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What vocal exercises before singing?

Little Hawk 05 Feb 10 - 02:46 PM
Alice 05 Feb 10 - 02:54 PM
Alice 05 Feb 10 - 03:01 PM
Little Hawk 05 Feb 10 - 03:05 PM
Beer 05 Feb 10 - 03:10 PM
Little Hawk 05 Feb 10 - 03:16 PM
Little Hawk 05 Feb 10 - 03:17 PM
Richard Bridge 05 Feb 10 - 06:16 PM
Richard Bridge 05 Feb 10 - 06:18 PM
Little Hawk 05 Feb 10 - 06:40 PM
Jim Carroll 05 Feb 10 - 07:20 PM
Little Hawk 05 Feb 10 - 07:52 PM
The Sandman 05 Feb 10 - 07:56 PM
Little Hawk 05 Feb 10 - 08:09 PM
Don Firth 05 Feb 10 - 08:58 PM
Little Hawk 05 Feb 10 - 09:53 PM
Don Firth 05 Feb 10 - 10:36 PM
Jim Carroll 06 Feb 10 - 09:22 AM
AllisonA(Animaterra) 06 Feb 10 - 09:56 AM
Little Hawk 06 Feb 10 - 10:36 AM
Ron Davies 06 Feb 10 - 10:57 AM
blogward 06 Feb 10 - 11:13 AM
Ron Davies 06 Feb 10 - 11:25 AM
Deckman 06 Feb 10 - 12:06 PM
Sooz 06 Feb 10 - 12:16 PM
Alice 06 Feb 10 - 12:17 PM
Little Hawk 06 Feb 10 - 01:00 PM
Alice 06 Feb 10 - 01:28 PM
Ron Davies 06 Feb 10 - 01:29 PM
Ron Davies 06 Feb 10 - 01:38 PM
Little Hawk 06 Feb 10 - 02:37 PM
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Subject: BS: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 02:46 PM

I've been having some trouble with my singing voice in about the last three months...sometimes. On one occasion it may be fine, but on another I can feel strain and raggedness, and I have to be careful and avoid higher notes and louder volume. I either have some actual damage to the vocal chords...or I just need to warm up more before starting to sing out.

It's probably just an aging factor. I have always had a naturally strong and good singing voice, and I don't tend to sing in a way that abuses it, but I am 61 now and most things don't work as well at 60 as they did at 20 or 30 or 40.

So, does anyone have some good advice as to how I can warm up and relax my throat prior to doing a performance?


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Subject: RE: BS: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Alice
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 02:54 PM

Here are some suggestions I added on older threads on this subject:

There are some classic exercises for warming up your mouth and using vowels and consonants while you sing exercises - try singing scales up and down on the sounds "mada meena mada meena mada meena mah" and "kagle ogle agle ogle ay". Lift the soft palate and relax your jaw and neck muscles. Open your mouth in a relaxed way, don't block the sound from coming out.

Using that exercise, work on getting clear vowels and consonants. Relax. Sing/speak on the vowels, to keep your sound open. Don't hammer "k" sounds, don't let all the air leak out on "h" sounds, don't hiss on the "s" don't hang on to nasal "r", "m" or "n" sounds. Don't break words and phrases in the middle (a bad habit in pop singing right now). Have enough breath to carry you through to the end of a word or phrases (this is where learning breath support comes in).


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Subject: RE: BS: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Alice
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 03:01 PM

Don Firth has a great description of how he warms up in this message from 2003:

Don Firth - how do you prepare to sing?


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Subject: RE: BS: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 03:05 PM

Sounds good. I have pretty good awareness of maintaing breath support throughout a lengthy phrase and not running out of air. I also tend to keep the chin "in" and to use the diaphram effectively.

One thing I notice in some people is that their facial muscles get all tensed up when they sing, whereas I tend to keep the face more relaxed, I think. I'll have to check in front of a mirror.


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Subject: RE: BS: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Beer
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 03:10 PM

Don't self diagnose my friend. Get an appointment now to a throat specialist. I thought I had laryngitis and let it go for way to long. When I finally got to a specialist(had bowing of the vocal folds.) I was then of to a throat surgeon to have implants in the vocal folds. It has helped some but 75% of songs I use to do are out the window. Don't take a chance L.H.

