As an artist, your most valuable asset is your voice. It is the unique element that sets you apart from other artists. No matter how spectacular you look, or how engaging your stage presence, or how amazing your musical prowess is, it is your voice that your fans recognize and respond to. It is what sells your products, builds your career and supports your lifestyle. Therefore, it is your biggest asset!
Protecting your singing voice
One of my protégés has been on the road singing with the legendary Bob Seger. Bob has been active in the music business for over five decades. He is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He has helped establish the careers of many musicians and other artists and continues to surround himself with only the best talent.
But no matter how good his songs, show, and side musicians, his fans buy tickets to hear his amazing, unique voice. And they would NOT pay the price of admission to hear someone else singing his songs, no matter how talented they were. There is no replacement for Bob Seger’s voice.
There is no replacement for your voice either if you want a successful, lengthy career as an artist. Yet many artists take better care of their guitar than their voice.
I work with a lot of emerging artists on development, music production and performance coaching. One of the most important foundational tools I can give them is an understanding of how to protect their voices to insure their careers.
I have created a free video on my website that explains the importance of a vocal warm up program. On it, I walk you through a step-by-step routine that can be customized for any singer and situation. I will give you an outline of it here, but to better understand it and apply it to your own career, I recommend you watch the video.
WHY should you warm up your voice before you sing?
To stretch the muscles associated with singing. Singing, done properly, is a full body exercise. The better your body is prepared for a performance, the better performance you will give. Warming up will give you more strength and stamina and more control.
Warming up before a performance is also a way to test your voice. Each day and each show brings new challenges and opportunities for you as an artist. By knowing what tools you have available to you that day you can decide how to use them to create a great performance.
Regular vocal warm up will strengthen not only your physical stamina, but also your muscle memory and technique. And it will help you develop vocal survival instincts.
You will learn how to control what you can (fatigue, vocal exhaustion, physical and vocal preparedness), and survive what you cannot (weather, sound system, venue environment, crowd noise).
The more prepared you are, the better you can react to all of these things and give the best performance you can working within the parameters of vocal ability you have on any given day.
HOW should you warm up your voice?
Here is a basic vocal warm up program that will get you started. You can adjust it to fit your needs and preferences, but I recommend first that you try it in its completion for at least three weeks before making any alterations.
First, always warm up slowly and relaxed. Set a comfortable tempo (speed it up as you get more comfortable all of the with exercises).
Warm up your core first (diaphragm and support muscles). Do not worry about quality of your voice until step 6 of the 8-step program below.
- Soft, mid range staccato – single note (9 repetitions of a single note, then going up in ½ step increments, repeating the process. Next, go back down the scale in ½ note increments in the same manner.)
- Stronger full range staccato – single note (as above, stretching your high and low range by increasing the scale)
- Soft, mid range staccato – small scale (instead of repeating the same note 9 times, go up 5 whole notes, one at a time and back down to complete the 9 note phrase before moving up ½ step. Then repeat the process staying within a comfortable range.)
- Stronger full range staccato – small scale (as above, but stretching your range more, high and low.)
- Soft mid range – legato – small scale
- Stronger full range legato – small scale
- Breath control – same 9 note scale, legato; holding out the top and bottom note to test breath control.
- Relax – be sure to keep your throat, neck and shoulders relaxed throughout the warm up process to keep from straining your vocal chords and to get the most benefit from it.
WHEN should you warm up?
Everyday, twice a day for building stamina, increasing range, getting in vocal shape
Once a day for maintenance
Four to six hours before show EVERY SHOW
Again one hour before show
Test warm up and relaxation right before you hit the stage
If you are not warmed up, you may get caught up in the show or panic under less than ideal conditions and do serious damage to your voice.
If you are serious about your singing career, and especially if you are a young artist, it is imperative that you take care of your voice. It will not only help insure your longevity as an artist, but also help you enjoy performing more.
Practice this vocal warm up. As you get comfortable with it and stronger, create your own variation focusing on your goals and needs. Figure out what warm up program works best for you and then commit to it.
Protect your voice. Protect your career.
You can get more tips about singing, songwriting, production and how to find success in the music industry on my website, www.kimcopelandproductions.com.
Kim Copeland is a music producer with a studio on Music Row. She works with artists of most genres. She also schedules regular songwriter demo sessions each month.