Why do we warm-up? There may seem to be an obvious answer, but how focused are you during your warm-up? Does your mind wander while you are moving up and down the scale while playing? Do you just do easy vowels that your teacher usually uses while singing?
Why do you warm-up before you play a sport or work out at the gym? To get the muscles ready for work. Are you consciously thinking about what muscles you stretch depending on the exercises you’ll be performing?
As musicians, we know there is are physical aspects that go into performing music. We have to make sure those muscles, no matter how small, are ready to do work. We also have to remember that music is a full body experience. If your whole body is ready to move, it will be in a better alignment. And alignment is key to unlocking our optimal performance levels whether it be singing or playing.
STRETCH OUT. Always, always, always stretch out before you sit down to play or stand up to sing. Not sure what to do? Start with rolling your neck, move to your shoulders, stretch your arms high in the air and out to the side as you roll your shoulders back, roll your wrists, and stretch your fingers, roll forward and breathe as you drop your upper body towards the ground. Do a few jumping jacks or run in place for 30 seconds to get your blood flowing. Any of these simple exercises will help you get focused and prepared to enter the music. Sitting down at the piano with energy will help you stay focused and keep your body active so you don’t become stiff and create pain or postural problems.
FOCUS. When doing your vocal warm-up think about the songs you will be singing. Think about what vowels work best in your different voices. Warm-up through all your voice registers. Start in an easy range going up a little and back down. Then focus on your head voice, modifying your vowels toward “Ah” the higher you go, always bringing it back down after. Move to your chest voice, and then back to your mix. Spend a decent time listening to how your voice reacts to different vowels and consonants in different parts of your voice. The point of warm-ups is to get your larynx into a stable position so that you can move through all your ranges with ease.
Doing these simple, yet essential warm-ups will help keep you in alignment and add energy to your sound, no matter if it’s singing or playing. We must have the mentality of a musical athlete. It is also important to remember that there is no “fix all” warm-up. Do not make the mistake of thinking that if it works for one person it works for all or even if it works one day, it will work every day. It’s all about listening to your body and voice in the moment and making adjustments as you go.