If you have ever had a lesson or a class with me, you probably know how much of an emphasis I put on warming-up the body in order to begin warming-up for singing. The voice is an instrument that is housed within your body yet we tend to ignore it when we prepare to sing. Releasing tension and warming-up muscles and tissue will have an impact on how easy singing is.
The exercises that I am about to share here were given to me by Joan LaBarbara many years ago. I was confused by the exercises at the time, but the more I learned about singing, the more I understood the value of these exercises.
Start each day with these and you’ll speak and sing more efficiently all day long…and you’ll feel better!
1. Bend forward at the waist. Relax your neck, arms and shoulders. You can let your arms make little circles if that helps you relax. Breathe out any tension you feel – breathe it down your arms and through your fingertips. After a minute or two of breathing in and out, straighten-up slowly, one vertebra at a time.
2. Extend arms forward at shoulder level. Stretch one arm at a time forward, feeling the stretch in the inside of the upper arm and the back of the shoulder. Repeat 10 times for each arm. Then drop arms and relax.
3. Extend your arms to the ceiling. Stretch one arm at a time upward, feeling the opening/lengthening on the side being stretched. Alternate and repeat 10 times each arm. Then drop arms and relax.
4. Extend your arms to the side and shoulder level. Start by making small circles that gradually get larger. Do this in a relaxed, unstressed fashion. Return to starting position and begin again in the opposite direction, with small circles, getting gradually larger. Drop the arms and relax.
5. Raise both shoulders up to the ears and feel the tension, then let them drop (i.e. shoulder shrugs). Repeat 10 times.
6. Arc both arms up and forward (like the butterfly stroke in swimming) then sweep them toward the ground and back to your starting position. This opens the shoulders, chest, and upper back. Repeat 10 times.
7. Turn head to the left as far as it will go, then hold it in that position and relax (for slow 10 count). Return to center. Turn head to right as far as it will go then hold in that position and relax (slow 10 count). Return to center. Tilt head to the right side as if you’re about to rest your ear on your shoulder. Relax and hold. Roll to center and continue so that you tilt head to the left side in the same manner. Relax and hold for a slow 10 count. Roll to center and gently let the head lift as if it were a helium balloon. Don’t forget to breathe!
8. Extend the tongue out and down toward the chin. Let the tongue return inside the mouth. Repeat 10 times. Do a second set if desired.
9. Extend the tongue out and down towards the chin, then sweep the tongue from side to side across the chin. Reach for your chin in order to maximize the stretch. Repeat at least 10 times. You will probably begin feeling a warming sensation under the chin about halfway through this set.
10. Similar to number two, but inside the mouth (in front of the lower teeth and behind the lower lip). Allow the jaw to relax open as you do this (don’t draw the lips in). Sweep the tongue from side to side. Repeat 10 times, then stop, swallow, and do 10 more.
11. Extend the tongue directly forward, then drop it directly down while dropping the jaw at the same time. Return the tongue inside the mouth. Repeat 10 times.
12. This exercise is for the back of the tongue and helps eliminate phlegm. Let the tip of the tongue rest just behind the lower teeth. Raise the back of the tongue and touch the soft palate (roof of the mouth) on “Ga” and “Ka”, and repeat the syllable. You can also alternate between the two syllables for an added challenge.