Is There a Perfect Vocal Warm-up?

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Vocal Coach Leontine Hass explores the vital area of vocal warmups.

Dear Leontine,

What’s the best way to warm up for a live performance? (I’m a pop singer) My head is spinning: I have some classical training, friends who use contemporary warm ups and even some friends who don’t really warm up at all! I am wondering what you prescribe. 



Dear Angie,

It is definitely wise to warm up your voice; it will be in better shape for the gig and the mechanism more flexible and healthy in general as a result. However, some singers overdo warm-ups and wear themselves out. A warm-up should be a short 15-20 minute session to get the voice going, not a marathon in which you wear yourself out to the point that you have nothing left for the actual performance.

As regards classical versus contemporary warm-ups, my answer would be you should do a bit of both. You should vocalize on scales and arpeggios in your head-voice, going as far up and down in your range as possible.

Then, given that you are a pop singer, you should spend some time singing in your speech quality. It is also vital to warm up your belt. Belt is like heavy-weight lifting for the voice and tends to take a few minutes to place correctly (unless you are doing an 8-show week like some musical theatre singers so that you are ‘warm’ almost all the time). If you sing a lot of songs using your belt, it is extremely important to stretch the vocal folds out before and after your gig by singing in your head voice. Sirens up and down the range as well as lip trills are a sensible and useful beginning to any warm-up.

It is quite irrelevant that you may not be using your head voice in the gig itself. Singing in your head voice stretches the vocal folds, keeping the mechanism flexible and healthy. 

You ought to have a session with an experienced vocal coach who works with pop singers, and can record a good warm-up routine for you on a voice recorder—this is what I do with my singers, and each warm-up caters for the individual singer, changing as their voices change and addressing the individual vocal set-up that each singer has.

As a professional singer, there are always days when the voice is not quite the way you would like it to be. On these days you might need a slightly longer session to get the mechanism back in action, spending a little longer stretching the folds out with head voice work, so that swollen folds get back to normal. On such days, if you have a gig in the evening, it is a good idea to have a 30-minute warm-up in the morning, and then another brief warm-up just before the performance. 

I do hope that clears up your concerns!

Best wishes,


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