Beer (adrien)


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Subject: RE: BS: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 03:16 PM

Thanks! That Don Firth post really covers things well.


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Subject: RE: BS: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 03:17 PM

I'll look into that, Beer.


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 06:16 PM

Moi-meme, I go to the bar, buy beer (warm English bitter, brown, or mild) open gob and pour some in. After a couple I sound fine to me.


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 06:18 PM

The only one who ever complained was margarine, but I can't readily get beer up my nose.


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 06:40 PM

Richard, you and Chongo Chimp would get along just fine. ;-D


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 07:20 PM

Personally, if I was having voice problems I would not do warm-up exercises before I sang.
There are exercises to do at home which can keep your voice in trim, but you can work out for yourself which ones are most useful to you.
Doing any voice exercises before a performance can strain the voice for an evening.
I found that tension, especially around the shoulders, can restrict the throat and cause strain, thus causing hoarsness - maybe this is where your problem lies.
Nowadays I (nine years older than you) find the simple act of dropping my shoulders and relaxing my arms and hands works wonders.
61 is very young to start having serious vocal problems; maybe you need to rethink your delivery.
The great Sean Nós singer, Joe Heaney remained a superb singer throughout his life by constantly taking stock of where his voice was at and adapting his performance to within his capabilities.
On the other hand, another great (on top form) Irish singer insisted on trying to sing as he did when a young man and completely stripped his voice, inflicting serious damage whenever he sang more than one song.
Good luck.
Apropos of something else entirely, Joe Heaney once complained to us that "It takes me all night to do what I used to do all night".
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 07:52 PM

Jim, it's pretty common for professional singers to do a vocal warmup before a performance. Joan Baez, for instance, has to do an extensive period of warming up before a performance now or she runs into trouble, according to her. She said that when she was young, she could just open her mouth and belt it out any time at all, but not anymore without warming up first.

Everyone's situation, though, is unique, so different methods would work well for different people, I figure. All Richard needs is warm beer! ;-)

Voice problems can arise out of muscle tension, as you suggested. They can also result from an emotional block which causes muscle tension (as I discovered in my early 20s). A young woman I was in love with decided to marry somebody else, I found out about it, felt devastated, and a short time afterward I found I was losing my singing voice...even my ordinary talking voice. It got worse and worse. I didn't make the connection at first, and I was convinced there was something seriously wrong with my throat, so I went to a throat specialist. He took a good look inside my throat and said, "There is nothing physically wrong here whatsoever."   That was a big relief!

He then said, "Have you had some kind of emotional shock recently, around the time this problem started or shortly before?"

Bingo! I most certainly had.

"Well, he explained,"I've seen this happen a few times with patients who've come to me. You can sustain some kind of emotional trauma and your throat starts to seize up and the vocal chords don't work properly. Now that you know what it was that caused the situation, it should cure itself, because there is really nothing at all wrong with you physically."

The light went on. And it did cure itself within a day or two, and I was singing just fine again.

Interesting story, eh? I lost the girl, all right, but I got my voice back.


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 07:56 PM

I would suggest,singing do me so do and then sing it coming down,going up a semitone for an octave and then stop.short and sweet


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 08:09 PM

Sometimes I do just that.


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Don Firth
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 08:58 PM

One very important thing that can be easily overlooked:

Yesterday I went to my ear, nose, and throat doctor for a follow-up appointment after he removed enough wax from my left ear to polish a bus with and had me putting antibiotic drops in the ear for the past two weeks.

The ear, he tells me, is coming along fine. But I asked him, since I was there, if he would take a look at my larynx and vocal folds. Being 78 now, and having lost a note or two on the top of my range (gained a full step on the bottom, though), I just wanted to make sure everything was ship-shape.

I was expecting him to grab my tongue and pull it out of my mouth as far as it would go (and a bit more), and poke what looked like a long-handled dental mirror into the back of my throat so he could see the vocal folds. But no. He squirts some kind of bitter-tasting anesthetic up each nostril, leaves the examining room, and comes back with a box-shaped gizmo with an electrical cord and another thin tubular thing sticking out of it.

He plugs in the electrical cord, then runs the thin tube up my right nostril. I presume it was an "endoscope" or something like that; small camera attached to a fiber-optic cord. The thing was quite flexible, and it was only about an eight of an inch in diameter—but big enough to let me know it was there, despite the anesthetic.

