Vocal warmups. What are you warming up?
Should you change your warmup depending on the job?
What happens long-term when you do a targeted warmup?
Gillyanne shares a case history of creating a targeted warmup for a professional singer, and Jeremy tells the story of MD-ing the national tour of Calamity Jane and how the cast knew his warmups were different.
There are excerpts from Webinar 6, "What's In A Warmup", now on the Learning Lounge.
And we talk about the SIX areas a singer needs to warm up.
This week, Inspiration of the Week is all about the ultimate cool-down.
Go to the Vocal Process Learning Lounge for the "What's In A Warmup" webinar, plus 600 more videos and resources here
Book a coaching session to refresh your voice and get a bespoke vocal warmup created by Gillyanne or Jeremy
Or sign up for the Vocal Process newsletter to read Jeremy's articles here https://vocalprocess.co.uk/build-your-own-tilting-larynx/
Check out Max Richter's Sleep album here
This is a voice, a podcast with Dr. Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher.Jeremy:
Hello, and welcome to Golden Nuggets for the week of March the 20. This week, we're looking at what a singer needs to do every day.Gillyanne:
The thing that some singers don't realize is important,Jeremy:
that they often don't know how to do efficiently.Gillyanne:
The thing that can make or break your performance or recording.Jeremy:
And we have not one but two featured resources from the Learning Lounge. What are we talking about? The focus for the week of March 28th is [close-up of a singer wondering why their voice isn't working in the same way did yesterday]... What's In A Warmup? Okay, Gillyanne have any stories about warmups?Gillyanne:
Mm, yes, I do actually, um, quite a few years ago now I was teaching at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, and I was brought in really to work with the musical theater strand. That was my main role. But as part of that, uh, Central had a very good system where they had three warmups every morning for each year group. So there was a spoken voice warmup. There was a movement warmup and a singing voice warmup. And that meant on the days that I went in, I had to deliver three half-hour warmups for each year group.Jeremy:
And that in itself was a challenge in terms of, you know, how do you purpose something for all of those people in the room? Plus, I'm just going to say, and I loved my musical theater group. They complained about me after several weeks because they said that the warm-up side was doing weren't complicated enough.Jeremy:
Oh yeah, ok.Gillyanne:
Yeah. They were used to doing Bella Signora and all sorts of scales.Jeremy:
And we already know how I feel about Bella Signora.Gillyanne:
And I was doing noises. Small sounds big sounds voiced fricatives and things like that, stuff that was really targeted to vocal function. And I actually had to sit down with them one day and say, people, you need to do this. This is what a warm up is. The rest is singing scales and you know what, not all of you lot can do them. That went down well. Um, not all of you lot can do them. And more than half the rest of the room can't do them either. I am not dumbing down by doing these warmups. And what was so lovely was much later, I had students come to me and say, I don't get tired during the day because of your warmup. And that leads us rather nicely into one of your stories. Am I right?Jeremy:
I have something very similar. Yeah. I was MDing Calamity Jane, the national tour, and I'd taken over from a very good MD who was an instrumentalist musician, um, and a friend of mine. But he wasn't a voice expert. And so I was MDing the second part of the tour and I was doing warmups very similar to you that we had a warmup every night before the show. And I was doing some really specific exercises, which in fact, we're going to be talking about later on in this and they got a bit bored. It's like, oh, can we do something different? You know, can we do, Johnny has a head like a ping pong ball or something like that. And I went. Yeah, but you do these first. And so six weeks into the show, they actually came back to me and they said your warmup, when we were doing the show, last time we were hoarse at this point in the run and we all have great voices. And I said, yes, that's because you're doing techniques that match the show that you're doing. I'm not doing generic scales. In exactly the same way. I don't believe in generic scales because generic scales really don't do much for you. Whereas the really specific, targeted exercises do a lot.Gillyanne:
Can I talk a bit more about customized warmups?Jeremy:
Is that all right?Jeremy:
Kind of previous to working at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. I taught for 12 years at the East 15 acting school.Jeremy:
Bet that was a challenge.Gillyanne:
It w I mean, it was really, really interesting because there were a lot of actors there who just didn't want to sing and who were, you know, very scared of singing and it took me a while to work out the kind of warmups that they needed. And I, you know, I used to record them. Do you remember cassettes, Sony Walkmans Sony Walkman. Uh, they used to record the warmups in the class session on their Walkman And then they would use them. And what I found out in due course, as I got better at this was that these exercises were being passed out to actors in other drama schools.Jeremy:
Yeah. And people were saying, that's a fantastic warmup. Can I have a copy of the next warmup that she does? And I began to realize how good my warmups were.Jeremy:
