By Brian C. Spector, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Before the beginning of any sporting event, athletes always make sure to warm up. Football players exercise lightly at first and then work up to the ‘game level’ of muscle energy and flexibility gradually. Runners always stretch leg muscles first so they will be flexible when the race starts and not injure muscles. The same is true for voices of actors, teachers, singers and other professional voice users.
They are considered “vocal athletes” and just like “sport athletes” they need to warm up as well. We may talk for vocal “marathons”, talk louder than usual, use highly animated, high-energy voicing or use very high or low pitches for our job, presentation, etc. In any of these situations, it is important to warm up the vocal muscles before the “vocal” game. Vocal muscles can also be easily injured if not warmed up and cooled down before and after the vocal performance, just like your other muscles. Your voice professional will help you determine the exact warm-up exercises, how many and how long.
Here are a few tips you may consider when preparing your vocal warm up:
- Vocal focus exercises – Good focus moves the source of the voice from the throat and possible strain to the oral and nasal cavities where relaxation and vocal quality are improved. In order to get started properly, you should use “mm, nn or ing” for your warm up sounds.
- When your voice is louder, you will use more vocal energy. So during the first part of the warm up, you will use a voice between quiet and moderate. As you warm up, loudness may be increased.
- You will choose the easiest, least demanding pitches as you begin the warm up exercise. These pitches are about three or four pitches above your lowest pitch. Then you will gradually stretch the vocal folds as you raise the pitches.
- Later in the warm up, make the pitch changes more challenging as you progress.
These are just a few simple reminders of what to do during your vocal warm up. If you’d like to learn more ways to properly warm up your voice, consult with your voice care professional or voice coach.
To learn more about how we can help you, check out the Voice Care Center at The Ear, Nose, Throat and Plastic Surgery Associates.