Have you ever done any high-intensity sports?
I ran track and cross country in high school. When we would warm up for the afternoon workout, we’d start with an easy jog. Not a 100-meter sprint; not even a half-mile run. We would start with an easy jog around the football field. Why? You know why. The muscles have to warm up, get blood moving, and release and relax into movement.
Have you ever skipped your warmup, like running too fast too soon? Say if you only have 30 minutes on your lunch break and you want to get a four-mile run in. So you start out at your brisk 7-minute-mile pace, and the entire run is a fight against tight legs, right?
So… why do we so often try to warm up our voices as if we’re sprinting from zero?
This happened to a friend of mine last week: She jumped into singing a tough Evanescence song at rehearsal without a good low-volume warmup beforehand. Her voice got tighter and tighter with each song, instead of getting looser and more capable. Same thing that I’ve done to my quads when I thought I could sprint a quarter mile as fast as possible with no warmup. Ouch!
OK, so you know you need to warm up. How, and for how long?
This is where the finesse comes in. It’s far better to do five minutes of perfectly executed low-volume warmups than a half hour of mindless exercises done half-correctly.
Here’s what to look for in your warmups:
1) Breath / airflow. Make your in/out breath cycle the source of your sound and movement – not tightening up your throat muscles.
2) Connection. I use this term to indicate efficient use of your vocal cords. Look for a small buzz or edge in your voice, rather than a breathy or hooty sound.
3) Ease. Your throat muscles don’t need to work. Your larynx doesn’t need to go up and down. Take it easy.
4) Low volume. Don’t sprint. Save that for the race.
If you warm up lightly and correctly, you can then sing your songs at full volume with ease!
(c) 2011 Adrienne Osborn