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Vocal Warm Up: A Step-by-Step Guide to Voice Activation

vocal warm up: a step-by-step guide to voice activation Feb 14, 2023
The Science of Vocal Warm Up A Step by Step Guide to Vocal Warm Up and Voice Activation by Philippe Hall Singing Revealed Become a better singer

"The Science of Vocal Warm Up: A Step-by-Step Guide to Vocal Warm-Up and Voice Activation" - by Philippe Hall

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Hello Singers!

Today I want to talk about one of the most important aspects of singing – vocal warm-ups and voice activation!

As singers, our voice is our instrument and just like a musician would take the time to warm up their instrument before a performance, it is equally important for us to warm up our voice before we sing.

Let's start by talking about the body. It’s important to activate your whole body before singing. This can be done through light stretching or movement, as it helps to release tension in the muscles and increase blood flow to the voice.

Next, let's move on to the respiratory system. It’s crucial to get the air flowing and the diaphragm activated in preparation for singing. This can be done through breathing exercises such as diaphragmatic breathing or even simple deep breathing.

The diaphragm, larynx, and vocal folds are all closely connected, and it’s important to warm up each of these components. Exercises such as humming, lip trills, and vocal runs can help to activate these areas and prepare them for singing.

The pharynx, tongue, jaw, soft palate, lips, and mouth are also important components of the singing voice, and warming up these areas can help to increase flexibility and control. This can be achieved through exercises such as tongue twisters, jaw exercises, and lip movements.

The muscles of facial expression also play a role in singing, and it’s important to activate these muscles in preparation for a performance. This can be done through facial expression exercises such as smiling or laughing, as well as incorporating exaggerated facial movements into your warm-up routine.

It’s also crucial to choose warm-up exercises that are specific to the style of singing you will be performing after your warm-up. This is what I refer to as "prepare to perform" or performance preparation. For example, if you will be belting, incorporating belt-specific exercises into your warm-up routine is important. The same goes for pop, opera, country, rock, falsetto, head voice, and chest voice.

Not only does proper warm-up and activation help to ensure a great performance, it also has numerous health and longevity benefits for your voice. By taking the time to warm up, you are reducing the risk of strain or injury to your voice, and helping to maintain its health and longevity.

To wrap it up, taking the time to warm up and activate your voice before singing is crucial for a successful performance and the overall health of your voice. I hope these short tips have been helpful and I encourage each and every one of you to incorporate a warm-up routine into your daily singing practice.

Never give up on your singing dream!


To further assist you, I’ve included responses to some of the
singers ask me about. Enjoy!

What is the purpose of vocal warm-ups?

The purpose of vocal warm-ups is to prepare the voice for singing or speaking by gradually increasing blood flow, loosening the muscles, and warming up the vocal cords. This helps to prevent strain or injury to the voice and ensures a successful performance. Vocal warm-ups also provide an opportunity to improve technique and control of the voice, making it easier to execute different styles and sounds. By incorporating a warm-up routine into your daily practice, you’re investing in the health and longevity of your voice.

How often should I do vocal warm-ups?

I recommend that you warm up your voice every time you plan on singing or speaking for an extended period of time. This could be before rehearsals, performances, recording sessions, or even before a day of voice-over work. Warming up your voice before use ensures that you are starting with a clear, strong, and healthy instrument, ready to deliver your best performance.

Additionally, including a daily warm-up routine into your vocal practice can be a valuable way to maintain the health of your voice and improve your overall technique. The frequency of your warm-up routine will depend on how much you use your voice and what your individual vocal needs are. As a general guideline, a 10-15 minute warm-up session should be sufficient for most singers, but some may need more or less depending on their voice and their goals.

What is the best way to warm up my voice?

I believe it’s very important to find a warm-up routine that works best for your individual voice and goals. There are several tips that I recommend to all of my students.

Firstly, start by activating your body. This can involve simple movements such as neck rolls, shoulder shrugs, or gentle stretches to get the blood flowing and loosen up your muscles.

Next, focus on your respiratory system. Take a few deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. You can also try breathing exercises to engage your diaphragm and strengthen your lung capacity.

