Many people don’t bother doing vocal warm up exercises because they don’t know how, or they feel they don’t have time. Speech is a physical process and warming up enhances any physical activity. Athletes wouldn’t dream of competing without doing a warm up. They wouldn’t perform at their full potential, and they’d risk injury as well. The same is true for your voice.
I recommend a 20 to 30 minute vocal warm up before any important speech presentation or interview. If you don’t have time to do it right before the performance, do it in the morning on that day. A good vocal warm up should address all three critical elements of voice production—relaxation, breathing, and sound. The basic vocal warm up I teach my students has about five or six exercises for each of those three key areas.
But let’s be honest, circumstances are rarely ideal, and life doesn’t always give you time to do 20 to 30 minutes worth of vocal warm up exercises before you have to speak. When the boss walks by your desk and tells you to be in the conference room in 10 minutes to report to the executive team, she probably isn’t going to say, “Oh, and take some extra time to warm up.”
Students often ask me what exercises I’d recommend when they don’t have time to do a complete set of vocal warm up exercises. I doubt it’s possible to be truly warmed up in five minutes. But any warm up is better than no warm up. So if I was in that situation, here’s what I might do.
I’d start with a few spinal rolls. You can see that exercise demonstrated in this video. It’s a great way to start relaxing your whole body, opening your breath, and feeling sound in your body.
Next, I would open up the back. One approach is explained in this video. This exercise is effective for relaxing your back, enhancing your breath, and strengthening and expanding your voice.
I would definitely do some lip flutters, or lip rolls, or lip trills both with breath and with voice. Lip flutters are covered in this video. I know of no better way to get your voice fully engaged and connected to your breath.
Then I would spend some time freeing my voice by adding knee bounces, shoulders wiggles, and spinal rolls to the lip flutters, so [FLUTTER] ayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy—or [FLUTTER] ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. The aim here is to reinforce that body-voice connection and cultivate sounds that are very free, easy, and open.
Finally, I would do some resonance work, exploring how it feels to speak with my whole body, not just my mouth and throat. You can learn more about resonance in this video.
You could probably do that sequence in five minutes or less. Notice it does nothing to address grounding, relaxation of the belly and sides, shoulders and neck, jaw and tongue. These are all critical areas for voice and speech. So don’t adopt this as your primary vocal warm up. It’s just a suggestion for those special circumstances when time isn’t available for a complete set of vocal warm up exercises.
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