Don’t Overdo Your Warm Up

A warm up is not a work out. Here are some time-honored ways vocalists get ready for their gigs.

—from The Ultimate Guide to Singing: All aspects of a singer’s life are covered in this ultimate companion to your singing with Top Actions for Moving Ahead with Your Singing, Sound and Career. Contributed to by Over 100 professional contributors with 94 Grammys and Grammy nominations, 193 Books, 1,772 Albums and 280 million YouTube hits!

I’ve encountered singers with tired voices who, for some reason, have the impression that a protracted “warm-up” regimen with vocal exercises is essential for performance. However, if you spontaneously sing lightly throughout the day and add the sound check, you’re already putting your voice through its paces. Running through your song repertoire mentally in “real time” at night can also reinforce memorization of the lyrics while lulling you to a good night’s sleep. 

On gig day, you should be especially aware of how you use your voice, easing into your first vocalizations of the day. Humming, lip trills and yawn-sighs over a steaming mug of hot water for five minutes will get you off to a gentle start. Good vocal hygiene also entails avoiding annoying phone calls or projecting over ambient noise that can result in the voice being fatigued before you utter a single word in song.

Your eating habits can affect the condition of your voice and therefore help (or hinder) your vocal warm-up. I keep my diet free of irritants on gig day, such as spicy, tomato-based or greasy foods, chocolate and alcohol. I limit my intake of caffeine, which can dehydrate. I usually have a meal (protein and salad) at 4:00pm. I bring water to the gig, and if the venue is air-conditioned, I may even bring a steamer to keep back stage.

If you perform self-accompanied, warming up on your instrument separately from the vocals allows you to enjoy the tactile sensations of the guitar, piano, or bass. This also reinforces muscle memory that enables you to feel secure once you add the vocals and assemble the complete package for presentation. 

Don’t exhaust your voice and energy at the sound check. While you might want to run through some selections, be sure not to over-rehearse. 

If you are singing regularly, the best, most effective warm-up may consist of simply running briefly through songs, “wearing them” just for the fun of it, and buoyantly freeing the voice with the coordination and energy that comes from the joy of making music. That same energy will be there for you as you transmit it to your audience during performance.

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