I am a countertenor. In order to reach the soprano range, I need to warm-up for an extended period of time, usually within the span of 30 minutes to 2 hours. Think of it as crafting a key for 1 hour in order to open a locked vault.

Why is this? Before singing, I imagined that the range was already set, and that warming up was simple fine-tuning it for the day.

  • 1
    Like with any other muscle, warming up increases flexibility. But 2 hours seems pretty excessive.
    – user28
    May 19 '16 at 7:06
  • 2
    The vocal cords do benefit from gentle warmups, but I rather suspect your warm-up methods are less than optimal. You should check in with a qualified voice teacher to learn more useful (and faster) warmup routines. May 19 '16 at 11:35
  • Adding to the previews comments, one may ask, are you sure you're a countertenor? The fact the you can reach high notes in certain specific conditions does not per se mean that's your natural range. Not that the "natural" range cannot be extended by proper workout, but if you consistently require excessive exertion do reach that range, you may be inadequately stressing your vocal folds or larynx. I give this as a general comment, as I don't have specific knowledge of the countertenor voice type, so there may be some specifities I'm not aware. May 20 '16 at 10:26
  • Thank you @CarlWitthoft! I've now learned that my warm-up is very far from optimal, in fact almost even detrimental. I was simply singing at random and forcing the upper range. Now I sing in scales and maneuver through my range effortlessly (or at least I try.) My alto/mezzo is strong, but my soprano could use some work. Thank you! May 23 '16 at 20:30

This does not sound like "warmup" but rather like pre-stress. The purpose of warmup generally is to align your reflexes to the realities of today's state of voice and atmosphere and give an additional loosening up.

However, the durations you are talking about here would seem excessive for that. It rather sounds like your "warmup" is for getting your vocal folds a bit swollen so that you reach better closure. Similar effects would likely be attained by a few puffs on a cigarette (part of Caruso's warmup ritual, with his heavy smoking likely contributing to quite a few vocal health problems and to his untimely death), by partying and shouting a lot the night before (more effective than directly before since you still have a bit of the swelling but more relaxed folds), by chewing on a bit of habanero (beware of stomach cramps, though!).

All of that is not really all that sustainable. Somewhat more helpful may be staying well-hydrated (though you need to time this in order not to have to run to the toilet while performing).

But in the long run, you might need to ask yourself whether you are singing roles and ranges that you can deliver reliably and sustainably when you need to target a light inflammation of your vocal folds in order to achieve the closure you need for performing. Basically right now it seems that your voice needs to be in best condition for performing with a touch of crowbar on top. That's not something you can expect to deliver for decades.

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