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Vocal Warm-ups and their Relevance to Actual Singing

When one watches TV clips of sports-people at practice, it is apparent that they are working repetitively on coordinated movements which are integral to their particular sport, (swerves, side-steps, ball-control, club/bat control etc) which will build up muscle memory so that they can perform with maximum agility and efficiency on the field of play. The same argument can be applied to dancers working at the barre - (the warm-up is related to what is required in performance) and to the exercises devised for instumental teaching. A survey of vocal warm-ups presented on internet singing sites indicates that this connection has been lost sight of when it comes to voice training. (see my earlier blog - one does not sing on a lip-roll or on a single vowel) These initial blogs are setting the basis for introducing a vocal warm-up/voice development programme which re-establishes this connection.

Why Singers Should Do Scale Exercises

Exercises based on scales and scale variants are the means by which instrumentalists attain the technical proficiency which allows them to negotiate any sequence of notes or chords with precision and fluency. It is only possible to communicate the musical meaning of a composition when these skills become second-nature and the performer can ‘get behind the explicit notes’ to find and convey the implicit nuances from the mind of the composer. Moving from note to note or chord to chord on keyboards, strings, woodwind, and brass involves changing the configuration of the instrument by changing finger/hand/arm positions (OK wind players also have to think the pitch but I’ll cover that later) and the exercises are designed to implant strong muscle memory patterns so that in all possible keys the performer can translate the symbol on the page into the appropriate configuration in an instant. At first glance it would appear that the voice does not need this type of exercise because one just opens one’s mouth and sings, no matter what the key may be – no buttons to push – no string-length to alter – no keys or valves to depress – ie no obvious configuration change (whatever happens at the vocal fold level is essentially automatic) However, when one considers what vocal control is required to effectively interpret a song, it is obvious that the technique used to move from note to note and the weighting given to every note and word/syllable is of prime importance.
What a boon it would be to have an exercise programme which will not only give the voice the required technique, but also smooth out the register breaks to produce a flexible, agile, integrated vocal instrument. The next blog will introduce the philosophy of such a programme ‘Calisthenics for the Singing Voice’.

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