And the reason that we're talking about this is because one of the featured resources this week from the Learning Lounge is What's In A Warmup, Webinar 3 in which we break down what a warm up is, what it consists of and what it is that you need to warm up. So Gillyanne is going to pop away and come back later on to tell you what the inspiration of the week is. And it is quite interesting. And it's to do with the ultimate cool-down. Thank you, Gillyanne. Vocal warmups six key areas that are singing needs to warm up vibration breath, range, resonance, consonance, and brain and body. Not every warm up needs all six, but you need to know why they're on the list. We created this hour long webinar plus hour long webinar back in 2012, because so many of the new clients we had didn't know what a warmup was and what they were actually supposed to warm up. This webinar on the Learning Lounge is divided into 16 chapters. You can pause and rewind, stop and start each one of them and absorb and try out the contents. We also share techniques for special situations, company, warmups, class warmups, young voices, and adolescent voices. They're all included in the Learning Lounge, monthly membership. Here's a little excerpt from what's in a warmup in the Learning Lounge. Now we've identified three types of warmup, or three situations where you need warmups. Getting the voice ready to work in a lesson, getting the voice ready for self-practice, and getting the voice ready for performance. Now the first two are very similar, but the last one is very specific and it's very specific to that performance.Gillyanne:
Um, so I'm what we're doing here, the voice is an instrument, it's a biomechanical instrument. It's responsive to the time of day. It's responsive to our energy levels. It's responsive to our emotional state. Um, you know, each time it's different and actually that's why we need to do a little bit of mindful warming up. And also to bear in mind that the tasks of energized speaking and of singing are different from everyday voice use.Jeremy:
Okay. Let's get onto the meat and potatoes. And what we're going to do is present a couple of slides with the bullet points on, and then we are going to take the whole lot apart and explain why these are important and how you do them. So, what am I warming up? Getting the vibrations going cleanly, that's the vocal folds themselves. Starting and finishing the sound. Not always focused on in warmups. Getting the breath moving in and out. Negotiating range without overstretching. And bearing in mind what we said earlier with one of the slides, we aren't overstretching in the warmup because the development and extension of range is for the skill time in the lesson or in the choral rehearsal. And that happens after the warmup. Also vowels and resonance. And we include in that the positioning of the lips, tongue, jaw, and soft palate. Consonants, that's moving your articulators. And in this case, it's differentiation or separation of the lips, the tongue, the jaw, and the soft palate. And finally brain and body. And that includes musical and lyric patterns, that's words. And strength, energy, and connection. Where is your voice today? We recommend a two minute check-in before your warmup, then you can target your warm up to your real life Vocal situation, not your Vocal wishlist. There's more in What's In A Warmup in the Learning Lounge. Why is the Vocal check-in so important because there's no point in doing the same up each time. If your voice is in a completely different state, you're not starting from scratch with your voice. You need to know where it is and what's happening with it right now. Do your check-in in the shower while you're walking around the house or in the car. In what's in a warmup Gillyanne shares the specific warmup she created for a female singer songwriter to release constriction, address breathiness, and embed the techniques into performance in a short routine. Speaking voice exercises are just as valuable as singing voice exercises in these circumstances. Listen to the beginning of this case history here,Gillyanne:
Let's just whizz through a couple of specific case histories. Cause it's always nice to think about this business of how you, you tailor the warmups. Um, andJeremy:
by the way, Ruth, this is probably going to start answering your question about how long do you take and what do you do? So here are some specific cases.Gillyanne:
Uh, so this is a client of mine, just slightly disguised, uh, female singer songwriter sings in a gutsy bluesy style and she plays keyboard while she sings. She plays keyboard standing up and in terms of style, think sort of slightly Nina Simone. Um, what she wanted was for me to, to create a warm up for her that she could do on a regular basis and that she could also do on the days of gigs. And she could also do if necessary, um, during the setup of the gig, that was the plan.Jeremy:
So this is what we did. We started with oh, yes. It targets. Thanks, Jeremy. Yeah. So the targets because of this singers, specific issues were to release constriction. That's too much activity in the false vocal folds and to address vocal fold contact issues, because she was slightly breathy. She had a bit of posterial glottal chink with, I thought. Um, and to embed these essential techniques into performance. Got another bullet there. Nope, that's it. Okay. So here is what I created for. Uh, the warmups started with our friends the voice fricatives and moving into energized hey, hi, hello. This was important because it's a kind of target energy for the style of singing that she was using, mostly singing in chest register and, uh, quite heavy duty energy. But I also alternated that with smaller sounds. So that she wasn't overworking the vocal folds in terms of volume. And she needed to kind of calibrate between those two energy levels as part of the warmup. And you're probably looking at about a minute or two minutes, max, Yes, once the warmup's being taught. And I spent almost a whole lesson teaching the techniques for this warmup and then re recording it at the end. And it was only about a 10 minute routine. And