After that, warm up your larynx and vocal folds by making simple, soft sounds such as humming, lip trills, or "mmm" sounds. Gradually increase the volume and range of your sounds, taking care not to strain your voice.

It’s also important to warm up the pharynx, tongue, jaw, soft palate, lips, and mouth. This can involve exercises to loosen these muscles and improve articulation, such as jaw rolls, tongue trills, and lip trills.

Finally, engage the muscles of facial expression by making exaggerated facial expressions while you sing or speak.

Remember, the most important aspect of warm-up exercises is to match the warm-up to the type of singing you will be doing. For example, if you will be belting, your warm-up routine should include exercises that help you build power and strength in your voice.

The key is to be consistent with your warm-up routine and to listen to your body. Your warm-up should leave you feeling energized, refreshed, and ready to perform.

What are some vocal warm-up exercises according to vocal researchers?

I’ve studied many vocal warm-up exercises recommended by vocal researchers. Some of these exercises include:

  • Lip trills / Lip bubbles: This exercise involves making a rapid, repetitive "brrr" sound while keeping your lips together. It helps to warm up your lips, jaw, and tongue.

  • Humming: This exercise involves making a soft humming sound, gradually increasing the volume and range of the sound. Humming is a great way to warm up your vocal folds and larynx.

  • Scales: Singing scales is a classic warm-up exercise that helps to engage your respiratory system and improve pitch accuracy. Start with simple major or minor scales and gradually increase the range and complexity.

  • Tongue twisters: This exercise involves speaking or singing a series of rapidly spoken words, such as "She sells Seashells by the Seashore." Tongue twisters help to improve articulation and pronunciation.

  • Sirens, Slides & Glides: These exercises involve sliding up and down a scale, starting at a low pitch and gradually increasing to a high pitch, then sliding back down to the low pitch. Sirens help to warm up your voice and improve your pitch control.

  • Breath control exercises: This can include breathing exercises to engage your diaphragm, such as breathing in through your nose and then exhaling slowly through pursed lips.

These exercises are simply suggestions for you to try out. The best warm-up routine for you will depend on your individual voice and goals. I always encourage singers to experiment and find what works best for them.

What is the best way to practice vocal warm-ups?

I recommend the following tips for practicing vocal warm-ups:

  • Start out slowly: Begin with simple exercises and gradually increase the difficulty as your voice warms up.

  • Maintain good posture: Stand or sit up straight and make sure you’re breathing deeply and evenly. Good posture will help you to get the most out of your warm-up exercises.

  • Listen to your body: Take note of any tightness or discomfort in your neck, shoulders, or jaw, and make adjustments to your posture or warm-up exercises as needed.

  • Change up your routine: Mix up your warm-up routine to keep things interesting and avoid boredom. Try new exercises and add variations to your favorite exercises.

  • Repetition: Repeat each exercise several times to help your voice get fully warmed up.

  • Have fun: Make your warm-up routine enjoyable! Listen to music, sing along with your favorite songs, or turn your warm-up routine into a playful game.

  • Give yourself the time you need: Allow yourself enough time to fully warm up before singing or performing. Rushing through your warm-up routine can lead to voice strain and injury.

Don’t forget! The most important thing is to find what works best for you and make sure you enjoy the process. With a consistent and enjoyable warm-up routine, you can help your voice perform at its best and stay healthy for years to come.

How can I stay safe while doing vocal warm-ups?

Here are some tips to help you stay safe while doing vocal warm-ups:

  • Hydrate: Drink plenty of water before and after your warm-up routine to help keep your vocal cords hydrated.

  • Avoid straining: Don't push your voice to its limits during your warm-up routine. If you feel any discomfort or pain, stop and give your voice a rest.

  • Warm up gradually: Start with simple warm-up exercises and gradually increase the difficulty as your voice warms up.

  • Pay attention to what your body tells you: Take note of any tightness or discomfort in your neck, shoulders, or jaw, and make adjustments to your posture or warm-up exercises as needed.

