How long do YOU do vocal warmups – ten minutes? Twenty minutes?
How long do you think OTHER singers like you need? A half hour? An hour?
Try two hours.
I take occasional voice lessons from Jesse Nemitz, associate at the Brett Manning Studios in Nashville. He’s guiding me toward a new technique which I love… WHEN I can do it. It’s very hit-or-miss right now, but when I’m there, everything is easy. The break (or bridge) disappears. Tonal qualities are the same all the way through the entire range. There is great agility and ease. There’s complete dynamic control from pianissimo to fortissimo. Every note sounds natural.
Last week I asked Jesse why sometimes I could sing this way, and sometimes, even with a long 30- or 45-minute warmup, I could not.
Simple answer, he said. Two hours of warmup. He warms up for two hours before a show.
Why do some people need two hours to warm up vocally?
I used to need only about 20-30 minutes. Past that, there was no change. But I’ll use the running analogy again: But if you are warming up to go for a jog, a minute of walking might be all the warmup you need. But if you are preparing to do a sprint, you need to be completely warmed up before you try.
Here are some factors that affect how long you may need to warm up:
- Are you learning new technique? If you are, warm up longer.
- Are you about to sing songs that challenge you? If yes, warm up longer.
- Are you tired? If you are, warm up longer.
- How long did you sing yesterday? If not much, warm up longer. After a long vacation, I sometimes find it may take a week of long warmups to get back in shape!
- How long is tonight’s gig? Warm up longer for a shorter gig.
- How thick are your vocal cords? Thick cords need more warmup.
I am working on a new approach, have thick cords, and am usually singing songs that challenge me. So lately, I need at least 60 minutes. More often, an hour and a half.
One of my students told me that Steve Perry of Journey warmed up for two hours before every gig (thanks, Mark!). Not surprising, given those stratospheric notes!
OK, but how do you know when you’re warmed up?
You can test yourself by singing something challenging. Something that crosses your break, or that has high notes. When you are warmed up:
- Your top range opens up and becomes less breathy
- Your middle range fills out and gets stronger
- Your break gets less pronounced or goes away
- Vocal exercises – and all singing – feels easier
- Your voice feels more flexible and agile
And most importantly:
- When you do something hard, your vocal muscles don’t retain tension
On the other hand, if singing feels like a strain and is just getting harder the longer you’re doing it, you are probably not warmed up yet!
(c) 2010 Adrienne Osborn