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The 6 Best Vocal Warm Ups that Work Wonders

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Updated: September 2018

Much like athletes need to take the time to prepare before a big game, voice actors need to know how to warm up their voice to perform their best behind a microphone.  

Voice warm-ups have many benefits as they can loosen up your vocal cords and prepare you to nail your next audition or big presentation. Using your voice for an extended period of time can be challenging if you’re not prepared. Read on to learn how to warm up your voice::

  1. Body Stretches
  2. Humming and Lip Trills
  3. Descending on Nasal Consonants
  4. Frictives
  5. Tongue Twisters
  6. Yawns (to increase vocal range)

Why Vocal Warm-Ups are Important

The more you tone your vocal cords, the more versatile you will be, all while reducing your chances of injury. Simply put, if you get behind the microphone feeling tense or stressed, you are going to sound tense and stressed. But if you get into the booth feeling relaxed, limber and physically ready to tackle the day, your vocal performances are going to reflect that state too.

Tip: The sillier you sound and the better a voice warm up makes you feel, the more elastic, agile and comfortable your voice will become. Have fun with it!

Vocal Warm Up Exercise 1: Stretch Your Body

“Side stretches are great for expanding your rib cage and making your lungs feel like they are full of air,” says Voice Actor and Coach Heather Costa.

“Simply take a deep breath and raise your arms up to the sky. Exhale and slightly lean to the left, lengthening in your side body. Hold it there for just a couple of seconds before you inhale to center, and then exhale over to the right.”

“Next, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Inhale your arms up to the sky, then slowly bend at your waist on the exhale and take your hands toward the ground. It doesn’t matter how far you can go, the action of bending over is enough to give you a nice, warm stretch! Stay there for a couple of breaths, and then on an inhale slowly come back up to a standing position.”

Vocal Warm-Up Exercise 2: Humming and Lip Trills

A loose, gentle modulating hum is a nice way to ease in your facial muscles as well as create space for resonant sound. It gets your resonators going which in turn will help restore your vocal tone quality after sleeping for several hours.

Lip trills and flutters will also help loosen facial muscles and get your vocal cords warmed-up. Even better, if you try them in the shower.

Vocal Warm-Up Exercise 3: Descending on Nasal Consonants

Another good trick to open up the passages is to descend on a nasal consonant sound. If you are a fan or student of IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet), you know that there are a number of ways you can warm up your sinuses and nasal passages.

Take the English word onion for example. It’s quite nasal, particularly the second syllable – the ‘gn’ sound. Take that ‘gn’ sound and lovingly stretch it, slide it, and descend glissando style.

Go from the fifth down to the root of a scale on that with an ‘ah’ sound.

Another fave is any word that ends in a Z, like buzz or fuzz. Linger on the Z to get resonating.

Vocal Warm-Up Exercise 4: Frictives

Fricatives are consonants that are formed by impeding the flow of air so that a friction sound is produced. Common consonants are p’s, b’s and t’s. You can learn more about how to produce fricatives from vocal coaches.

This animated video from Glossika shows how frictives are produced:

Vocal Warm-Up Exercise 5: Tongue Twisters

Articulate, articulate, articulate. In the voice over business, this is one of the most important aspects of your performance.

If you don’t articulate or enunciate clearly, no one is going to understand a word of what you are saying.

5 Classic Tongue Twister Exercises

  1. Unique New York, Unique New York, Unique New York…. (repeat and speed up as necessary)
  2. A big black bug bit a big black bear
  3. She sells seashells by the sea shore
  4. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
  5. How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Vocal Warm Up Exercise 6: Yawn

Now that you’ve warmed up your resonators and articulators, let’s address range.

Yawning naturally drops your jaw and regulates oxygen, while extending your soft palate.

In this Time Magazine interview, Morgan Freeman reveals that yawning is part of the secret behind his very successful voice.

“If you’re looking to improve the sound of your voice, yawn a lot,” he says. “It relaxes your throat muscles. It relaxes your vocal cords. And as soon as they relax, the tone drops. The lower your voice is, the better you sound.”

Bonus: With more oxygen flowing up to your brain, you’ll also find that you are more alert.

How to do a Yawn-Sigh

  • Open your mouth as if to yawn, and slide all the way down from the top of your vocal range to the lowest grumble you can muster.
  • You’ll know when you bottom out.

Only do this a few times per warm up and never start with this one – leave it until the end when you have already exercised your voice.

Vocal Warm Up Tips

Some other tips to consider so that you get the most of your vocal warm ups, include:

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

It may go without saying, but a good sleep the night before, about eight hours if you can swing it, and a well conditioned, lubricated voice is the best preparation for warming up at the crack of dawn. This means staying well hydrated, well before you need to perform. Water is your best friend!

Do Your Vocal Warm-Ups in the Shower

If you’re a multi-tasker, you could probably fit your warm ups into your morning shower routine. The acoustics will be great and warm water is a plus. The humidity will also help as the moisture will coat and help protect your throat, vocal cords and more.

