5 Top Vocal Exercises And Tips

I’ll be honest with you, I’m not the best at keeping up with my daily vocal exercises and I generally go through phases of maintaining this part of my routine. I do, however, naturally do a fair amount of vocal exercises when I am teaching, delivering workshops etc so I don’t feel too bad. Being a busy vocalist (on and off stage) and hanging around many other vocalists I know how important it is to exercise and warm up the voice if you want to get the most out of it. More than that though, good vocal exercises will keep your voice in good health for years to come.

Here I have put together my top tips for keeping your voice healthy and ready for anything whether that be a performance, a studio session or simply part of your daily vocal maintenance.

1. SLEEP
Not exactly a vocal exercise but nevertheless an incredibly important factor to maintain the good health of your voice. Not giving your vocals enough rest will take a toll on your performance full stop. Without this element, you set yourself up for a more challenging vocal day that’s for sure. So, make sure you get a good nights sleep before exercising your vocals or before a performance/studio day to ensure you take proper care of them.

2. VOICELESS EXERCISE TO WAKE UP FACIAL MUSCLES
Preparing the facial muscles before we start to produce any sound at all can really heighten your performance.

– Firstly, use your finger tips to gently massage your forehead, temples, cheekbones and jaw. Enjoy and relax.

– Now start pulling faces and make sure to use every single muscle in your face, from the tip of your nose to the root of your tongue. Really let yourself go with this exercise.

– Now try pursing your lips and draw them wide at the corners as if to make an awkward forced smile with your lips continuously closed.

– Purse your lips again and now draw a circle with the tip of your pursed lips. Draw the circle in one direction and then in the other. Be aware of every motion and make sure your circle is rounded and not edgy.

3. HUMM to HUMM-AHH
Humming is almost always the first warm up championed by vocal trainers across the world. As a vocal exercise it’s both incredibly simple and incredibly effective. You know what, it just feels good to hum. I actually think it makes me that much happier the minute I start humming. Strange.. but true. Needless truths aside.. let’s get to using this technique in practice.

– First, simply hum. Yes, teeth apart, lips together and hum. A nice relaxed hum please, no straining of the voice whatsoever. Pick a comfortable note in the middle of your range and yes, you guessed it.. hum!

– Now choose an interval (3rd, 4th, 5th) and hum each note down, for example if you chose 3rds and your first note was middle-C, hum the following notes ‘C, B, B♭ ,B, C’ (going down in steps and back up again to your original ‘C’ note). Then start from the 2nd note, which in this example would be the ‘B’ below the middle-C and hum the following notes ‘B, B♭, A, B♭, B’ (going down in steps and back up again to your original ‘B’ note). Keep this going until you reach your lowest ‘comfortable’ note and then work your way back up again.

– When you reach the very first note you started on, move up a note (in this example you would move up to ‘C♯’ and the next notes you would hum would be ‘C♯, C, B, C, C♯’. Again work the same pattern down the scale and back to the ‘C♯’ then move up another note to the ‘D’. Follow this exercise until you reach your highest ‘comfortable’ note.

– To advance on this you can add an ‘Ahh’ sound to the end of each Hum so each note is a ‘Humm-Ahh’. Keep your vocals nice and relaxed during this exercise and watch your intonation when adding the ‘Ah’ ;).

4. LIP TRILL or LIP BUBBLE
The lip trill is brilliant! For one you can practice this vocal exercise fairly discreetly, and when done correctly, it warms up your voice very quickly. What is a Lip Trill or Lip Bubble? Well it’s a widely popular vocal exercise whereby you start by passing air out of your mouth causing your lips to vibrate ‘freely’. I’ve highlighted the word ‘freely’ because your lips moving freely and not feeling overly forced is very important. We never want to strain our vocals. Go on, give it a go. Try to keep a nice and easy, steady pace with the vibration. Try to not let the vibration slow down or speed up too much. It is basically the same technique as used in ‘The Buzz’ lesson which you’ll find in the complete online beatboxing course only with the Lip Trill / Lip Bubble you use the front of your mouth always. Once you’ve nailed that, you can move onto Lip Trill Scales.

– Lip Trill Scales
Now do the same Lip Trill but vocalise notes at the same time as vibrating the lips. Use an instrument to practice scales like this if necessary. Think about it the same way as you would sing ‘La La La La La’ moving up or down the scale with each ‘La’. Once you’ve warmed up this way with each note separated, you can move on to using the same technique but now sliding through octaves. Again, use an instrument here if necessary. When you practice Lip Trill Scales you are not only warming up your vocals but also working on your intonation.

5. STRAW PHONATION
All you need for this one is a straw. Preferably one that isn’t too wide in diameter as the narrower it is the more beneficial this vocal exercise will be. You also don’t want the straw to be too narrow for you to be able to practice this technique correctly. This vocal exercise strengthens your vocal chords and magically aligns your vocals to give you the rich, full texture of vocal that we all desire. Ok so let’s get to it. First pick up the straw and put one end in your mouth. Now sing a note through the straw so that it kind of makes a buzzing sound. The energy you use should be mainly from your diaphragm. You want to be sure that all the air you are breathing out when you sing the note only goes through the straw and none is lost out the sides of your mouth or through your nose. In fact if you pinch your nose when trying this technique it should make no difference to the sound. It can take a little getting used to but once you have that down, you can try these.

– With the same technique, try a vocal slide from your lowest comfortable note, to your highest comfortable note. Take note of any weak points in the slide and use them as target areas to strengthen.

– Now try the same technique with varying intervals (3rds, 4ths, 5ths) sliding up and down each interval. Use an instrument to check your intonation if necessary.

– Once your voice is feeling nice and warmed up using this technique, you can move on to melody. Pick a song that is quite dynamic with varying intervals and use the same technique to produce the melody of the song.

Thanks for reading!

Danny

 

Did you find this article helpful? What are your favourite vocal exercises?

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Links:

Thanks to Lil Maxine for adding her inspiration (Voiceless Exercise To Wake Up Facial Muscles). Lil Maxine is a fantastic jazz singer, songwriter, composer and teacher. Find out more details here

Dr Ingo Titze discovered Straw Phonation. Watch a video of him explaining the technique here

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