Vocal Warm Ups
The Trilogy - Body, Breath and Voice

Vocal warm ups - Why bother with them?

If somebody invited you to take part in 10 kilometre run and said it was starting immediately, would you do it?

Would you shout, 'Yay!' and leap to the starting line or would you say, 'Warm-ups first and I'll be there when I'm ready'.

It surprises me that many people assume because they speak everyday, thus exercising their talking equipment, that this is enough. They don't need to do any more!

But everyday chatting is not the same as delivering a speech. Just as going for a walk down to the letter box isn't the equivalent of running 10 kilometres. Yes, you're using the same body parts but in completely different settings.

If you want to give your speech as effectively as you can, then vocal warm ups are definitely part of your preparation.

The benefits of vocal warm ups are minimizing the possibilites of stumbling over words, forgetting what was coming next, and succumbing to a fit of the nervous jitters. Vocal warm ups help you channel the natural adrenalin rush that comes from performing positively. Instead of being immobilised you can use it as fuel to boost your delivery. They prepare and center you!

Thorough vocal warm ups focus on 3 areas:

  • body
  • breath
  • voice

For your whole body try 'rag dolls'
Stand with your feet a shoulder width apart, breathe in through the nose and bending from the waist allow yourself to flop like a rag doll while breathing out through your mouth. Shake any tension out of your arms, neck, shoulders and allow yourself to literally hang loose. And then breathing in through your nose very gently and slowly bring yourself upright and breathe out through your mouth.

Shake-outs
Shake out your arms and hands until you feel them warm and relaxed. Do the same for your legs.

For your shoulders: hunch them as high as your ears and then let go. Repeat until they are at ease.

For your neck: very smooth and gentle head rolls. Let your head flop foward and then slowly roll it up and around to the right and then back. Repeat for the left side.

For your face:, scrunch it as tight as you can and then release.

For your jaw: yawn widely, letting all the tension it might hold go. Repeat. Massage any points of residual tension.

For your mouth: smile as wide as you can. Hold and release.

For your tongue: extend it as far as you can and now sweep it around the outside of your mouth - a complete rotation to the left and then another to the right.
Repeat with your mouth closed, running your tongue around the outside of your teeth. Once to the left and then another to the right.

Breath

Good vocal warm ups always involve becoming conscious of breathing patterns and establishing those that sustain and support the voice.

  • Stand with your feet a comfortable shoulder width apart.
  • Support the weight of your body through your hips and legs rather than locking your knees.
  • Consciously release and relax your shoulders.
  • If you're holding your stomach in, let it go.
  • Place your hands on your stomach.
  • Breathe in through your nose to the count of five. Count slowly. As you inhale feel your diaphragm rising.
  • Breathe out through your mouth to the count of five and now feel your diaphragm expanding.
  • Do several rounds of inhale and exhale while making sure you keep your shoulders, stomach and legs relaxed.

Click for more breathing excerises. You'll find several variations adding sound and stretching.

Voice

To warm your voice unite the breathing exercise above with sound.

Use the outbreath to sound each of the vowels in turn. Let each go without force, flowing smoothly from your relaxed throat.

For example:
'A' is going to become ahhhhhhh... as in 'are'
'E' is Eeeeeeeeeeeee... as in 'easy'
'I' is Iiiiiiii... as in 'eye'
'O' is Ooooooo...as in 'Oh'
'U' is Uuuuuuuu...as in 'you'
Feel the shape of the sound in your mouth and enjoy its resonance.

Now try the consonants. Go through the alphabet or select those you need to to focus on.
Be sure to shape the letter fully and feel the sound each makes.
b, b, b, b, b...
c, c, c, c, c...
d, d, d, d, d...
f, f, f, f, f...

For articulation do a few rounds of tongue twisters.

Here's a couple to get you started.

Theophilus Thistler, the thistle sifter, in sifting a sieve of unsifted thistles,
thrust three thousand thistles through the thick of his thumb.

You know New York,
You need New York,
You know you need unique New York.

You'll find more covering most of those tricky-to-say letter combinations on this page of tongue twisters. Pick the sounds you know you find the most challenging.

In your lead up to speaking complete all of your stage and prop checks and then aim to set aside a minimum of ten minutes for vocal warm ups in a private quiet place before you take the stage. You'll find it works wonders for focusing, relaxing and settling any nervous tension.


If you found this page on vocal warm ups beneficial you'll also be interested in:

  • exploring what vocal variety can do for your delivery
  • understanding just how important vocal image or what we sound like to others is in shaping how audience's receive what we have to say
  • the role of rehearsal in achieving public speaking success.





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"Words are of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind."
Rudyard Kipling