What are the reasons for warming up and for working out the voice?
If singing is an athletic activity, and I truly believe it is, then both warming and up and working out are CRUCIAL for an instrument worthy of singing ANYTHING.
However, it is not the same thing. Finding out what your instrument needs and how it responds is so important to how it develops and how it stays healthy. Compare yourself to no one but your previous self!! Every voice is unique; every body that it inhabits is unique; therefore, how that voice and body respond together will be uniquely yours. It is your responsibility to discover that.
If we look at the athleticism of singing, warming up is not just about the voice, but about the body. You would not expect a runner to simply stand on the start line and run the marathons, so, why should we, as singers, expect the voice to just function without warming up the body?
Warming up is literally that - getting muscles and vibration to begin moving and stretching and creating a space in which to work and function. Some days it takes longer than others, some days not as long! The physicality determines this - are you sluggish, tired, rundown? Guess what? Your body will not respond as efficiently and thus, your warm up may take more time and more effort. Find those warm ups that allow your vibration an opportunity to become tangible gradually, and that allow the entire body to engage in the activity!
Many of the yoga and t'ai chi movements can be great base lines for vocal warming up. As well, Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais alignment exercises can be incorporated for this purpose.
PHYSICAL AWARENESS is KEY to warming up. Recognize and acknowledge stiffness, tightness, sluggishness, and move through it! Don't value judge! It is what it is, and wishing it otherwise, will not change a thing! Whatever your body will give you is enough in that moment.
The combination of both physical and vibratory stretching is necessary before any vocal work to give a much more honest assessment of how your voice works! Don't cheat!!!
Which takes us to the working out of the voice - the actual vocal building, technique development, technical behavior of your voice. This again, has an athletic and multi-dimensional component! Voice, in my opinion, is infused with muscular behavior, resonance balance and the psyche of the singer and the life experience of that singer! This creates the individual "voice" and what it speaks from! However, if the muscular behavior is not developed, the psyche of the singer will never have an opportunity to be tangible, so this behavioral development is again crucial!
Doing vocalises and exercises for the sake of them is useless. WHY are you working a specific exercise? Like any athletic behavior, you must know what each exercise is working to achieve and why. The physical behavior and the mind's direction and the imagination are the three balances to achieve technical behavior of any kind, and singing is no different! Working out the voice is literally getting to the gym vocally! What muscles are you working? Why? For what purpose? What is your voice needing? What are you building toward?
Too many singers run their exercises and still can't sing!!! It's like going to the gym and going through a series of weight machines and seeing no results! IT HAPPENS if you don't know WHY you are doing specific exercises, and don't know how to create correct form and execution. Muscles are built with specificity and focus. The work out must be catered specifically to YOU and YOUR needs. There is no "one size fits all" in vocal behavior, even though we all have the same muscles! Physical work out has to fit you in physicality and fit you psychologically!!! A singer, as an athlete, is not just about the physicality, but how the psyche informs that physicality. One cannot be separated from the other.
Warm up, and then work out! And then...
Ah, we forget about that don't we???? Even at the gym...and we pay for it!!! Give yourself time to release after your vocal workout - stretch and find that vocal and physical elasticity to allow a neutrality to occur and release you into the rest of your day!
Discover and explore!!! Enjoy the journey! Claim your physicality, claim your voice, claim where you are - and BE THERE.
Susan Eichhorn Young
Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking.
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