do, and "bahdy-bahdy-beddy-beddy-beedy-beedy-bohdy-bohdy-boody-boody-behdy-beedy-bah", sung up and down the do-re-mi-fa-so range with one note per syllable.
Here are some "don't"s:
- Don't start out your warmup singing at the edges of your range, or even of your tessitura.
- Don't sing at those edges at all until your core voice is well warmed-up and comfortable.
- Don't start at very high or low volume; a natural mezzo-forte should suffice for the first few exercises.
- Don't spend more than about 10 good minutes warming up; more than that and you will begin wearing on your voice.
- Don't spend a whole lot of time on difficult intervals in warmups before a performance. In practice, fine, but in performance, make it comfortable and easy, which will help your confidence.
You should spend most of your warm up time connecting your breathe to your voice. This helps broaden your range and provide more warmth to your tone. Try breathing deeply in your diaphragm for a minute or so. Make sure that your breathing causes your stomach to stick out, not your shoulders to raise. Then connect the breath to your voice by doing some light hums that ascend and descend in pitch. The higher the pitch, the more air you want to push out of your diaphragm. From there you can move on to the more descriptive warmups described above but make sure that you are using the air diaphragm to push out the sound, not your chest or throat.