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Warming Up: 3 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Own Voice

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35 Responses so far.

  1. Aimee Gray says:

    Hmmm, interesting! I’ve heard some interesting things about VocalZones over the years. I’ve never gone there myself but that doesn’t mean anything, haha. I once got told they were a bit dangerous for potentially masking what was really going on – i.e. if your voice was struggling, you should be listening to it and not necessarily ‘pressing on through’… nyeh, I dunno.

    Darn you for distracting my study! :S

    • mpocock says:

      Yeah, there’s a lot of debate about these kind of ‘miracle voice cures’. From my experience VocalZone does seem to have a measurable effect, instead of just being a placebo like so many others. (Although ‘In My Experience’ and ‘Measurable Effect’ definitely shouldn’t be used in the same sentence if you’re looking for credibility!) But anything that helps the closure and resets the balance of the mucus can’t be doing too badly.

      Ha! One might even think you had other things on your mind…

  2. Frances Hook says:

    I am a VocalZone fan, but also have a thermos mug of tea (rooibosh, green, black, whatever, without milk) whenever I sing (with a spoonful of honey) and that really keeps my throat lubricated and relaxed. Cold water can feel like a bit of a shock to the old throat, but hydration is certainly the key. I insist all my choir arrive with a bottle of water for rehearsals and concerts. I am considering selling water if they forget! To raise money for concerts of course….

    • mpocock says:

      Haha, that’s a great idea on the selling water front 😉 I might have to start thinking about that myself for my private lessons. Extra money-spinner 🙂 One question – is the honey just for taste or in your opinion does it help the voice stay lubricated?

      • Keith says:

        Honey serves multiple purposes (at least how i see it and teach it) Honey has medicinal properties (look at ancient Egyptian uses for topical injuries…same concept but different location) I also see it as a temporary replacement for the mucus that will ger cleaned out with the tea/lemon/exercises.

  3. .Jason Stardust says:

    Well, the only thing that really works for getting a voice ready is those exercises. The humming and then yo and down the scales. A good 45 minutes to an hour. The water or “lemon & honey” will keep you lubed up.

    Just a word of caution, the other evening I had a vocalzone pastel before the 1st set, just because it was there in the packet, not necessarily needing one.. Forgot about it. During the 2nd set I felt my throat starting to tighten and had an urge to take another. I resisted that urge. Just think its something that we shouldn’t have to need. Exercise all the way.

    • mpocock says:

      Hey Jason,

      Thanks for dropping in and commenting! 🙂 45 mins to an hour seems very long to me, more like just 5-10 minutes before you start. And of course, start off on easier material and the voice will warm up as you go!

      It’s funny about the ‘being lubed up’ thing – lots of people think that honey will lubricate your folds, but in fact it’ll just add extra gunk!

      True – it’s crucial not to rely on just one method. That sounded to me like a hydration thing rather than a tablet not taken.

      Anyhow, thanks for dropping by, and feel free to subscribe for more of these!

  4. Vic says:

    I use gelo revoice tablets! They are the only thing that have brought me back from a lost voice during a gig when I was ill with flu to being able to complete the second half! Fab things!

  5. Chris says:

    With the Vocalzone, etc, I always advise people to make sure that it is a relaxant not an anaesthetic. Pain exists to tell you something is up and too many people create a drawn out recovery process by overworking through pain. It’s the same with my bad knee, I won’t take anything to mask the pain until I’m done using it.

  6. Singer1 says:

    I’m surprised that you say to stay away from pineapples, as I find myself with a bottle of pineapple juice at my side at all times in the 24 hours before a big performance – I have a tendency of feeling like I’m losing my voice the day before any show, I think it’s just my body trying to freak me out! Water is obviously important but cold water can be a bit harsh on you, I find warm water or herbal tea (eg echinacea and rasberry) way more effective. Honestly I think it’s entirely about singing safely and from the right place (there’s nothing worse than seeing somebody strain for a high note and as a top soprano I see it a lot), staying healthy all the time so you don’t have to push it and warming up properly. I love vocalzones but only in an emergency – they’re very good if you need to sing when your voice isn’t top notch (I used them this weekend) but you stop being able to feel if your voice is straining or not and you can push it a bit too far if you’re not careful, so I wouldn’t advise anyone used them on a regular basis otherwise you could damage your voice.

  7. James says:

    Vocals zones have no antistatic effect so are safe for singing through with ….. Sandersons throat specific after the gig too helps cool everything down. Water water water water always and if your really struggling huming and breathing with a facial sauna are great for keeping those heeeee heeeees coming x L.O.V.E James Aston

  8. Helle says:

    Gospel Shots 🙂

    One table spoon grated fresh ginger, one tablespoon good honey, and the juice from one lemon. Morning and evening 🙂

  9. MARIO ROSS says:

    I hear about all these remedy’s it has become obvious to me that everybody’s voice and throat is different. I find that fresh lemon and honey in hot water is very good for me, I don’t drink or smoke if there’s any smoke near me it effects my voice but a friend of mine smokes 20 cigarettes a day ,drinks and his voice is brilliant. i had a warts on my vocal cords burned off and my surgeon told me the only good thing for your voice is complete rest. so we are all different so what works for one voice is bad for another.

