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Here’s A Quick Way To Warmup Your Voice

Here’s a Quick Way to Warmup your Voice

This week Nick Morgan, Founder and CEO of Public Words, wrote a wonderful article titled, Your Speaking Voice in 2019 (read it here). In it, he discusses developing craft in voice use, including the need to warmup.

It got me thinking. Many people have no idea where to start, and learning to warm up from a book can be a challenge. So, what follows are some ideas for warming up your voice so that it can better serve you.

  1. The body fuels the breath: Body parts do their best work in concert and breathing in particular, is connected to everything. This means that efficient breathing begins in a pliable body. This does not mean that you have to be “fit” to breathe well, or even that you must be able-bodied in some specific way. It does mean that you must warm and stretch your body within your parameters to achieve your optimal breath. To that end:
    • Get acquainted with your spine. How does it articulate? How do your particular limitations restrict that articulation? Where is more freedom of movement possible?
    • How does your head sit in relation to the cervical spine? Do the muscles of your neck allow articulation in this relationship? When you look at your self in a mirror does you neck and/or head jut forward or backward? Do you favor a side in the position of your head?
    • How do your arms and legs extend from the spine? What is the range of motion for this extension? If you have mobility challenges, how does your unique physicality allow or restrict connection to the spine? For all bodies, how can you improve the extension especially in your torso, arms, and through your hip flexors.
    • Finally raise your body temperature a bit. Practice fire-breathing, take a walk, do some pilates, or work out — whatever works for you.
  2. No breath = No Voice: Warm up your breathing using one of the following exercises or your own favorite method.
    • Exhale on a gentle [s] sound like a slow leak from a tire. When you approach the end of the breath, don’t panic, just wait. You will inhale if you wait for it — this an automatic response. Repeat this exercise three times. Observe your breathing and investigate where more release (physical or mental) is possible. Don’t worry about how much air you seem to have, just exhale, wait, and let the body inhale.
    • Inhale a yawn and exhale a sigh. Which is to say try to trigger a natural yawn by inhaling with your mouth wide and exhale the yawn with a voiced sigh on an ah sound. Repeat this three times.
    • Lay on your back with your knees up and feet flat on the floor. Place a hand on your lower abdomen just below your navel. Exhale on a gentle [s] sound and observe your abdomen contracting inward. This time instead of waiting for the inhalation at the end of your breath, release the contraction of your abdominal muscles outward and observe how that gesture affects inhalation. After a few repetitions of this, extend your observation to how your shoulder blades specifically, and the whole torso more generally respond to this process.
    • Tell a prone story. If you able, place a cushion under your shoulder blades and lay draped over it. You may need another cushion or a rolled up towel to help support your head. As in the previous exercise lie on your back but this time keep your legs extended. Breathe as seems natural and start telling a real life story for a couple of minutes. It can be the story of your commute, of what is happening today, or what you ate for dinner last night. Anything goes. After you are done, and during any pauses, observe the sensation and movement of your abdomen. For the differently abled, this exercise can be completed in whatever position works for you.
  3. Wake up your Face: The muscles of your face, including the mouth cavity, lips, teeth, and tongue are crucial for clear voice use and articulation of language.
    • Start this process by making funny faces. Try to challenge yourself to find new movements in your face. Get creative.
    • Stretch your tongue.
      • Extending it out of your mouth. Trying to reach your nose, your chin, and either ear.
      • Place the tip of the tongue behind the bottom teeth and roll the rest of the tongue forward towards the opening of the mouth. Repeat this stretch 3-5 times.
      • Place the tip of the tongue behind the top teeth and trace the roof of your mouth back into the mouth. Repeat this stretch 3-5 times.
    • Loose Lips. Blow air through closed relaxed lips like a motor boat. This is called a lip trill. If you find it difficult to do, try pressing each cheek gently with one finger while you do it. Attempt to make the trill as even as possible and to hold it as long as possible. Extra points if you throw in some breath observation here. Extra points, voice a pitch on the lip trill and attempt to slide pitches in the trill (low to high and back).
  4. Time to make some Noise:
    • Continue with articulation by speaking through a tongue twister or two for clarity. You don’t want speed necessarily, you are after clear language supported by breath.
      • The Big Black Bug bit the Big Black Bear, so the Big Black Bear Bled Blue-Black Blood.
      • My Mother Made me Mad as Muppets.
      • She sells Seashells by the Seashore.
    • Extend your voicing by singing something. You do not have to have a singing voice you like to do this. If you have seen the animated film, Finding Nemo, this is more akin to Dory speaking Whale. Another sound you might emulate is Julia Child introducing her program or an affected English accent. Make each sound a little longer and use a little more breath and you will find the sing place.
    • If you have any singing background, or you just like fun, try some simple vocalises. For example, a 3 or 5 note ascending and descending scale on [u] and [I]. Extra points for triads sung in your comfortable speaking range on all the vowels and using any sounds you like. (Wondering how you are going to figure these out? No worries, watch the companion video below).

That is it. A short, and effective beginning vocal warm-up. Advanced techniques would be to take exercises into your actual content, practicing portions of speech with particular focus on your physical alignment, breath, and ease in articulation. After you master these, you might want to loop in exercises for projection and resonance or, even better, get yourself to a voice coach to further develop your vocal capacity.

Watch the video to see a vocal warmup in action. and feel free to use it to start your voice process.  If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment here or send me an email at gina@growvoice.com.

Companion Video for this Blog Post

GROW Voice, is a Boston-based business.  Founder and CEO, Gina Razón has taught voice and speech for over sixteen years to individuals, organizations and in academic settings.   She is sought after as a teacher of voice and speech, singing, and public presentation.  Gina has a BM and MM in Voice Performance, is a practitioner of Fitzmaurice Voicework and a certified teacher of Somatic Voicework. She has served as voice coach for TEDxCambridge, and speaks at National and local events on all things voice and speech.  Gina is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, The Voice Foundation, the Voice and Speech Trainers Association and the National Speakers Association. More information at www.growvoice.com.

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