What’s the Perfect Vocal Warm Up?

Man stretching on the beach with music notes
Leading vocal coach Kim Chandler explains the difference between a singing warm-up and a work out.

This is an excerpt from the break-out book, The Ultimate Guide to Singing featuring Kim Chandler, top session singer and industry vocal coach

Before I reveal my perfect warm-up, let’s agree on what we mean…

A warm-up is not a workout.

It is the short preparation phase before a workout, perhaps 5–10 minutes long. This means that more is not necessarily better.

Singers shouldn’t waste precious energy required to get through a gig by doing an excessively long warm-up.

My warm-up routine is an essential part of what helps me to survive an often hectic schedule which can include backing vocals for TV shows, singing on countless jingles, leading master classes for London artists, corporate gigs in & around London, etc.

Here it is:

a) Begin your warm up within an hour of your performance/recording session, preferably just before.

b) If it’s feasible, take yourself through a full “toe-to-top” stretch. Remember your voice is housed in your body, so spend a couple of minutes checking in with your body and releasing it of excess tension.

c) Next, slide up & down the vocal range (a.k.a. “sirens”) giving the voice a good stretch out, going lower and higher than you intend to sing. I like to start with trilling & humming as a gentle, user-friendly way to check in with the voice.

d) Finally, move onto some range extension & agility exercises in the genre you will be singing in. There are many reasons I recommend doing vocal warm-ups and voice building exercises in a style-specific manner, but the main reason is musical relevance. I want singers to be able to see the point of the exercises and enjoy doing them.

Where should you warm up?

Now, there are some other things you may want to take into consideration, such as where to warm up.

As much as it may be convenient, warming up while driving isn’t ideal because of the seated posture; you’re also competing with engine & road noise and more importantly, you should be giving your full attention to driving, not be distracted by singing.

Other than this you can be quite creative with where you warm up.

Most singers warm up in their dressing room or band room. I’ve even seen singers resort to warming up in restrooms or going out to a parked car for privacy.

I’ve also seen singers do loud warm-ups for rock gigs by singing straight into a cushion, towel or pillow to dampen the noise.

Finally, remember that your mind needs a warm-up as well. So, focus on the task at hand, believe in yourself and realize that your singing can make a difference.

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