Don’t Skip the Vocal Warm-up

(The topic of the 3 essential elements to a complete vocal warm-up is also addressed in a video I created HERE.)


We all know that a vocal warm-up prior to singing is a good idea. We also know that NOT eating at McDonald’s is a good idea. We tend to ignore both good ideas. (Ok, maybe I’m projecting concerning the McDonald’s thing.)

It is not only crucial to do a vocal warm-up, it is imperative that it is a complete vocal warm-up.  What do I mean by “complete”? I’m glad I asked!

Vocal warm-up exercises for singers must contain 3 elements to be a complete warm-up. Without ALL 3 elements, then it isn’t a completely effective vocal warm-up. A good warm-up enables singers to sing more comfortably throughout their vocal ranges, prevents strain, and allows their voices to remain free for a longer singing session.

What are these three elements, and what are their importance?

Before answering that question, I’d like to explain what warming up isn’t. It isn’t just singing an easy song or two. It isn’t singing low so you don’t sing into your upper notes too soon. It isn’t something that will wear your voice out because you weren’t saving enough for the performance. It isn’t consciously working on breathing or breathing exercises.  All of these thought processes are incomplete at best, detrimental at worst.

After introducing the three essential elements of a complete vocal warm-up, I will explain why the above mentioned sub-par vocal warm-up ideas don’t fit our criteria for a good vocal warm-up.

The three essential elements of a complete vocal warm-up are:

  1. starting out by slowly ramping up the blood flow into the muscles involved in the singing process, especially those in and immediately surrounding the vocal folds (vocal cords);

  2. stretching the muscles of the vocal folds;

  3. and coordinating the different range areas of the voice by singing with proper physical form.

Let’s address each of these in turn.

First, slowly ramp up the blood flow in and around the muscles of the vocal cords.

For each of the three warm-up elements, I will make analogies to warm-ups done by runners. If runners run too hard or too fast before they warm-up, they will quickly fatigue. Why?

At rest or while doing little work, muscles are “fed” oxygen and nutrients at a certain rate, and the “waste” is carried away at that same rate, creating a good balance. This rate sustains the health of the muscles. Now, when muscles are exercised, they need more oxygen and nutrients to do their job. If not, a muscle will literally start breaking itself down to feed the rest of the muscle. In a way, it begins to cannibalize itself!