Best Warm Up Exercises:
- Singing Scales: not only warms up your vocals but also your ears. By hearing the notes played/sung as you sing the exercise, your ears will know which notes hit and which miss. This is best done with a piano/keyboard. I recommend virtualpiano.net because it’s note-perfect, easy to use, and free!
- Siren Wail: This exercise warms up your vocal cords and extends your singing range. Take a deep breath, start from your lowest point and simply go “ee” or “ah” as you slide your way up as far as you can go and then immediately go back down. It should be roughly 5-10 seconds up one way then 5-10 seconds going back down.
- Humming Scales: Almost exactly the same as singing the scales only instead you hum them. This exercise is particularly good for not only gently warming up the vocal cords but also for warming up your mouth. It gives you limber and stronger lips, meaning it helps with annunciation and clarity.
- Note Jumping: This one is great for improving vocal agility. It’s also fun. Don’t worry about being note-perfect because you’ll be jumping to different notes. Many songs out there have notes that jump around a lot. Listen to Alan Menken’s “Friend Like Me” and “That’s How You Know”.
- Lip Trill Scales: Okay, this one will likely make you feel very silly but it is very effective. Press your cheeks lightly with your thumb and index finger into your face, then as you go up and down the scales, trill instead of sing. Blow through your lips as you sing the notes. This exercise completely frees the vocal cords, helps with your pitch while also helping you get over nerves – I don’t remember how or why that works but it does.
- BREATHE! Breath control is by far the most essential thing you must learn to do as a singer. The best exercise for this is to take a deep breath in, then as you exhale, sing a note and hold it. Then take a deep breath in then exhale slowly again, but sing and hold a different note. This is to help build breath control and a bit of lung capacity.
Best Physical Exercises:
- Dancing: The main forms of physical artistic expression are Acting, Singing and Dancing. When a performer is adept in all three areas, they are known as a Triple Threat. Hugh Jackman, Neil Patrick Harris, Amy Adams and Anne Hathaway, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Jennifer Hudson, Lady Gaga and Cher are all triple threats. Dancing helps with physical fitness and builds rhythm into your body.
- Swimming: When swimming you work your whole body with long, elegant strokes which builds up a nice looking body as well as lung capacity and strength. Freestyle is particularly good because there’s a rhythm to it – just like music! Quick tips with the freestyle form: take a breath in on odd-numbered strokes, never even-numbered. This will ensure symmetrical development in the delicate cervical vertebrae. Also, you’re not swimming X number of laps, you’re swimming three strokes, taking a deep breath then swimming three more strokes – this is much easier.
- Martial Arts: Martial Arts is great for fitness, building confidence, gaining personal insight, coming to know your own body better, and how to defend yourself in the street. Martial arts also develops controlled breathing. Martial arts teach you how to command a situation which in turn can help you command the stage. Elvis Presley had a black belt in American Kenpo which informed his dance moves. Michael Jackson had a black belt in Kung Fu. Willie Nelson has a 5th degree black belt in GongKwon YuSul and Kylie Minogue has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
Best Practices in General
- Understand Song Interpretation: Some songs can be delivered in such a way that different inferences come through, especially in musicals. For example, Phillip Quast’s 1997 rendition of “Stars” from Les Miserable’s is quite different from Roger Allam’s rendition: Allam was the original English ‘Javert’. Listen to both to understand what I mean then listen to Russell Crowe’s rendition: He changed the key signature entirely to fit his range.
Other songs can have different meanings entirely: “Snowbird” written by Gene MacLellan, made famous by Anne Murray, Elvis Presley and Bing Crosby. Snowbird might be about lost love or humanity’s limitations.
- Eat Healthy: Eating well is ESSENTIAL for good vocal health. Never eat dairy before a performance because it can temporarily congest your larynx with mucus which makes it difficult to sing with power, limit your range and overall performance. Apples especially are helpful. They naturally lubricate your cords and tone them a little bit but don’t use apples as a replacement for vocal warm-ups.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment: Compare Idena Menzel’s rendition of “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen to Count Clarke’s rendition. Count Clarke sings the song in a different key and outside the expected style. That is an example of experimenting with a song and getting good results.
- Always Work Your Pitch: Nothing is more awful for the ears than singing out of tune. Always make sure that you have a clear pitch, that you are on key. Experimenting and wrong/sour notes are not the same things. Just watch any bad singing audition on shows like Idol or America/Australia/Britain/Whatever country you can think of’s Got Talent. Working with a piano, note for note, is the best way to ensure that you stay in key.
- Stay On Top Of Your Practice: Either see a singing/vocal coach on a regular basis or stick to exercises that work best for you on a regular basis. The greats always practice the basics and the basics include warm-up exercises and just singing songs for fun in general.
- Always Have A Positive And Professional Attitude: There is a difference between being confident in what you do and having an annoying ego. No one likes a diva. Treat others the way you want to be treated and cut out the people who treat you wrong. As for being positive, it all starts with gratitude. Be grateful for the abilities you have and that you can work with other people and whatever opportunity comes your way. When you work with a band, always be uplifting with your fellow musicians, even when giving honest feedback.
- SING FOR YOURSELF!: The person you sing for first, last, and only is you. People are drawn into your performance, your story/message. If you don’t sing for yourself, your performance will suffer. Yes you can dedicate songs to friends and family, but ALWAYS sing for yourself.
Best Day to Day Exercises
- Walking: Yeah you can’t get any simpler than this, but here’s the difference. Practice walking with a straight back and your toes pointed in. This is both great for your lungs, your spine and legs in general. You will be hard-pressed to find a singer with a bad posture, even when they are doing crazy dance moves. Walking is where it all starts and ends. Watch Britney Spears walk the stage with Michael Jackson as they duet “The Way You Make Me Feel”. See that Britney Spear’s posture from her toes to her head is unrestricted such that all her musculature is engaged in delivering that song.
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