  10. Mickey P. says:

    I’ve been interested in some sound advice on this subject and it’s good to hear that there’s nothing new I’ve been missing. Clearly, lemon and honey (with or without ginger, garlic, paprika, etc.) is a must for those that need something to believe in. Vocalzone, although I’ve not used them yet, are obviously essential when ‘the show must go on’ but generally, just take note of what your body tells you. Most things on the list are guaranteed to limit your ability to talk, let alone sing. My holy grail (as a smoker and hay-fever sufferer), is something that will cut through the catarrh that occasionally builds up. Sudafed nasal spray works wonders for opening the nasal passages and clearing the head but gets into the throat and can dry it out and irritate. Those Beechams ‘All In One’ type liquids can soothe the vocal cavity but then why does it need soothing? That’s why honey & lemon based drinks are good, placebo or not. 😉

  11. Paul says:

    Excellent advice. Water shouldn’t be too cold – room temp is best, as I have found that cold water can numb ones folds for a while.

  12. Zion says:

    As a touring singer in a rock band, it can get tough on the road. Vocalzone are my best friend; I keep a couple tucked between my teeth and cheek so they are gently keeping things lubricated. I avoid speaking as much as possible on the day of the gig; drink litres and litres of water on the run-up; as soon as possible get bottles of water on stage to get warmed up by the lights; do gentle vocal warm-ups in the couple of hours leading up to the show then broader warm-ups in the last 15 mins. I also find licorice tea good (Throat Coat tea, especially).

  13. Ian says:

    Very interesting thread indeed. As someone who has been a professional singer for 43 years, not once have I ever had a glass of water when singing – we are of course completely different! In the old days, you weren’t allowed to bring water into a studio in any case for fear of it being spilt on the the precious Bechstein. I find water a disgusting drink i which leaves me feeling nauseous and sometimes panics me as if I were drowning! It certainly does nothing for my singing. But then, I can eat or drink anything else without any detrimental effects on my laryngeal system, and I suspect it’s as much to do with no nonsense and good technique (my voice has never let me down and I have never strained or missed/cracked a note) I guess? Good to read these post tho’ – keep ’em coming. All the best, Ian

  14. Kevin Jones says:

    Having been an Opera singer for 10yrs and MT for before that, I agree with everything said at the top. However, drinking water during a performance or just before is not a good idea as it strips the natural moisture on the chords and you will then have to keep drinking it. Drink plenty up to 3hrs before and you are ready to go.
    The other thing that I would mention is that citrus fruits are actually very beneficial just before a performance, especially if the atmosphere is dry or you are suffering from nerves. Nerves especially can instantly dry the chords and the amount of singers I hear coming out of auditions who say ‘it’s really dry in there’. It is not the room, it is the nerves and by eating pineapple or an apple beforehand, or drinking pure OJ or similar, it stimulates the saliva glands to immediately produce more moisture. When you then go to sing, the moisture sapping of the moment will pull 90% of that out but you will be left with enough on the chords to not be affected.
    Regarding a warm up…….10 mins on the muscle support and humming (as above) is great and then leave until about 10 mins before performance and just do muscle work through vocalising. ie scales on Vvvvv or shjjjjjjj, or Brrrrrrrr and then explosive ‘B’ without vocalising. Getting your lower muscles working is vital before singing, so that the sound is supported from below. If not then it will be produced from the throat only and then you are in trouble.
    I hope that helps and stay away from Vocalzones or similar….you don’t need them.

    • marion says:

      Thanks so much for the info. I’m training to be an opera singer and I have a performance in two days. I’m a bit hoarse today and I know it’s because my technique is not up to scratch yet and I haven’t sung in a while. Also, I think I strained my voice a bit by trying to get in as much practice as I could. So now I’m a bit nervous that I won’t sing well. I also know that I start to cough when I’m nervous. I hope I will be good to sing on Sunday. I’ve never known what to use for coughing and phlegm, but I got some honey, lemon and ginger today, so will try that with warm water this evening. Thanks for the advice re exercises. I will just have to do my best.

  15. Ryan says:

    And sleep. Plenty of sleep. Chronic fatigue can lead to poor breath control and swelling of tissues on mouth and throat. Basically, if you’re body’s feels tired, then so will your sound

  16. Merle Noir says:

    I am so pleased to see an expert verifying what I’ve always said – if milk, cheese, chocolate etc. effect your voice, your eating wrong! Likewise the myth about honey and lemon. At most it will soothe the soft palate, but little else.

