5 Simple Vocal Warm Ups (For Beginners)
Learning how to sing can be a tricky business, but fortunately there are simple vocal warm ups that will open up your voice and allow you to improve your singing instantly. The process of warming up is partly physical, and partly to do with muscle memory and recalling the free feeling of basic exercises when you sing actual songs. If you’ve been looking for the best simple vocal warm ups, then you’ve come to the right place. These 5 simple vocal warm ups will change your life… and your voice!
#1 – Open and Closed
Alternating between a closed vowel like EE in your low and mid range and an open vowel like OH or AH in your upper range is a great way to develop your middle voice and bridge a connection between chest and head voice. A powerful and consistent high range is a result of allowing appropriate resonant space for higher frequencies, and the easiest way to learn this is to alternate between a closed and open sound like OO to AH or EE to AY.
#2 – Lip Trills
I know, they’re boring as hell and sound funny, but they are seriously THE most important singing exercise you can ever practice. Lip trills can be used in many different ways to develop strength in many different parts of your voice. While they’re a very common exercise in many vocal methods, it’s rare for someone to actually explain how and why lip trills work the way they do – so lets work it out once and for all. A lip trill occurs due to a build up of air pressure behind closed lips, resulting in a ‘bubble’ at the lips, releasing the pressure and allowing the lips to close again, this repeats indefinitely with consistent air pressure and you get the BRRR effect of a lip trill. Add in vocal fold closure and resonance and you have yourself a pretty killer lip trill. Now, some issues that singers may experience with lip trills include:
- Passage of air – your nose should be ‘blocked’ by the soft palate so the pressure builds up behind your lips, not through your nose
- Airflow – too much airflow will literally blow your lips apart instead of allowing them to release pressure sequentially
- Onset – rather than blowing out a powerful “BUH” when you start the trill, try to start the trill at your lips first and add in vocal fold closure later to ensure you’re not using a forceful onset
- Placement – If your resonance sucks and you’re singing from the throat, your lip trill will suffer
#3 – N & NG
N and NG are two very useful sounds for developing proper resonance placement in the vocal tract. Funnily enough, one of the best words for practising resonance is actually “Sing” while sustaining the resonant NG at the end of the word. You can use this sound in any scale or exercise to create a released and efficient resonant sound. N and NG are another exercise that can be used in MANY different ways, from connecting chest and head right through to building placement, building power, developing your onsets and many other useful aspects of a great singing voice.
#4 – Vowel shaping
In speech we often create our vowel sounds by using the front portion of the face, known as the articulators, including the teeth, tip of the tongue and lips. While in singing, you actually shape each vowel sound with the back of your tongue while matching appropriate resonant space to the frequencies each vowel creates. The best way to practice this is to alternate between an EE and AH sound, like See and Car – no doubt you can feel your tongue rise in the back for the EE sound, and then lower to a concave at the base of your mouth for the AH sound. Congratulations, you just shaped your first to vowels, now you can start practising these vowels in the same manner you practice your lip trills and NG sounds with a resonant buzz. Aside from OO, which is created when you move the bulk of your tongue back into your throat and elongate your lips forward, all other vowels are created from the base of either an EE vowel, such as the AY and EH vowel, and the AH vowel for sounds like AA and OH. Learning how to shape your vowels is incredibly important for creating efficient resonance and releasing vocal chord strain.
#5 – Resonant space
Remember the feeling of opening your vowels in the “Open Close” exercise? The reason this works so well is because the open vowel allows more resonant space in the pharynx due to opening of the soft palate and movement of the root of the tongue (bear with me!). The more you practice this, the sooner you’ll realise that this also happens when you START on an open vowel like AH – as you ascend towards your first vocal break, simply aim your vowel into the soft palate in the back of your head and allow the same space you felt in the earlier exercise. Increasing your resonant space is the first stepping stone to connecting chest and head voice and developing your high range. The more you practice this shift in resonance and the space it allows, the more powerful your resonance will become and the more free-and-easy singing actual songs will become.
Balance is key
Singing itself is actually a process of balance that occurs over time, not a feat of muscular strength. Use these simple vocal warm ups to develop balance in your voice over time, remember not to run before you can walk! Every aspect of your voice can be traced back to balance, and every issue you experience in singing can be linked to a lack of balance. A healthy onset occurs when you balance airflow and air pressure, an extensive range occurs when you balance your frequencies, a nice tone occurs when you balance your resonance and so forth – remember, singing itself is easy, so if something feels difficult, then you’re not doing it correctly.
If you need help balancing your voice and taking your voice to the next level after these basic vocal warm ups have built your resonance and coordination, you can book a Skype Lesson with me and we’ll start working towards extending your range and building control and consistency in your voice every time you sing!
If you have any questions about basic vocal warm ups you’re more than welcome to leave any feedback or questions below!
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.