26 Jun 2019

How to Warm Up Your Voice Before a Performance


For vocalists and singers, warming up ahead of a performance is key to on stage success. Failing to do so can not only have a negative impact on your singing on the night but can potentially inflict long-term physical damage on your health.




So with this in mind, it’s sensible to pay attention to the demands of your body and treat it with the respect it deserves. Here, ICMP Vocal Tutor Francesca Confortini gives her essential advice on how to warm up your voice effectively…


Vocal warm ups: How to improve your singing voice


Treat your voice like a muscle

Every time you use your voice, you’re using both your respiratory and phonatory muscles, which are located in your larynx and neck. Singing and performing implies putting an extra effort on your vocal cords, which are moved and sustained by these muscles.

If you compare talking to walking, then singing is like running a marathon! You need to stretch your muscles and work them out before you start to run, or you will risk damaging your body.



Warm up at the right time

It's very important not to warm up immediately after waking up in the morning with heavy belted notes. Your voice needs to wake up as well.

Have you noticed how low your voice sounds when you say your first words in the morning? You should always allow a few hours for your body to start working at a normal pace, maybe helping it with some light breathing exercises and plenty of water.

If you have been speaking normally all day long, then there's not really a recommended timing for you to warm up for a performance, and it might be better to stretch your muscles with some key exercises focusing on voice qualities without putting too much stress on them for the sake of it.


Give your voice some time to wake up in morning!



Singing involves your whole body

Understanding your posture is the key, and your voice will show every tension there is in your muscles if you don't pay attention to it.

You should always be aware of your body while singing, which doesn't mean you should always perform standing still like a soldier - it means you should cleverly use your posture to help you out when you need to sing a more complicated part or a faster riff.



Make sure your warm up your whole vocal range

You need to stretch your muscles completely, although there is no point in focusing on a particular range of exercises on your lower register with a low larynx for a long time if you are going to perform a completely different sound later!

You should make sure you are agile enough to change registers smoothly and sustain both your low and high notes with your abdominal muscles.



Consider the impact of diet on your voice

Theoretically, it's recommended not to drink any alcohol as it creates a false sense of hydration on your vocal cords, whilst it actually dries them out and irritates them. Same for smoking - smoke is really hot and it will literally burn your vocal cords while being inhaled, making them swell.

Anything that numbs your cords is also dangerous as you won't feel them anymore and therefore put lots of efforts on them (like very cold water). As for particular food, there are different rules for everyone. For me, I know what food makes me feel heavy and I try to avoid that - generally avoiding a huge dinner and keeping it relatively light helps!


Try to avoid smoking & drinking. Yeh we know... easier said than done!



Find a routine that works for you

Start with relaxing your body, find the right posture, focus on breathing and do a couple of light exercises, find what routines are working for you. If you are recovering from a cold, you should take your routine very seriously and always respect your body - start softly and focus on articulation rather than on your volume.

Don’t warm up for too long (you'll get tired and it's not ideal if you then have to perform for a few hours). You shouldn’t start with heavy exercises that push your voice too much from the start or keep going if you feel any kind of pain in your throat. Also, try not to warm up in a noisy environment, or you'll end up shouting and damaging your cords in order to hear yourself.



Warming down is as important as warming up

Warming down is important. I usually drink plenty of water and make sure I calm down for a moment in a quiet place. I let the adrenaline come down and my ears rest for a little bit, then I take a couple of slow, deep breaths, and that really helps.

When I come home after a gig I then usually have a warm ginger and lemon tea with a teaspoon of honey before going to bed. That has been my ritual for a long time now!



Do you have any tips or questions about warming up your voice or preparing for a performance? Let us know in the comments below!


This is a guest blog by ICMP. Based in Kilburn, North London, ICMP is the capital's leading music industry education provider, developing and delivering music courses for over 30 years.