Physical and vocal warm up exercises for musical theatre


Every performer needs a solid warm up routine that they can use before rehearsals, shows, class, or practice sessions. As musical theatre performers, our unique field requires dance, acting and singing, engaging our entire body and voice at once. The following sequence will touch on every part of your body from head to toe, keeping in mind that your voice and mind are also body parts that need warming up.

Physical warm up:

  • Starting position: stand tall with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Swing your arms side to side.
  • Keep swinging and add twisting your torso into the swing, so you’re engaging your core.

  • Keep swinging and twisting, now engage your legs by adding a small squat as your swing. Swing, and squat. Swing and squat.
  • Return to starting position and extend your arms fully out at their sides. Circle your arms around to the right like a windmill.
  • Add your torso into the swing, so your arms are brushing the floor and reaching as high as they can, as they go around.
  • Switch and make circles to the right.
  • On your last windmill circle to the right, stop with your right arm resting on your right thigh as your left arm reaches as far toward the ceiling as you can, stretching your left oblique muscle (side of your abs). Switch sides and stretch your right oblique.
  • As you’re stretching your right oblique, most of your weight is on your left leg. Turn to face your left leg, so you are now in a lunge position with your left leg bent at 90 degrees, and your right leg is fully extended straight back. You are stretching all the muscles in your inner thighs. You may keep the lunge above the ground and hold, or you can drop your back knee to the floor.
  • Repeat the lunge on the other side.
  • Bring your weight back to the middle while your legs are still wide. Drop into a deep squat with both legs bent out to the sides, like a sumo squat.
  • From the sumo squat, shift your weight from side to side, stretching your inner thighs.
  • Keeping your legs wide, straighten your legs and bend over, bringing your hands to rest on the floor.
  • Staying bent over with hands on the floor, walk your legs back to a shoulder width distance apart, now stretching your hamstrings.
  • Roll up slowly.
  • Roll your head around in a clockwise motion, then counterclockwise.

Your body is warm! Now warm up your face and neck.

  • Make a big, wide face. Open your eyes, mouth, nose, cheeks as far as you can open them.
  • Scrunch your face tight. Close your eyes and mouth, and hold all your facial muscles as tight as you can.
  • Stick your tongue out as far as you can, then bring it back in. Alternate a few times.
  • Give your cheeks, temples and facial muscles a massage.
  • Start buzzing your lips, then add sound to it. Buzz as your voice makes a “siren”: starting at the bottom of your range, going all the way up to the top of your range, and back down. Like a police siren sound.

Everything around your voice is now warm. Add some vocalization:

  • Do the siren exercise again, but without the lip buzz. Do it on a “woo” sound.
  • Make a “ng” sound, like the end of the word “singing.” This sound resonates in the back of your mouth/nose area. Sing “ng” on a 1-3-5-3-1 scale pattern in the middle area of your range.
  • Now warm up the bottom of your voice: sing “mee, may, mah, mo, mooh” on a 5-4-3-2-1 pattern, going lower each time.
  • Warm up your upper range: sing “vi, vi, vi, vi, vi, vi, vi” on a 1-3-5-8-5-3-1 pattern, going higher each time.
  • Practice diction: say, “the lips, the teeth, the tip of the tounge” as a tongue twister repeated quickly, and really stress each consonant. You can speak this or sing it on pitches.
  • Engage your diaphragm by making a “ts” sound. Say “ts” 4 times, then hold for 4, for a total of 8 counts, like this: “ts, ts, ts, ts, tssssssssssss.” Repeat this and make the hold longer to challenge yourself, you can hold for 4, 8, 12, 16, etc.

Your body and voice are performance ready. Close your warm up by getting your mind in the zone:

  • Tighten your body, every muscle in your body and face, and hold it tight. Then let it all go while sighing a big “ahhhhhhh.” As you say “ah” mentally release all the tension and stress from your day that is unrelated to your performance or practice session.
  • If you are with a group or cast, end your warm ups by all putting a hand in the center and choose a meaningful word to shout as you release your hands. It could be a word like “passion,” “energy,” a word from your show or song, or whatever motivates you.

You're ready! Your blood is flowing, your voice is warm, and your mind is connected to your show or practice material. Go forth and make great musical theatre!

More resources

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