Ask yourself a question. If a friend asked you to join them in a 10 mile run starting immediately, would you say yes straight away on your way to the start line or would you say ‘Let me warm up first and I will join you when I am ready’?
People seem to think that because they speak everyday they are exercising their voice so don’t need to bother with warm up exercises. How wrong they are! Talking on a daily basis is not the same as giving a speech. Neither is walking down to the post box to post a letter the same as running 10 miles. You may be using the same body parts but they are being used in an entirely different way.
If you are giving a speech and you want it to sound right then you should do vocal warm ups as part of preparation.
The benefits of vocal warm ups are minimising the possibilities of stumbling over words, forgetting what was coming next, and facing a fit of the nervous jitters. Vocal warm ups help you channel the natural adrenalin rush that comes from performing positively. Instead of being immobilised you can use it as fuel to boost your delivery.
When doing your vocal warm ups you should focus on the following three areas:
Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, breathe in through the nose and bending from the waist allow yourself to flop like a rag doll while breathing out through your mouth. Shake any tension out of your arms, neck, shoulders and allow yourself to literally hang loose. And then breathing in through your nose very gently and slowly bring yourself upright, vertebrae by vertebrae, and breathe out through your mouth. Shake your arms and hands until they feel relaxed and warm and do the same with your legs. When exercising your shoulders, hunch them as high as your ears and then relax. Keep repeating until they feel at ease. Do gentle and smooth head rolls to exercise your neck. Smile as wide as you can to exercise the mouth.
Good vocal warm ups always involve becoming conscious of breathing patterns and establishing those that sustain and support the voice.
- Stand with your feet a comfortable shoulder width apart.
- Support the weight of your body through your hips and legs rather than locking your knees.
- Consciously release and relax your shoulders.
- If you're holding your stomach in, let it go.
- Place your hands on your stomach.
- Breathe in through your nose to the count of five. Count slowly. As you inhale feel your diaphragm rising.
- Breathe out through your mouth to the count of five and now feel your diaphragm expanding.
- Do several rounds of inhale and exhale while making sure you keep your shoulders, stomach and legs relaxed.
To warm your voice, unite the breathing exercise above with sound. Also, if you feel like it try a couple of tongue twisters, here is a great one:
You know New York,
You need New York,
You know you need unique New York.
In your lead up to speaking, complete all of your stage and prop checks and then aim to set aside a minimum of ten minutes for vocal exercise warm ups in a private quiet place before you take to the stage. You'll find it works wonders for focusing, relaxing and settling any nervous tension.