If you ever find yourself interested in buying a vocal program or modeling yourself after a vocalist who makes fun of the idea of warmups and exercises, RUN FAR AWAY FROM IT!
Every serious vocalist, expert, professor, coach, and famous singer will tell how critically important it is to strengthen your voice with proper vocal warmups and exercises.
I’ve seen this over and over as a music teacher and singer myself for 20 years. Neglecting proper care and strengthening of your voice limits your potential and leaves you open to frustration and quitting.
Unfortunately, there are a ton of exercises out there, and it’s difficult for most people to sort through and find the truly good and effective ones.
I’m here to help with this guide for all kinds of voices and situations with simple and actionable warmups and exercises for you to begin right away.
Let’s dive in!
Why Daily Vocal Warmups And Exercises Are Important
Before you dig into the warmups, you may doubt my claim:
Are vocal warmups and exercises as important as you say?
If you don’t believe my experience as a vocal teacher and singer, let’s dig into why these things are so important.
Strengthens The Voice
No athlete would simply dive into a sport or even without some prior training. They need time and specific exercises to build coordination and strength.
It’s the same with vocal pursuits.
Your voice is a coordination of your breathing and vocal muscles.
To neglect specific strengthening exercises through good warmups is to set yourself up for failure.
Singing isn’t like talking; your diaphragm and vocal cords react differently and need special training.
Develops Ear Training
A huge part of any successful musician is through ear training.
Can you hear pitches accurately? Do you understand how the notes are related to one another?
No amount of instruction will replace practical experience with listening and matching pitches.
Builds Pitch Accuracy
Along the same lines, the proper support which comes from strengthening and the higher-level ear training will make you a more accurate singer.
If you’ve ever watched any vocal competition show, you’ll hear the judges call some singers “pitchy” or say how they’re “just a little off.”
This is due to the singers’ lack of pitch awareness and support which comes from intentional and better vocal warmups and exercises.
Personally, I notice a huge difference when I sing with and without a warmup. Without a warmup, I keep struggling to stay in tune with other singers and/or the accompaniment.
When you sing, you shape your mouth, oral cavities, tongue, throat, and body differently than when you talk.
In the middle of a performance, you won’t have time to think about all of these elements. You’ll need a good tone to be second-nature, an ingrained habit, so you can focus on musical performance.
Consistent warming up and vocal exercising will hammer this into your brain to the point you don’t need to worry about it much.
People underestimate the stamina it takes and the difficulty of singing for a prolonged period. When I’m out of musical shape, I struggle to sing for more than 30 minutes straight.
This isn’t good for any would-be vocalist.
Warming up will loosen your muscles and get you ready for a longer performance.
Consistently performing your exercises will build you up for the long haul.
What Makes Up Good Vocal Warmups
According to vocal expert, Guillermo Rosaiah Coto, in 2006 article in Musicien Educateur Au Canada:
“In order to be worthwhile, the warm-up session should be short and intense, but not over-demanding, as well as dynamic, varied, and purposeful.“
In this simple but powerful statement, we see all the things a good warmup and exercise will include.
Here are the steps of a good warmup based on my experience.
Note: This section won’t cover specific exercises (that’s for later), but it will talk about what you need to cover.
#1 Breathing And Posture
Never underestimate breathing and posture.
Good posture will align your body, so the tension is as minimal as possible. With less tension, you’ll have freer air, more support, and a better tone.
Breathing is like fuel in a race car. Use too little or the wrong kind and the car will go slow or even burn out.
Breathing should be circular and relaxed starting with the dropping and filling of the abdomen.
When it comes to breathing, I think this video does a great job of talking about the right way to take a full breath.
Try this breathing exercise:
- Inhale with an open “O” mouth shape as if saying “toe” for 4 beats at 100 beats per minute
- Exhale all your air out with an “ooh” shape as if saying “boo” for 6 beats
- Inhale “O” for 4
- Exhale “ooh” for 8
- Inhale for 4
- Exhale for 10
- Inhale for 4
- Exhale for 12
- Inhale for 4
- Exhale for 10
- Repeat until you’re back to 6-beat exhale
#2 General Pitch Sirens
After you do some breathing and posture alignment, you need to prep your vocal cords for singing.
This would like the athlete doing a little jogging before they stretch just to get their blood flowing.
Using an open vowel and possibly a silly sound, you’re going to make sirens. Sirens are just like they sound: a singing sound stretching up and down as far as you can go without trying to sing anything in particular.
This warmup/exercise will get the blood flowing to your vocal cords as well as relax the muscles to improve flexibility.
This Siren Exercise is a good place to get started.
If you’re looking for any quick vocal warmup to do when time is short, the Sirens one if the one to do.
#3 Specific and Small Interval Training
After some sirens, your voice and ears need to do a little work going by singing small steps and intervals.
Whatever your vocal range is, start in the middle of the range and move up and down by step and slowly.
You’ll want to go as high and low as possible without straining.
Learn about how to figure out your vocal range and improve it.
You’d be amazed at how much this type of vocal exercise will help your low range and improve your ear.
Note: Exercises #3-5 can change for different voice types. I’ll mention exercises and warmups below and which category they fall into.
Look in later sections for these exercises.
#4 Agility Training
With the slow, stepwise exercise done, it’s time to get your voice moving with agility exercises.
These types of exercise move quicker.
As with all exercises, you should start in the middle of your range, move upwards gradually, and then return to middle.
After you return to the middle, go down to the lowest you’re able to.
Agility exercises are perfect for getting your voice to be more flexible and improving your higher range.
#5 Range Stretching
After this is all done, I always end with a vocal range stretching exercise.
By this point, your voice is going to be nice and warm. It’s time to push yourself (without actually straining).
You may want to learn more about specific tips for improving your singing tone.
