13 Best Vocal Warm Ups to Keep Your Voice in Pristine Condition

Here are 13 of the best vocal warm ups – used by singing coaches and professionals alike – that will help keep your voice healthy and robust for years to come.

Why bother?

Well, think about professional athletes. They wouldn’t just sprint 100 meters without warming up first – no, they do some stretching beforehand.

Its the same principle with the voice: you shouldn’t start belting out a song without preparation, you need to warm up your voice by doing some stretches first.

By the way, a lot of these exercises involve making funny voices. So what! It will make your sing better 🙂

1. Humming

Humming is one of the best and simplest routines, which allows you to practice without straining the vocal cords.

The gentle practice involves humming up in half-step intervals and back down in scale with your mouth completely closed.

Hit as high of notes as you can comfortably with only “hm” sounds. Hum until you feel ready, or combine humming with other exercises for an added boost.

2. Lip Trills

Another common warm-up routine, lip trills (aka lip buzz) involves taking in a deep breath through your lips and allowing them to vibrate as you release the breath.

The lips must be in a relaxed position for the exercise to work, so don’t worry about feeling silly.

The process helps you relax your lips, which results in clear diction and better vowel sounds. It also releases pressure from the vocal cords and helps warm-up your singing muscles.

To add an interesting sping on this, try adding pitch to the trill. Sing your lip trills in pentascales (series of 5 notes in alphabetical order) or attempt a full song once you get the hang of it.

Check it out in this vid:

3. Tongue Trills

Similar to lip trills, tongue trills involve a curling motion. Only here, you curl the tongue to roll your R’s, as you would if you were speaking Spanish. Then, head through your vocal range starting from low to high.

However, don’t feel discouraged if you can curl your tongue. Some singers can’t, and that’s totally normal.

See the vid:

4. Sirens

If you have a hard time with smooth transitions between your head and chest voices, sirens are the practice you need.

Octave slides, also called sirens, sound like the name suggests. Sirens are perhaps the most straightforward techniques on this list, and it’s an excellent way to tell if your voice is fatigued.

The routine uses a sliding “oh” or “oo” note from low range to high and back down again.

Although it seems silly, it’s a highly effective procedure for warming up the highest and lowest parts of your voice and connecting the registers.

The noise you’ll produce sounds like an ambulance continuously driving down your street, so probably one to practice when the neighbors are out.

5. Two-Octave Pitch Glides

Like sirens, the two-octave pitch glide involves gradually moving through notes with a two-octave range.

If you’ve mastered sirens, move on to this glide exercise.

It’s still easy. All you must do is create “oh” or “ee” sounds as you glide up and back down the notes, transitioning from chest to head voice.

6. Slides

Slides is a technique the Italian call portamento, which means “the act of carrying.”

It’s similar to sirens in that you slide from a low to the next, slightly higher note. However, with this one, you won’t hit the notes in-between your range as much.

7. Vowels

Sing through your vowels to warm-up your tone and boost energy, which can become dull without singers noticing.

This practice will help you refocus your tone, and you can begin with any note you wish.

Simply sing through the vowels with your mouth wide (“ae-ee-ah-oh-oo”), connecting each vowel to the last. You can either move up or down in scale as you go, but don’t breathe until you move to the following note.

Tongue twisters are a great way to prepare you to sing tricky lyrics. Practicing super-tricky sentences, like ‘red lorry yellow lorry’ or even ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper’ will make what might have been tricky lyrics a breeze. It can also do wonders for your diction.

8. Arpeggios

Arpeggios can help you increase your vocal range, and also help train a singer’s ear.

As you sing vowel sounds like “oh” or “ah,” you’ll hit more difficult arpeggios in the center of the pitch. You’ll need to focus on precision because this exercise becomes harder as you go.

Begin with a low note at the root, hit the octave note, and return to the root chord slowly. Don’t try to complete the entire thing in a single breath, but go as fast as you wish and remember to smile.

Once you get the hand of that, you can move on to singing a phrase of more complicated solfege ladders. Just make sure the phrase offers as many syllables as the notes.

For example, “mighty fine weather today” or “I love to sing” are common phrases the pros use for this warm up.

Use this vid for practice:

9. Alternate Arpeggios with Major and Minor Triads

Another way to practice arpeggios is to alternate between major and minor triads.

This is more of an ear training drill than vocal practice.

However, it’s great for singers. Begin with singing a major arpeggio triad, move a half-step up, then arpeggiate into a minor triad and repeat.

Use vowel sounds, phrases, or solfeges (see below) for this routine as you see fit.

10. Solfege Ladders

If you’re getting bored with the methods above, this one will fire up your brain cells.

Solfege ladders are the process of singing “do,” “do-re-do,” then “do-re-mi-re-do,” and so on, ascending and descending through all the octaves. Think of it as the “do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do” song from The Sound of Music.

As you sing, focus on the syllables and your pitch simultaneously. Begin on a middle C note and slowly increase in speed as you go. Pay attention to pitch as well.

For a bonus, you can use solfege ladders in a group setting. Have one person start the drill, and as they sing measure three, the next person starts singing. Large or small sizes of people make no difference, as the process becomes more difficult with the more people you add.

11. Ha-Ha-Ha

Ha ha
Image source

For all you fans of The Simpsons here’s an excellent one for your chest voice (low notes), Ha-Ha-Ha is a fun practice for singers that simultaneously strengthens the chest voice range.

The process is easy. All you have to do is sing “ha” for every note, descending in pentascales. Leave room for emphasis on each staccato note, and push yourself to sing using your chest voice.

Get ready for some interesting looks if you’re in earshot of anyone.

12. Yawn-Sigh

A quick and easy one, yawn-sigh is a self-explanatory name for the process.

You start with a yawn to inhale, only keep your mouth closed. Exhale through the nose, making a sighing noise.

This is great for relaxing the voice and boosting your range.

13. Jaw Loosening

Unlike talking, singing involves dropping the jaw low, so you can practice loosening your jaw to sing better.

Use your finger to trace the back of your jaw, from chin to ear.

Feel the curved area of space in between? That’s where you want the jaw to drop. Pretend to yawn with your mouth closed. Feel the jaw drop and avoid dropping your chin at the same time.

Summary

So there you have it, don’t try learning them all at once. Instead, pick one or two and introduce more as nail each one.

It also helps to start with breathing exercises before you do any of these warm-ups.

Also, don’t forget to cool-down after a performance or rehearsal. It takes as little as 10-20 minutes, and you should add it as an integral piece of your practice routine to genuinely care for your voice. Cooldowns, like warm-ups, are crucial for keeping your singing voice healthy and protecting against harm.

Remember, think like an athlete!

Good luck.


Photo via Unsplash

Ged Richardson

Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He's a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band 'Django Mango' and a lover of all things music. When he's not ripping up and down the fretboard, he's tinkering with his '79 Campervan.