  • Don't skip warm-ups: It's important to warm up your voice before singing or performing to help prevent injury. Skipping your warm-up routine can put unnecessary stress on your vocal cords.

  • Listen to your body: If you're feeling ill or have a throat or respiratory infection, it's best to take a break from singing and vocal exercises until you've fully recovered.

By following these guidelines, you can help ensure that your warm-up routine is safe and effective. Taking care of your voice is an important part of being a successful singer or performer, so be sure to listen to your body and take the necessary steps to keep your voice healthy.

What should I avoid when doing vocal warm-ups?

Here are some things to avoid when doing vocal warm-ups:

  • Yelling or screaming: Yelling or screaming can cause strain and damage to your vocal cords, so it's best to avoid these activities during your warm-up routine.

  • Breathing from the chest: Chest breathing can cause tension in your neck and shoulders, so be sure to breathe from your diaphragm to keep your voice relaxed and free from tension.

  • Holding your breath: Holding your breath during warm-up exercises can put extra strain on your vocal cords, so be sure to take slow, deep breaths throughout your warm-up routine.

  • Singing songs that are too high or low for your range: If a song is too high or low for your vocal range, you can put unnecessary stress on your voice and risk damaging your vocal cords.

  • Skipping warm-ups: Skipping your warm-up routine can put unnecessary strain on your voice and make it more difficult to do complex vocal techniques or styles.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can help keep your voice healthy and prevent injury while doing vocal warm-ups. Aan important part of being a successful singer or performer is taking care of yourself & your voice! So be sure to listen to your body and make adjustments to your warm-up routine as needed.

How long should my vocal warm-up session be?

I recommend that your vocal warm-up session last anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. This is just long enough to get your voice fully warmed up and ready to sing, but not so long that you risk over-stressing your vocal cords.

It's important to remember that everyone's voice is different, and that the length of your warm-up session may vary depending on factors such as your vocal range, the style of music you'll be singing, and your individual vocal health. If you're feeling tight or strained during your warm-up routine, it's always best to take a break and give your voice a rest.

In general, it's better to have a consistent, shorter warm-up routine that you stick to every day, rather than a longer, less frequent routine. This will help you build good vocal habits and ensure that your voice is always ready to perform at its best.

What are some tips for a successful vocal warm-up exercises?

I have several tips for a successful vocal warm-up:

  • Start Slow: Begin your warm-up session with slow, easy exercises that allow you to gradually build up your vocal strength and control.

  • Gradually Increase Intensity: As your voice begins to warm up, gradually increase the intensity of your exercises to challenge your voice and improve its range and flexibility.

  • Focus on Breath Control: Proper breath control is essential for a strong, healthy singing voice, so be sure to focus on breathing exercises that help you develop good breath support.

  • Vary Your Exercises: Mix up your warm-up routine by incorporating a variety of exercises that target different parts of your voice. This will help keep your voice well-rounded and ready for any type of singing.

  • Pay Attention to Your Body: Be mindful of how your body feels during your warm-up routine, and take breaks if you start to feel tight or strained.

  • Finish with a Cool-Down: After your warm-up session, finish with a cool-down routine that gradually decreases the intensity of your exercises. This will help prevent injury and protect your voice from damage.

  • Enjoy the Process: Most importantly, remember to have fun with your warm-up routine! Singing should be a joyful and enjoyable experience, so approach your warm-up exercises with a positive, enthusiastic attitude.

How can I use my diaphragm properly while doing a vocal warm-up?

I believe it’s very important to use the diaphragm properly while doing a vocal warm-up. Here are some tips for utilizing your diaphragm effectively:

  • Understand the Anatomy: The diaphragm is a large, dome-shaped muscle located at the base of the lungs that helps control your breath. To use your diaphragm effectively, you need to understand how it works and how it affects your singing voice.

  • Practice Diaphragmatic Breathing: Diaphragmatic breathing involves using your diaphragm to control the flow of air in and out of your lungs, rather than relying on shallow, chest breathing. This can help you develop better breath control and support your voice during singing.

