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Country Vocals Lessons: Why Warm Up?

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We are at one of the most
critical moments of developing as
a singer, as a vocalist, and
that is the beautiful world of warming up.
Every singer talks about warming up,
has their kind of arsenal
of warm up activities that they use,
we think a lot about warming up.
Some people do warm up, some people don't
warm up, sometimes you know you should
warm up but you just don't have time or
something interrupted.
But warming up is something that
we think about and talk about.
So here's the interesting
thing about that conversation,
there's not really a lot of science,
that documents the effect
of warming up on singers.
There's a little bit of research
on the effect of warming up for
athletes, like athletes warming up
before a race or before a game.
There's not a lot of that research, and
there's even less on the effect
of warm ups for singers.
So, we have to go from experience,
personal experience and
experience of others that we share.
Experience generally teaches singers that
most vocalists do benefit from slowly and
gently engaging each of the various
participants in the entire vocal system.
And a lot of that engagement
has to do with focusing or
re-purposing parts of your body
that have already been active,
but they've been used for
a different purpose.
So a lot of warming up is what
happens when you re-purpose and
set a specific intention of singing
for these parts of your body
that you're going to engage,
which is pretty much your whole body.
So we find that, like athletes
who are warming up for a race or
a game, our musculature
also depends on blood flow.
So gentle activity does increase blood
flow to the muscles that we're gonna use.
And it warms up muscles in our face,
[SOUND] our lips,
our tongue, our neck, the larynx here.
The larynx is actually bone itself,
this bone, and
there's a lot of cartilage and
ligaments that help control the larynx.
But there are muscles that are part of
that and they're very fine tuning muscles.
That's what sets a singer apart is that so
many of the muscles that you use for
your work are very tiny and
it's very subtle use.
It's a very nuanced application of
what your muscles need to be doing.
So it may be that just
the mental action of setting
your intention to sing, like putting
your body and your mind in a stance of,
now all of this is going to be
focused on the activity of singing.
It may be that subconsciously because
of your experience as a singer,
subconsciously, your
muscles are more attuned.
And the relationship between your
brain and your thought, your mind and
what your mind is telling your muscles to
do in the specific activity of singing.
That warming up,
just the act of setting that intention
somehow helps to engage the whole system.
Specifically focused to that nuanced
work of creating the sound that you
would as a vocalist, as a singer.
So in the structure of our vocal folds,
they are scientifically called the vocal
folds because they're not cords.
We still refer to them as cords but
the use of the word cords came
around when they believed that vocal
cords looked more like piano strings.
Like they were actual cords
that the air passed through and
that's what produced the sound.
Now, because they have been able
to examine and really get inside
the physiological composition of
what we know as our vocal cords.
They're now referred to as vocal folds,
because how they're constructed, it's
brilliant, and it's what allows us to have
so much fine tuning control as singers.
The interior of our vocal
folds are muscle, but
the exterior is these layers and
layers and layers of tissue.
A special kind of tissue, mucosal tissue,
which are layers of collagen with
different kinds of strength and
flexibility that are all optimized for
these rapid vibrations
which produce the sound waves that
we create with our vocal folds,
air coming through our vocal folds.
So our vocal fold muscles definitely
benefit from the increased blood flow and
again, just connecting our mind
to the purpose of singing.
So although there isn't
a whole lot of scientific
documentation that verifies
it is good to warm up
because it accomplishes this,
we're going to warm up.
Experience tells us that
singers benefit from
taking some time to physiologically and
mentally and
emotionally prepare themselves in
a stance for performing vocally.
So we're gonna spend
a lot of time developing
a number of methods of warming up.
And several different activities
that you can tap into to engage and
focus on different parts
of your singing system.
Everything from your face and lips and
tongue to your breathing
apparatus to the specific use
of your vocal folds to control pitch and
So we're gonna get into a lot
of detail about warming up and
give you a lot of great tools so that you
can be ready to sing anywhere, anytime.
I'm gonna present a number of
warm up activities loosely
in an order of effort and difficulty.
So you can try each one, you can spend
as much time with it as you like, and
you can come back to them
frequently as individual exercises.
If you put them together in a set,
you may find that you like them in
a particular order, a different order.
I've put them in this order
to build from a level of
difficulty to things that
are more difficult later.
But there isn't a physiological reason for
them to go in any particular
order necessarily.
As you're playing with these,
make a note of where your useful
notes are in your register.
Like as you're playing around, say
you're doing a warm up with scales, like
And you're going down into
your lower register,
always staying very relaxed.
Pay attention to where you bottom out,
where is your lowest comfortable note?
And make a note of that
in your song journal,
make a note of it where
you can kind of document.
And it'll be interesting over
the course of the course for
you to see if that changes.
Are you able to expand your range in
a particular register to include maybe
one more note lower than you used to be
able to sing or one more note higher?
I also want you to pay attention to
where your break, as you go from one
register to another, do you feel and
hear a pronounced difference in tone?
Or do you feel your
apparatus breaking down,
having distortion?
Or not being able to perform a note
in the area of the transition
between your chest voice and
your head voice?
So just kind of make notes for
yourself of where you are right now and
we'll continue to do that throughout the
course as you come back to your warm ups.
That's a good set of tools to use for
identifying in a safe way,
a healthy way because always,
we pay attention to the fact
that nothing should ever hurt.
Never at any point in your singing and
vocalizing, whether you're warming up or
singing a song,
never should anything hurt.
If something is hurting, stop immediately,
take a break and
we'll take a different approach.
You wanna make sure that you're not
doing any damage to your instrument.
So have fun with these warm ups and
let me know what works for you.