The title says it all: the vocal warm up truly is absolutely necessary. Why? Good question – I hope to answer that in the lines below.
After a long day working, thinking, sweating, and the like, our bodies are exhausted and need a good night’s rest. When we wake up the next morning, our bodies are stiff, movements are weary, speech is groggy…you get the picture. But for some crazy reason, we have this notion that our vocal cords are immune from these weaknesses and will be able to perform at a moment’s notice. Guess again, my friends. Our vocal cords, unfortunately, are not immune to the everyday aches and pains of the body. In fact, the vocal cords have some unique aches and pains of their own.
When we wake up in the morning and attempt to speak, we generally have groggy speech. The grogginess in the voice is normally caused by mucous drainage during the night. When the mucous drains from your sinuses, it has this uncanny ability to latch onto your vocal cords. Since the mucous causes interference between your two vocal folds, your speech and singing will “hit and miss”, and thus grogginess occurs.
**Note: this is different from hoarseness. Hoarseness occurs when the vocal cords have been overused and become inflamed. When the vocal cords become inflamed, it becomes painful to bring them together. Hence you are forced to talk very light and breathy – aka, you are hoarse.
This is why the vocal warm up is so vitally important. If we do not warm up the voice to loosen the vocal cords and remove excess mucous, we are being mean to our precious folds because they are not ready to take on the task of singing. Herbal teas are very good for removing excess mucous from the vocal cords (chamomile is my favorite). Also, if you struggle with allergies, I sympathize with you because I do too. Take medicine (Claritin-D works the best for me) on days where your allergies are really getting to you.
As for exercises, use vocal fry and that grogginess to your advantage. Vocal fry is the lowest sound singers can make. Your vocal cords vibrate very slowly when using vocal fry – just think of Elmer Fudd. When he speaks, he speaks in vocal fry. Vocal fry is an excellent vocal warm up because it gently loosens the vocal cords and helps remove mucous. After you have used vocal fry for a few minutes (I generally do five minutes of vocal fry), I do some slow lip roll exercises. For an example on lip roll exercises, please click here. Once I have done enough lip roll exercises to get my voice loose, I move on to “nays”, “mums” and thin edge exercises on different scales (generally octave and arpeggio). These exercises prepare my voice to sing in all of my registers: chest, head and mix. All in all, I spend anywhere from 20-30 minutes warming up my voice before I begin to practice or sing.
You may have a different vocal warm up routine. Just having some type of vocal warm up is better than nothing at all. If you do not have a vocal warm up routine, please consider implementing one for the safety and health of your vocal cords. Vocal warm ups will vary from singer to singer, but each singer should have some sort of vocal warm up routine.
Warm up those vocal cords and sing on!