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The Windsong Voice - Monthly Newsletter


The Vocal Warm Up Is Absolutely Necessary

The title says it all: the vocal warm up truly is absolutely necessary. Why? Good question – I hope to answer that in the lines below.

After a long day working, thinking, sweating, and the like, our bodies are exhausted and need a good night’s rest. When we wake up the next morning, our bodies are stiff, movements are weary, speech is groggy…you get the picture. But for some crazy reason, we have this notion that our vocal cords are immune from these weaknesses and will be able to perform at a moment’s notice. Guess again, my friends. Our vocal cords, unfortunately, are not immune to the everyday aches and pains of the body. In fact, the vocal cords have some unique aches and pains of their own.

When we wake up in the morning and attempt to speak, we generally have groggy speech. The grogginess in the voice is normally caused by mucous drainage during the night. When the mucous drains from your sinuses, it has this uncanny ability to latch onto your vocal cords. Since the mucous causes interference between your two vocal folds, your speech and singing will “hit and miss”, and thus grogginess occurs.
**Note: this is different from hoarseness. Hoarseness occurs when the vocal cords have been overused and become inflamed. When the vocal cords become inflamed, it becomes painful to bring them together. Hence you are forced to talk very light and breathy – aka, you are hoarse.

This is why the vocal warm up is so vitally important. If we do not warm up the voice to loosen the vocal cords and remove excess mucous, we are being mean to our precious folds because they are not ready to take on the task of singing. Herbal teas are very good for removing excess mucous from the vocal cords (chamomile is my favorite). Also, if you struggle with allergies, I sympathize with you because I do too. Take medicine (Claritin-D works the best for me) on days where your allergies are really getting to you.

As for exercises, use vocal fry and that grogginess to your advantage. Vocal fry is the lowest sound singers can make. Your vocal cords vibrate very slowly when using vocal fry – just think of Elmer Fudd. When he speaks, he speaks in vocal fry. Vocal fry is an excellent vocal warm up because it gently loosens the vocal cords and helps remove mucous. After you have used vocal fry for a few minutes (I generally do five minutes of vocal fry), I do some slow lip roll exercises. For an example on lip roll exercises, please click here. Once I have done enough lip roll exercises to get my voice loose, I move on to “nays”, “mums” and thin edge exercises on different scales (generally octave and arpeggio). These exercises prepare my voice to sing in all of my registers: chest, head and mix. All in all, I spend anywhere from 20-30 minutes warming up my voice before I begin to practice or sing.

You may have a different vocal warm up routine. Just having some type of vocal warm up is better than nothing at all. If you do not have a vocal warm up routine, please consider implementing one for the safety and health of your vocal cords. Vocal warm ups will vary from singer to singer, but each singer should have some sort of vocal warm up routine.

Warm up those vocal cords and sing on!

Copyright 2012 Forever Singing. All rights reserved

Unison: MY COUN-try 'tis of thee/GOOD-BYE my coney island baby


m2: YOU MUST remember this ("As Time Goes By")/I LEFT my heart in San Francisco/ Theme from the movie "JAWS"

M2: DOE, A deer/hap-PY BIRTH-day to you/OH THE sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home/ PEO-PLE who need people...

m3: A-LAS my love you do me wrong ("Greensleeves")/WHY DO birds ("Close toYou")/ TO DREAM the impossible dream...

M3: "Blue Danube Waltz", CAM-E-lot/FROM THE halls of Montezuma/HAVE YOUR-self a very merry Christmas...

P4: HERE COMES the bride/ THE EYES of Texas/ DAY's DONE ("Taps")/     A-MAZ-ing Grace...

Tritone: MAR-I-a/ BOY BOY crazy boy ("West Side Story")...

P5: Theme from '2001'/ Bass-Bari standard tuneup/ HEY THERE Georgie Girl/ YO-EE-oh ("Wizard of Oz")

m6: FOR PA-pa make him a scholar ("Matchmaker" from "Fiddler On The Roof")

M6: MY WILD irish rose/N-B-c (chimes)/DASH-ING through the snow/ MY BON-nie lies over the ocean...

m7: THERE'S A place for us ("West Side Story"/ Theme from 'Star Trek'

M7: BAL (li) HIGH ("South Pacific")

Octave: BAL-LI high/ WHEN YOU wish upon a star/ SOME-WHERE over the rainbow...


m2: DOE-TEA la so (descending scale)/ MEOW-MEOW (commercial for cat food/SHALL WE dance? ("King & I")/ BEAU-TI-ful Dreamer

M2: SWEET AD-eline/WHIS-TLE while you work/ MA-RY had a little lamb/ THREE BLIND mice...

m3: OH, OH say can you see/ I, I wish I was in the land of cotton/ LOOK AT me ("Misty")...

