How long does your choir session last for? A couple of hours or so, once a week? That is certainly how most of mine seem to run. Depending on the group we can run on a little longer so as to have time for a cup of tea and a biscuit or cake during the session as well (never underestimate the social power of a good quality biscuit!). But the limitation of singing for an hour or two means that it is very tempting to not warm up properly.
Spending half an hour or more on warm up exercises which are generally less than thrilling seems like a huge chunk of time out of the general singing which is, after all, why people come to the choir in the first place. However, don’t underestimate the importance of warming up your voice.
The good news is that you don’t have to give up a huge chunk of your choir time to warm up your voice. It is something that you can easily do at home, or on your way to choir.
- Do you drive to your choir? A car is the best place for making the odd noises that are so beneficial to vocal warmups. Nobody except you can hear yourself, and if you give a lift to another choir member, you can warm up together. Beware of doing lip trills in the car in summer when your windows are down, though. People look oddly at you whilst you are stationary at traffic lights. And yes, I know this from experience…
- Is your choir after you’ve come home from work? Do you have an hour or so whilst you are making dinner or whatever else you do between the finish of your daytime activities and start of your evening activities? Warm up in the kitchen whilst you are cooking or hum whilst you check Facebook. Anything that gets your voice working is great!
- Do you walk your dog before choir? Are you generally on your own? Have a bit of a sing whilst you are doing it, maybe put on a gentle song on a music player, and step out whilst you hum along. There are lots of great warmup exercises on the web which can be easily downloaded to an iPod or MP3 player.
- Do you have a shower before going out? The shower is the absolute best place to warm up – the air is warm and moist (excellent for your vocal muscles), the sound bounces around on the hard tiled surfaces, making you sound excellent, and there is a lock on the door, so no-one can interrupt you! Perfect!
- Does your choir leader give you CDs and/or downloadable tracks to practice along with? Use them before choir to warm up with – gently – and arrive at choir with your head full of harmonies and melodies and a voice ready to sing.
The difference between your cold voice and your warmed up voice can be really stark. Try recording yourself with your phone singing a simple song or nursery rhyme before you warm up, then warm up *properly* for half an hour – sing scales, lip trills, vowel enunciations, consonant practice, vocal placement and all the other stuff that we’ll talk about here in time – and then try recording yourself again. Listen to how many notes you got right the second time. Feel how much easier it is to move between notes and sing quick passages. Listen to the liquid quality of your voice in the second example as opposed to the tighter and more stressed sound of the first.
Now – isn’t that worth singing in the shower before you go out?