  • Focus on Relaxation: When using your diaphragm, it's important to remain relaxed and avoid tensing up your abdominal muscles. Focus on taking deep, slow breaths and relaxing your body to allow your diaphragm to do its job.

  • Incorporate Diaphragmatic Exercises into Your Warm-Up: There are many diaphragmatic exercises that you can incorporate into your vocal warm-up routine, such as humming or lip trills, that will help you develop proper diaphragmatic control.

  • Listen to Your Body: As you practice using your diaphragm, pay close attention to how your body feels and make adjustments as needed. If you start to feel tight or strained, take a break and return to your warm-up exercises when you're ready.

By following these tips and incorporating diaphragmatic exercises into your warm-up routine, you can improve your singing voice and develop greater control over your breath.

Can using a singing straw be a great way to warm up your voice safely and effectively?

Using a singing straw is indeed a great way to warm up your voice safely and effectively. The singing straw exercises can help you focus on your breathing and diaphragm control, which is the foundation of good singing. By controlling the airflow through the straw, you can improve your breath support and increase the resonance in your voice. This simple exercise can be a great addition to your vocal warm-up routine, and I highly recommend giving it a try!

Is there an ideal length for a vocal warm up? 10 minutes 15? 20? or more?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The ideal length of a vocal warm-up varies from person to person and depends on various factors such as your skill level, the type of singing you'll be doing, and the length of your performance.

In general, I recommend starting with a warm-up session of about 10-15 minutes and gradually increasing the duration as you get more comfortable. For some professional singers, a 20-30 minute warm-up session may be necessary, especially before a long performance.

The important thing is to listen to your body and make sure that you're giving yourself enough time to properly warm up. A rushed warm-up can lead to strain or injury, so it's important to take your time and get your voice ready for the task at hand.

Is there a difference between a vocal warm up and vocal technique or singing technique training exercises?

Yes, there is a difference between a vocal warm up and vocal technique or singing technique training exercises.

A vocal warmup is a set of exercises designed to prepare the voice for performance or practice by gradually increasing the range, strength, and flexibility of the vocal muscles. The primary focus of a warm up is to get the voice ready to sing, reducing the risk of injury and improving the quality of the performance.

On the other hand, vocal technique or singing technique training exercises are designed to improve specific aspects of singing such as tone, pitch, control, and endurance. These exercises can also help build strength and flexibility in the voice, but the focus is on developing specific skills and improving overall vocal ability.

A vocal warmup is like stretching before a workout, preparing the body for physical activity. Vocal technique training exercises are like the workout itself, building strength and skills over time. Both are important components of a comprehensive vocal practice, and they work together to help singers achieve their goals.


About the author Philippe Hall:  ABOUT PAGE

Philippe Hall is one of the top vocal coaches in the world. The author & founder of Singing Revealed & the Four Activities of Singing

Philippe has a very unique approach to voice preparation, he calls it Voice Activation rather than a vocal warm up. Many people believe that they need to physically warm up their voice, but in reality, the voice is already physically warm. The goal is to activate the moving parts of the voice to prepare it for singing - Voice Activation.

Activation exercises are a more effective way of preparing the voice for singing. Here are 9 important steps to activate the voice:

  1. Start with activating the respiratory system through diaphragmatic breathing. This is a crucial step as breathing is the foundation of singing.

  2. Phonation can be activated using Semi-Occluded Vocal Tract Exercises (SOVTEs). These exercises help to improve the control and clarity of the voice.

  3. The muscles of facial expression, including the lips, mouth, and eyes, should also be activated.

  4. Activating the tongue can help to improve the diction and enunciation of the voice.

  5. The soft palate plays an important role in the production of vocal sound and should also be activated.

  6. The jaw should be activated to ensure that it remains relaxed while singing.

  7. The pharynx should be activated to ensure that it remains open and free, allowing for a clear, resonant voice.

  8. Activating the lengthening and shortening of vocal folds can help to improve the control and flexibility of the voice.

  9. The final step is to activate vocal fold adduction and abduction, which can help to improve the strength and endurance of the voice.

Activation exercises are a more effective way of preparing the voice for singing, and are an essential component of any vocal warm-up routine.





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