  17. Paul Pitts says:

    I have sung a number of operatic roles in NY and other places and sung around the world several times. One thing I try to remember: if possible don’t sing the day after you travel. I always lose about 1-1/2 steps on the top of my range. That’s not the case on the day I travel however. I sing for 2 hrs. and everything is there. Or 2 days after I travel. Now I am doing a play called the Scribe. It’s 80 minutes straight through. I am the only actor/singer. By far the most difficult thing I’ve done. Water is important for me. However, at times I’ve mixed a little Crystal Light in the water lubricates nicely. Just saying……..

  18. Samantha says:

    Good hydration is important – not just for the voice but for general health which is necessary for gigs too!.
    Warm-up time will vary with each person (usually 20 minutes for me), and for each session. There’s a point where you know you’re warmed up – no point going on longer. My show starts with Phantom so I have to hit a sustained E6 within 3 minutes of starting my performance and I just warm up until it feels right and it always works for me.
    On stage I drink raspberry leaf tea (without milk). It works as well as anything else and I like it 🙂

  19. Thanks for some really well-written information about hydration.

    One of the most important things about warming up is about moving the mucus off the cords. Before we singers perform, however,we have to warm up our entire bodies. We have to loosen up, get into the right alignment, get the breathing going,feel the voice on the support, stretch our throat muscles, get the larynx pivoting and moving, etc. All this to get the cords to respond. For some it is only five minutes or less,for others a half hour to 45 minutes..

    I is important though to know your voice and to not over-warm up and not leave enough voice for your performance.

  20. Lyle Miller says:

    I totally agree with pre-hydration. I have always said to my casts to hydrate heavily THE NIGHT BEFORE a matinee; that’s always been more helpful to me than drinking water right before or during a performance. In my opinion, that’s the absolute best thing. I agree with a lot of the common methods being placebos. but I also recommend drinking aloe vera juice or gel. That did wonders for me when I was touring. I just put a cap full in everything I drink and I feel the difference. I also cut back on soda and that has made the biggest difference in my voice, along with replacing that with water. 10 minutes or so of aerobic activity prior to vocal warm-up will help, too.

  21. Alice says:

    Something I found helps with mucus was drinking straight lemon juice and hot water… Not quite sure how or why but it seemed to really dry things up and “clear out” my voice. Was great before going on stage for the show I was in. Anybody else use lemon juice? It said in the article that lemons were best to avoid… what are others thoughts?

  22. Janet says:

    And don’t forget to warm down AFTER the gig. Very light glissando on EEE usually relaxes and calms things down nicely.

  23. Craig Berry says:

    I agree wholeheartedly about the good issues and I also warm up just as much as I need to until it feels right.
    I use honey just for flavouring and it’s antibacterial properties, but just a spoonful… in my favourite hot drink… Licorice tea…
    If I’m suffering a bit, I find Sanderson’s Throat Specific really hits the spot, and I try to stay away from things likeVocalzones…
    I do like a nice blackcurrant and glycerin pastille (non-medicated) or if I can’t get them, I use any boiled sweets, keeping one in the mouth keeps my throat moist.

    Nice to hear so much about the importance of hydration, I must admit to not drinking enough water on a daily basis, & I think that may be something I should change…

    Great also to hear other thoughts/philosophies/systems from other singers

    Cx

  24. Barbara Bellamy says:

    I am a high school vocal.music teacher. Thank you so much for your good advice, which will be required reading for all my choirs in September when school resumes! After preaching about (and demonstrating) the importance of bringing water to school every day for years, I finally started buying 24 packs of bottled water and selling them for 10c a bottle. The bottles fly out of my office! A bass with spare dollar can buy water for his whole section at the start of class. I make sure we recycle the plastic. They are finally drinking water!

  25. Sheryl Renee says:

    I really appreciate this article. I’m in my 32nd year as a professional vocalist and actress. My theater background is what motivates me to warm-up before singing. I do it in my vehicle also known as my ‘mobile rehearsal booth” I find that drinking water and sleep are essential to keeping my chords healthy. I have also used “Olbas Pastilles” (which we call greasy oilies) for the past 26 years. They are a Swiss made herbal cough drop, made with numerous oils and chlorophyll. We were turned on to them by Debra Byrd, who is known as the vocal coach for America Idol and now The Voice. They lubricate and have my total loyalty. Thanks so much for your expertise and also all of the helpful comments! Singers rock!!

  26. Scottie Stanley says:

    One thing I have never read about or seen any discussion on, is if a vocalist should do anything during a break while performing a multiple set gig. Should we do some light humming or anything at all during that break? Assuming most breaks are around 15 minutes or so.

    Thanks in advance.

    Scottie

    • Samantha says:

      You shouldn’t need to do anything – your voice will stay warm for an interval.
      It’s more important to rest it ready for ‘part 2’ 🙂

  27. Tony Cadson says:

    A good cup of tea or a warm drink with little syrupy content , I don’t like water as it does cool the throat and that dosn’t make sense to me after warming up the throat

  28. One easy and effective way of warming up your vocals is humming. Humming may seem like a simple exercise, however there is a correct and incorrect way to perform this most basic of warm ups.

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