Warm-up for singing: Physical and breathing exercises


A little over three years ago, I shared my vocal warm-up routine. Re-reading that article alerted me to the fact that I have branched out a bit and my warm-up routine is now more varied.

The function of a warm-up is still the same: warming up the muscles that play a role in my singing, “greasing” the coordination, “getting into the zone” and checking in with my voice and body. Two things have changed, or rather become more varied:

  1. I use a wider array of exercises as a starting point. Some days, it’s glissandi on “m”, “ng”, and “n”. Other days, I sing scale fragments in my comfortable middle range on different forms of “r” and with “horse lips”. Other days, I start with octave glissandi downwards, or I launch right into scale fragments, depending on how I feel.
  2. I often use five to ten minutes of physical activity and/or breath-focused work to mobilize my body and get into good tension.

Now, the latter is probably informed by the fact that I have, over the past two years, adopted a pretty regular exercise habit, mainly bodyweight exercise programs, but also some yoga.

Last summer, I got a few interesting pointers form a friend of mine who freedives. From the resources he shared with me, I was able to extract some exercises that helped breathing a lot – I can now sing through some phrases I struggled with six months ago! Also, my high notes seem to come more easily. Another source of my new pre-singing warmups popped up in the “related videos” section of my favorite Youtube yoga videos.

I’m going to share some of them here – with some precautions. Continue reading

A new writing project: Notes on vocal health

So a couple weeks ago I had this brainfart of writing down my answer to “How do you keep your singing voice healthy?” And this kind of escalated. As of now, I have over 12000 characters in my draft. I am debating whether I should make it a blog post series, a free e-book or both.

Now, who am I to write about this? I didn’t even complete music school and I’m not a singing teacher, right? But I have been singing and absorbing a lot of knowledge about singing since I was 10. That’s over 30 years! I’ve sung in choirs for long periods and I had about a decade of more or less arduous singing lessons. And I suppose I picked up a bit of knowledge over the years 🙂

I’m not going to gear my advice towards professionals. There are better resources out there for that! The series/e-book I’m writing is for all the people who sing on an amateur level out there who just want a friendly treasure trove from an expericenced singer.
And because I’m writing it for you, dear readers – what do you want to know about singing? Ask me in the comments or hit me up on Twitter or my Mastodon profile at metalhead.club!

Like what I do? Yo can throw something in my tip jar on my ko-fi page.

Why there was so little FAWM blogging this time, and how I’m doing

Both FAWM 2017 and FAWM 2018 had been FAWMs where I had pretty sparse results. Well, in 2017 I was busy getting (legally) married and moving in with my wife. In 2018, I hadn’t gotten my recording setup out yet and I was busy with (breadwinning) work.

This year, I was finally feeling more in balance. But my songwriting mojo was buried deep and I had to dig it back out. I have rarely felt so unable to judge the quality of what I was writing and so self-conscious and vulnerable.
Also, I could barely make the time to write anything at all, but feeling self-conscious and vulnerable was the main reason why I wasn’t sharing anything. Continue reading

FAWM Songs Nr. 1: Soundscape I

OK, the orchestral piece I mentioned a few days ago is done.

It sounds like MIDI, because it basically is – just the Sibelius export. I couldn’t be bothered to fiddle with the mixing and balance beyond the standard settings – I wanted to get this out of the way, so I could move on to other ideas.

What I make for FAWM is not set in stone, though. It’s after the ideas, after all, not about perfectly produced things. I may revisit this later and find a way of balancing the instruments a little better.

FAWM! My first 3 days.

Now that my 30 Practice Prompts for Musicians are completed, what comes next? Well, as usual in February, I’m doing FAWM! You can follow my songwriting adventures on my FAWM profile.

As usual, I have the feeling everyone on my watchlist is cranking out songs and I’m the only one who has a hard time coming up with anything. This time it’s incorrect… I just went with an idea that turns out to be so much work. I am composing a thing for (romantic-era) symphony orchestra. Not quite as big as a Mahler or Shostakovich orchestra, but… it’s a lot of instruments. And a lot of details to pay attention to. But now that I have been at it for two days, things are getting easier. I start having an easier time coming up with complementary motives, writing things out and alternating between detail work and the big picture.
And btw, I’m going the all traditional route with this, writing it out in Sibelius. No MIDI at work here.

It’s pretty common for me to be a really slow worker, and it’s especially true with classical composition. I want to see this idea through and do it justice. I suppose it’s going to be worth it.

I want to do a few more songwriter-y things this year, too – when this one is done 🙂

Also, I’m turning an idea in my head for the next blogpost series. I want to share my knowledge about keeping your singing voice in shape. Even when you’re not a singing teacher or vocal coach, you can’t sing for most of your life and not pick up any useful knowledge about it 🙂
So if you have any questions about that – feel free to ask!

(And if you like my blog and want to throw something in my tip jar, you can do so over on my ko-fi page.)

30 Practice Prompts for Musicians Day 29–The bigger picture

Play or sing through one piece or song without stopping, no matter how many mistakes you might make. If you’re a beginner and you don’t have a whole piece yet, just play through everything you have learnt so far. Focus on connecting the dots to a whole. Keep the flow going.

30 Practice Prompts for Musicians Day 28–Buildup and Decay

We’ve looked at beginnings and endings. What happens in between? Try different ways of building up and reducing tension in a phrase. Pick a passage from your repertoire. Where are the peak points? Where does energy build up and where does it dissipate? Play around with that. Look at tempo, dynamics, articulation, phrasing.

30 Practice Prompts for Musicians Day 27–Transitions

How do you join phrases or musical parts together? How do you contrast them? Take a look at a passage that consists of two or more phrases, and pay special attention to the transition. If you’re a singer, that could mean looking at how you hold tension across a breath between two adjoined phrases or prepare in time for the transition into a new musical part.

30 Practice Prompts for Musicians Day 26–Emotion

Play something as expressively as you can today. Put in all the emotion you can. Get messy in the process. Let it be raw and immediate. Then take a step back and reflect: Are you so absorbed in your emotion that your musicianship is actually impeded? Does your experience hamper your connection to your audience, or does it give your music life and meaning? Or does your performance usually lack expressivity? What level of emotional intensity is appropriate in your musical practice? Do you connect with your audience on a direct, authentic and intense level of emotion? Or do you interact with listeners on a more abstract and intellectual level? There is no right or wrong answer for that – a Bach concerto is not a Hardcore song! What is your appropriate balance between emotional expression on one hand and musical and technical accuracy on the other hand?