The format of the exercise is similar to before, but the exercise will cover a wider range of pitches and offer different vowel shapes for singing higher and lower as well as different vowels to help male and female voices (see later section for specific exercises on voice type).
#?? Vowel Formation
You’ll probably wonder why I didn’t give this “exercise” a specific number.
Vowel formation with singing is a deep topic unto itself.
Your mouth shape is key to creating a good and accurate tone.
With every exercise from 2-5, you’ll want to do them with different vowel sounds and shapes.
Some will work better as you go higher while others make a huge difference when you sing low.
For the purposes of this article, use the recommended vowel shape with the exercises we share.
If you want to learn more about vowel placement, check out this video.
Best Vocal Warmups By Voice Type
This section will offer some of the #3-5 types of warmups from above for each specific voice type.
Any of these warmups can be cross-used by other voice types, but they work best for the voice type in each category.
Vocal Warmups For Men
First, we’ll look at the best vocal warmups for male voices.
Generally, the male voice uses a lot of their range potential already. Warming up and exercising will give some more range to the male voice, but not as much as a female singer.
Male voices have a tendency to need more emphasis on vowel formation and smoothing the break (where the head voice and chest voice meet).
For men, the break is much starker than the female voice.
A lot of the best vocal exercises for men will focus on these.
Vocal Exercises For Tenors
Tenors need to stretch the range higher by emphasizing support. Their break is higher than the bass or baritone.
Often, vowel formation needs to adjust to brighter sounds to help get higher notes to speak.
Take a look at this exercise for both vowel placement and higher range stretching.
Ah-Ae-Ee-Ae-Ah – #5 Range Stretching
Pro-tip: Use your hand to show the rising and lowering motion and flip your hand over on the top note. This will help your mind connect to your muscles.
For male voices, and to a lesser degree female voices, this one of the most effective vocal warmups for high notes.
This exercise also works pretty well for bass and baritone, but it really shines on tenor.
Vocal Exercises For Bass And Baritone
Bass and baritone voices have two big things they need to focus on:
- Relaxing the throat, mouth, and jaw for the lower range
- Agility and lighter singing
The strength of this voice is how they sing lower and provide a good richness to any choir or solo sound.
But it’s a common tendency to sing “slowly’ and struggle to follow quicker lines.
These exercises will help with relaxing the low range and improving agility.
Stepping Down And Up – #3 Specific And Small Interval Training
Pro-tip: As you get lower, keep your head at or just above level with the ground. Place both hands on the side of your cheeks and gently rub the cheeks in a downward motion to help your jaw stay relaxed as you go lower.
Ba-da-bee-da-ba – #4 Agility Training
Pro-tip: Bounce with your knees to the beat to help your voice stay loose and not forced.
Vocal Warmups For Women
When you’re looking at the tendencies of the female voice, you don’t need to worry about their “break” as much as the difference in tone isn’t as dramatic.
Altos tend to have a more noticeable break than sopranos.
The low range of their voice can only be stretched so far, but the upper range and pitch accuracy usually require focus but have a lot of potentials.
Good vocal warmups and exercises for female voices should focus on these areas.
Vocal Exercises For Sopranos And Mezzos
The soprano voice is usually described as much more “airy” and free than the male tenor or alto voice.
In fact, some vocal experts will look at tone quality as much as the range to determine a voice type.
The soprano voice needs to stretch its range higher while focusing on support.
For this reason, a lot of their exercises are paired with motions to encourage proper breath support.
Scale Mastery – #5 Range Stretching
Pro-tip: Place one hand on your stomach to feel your abdomen engaging on the higher notes.
The Stepping Up and Down exercise previously is a good one as well, just focus on going up and supporting it with good air.
Vocal Exercises For Altos
Altos voices are typically lower than sopranos and have a deeper tone.
For this voice type, they should focus on increasing ear training for pitch accuracy. In choirs and any group, the alto has the toughest harmony parts and needs a perfect ear to sound good.
Interval Palooza – #4 Agility Training
This exercise is one of my personal favorites (even as a baritone). It works on so many levels, and this makes it one of the best vocal warmups for an awesome voice.
Best Vocal Warmups For Kids
When it comes to children singers, their voices are interesting to warmup. As a children’s choir director, I’ve found it best to make all warmups contain 3 elements:
- Fun and silly
- Develop the ear
- Use smaller range
Here are 2 of my favorites that hit these points. Adults will have no problem using these as well, but the content is a bit more kid-focused (though my adult singers seem to love them too!).
Nibble Nibble Crunch – #3 Specific Pitch and Small Interval
Meeneemeenee – #4 Agility Training
This all may seem silly, but these two are my favorite fun vocal warmups for beginners and kids alike.
Vocal Warmups Before A Performance
Should you warm up and do some vocal exercises before a performance?
Some will be worried about straining your voice, but if you go through every step in order, you won’t at all.
Rushing through exercises and pushing too hard will weaken your voice with strain.
This is a sample warmup/exercise routine to do 30-60 minutes before your show. It takes 10-15 minutes to do.
- Do some stretching and posture alignment.
- Perform the inhale-exhale exercise from above
- Do Stepping Up And Down
- Go through Interval Palooza
- Support your range with Ah-Ae-Ee-Ae-Ah
- Do some breathing exercises to calm your nerves
I hope I’ve convinced you about the importance of vocal warmups and exercises and given you enough to get you started.
It shouldn’t take much time to get your voice warmed up and stretched before you get into singing your favorite songs, but if you do it consistently you’ll notice a huge difference in your voice.
Here’s my challenge for you:
Pick a warmup for each of the five types of warmups you should include. Do this every day for 14 days before you sing your songs.
I guarantee you’ll notice you sing better, stronger, and with more accurate pitch.