M3: SWING LOW, sweet chariot/ GOOD NIGHT ladies/ SUM-MER-time and the living is easy...

P4: BORN FREE/ HUT TWO, three, four/ MY GIRL, talking 'bout my girl/ SHAVE AND a haircut/ I'VE BEEN working on the railroad...

Tritone: European police siren/ DEAR KIND-ly Sargeant Krupke (West Side Story)

P5: FEEL-INGS/ THIS LAND is mine ("Exodus")...

m6: WHERE DO I begin...("Love Story")

M6: NO-BO-dy knows the trouble I've seen/ OV-ER there/ SCHOOL DAYS, school days...

m7: Opening notes of "An American in Paris"/DOE, A deer (lead note then bass picks up melody an octave lower)

M7: <see ascending minor 2nd tunes; first note by lead, 2nd note by bass one octave lower>

Octave: WIL-LOW weep for me/ YOU ARE my lucky star/ standard lead-bass tune-up<><><>

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Stick out your tongue as far as you can. With your tongue extended for the whole exercise, repeat this, phrase by phrase: (marked with a slash)
Theophilus Thistle,/ the successful thistle sifter,/
While sifting a sieve/ full of unsifted thistles/
Thrust three thousand thistles/ through the thick of his thumb./
Now if Theophilus Thistle, /the successful thistle sifter,/
In sifting a sieve /full of unsifted thistles,/
Thrust three thousand thistles/ through the thick of his thumb,/
See that thou/, in sifitng a sieve/ full of unsifted thistles./
Thrust not /three thousand thistles/ through the thick of thy thumb!/
Success/ to the successful thistle sifter!

After doing this, the words are like butter in your mouth. What happens is that by extending the tongue, and doing this exercise, you are stretching and exercising the back
of the tongue. A good side effect of this is that the back of the tongue will now be more relaxed, which will alleviate tension in the back of the throat, and also help keep the tongue more naturally forward, and out of the throat, helping to bring the sound more forward.
Vickie Wonders Foltz
Greenwood Tree Theatre
Metro Nashville Chorus
International Faculty

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(courtesy of Lisa Popeil's World's Tiniest Vocal Newsletter - 2/08)
Vocal Tip
Avoid drinking coffee or black tea before singing - they're dehydrating to the vocal chords.  And milk, chocolate or ice cream thickens mucus so it's best to avoid these.
Vocal Technique Tip
If your nect muscle sticks out (the spot 1-2" below your ear) when you sing, you may be tightening your neck too much.  Try putting your fingers on either side of your head and check that muscle.  Make sure you use proper abdominal support (upper belly out, lower belly in) to relieve your neck of excessive tension.
Video Vocal Tip - Proper Head Position

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Vocal Exercises by Jean  Barford

Most vocal exercises are to help the vocal folds (strengthening, flexibility, etc.)  These exercises are to strengthen the 15 muscles around the vocal mechanism.  These exercises help to make all the muscles equally strong, therefore, allowing the vocal folds the freedom to vibrate with much less tension.

The following exercises for female voices were developed by Dr. Stemple, vocal pathologist, St. Elizabeth Hospital, Dayton, Ohio.

  I.   WARM-UP  -  GOAL: 45 seconds  with an uninterrupted tone flow.  Sustain the sound "Eeeeeeeee"  for as long and as softly as possible on the musical note "F".

 II.   STRETCHING  -  GOAL : No voice breaks
            A.  Slowly glide from your lowest note to your highest note on the sound "Oh",

                 as softly as possible.
            B.  Slowly glide from your highest to your lowest note on the sound "Oh", 
as softly as possible.
III.  POWER  -  GOAL:  45 seconds with an uninterrupted tone flow
            Sustain the notes:  middle "C - D - E - F - G" for as long as possible on the sound "Oh", 
as softly as possible.
Each exercise should be done two times each; two times per day, and as softly
(like a whisper) as they can be done. The softer the better.

For the best effect, these exercises need to be done everyday, but good habits begin at the rehearsal. Take the time to do them completely each rehearsal and before any performance.

These exercises may also be used as a Cool-Down after a rehearsal or performance where much is demanded of the voice.

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Windsong Chorus of Sweet Adelines International * Sterling * Colorado * 80751