He peered at the box and said "Hmm" a lot. He had me sing a few notes on different pitches (lots of fun with a cable up your nose and a television camera down your throat). Then he removed the tube and told me that my vocal folds looked okay to him. They do tend to lose a bit of flexibility with age (which accounts for the slight drop in range), but there are no nodes or any other anomalies or causes for concern.

Good news!

Except—   they appeared to him to be a bit dehydrated. He said that drinking enough water is a major factor in maintaining vocal health (not to mention general health). At least the recommended eight eight-ounce glasses per day. That's two quarts of water per day (I don't know how this works out in liters and Imperial gallons).

Anyway. He got me. I must confess that I've been somewhat negligent in that department. So I've upped my water intake considerably.

This, of course, is also a good workout for the kidneys. . . .

Uh—before you crack open that beer, the doc also reminded me that he's talking about water. Coffee, tea, and alcoholic beverages all contain diuretics, which draw water out of the body.

Sorry—

Damn the rust! Drink a lot of water!

Don Firth

P. S. But you might want to be judicious if you're about to do a two-hour concert. You don't want to have to stand there on the stage writhing while you sing until intermission.

Hey! Could that explain Elvis?


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 09:53 PM

LOL!!! Good one about Elvis.

It so happens that I was just advised by a medical practitioner I see now and then to DRINK MORE WATER daily. I wasn't drinking nearly enough of it, and I was dehydrated. He told me to drink 2 liters of water a day. I have no idea what that is in quarts, but it's a fair bit of water. I'm a small person, so 2 liters should be enough for my body type.

The nice thing about this is that your pee goes from strong yellow to a very pale yellow, almost as clean looking as plain water. ;-) Not too good for writing in the snow, but you can see you're making progress.

And I notice, yes, that I am feeling better and looking healthier from increasing my water intake.


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Don Firth
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 10:36 PM

Excellent!

I think two liters is just a smidgin (a couple of ounces) more than two quarts. In the ballpark.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 09:22 AM

Little Hawk - I did specify that warm-up exercises were not necessarily the answer if you were having problems - I'm certainly not against them under normal circumstances.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 09:56 AM

I have been lurking here but most of the advice is very good- especially RELAX and drink lots of water. I would add that if it feels rough, or even hurts, to sing, stop immediately and relax, take some deep breaths, drink some water, and try again. If it still hurts, stop immediately (of course, if you're in the middle of a concert, this may not be advisable!). But pain while singing means something's wrong- either in how you're operating the instrument, or something else.
So, adding to relaxation and water is rest for the tired voice. Sometimes for several days. It sucks, but it's better than permanent damage!


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 10:36 AM

Yup. Well, I was working on an old Gord Lightfoot song last night which doesn't push my range into the high end. "If You Need Me". It's a beautiful tune with really nice passing notes on the guitar when moving between chords. Boy, can that guy ever write songs!

So I stayed on safe ground, not pushing the voice too hard, and it seems okay there. I'm using a microphone and one of those Fender Acoustasonic amps for guitar and voice. Lovely sound, specially with some reverb mixed in!

I've also been working hard to undo a 40-year old bad habit of how I position my left hand on the guitar. I always brought my thumb up around the neck. Bad positioning. The classical position is the right one...pretty much the way you have to do it when you play a bar chord, thumb behind the neck, not up the side of it. I'm starting to get it. Now I have to reprogram all that subconscious backlog from the last 40 years...I figure another week or two should do it. ;-)


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 10:57 AM

The Lightfoot song works well--that's great.   Is the rest of your material mainly Dylan or Dylan-like songs?    That may not be that easy on the voice.   Maybe you want to bring in more melodious songs--like the Lightfoot--and less Dylan-like stuff.

Also, is it possible there is something in your venue which is not good for the voice--like smoke--or something else?

One more thing.   My voice has sunk--now I can be a second bass--which is great. I can hit low E's and D's--and even below that--for the first time ever.   And I've kept the higher notes (through a strong falsetto--thanks to the Beach Boys.)   If you're still doing the same songs you've done for decades--in the same keys--maybe your voice has also sunk. So all you'd have to do is change the key you do some songs in and you'll be fine.


