This article is a follow up to the recent post, "Vocal warm ups: the non-technical benefits." Here we will describe the technical reasons that vocal warm up exercises are so critical to any singer or actor’s routine. Between these two blog posts, you’ll gain a broader understanding of why you’re warming up, why instructors and directors enforce it, and what you can expect to gain from the process.
Blood flow and temperature: Just like a sport, your body really does function better when it has time to gradually gear up for peak performance, rather than jumping in cold. Warming up increases blood flow and temperature to the larynx, respiratory system and articulators, which prepares the system to respond more quickly and smoothly to the demands you’ll put on it when singing, speaking and moving.
Muscle memory: The human body has a tremendous capacity to remember tasks and processes with very little conscious thought. Just like riding a bike or learning to play the piano, the singing and speaking with optimal tone is a skill that requires practice. Warming up with correct technique is a way to reinforce good habits into your muscles (in this case, the muscles of your mouth, throat, lungs, diaphragm and abdomen), so that when you’re on stage and need to call upon your body to perform, it will remember the right way to do so, through muscle memory.
Reducing injury: It is possible to injure your vocal apparatus at any time; however, it is less likely if you are warmed up. Particularly with repertoire that demands immediate use of extended range, volume or unusual tonal effects, don’t just jump in cold.
Extended range and tone: If you’re singing a song that stays well within the comfortable middle of your voice, you might be able to get away with skipping a warm up, but if your song reaches a high C, you are less likely to A) hit that note well or B) hit that note at all without a warm up. Same goes for the bottom of your range or any other type of specialized character effects (groaning, screeching, rock/pop tonal sounds, etc.).
Development of your voice: The pillars of vocal enhancement include the development of range, agility, vibrato, breath control, tonal contrast, diction, and consistency. Although using repertoire as an avenue to develop these skills is equally important, it can be difficult to find songs containing all the exact elements you want to work on. Vocal warm ups, on the other hand, can be easily designed from scratch to offer you the opportunity to work on those desired skills.
Don’t miss the previous post, where we describe the non-technical benefits of warming up in detail.
For additional resources and more of a full body warm up approach, see our Physical and Vocal Warm Up post.
Interested in improving your own breathing for performance? Try a vocal coaching session over skype (or in person in the San Diego area) to get one on one evaluation and solutions.
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