Warming up can be boring. I know. Can't you just warm up your voice by singing? Most of you know you "should" warm up first before getting to a song. But why? And for how long?
First understand, what does warming up do? When you warm up by singing calm and focused exercises, without pushing your voice while you're getting started, you're telling your body a few things. "To my body, you and I":
- We are focusing on singing now, and letting other thoughts and to-dos be put aside
- This allows us to step into a place of mindfulness, which will guide us toward singing in a healthy way
- This in turn allows us to notice any tension held in the body, or resistance to singing, or impatience in practicing—all of which can get in the way of a successful and rewarding practice session
Quite literally, warming up your voice means you are introducing more blood flow into the area of your vocal folds (cords) inside your larynx at the front of your neck. Warm vocal cords are more pliable, flexible—which is what you want for a healthy and reliable singing voice. Cold vocal cords will be stiff and less responsive, which can lead to problems if you force them before they're ready.
So how long does it take? Well, that depends. How does your voice feel when you're starting out? What time of day is it? What have you eaten lately? How is your mood? Is your body stiff? Are you going to sing in a powerful way when you get to your song, such as belting? You should ask all of these questions of yourself when you're starting your practice. A general rule of thumb is to warm up for at least 20 minutes before you get to your songs, longer if your songs are technically difficult or if your voice is feeling less responsive on that day.
You'll know when your voice feels like it's getting warmed up. It feels better. Singing is easier. After you've done some simple, mindful exercises during your warm up period, work next on technical exercises to build skill. This allows you to focus on performing without worrying about not having good enough technique when it counts the most.
It's also a great idea to keep a regular practice journal, each time you practice. Write down these questions and observe your patterns. Learn what you need for your singing practice to feel really great. Look for the sample practice journal in the Technique section that you can use as a template.