then our next step was to move from the voice fricatives. She likes doing the zz sound into vowel sounds, still not sung and doing things like zah, zah, zah. So we're starting to get pitch glides, we're connecting with the breath, we're getting those vibrations going so she could keep targeting those things. And also building a little bit of range. Now to release construction. That was her next one. Yeah. Uh, we did a little bit of quiet chuckling, just doing a little and that worked well for her, but then following that with a silent breath. So moving from a chuckle to silent breath, and then just beginning to sing single pitches, for example, like, ah, or mm-hmm so that she could be sure the vocal folds were coming together without constriction. Then we have to start taking it into the performance environment. So she would stand at the keyboard in the lesson. I had her standing at the piano and she was to play chords, simple chord sequences that she might typically use in some of the songs in the gig. And just to start riffing around on single notes, uh, that she, she might be singing within those chord sequences. And starting to build little melodic patterns built on the chord sequence, um, alternating between the quiet sounds initiated with a mm-hmm, and then into the zah sounds was sort of beginning to embed everything into singing the songs, and then finally repeating that sequence, but moving into some lyrics from the upcoming gigs. Maybe on a single note initially, maybe on three discreet notes in the range and then find it in playing the chord. And she's singing the first line of the song that she'd be doing in the gig. And what she reported after doing this for about was two or three weeks that she was working this on a regular basis, she said my voice is less wrecked after gigs.Jeremy:
And that would have taken five minutes?Gillyanne:
It was about a 10 minute sequence, all told.Jeremy:
We don't do breath exercises in vocal warmups without sound because as soon as we start for knitting, the breath stream changes. Check out the difference between breathwork for awareness and breath work for vocal warmups in the Breath Awareness Lesson Plan. We created these Lesson Plans for the working teacher. You can use them in your studio online in groups, or one-to-one when you're working with groups, you'll have students at different levels of ability and understanding each Lesson Plan is written with that in mind, so there are differentiated learning outcomes and learning objectives built into them. We have five Lesson Plans available immediately in the learning. Breath Awareness, Coordinating Breath and Tone, Exploring Range, Taking Text Into Song, and Exploring 'Legit' Ballad Singing. For instance, how does moving the lower abdominal wall help to generate effective subglottic pressure? And how would you help a singing student if they can't feel that abdominal movement, the answers are in the Breath Awareness Lesson Plan. Every lesson plan we've created has questions and reflection points at the end to help you embed your knowledge. And at the completion of each lesson plan is a CPD certificate, that's Continuing Professional Development, for you to download, print out and share on social media. So Gillyanne's back. Tell us about inspiration of the week this week.Gillyanne:
Yeah, this is, uh, another one of my slightly wild cards. Back in, I think it was early 2021 when the UK was in another severe lockdown. You know, when the Delta variant came out, we were watching YouTube one night and we saw a programme about Max Richter, the composer, and in particular, the piece that he wrote called Sleep, which is an eight hour piece. I was completely transfixed by this because, you know, at that time we were all being very isolated from each other. And what they were showing was that at the performances of this piece people would turn up with this sleeping bags and their sleeping mats. And they would all gather together in a room. I think they were in the Turbine Hall in London.Jeremy:
Um, they've done it in various places. They've also been in a cathedral. They've been in an outside square in New York. So they've done it in lots of places.Gillyanne:
There was something so incredibly moving about, you know, maybe hundreds of people getting together and trusting enough in the power of music to actually sleep in the same room. It was, I dunno, it just really moved me to tears.Jeremy:
It's also this, the idea that you are given permission to fall asleep during a concert. I mean, that is just outrageous and brilliant. I loved it. And in fact, um, we, it was broadcast on BBC two, I think. And I ended up, I thought, no, you know, we'll start watching it. I ended up watching it for five hours. Which is something I just don't normally do. And in fact, we got the recordings of it and we have used them ever since.Gillyanne:
Yes. I mean, I can remember saying to you, I need this music in my life right now because of the, you know, the, the heart challenge. I think I'd just had my first heart procedure. And what I could hear was that, you know, this slow heart rate actually underpinning almost all of the music. It really is the ultimate chill-out. So if you're feeling very stressed or you just want to switch off a bit and you're finding it hard to do that, put your headphones on and listen to Sleep, and you will find your breathing changes and your mood changes and you'll chill out. Sometimes I even hum, along with it.Jeremy:
Well, in fact, I've gone further in that sometimes when we were awake. Cause we do occasionally travel away. Now I've taken it with me with little speakers and I've left it on very quietly in the hotel room all night and it is lovely to sleep to. Thank you. Gillyanne.Gillyanne:
My pleasure, my pleasureJeremy:
This is a voice, a podcast with Dr. Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher.