When people think of doing vocal warm ups, all too often they picture classical singers, Broadway performers, and choral scenarios where they are often implemented. Being a vocalist for a rock band myself, I can tell you that the benefits of warming up your voice, even in the non-traditional musical setting that is rock-n-roll, has countless benefits. Just like the other instruments on stage, your voice requires fine tuning and basic maintenance. It can make an incredibly noticeable difference in your live performance, and also comes in handy when preparing to record in the studio.
When preparing for a show, I often times go out and sit in my car when I know I’ll be on stage in less than an hour. Doing this within that time frame allows you to warm-up your voice with adequate time before performance, as it doesn’t take too terribly long to do everything I’m about to describe. I usually begin by utilizing a simple vowel sound, and hitting the highest comfortable note in my falsetto voice (the highest part of your range). I then slowly bring down the pitch over the break in my voice until I’m in my chest voice. Doing these two or three times helps to bridge the “break” in your voice, and will make it easier to transition between chest voice, head voice, and falsetto. Lip flutters, as well as controlled breathing exercises to help stimulate your diaphragm are also a good idea. Try taking as large of a breath as you can, making sure not to raise your shoulders, but to garner the breath support from your stomach, and hold a “hiss” sound. Hold it until you run out of air entirely. It doesn’t need to be loud, or tonally pleasant, as you are going for longevity and proper breath support. I usually end with an ascending round of various arpeggios or triads. Starting at your lowest comfortable note, sing triad melodies, or other arpeggios, going up and then back down the scale. You might want to try doing the same scale a few times over, utilizing different vowel sounds. Work your way up until you are going over the natural break in your voice, and forcing yourself to focus on maintaining a smooth transition. If you have the time, working your way back down is also an excellent idea.
Just as important as the warm ups themselves, are the things you do when not singing. Staying hydrated is essential to good vocal health. Beware however, to not drink cold water, especially after warming up. Your voice is produced with muscles in your throat, and the purpose of the warm ups is to do exactly what the name implies, to warm them up! If you spend time warming up your vocal cords, only to then drink a glass of ice water, the frigid water passes down your throat, which is right next to the cords you just warmed up, defeating the purpose. Keeping your water at room temperature, and drinking a lot of it a few hours before your performance or studio time, is a very good idea. Also try to avoid things that will coat your throat. Things like dairy products or soda, or greasy food, can have a negative impact on your voice.