Sometimes the best vocal warm-ups don’t even involve the vocal cords. Here are my favorite ways to kick-start a practice session without waking the neighbors.
- Eat breakfast - Breakfast is a great way for morning practicers (like myself) to get started. The actions of chewing and swallowing warm up the face, jaw, and tongue muscles and trigger the salivary glands that moisten the throat. Here are some great breakfast ideas from Zen Habits, one of my favorite blogs.
- Take a shower - There’s nothing like warm water to open the sinuses, relax the body and mind, and prep your muscles for action. I recommend showers over baths since showers tend to steam up the bathroom (and hydrate the vocal cords) more quickly.
- Drink water - Most singers already know how essential proper hydration is, but just the act of swallowing is beneficial, too.
- Drink hot tea - For allergy sufferers like me, tea can help to wash down phlegm and clear the nasal passages. Other hot drinks will also work, but watch out for too much caffeine - it can dry the vocal cords. Besides, tea has additional health benefits (it’s loaded with antioxidants) and half the caffeine (or less) of coffee.
- Yawn - Yawning is the ultimate throat and palette stretch!
- Stretch - Singing involves the whole body, and unnecessary tension anywhere can have a negative effect on the voice. I find that a good side stretch helps open up the ribcage and free up my breath.
- Exercise - Yoga is my favorite because it combines stretching and breathing, but opera star Renee Fleming swears by Pilates and Thomas Hampson uses weights to tone his core support muscles.
- Meditate - Mindfulness meditation is the practice of focusing the mind, usually by observing the breath and disengaging from thoughts. It’s a great way to calm anxious nerves and tame self-criticism.
- Make faces - Like yawning, making funny faces is a great stretch for the face and jaw, as well as a wonderful way to practice improvisation. For inspiration, visit my post on “gurning” and watch a video of a face-making competition!
- Practice in your head - Studies have shown that mental practice can be as effective as an actual practice session. So go ahead …
Give yourself a head start on your warm-up without making a sound. You might discover something new - and your neighbors will thank you!