Bonus: Get even more tips and tricks on making your voice as performance ready, and your day as productive as can be in this feature post with Susan Berkley: Vocal Health Tips from a Voice Coach.

Do you have any voice warm ups to add?

What voice warm ups work for you?

Add your tips, tricks, techniques and tongue twisters below!

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Comments

  • Mesha
    June 20, 2007, 1:30 pm

    Yes… I believe that all of these tips and suggestions have been good.
    I have been singing since I was 6 years old and I am now 17. It has really hard for me because I have a really beautiful voice but sometimes under pressure it’s hard to let out and I have been suffering from this for years and I really need help!
    THE INFORMATION THAT WAS GIVEN TO ME WAS REALLY HELPFUL.

    Reply
  • Newcomer
    June 30, 2007, 2:59 pm

    I remember something about a cork… Hold on…
    Okay, found it. Here are some good warm-ups to add to the list!
    http://www.voiceacting.com/archives/32warmups/

    Reply
  • Maura
    October 9, 2007, 4:08 pm

    It’s better to do your warm up exercises lying on the ground and bending your knees.
    If you hold your hand on your lower stomach you will be able to see if you are singing from the correct place.

    Reply
  • Gabe
    April 18, 2009, 7:04 pm

    I’m 14 and recently discovered my passion for music and singing. I just started taking singing lessons and my next one is next week. I don’t have that great of a voice and I want to make singing my career I want to go to Juilliard for college but I need to improve. I will improve but I wanted to know if you guys had any tips for me. Thank you I would greatly appreciate your comments and advice.

    Reply
  • zayne
    June 4, 2010, 8:05 pm

    i go to a performing art school in Santa Ana called OCHSA and we’ve learned all these tips in singing class. They are especially helpful when i have to do a song in my first class.

    Reply
  • Lisa Rice
    December 17, 2010, 10:08 am

    Great tips, Stephanie!
    Any athlete knows that stretches and warm-ups are essential to peak performance. Voice over might not be considered a sport but it definitely gives everything above the waist a workout. We have to warm up if we want to deliver our best.

    Reply
  • Aaron Goodly
    November 23, 2011, 9:00 pm

    Awesome information Stephanie. I also want to add that when your mouth is starting to feel dry, an apple usually helps me out and corrects the issue pretty quickly.
    All the best,
    Aaron

    Reply
  • Vinnie Vinson
    December 1, 2011, 2:29 pm

    Coffee and a decongestant.

    Reply
  • Martin ONeill
    December 1, 2011, 2:29 pm

    Cup of tea

    Reply
  • Danny Danielson
    December 1, 2011, 2:30 pm

    Pudda Dugga Gudda! X10

    Reply
  • Zeke Elizondo
    December 1, 2011, 2:30 pm

    I’m having this problem right now. Got to get into the studio and I sound like a frog!

    Reply
  • Justine
    July 24, 2012, 12:53 pm

    This is good. I’ve been doing research and this is the most thorough response to the question. Thanks Steph

    Reply
  • Ryan
    September 2, 2012, 10:09 am

    Before doing any or all of these wonderful exercises you should actually do a physical warm up first. A little cardio followed by light stretching (especially of the neck) will prepare and loosen both the abdominal support muscles and the neck/laryngeal structure.

    Reply
  • LionBlood
    May 11, 2013, 2:58 pm

    The best exercise I know of, which revolutionized my voice is called the “Lip Roll” or “Lip Trill”.
    All you do is basically act like a baby and go “bbbbvvvvv” with enough air power to make your lips vibrate.
    What this does is firstly relaxed your larynx(swallowing muscle) and teaches your voice to use the right technique while singing. The lyranx muscle is like just under your chin connected to your neck.
    A new thing I starting doing is actually to massage my larynx, ’cause when you sing you should be so relaxed as if you just had a professional massage(STAY AWAKE OFCOURSE!!!)

    Reply
  • Andy
    December 4, 2018, 6:59 am

    that’s great need to learn more ,i need to be the best

    Reply
  • Pranayeshwar Vashisth
    February 19, 2019, 7:33 am

    The information provided here is very useful for a person like me ,who is a fresher in this field.
    There is no reason if I follow these guidelines and don’t succeed.

    Reply
  • Lawrence Bruce
    March 8, 2019, 11:19 pm

    The Whispered “Ah” as taught by Alexander Technique teachers is the best I know for releasing and placing the voice – especially if done while in the Position of Constructive Rest. (There are YouTube demos for these). And for the warm-up supreme, for years I have followed Kristin Linklater’s recommendation of Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

    Reply
  • Nikhilsunuwar
    June 10, 2019, 7:39 am

    yes i belive this is so so super duper helping exercise thank you

    Reply
  • Jacob
    July 5, 2019, 5:04 pm

    My high school choir teacher had us do tongue-twisters to warm up before practice. And one of the was:

    “One big bug bled blue blood, while the other big bug bled black”

    This helps me when I warm up, if it can help anyone else, I’d by glad.

    Reply