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: blogward
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 11:13 AM

Turn the bottle cap anti-clockwise as you look down on it. Seriously, it's cumulative regular practice that gives you a strong voice. I have a CD of scales in the car which I can put on on the way to a gig or whatever. I generally find 10 minutes of that gets my voice in the zone. Twice a day when commuting is good, too. Just don't be put off by funny looks.


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 11:25 AM

blogward has it right.   I sing in the shower, on the street-- (it's 4 long songs or 5 short songs to the subway),-- around the house, in the car, in stairwells at work, even walking down the corridor--in addition to music parties, in duets with Jan (and anybody else--she calls me a duet slut), and of course all my choral group's rehearsals and concerts.   Never have had a serious voice problem.   (I do think basses have easier than tenors--especially early in the morning.)

Our conductor warms us up with scales etc every time, but I find I'm permanently warmed up all the time.


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Deckman
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 12:06 PM

One of my early mentors and singing coach had a foolproof warming up excersize he insisted was a MUST! He would open a pint of rye whiskey, using his mouth and teeth on the cap, and slowly turning the bottle with his LEFT HAND until the cap was off! When that was achomplished, he would sample the contents, judging it's quality, and then start singing ... very loudly. The more he drank ... the more he sang ... VERY LOUDLY! Bob(deckman)Nelson ((AKA ... bad bad bob))


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Sooz
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 12:16 PM

Keep well hydrated all the time. It isn't enough to drink water just before you sing. Also yawning followed by humming relaxes the throat before you sing.


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Alice
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 12:17 PM

LH, sorry, I had just scanned your first message when I posted and only picked up on your thread question asking for vocal exercises when I responded. Now that I've read that you are having trouble, yes, definitely rest your voice until you know what's going on with it. Water, water, water, like the doc said. It may seem odd, but whispering also can strain the voice.


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 01:00 PM

Yes, whispering is terrible for the vocal chords. You won't catch me whispering. ;-)

Deckman's solution is the same as Chongo's, only Chongo doesn't sing. (He's never broken down under torture or intimidation of any sort.)

Ron, my natural vocal range is a tenor as far as I know...from about Bb on the 5th string up through about D on the 2nd string. At a pinch I used to be able to sing the E on the first string okay. This is very similar, I think, to Lightfoot's range. Dylan could comfortably sing a bit higher than that when he was young (as well as going down rather low too), I think he would go up to about the G on the first string, so I have to move some of the older Dylan tunes into a lower key. I've also found that if I move some of my own songs down a key or two now, it suits my voice better than when I was younger. So my voice has deepened a bit, but I'm still basically a tenor.

The singer's voice I'd most like to have if I could would be Jackson Browne's in the 70's. Or Mary Chapin Carpenter's if I did a sex change first... ;-)

I love listening to Dylan, specially in the 60s, 70s, and 80s stuff...he's got a terrifically "tough" sounding and flexible voice with great dynamic force...but I don't much try to make my own voice sound like his when I do Dylan songs (except now and then just for fun). Only Dylan...and Mark Knopfler...can really sound like that, so I leave it to them. (Knopfler sounds a lot like one of Dylan's common singing styles...Dylan's had other sounds, though, at other times which Knopfler's voice doesn't resemble in the least).


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Alice
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 01:28 PM

An article about how whispering strains vocal folds (and links to other things that stress the voice).

Vocal Health: The Dangers of Whispering For Your Voice

snip--
"...whispering can be even more of a strain on the vocal folds than speaking. She also suggested that there is a misconception that it is OK to whisper while on vocal rest."

The comments below the article are worth reading, too.


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 01:29 PM

Note to self:   Be sure to proofread to see if you any words out.


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 01:38 PM

The range you describe is more a baritone than a tenor, I believe.    Do you have falsetto?--that can really extend the range---especially if you have a smooth transition from one voice to the other--(then of course, you can't yodel--I sure can't).

But of course you don't want to push the higher range.   Don't try to sing the higher notes loud if they're not already in your comfortable range.   But you can sing them-- without whispering.

What about the venues?   Anything in the air that might not be good for the voice?


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Subject: RE: What vocal exercises before singing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 02:37 PM

Baritone is a bit below tenor, eh? No, I don't sing falsetto. Never mastered that technique. I don't think there's anything in the air that's a problem at the places where I'm singing.


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