by Ramesha Nani
Let me start with a confession: I don’t practice my vocal exercises as much as I should! I know I can always rely on my years of training to handle any small performance in which I’m involved. HOWEVER, when preparing for a major performance, I have to adopt a different strategy. I start practicing every day a couple of weeks before the performance. I don’t emphasize the songs and solos that I’ll be singing, which I know fairly well. I focus on stretching my throat muscles, making them strong and pliable. My goal is to feel that my voice is ready for anything and responds to the slightest nuance the music requires.
A singer friend of mine wrote to me recently asking why he often gets hoarse and loses his high notes after singing for an hour or so. He’s a singer with many years’ experience. I asked him how often he sings and whether he warms up his voice before singing. Not surprisingly, he doesn’t sing all that often and most of the time doesn’t warm-up before singing.
Let’s make something clear: if you sing regularly, perform regularly and need your voice to always be in top form, strong and healthy over the years, vocal exercises have to become part of your daily activities! You need to practice a twenty to thirty minute routine of vocal warm-ups that addresses the different aspects of the singing technique. These exercises are best practiced every day, but at a minimum, five days a week.
Singers need to take care of their voice the same way athletes take care of their bodies. This is especially true as you get older. Vocal cords, just like all other muscles, tend to become stiff and need regular stretching and exercise to remain strong and flexible.
It’s also very important to warm-up your voice before singing. When I was in my twenties I could sing without warming-up and I was fine. When you are young, you can also go running without warm-up and stretching. But as you get older, you start to notice that, without proper preparation, your muscles are more prone to injury. The same is true for the voice. And don’t be mistaken: even if you talk all day, that doesn’t mean that your voice is warmed-up for singing! When you talk you use only a very small portion of your vocal range. You don’t hold any sound for very long, so you don’t really need a lot of breath. Also, many people (including trained singers!) don’t use their speaking voice very well, which makes the act of talking all day far from ideal in terms of preparing their voice for singing.
If the concept of warming up your voice is foreign to you, and you want to learn an effective warm-up routine, click here.
I find singing to be one of the most powerful sources of inspiration, for oneself and for others, and God only knows how much the world needs inspiration right now! I feel it’s my duty to keep my instrument – the voice – as healthy and strong as I can. I hope you will do the same.