There is no one size fits all vocal warmup routine

If you were to go onto Youtube right now, and search for “vocal warmup routine“, you will find hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of videos.

Many of these will contain similar exercises, but many of them will also contain conflicting advice. Such conflicts won’t be covered in this article.

The top video on Youtube (at time of writing) has racked up 22 million views. This is clearly a topic people want the answers to, and I totally understand this. In truth, I actually use very similar exercises to some of these videos, at least on paper.

So if people want good exercises to warmup their voice, and there’s enough similarity between what I’m doing and what these Youtubers are doing in the videos, why haven’t I put out a video on this?

Philosophically simple, technically more complex

As per the title of today’s article, it’s because there is no one size fits all vocal warmup routine (or vocal practice routine for that matter).

But why?

The problem philosophically is relatively simple: a generalised video does not take into the account the specific individuality and vocal requirements of any given singer. Such a general video also ignores the fundamental learning process that underpins any individual who is looking to acquire a technical skill.

Here’s what needs to happen

To deploy any exercise in someone’s voice, we need the following three elements (at least):

1) Select an appropriate exercise for a given singer, and teach the singer to do it correctly
2) Take that exercise over an appropriate range in their voice for a desired result
3) Develop their ability to have a constructive self-guided practice

Let’s go through each of these to clarify:

1) Select an appropriate exercise for a given singer, and teach the singer to do it correctly

Every singer’s instrument is unique. Unique not only in terms of how it is built and the tonal result it generates, but unique by virtue of constant ongoing physiological changes, through age, and also general technical development (assuming a singer is working on their voice).

As such, while I will almost unilaterally pick lip bubbles as a great warmup for singers, to just say “do some lip bubbles” does an enormous disservice to any singer who receives this “advice”.

How the exercise is done matters just as much as which exercise is selected. I see people do lip bubbles horrendously, only further ingraining the problems they already experience in their voice. It’s critical to get the voice warmed up and co-ordinated on a case-by-case basis for each singer. Without ensuring that each singer understands how to do a given voice exercise in a way that dials in the best qualities of THEIR specific instrument, we are on a hiding to nowhere.

In my opinion, you’d be better off saying nothing at all than encouraging someone to do something they have no idea how to do, that can further cause damage to the singers voice. While not all people putting out such videos are charlatans and con-artists, many are simply not knowledgeable enough to realise the above.

We need to select an appropriate exercise, and we need to deploy that exercise effectively in a given singers voice. This clearly requires direct checking of how someone is doing an exercise. Hopefully you can now see already why a generalised video is not appropriate. This brings us to point 2.

2) Take that exercise over an appropriate range in their voice for the desired result

Again, every singer’s instrument is unique. But lets say we have two singers who are clones. Their physiology is identical in every way, but let’s say that one has been singing for 10 years (with or without training), and the other has never really done anything with their voice.

Even with the same instrument, we would need to start each singer in different keys, and take them over a different range to get the best out of each voice. We are aiming for warming up and co-ordination of the voice over that exercise. If we start too low/too high, they won’t be able to get their voice dialled in appropriately or deploy the exercise effectively in their voice.

We would also need to monitor that the exercise is doing it’s job as we ascend/descend. Just because someone could squeak out another instance of the exercise one key higher is pointless at best, damaging/counter-productive at worst, if they are losing the correct co-ordination or they are straining their voice to do so.

This requires skill to both identify a good starting key, monitor the sound generated during ascent and descent, and the experience to know when to turn around or discontinue an exercise. This protocol applies to any exercise, not just warmups. The right exercise needs to deployed across the right range in a given individuals’ voice. A video does not and cannot deliver this.

3) Develop their ability to have a constructive self-guided practice

As important as points 1 and 2 are, they are initially dependent on an experienced ear prescribing the right exercises for a given voice. But this is useless unless the singer can deploy this effectively in their own self-guided practice time. As such, cultivating a singer’s ability to practice correctly and self-monitor is critical.

Case in point: I have had plenty of clients over the years demonstrate an exercise beautifully in sessions, then deploy it incorrectly at home in their own practice. This typically further ingrains existing issues, or creates new issues. These then need to be reversed/unpicked.

(NOTE: If you think I’m exaggerating the gravity of people picking up bad ideas off Youtube videos, I’m not. I have had clients start with me who have tried to self-teach via Youtube videos. We start the session, and we discover that even their warmups are a total mess, and are a core reason behind why their voice has the issues that it does. )

The ability to truly hear oneself, to self-monitor one’s sound, and to self-guide one’s own practice requires an aural education as much it does a technical education. There is a right way for a voice to function and plenty of wrong ones. The sound we generate is a reflection of how correctly we are co-ordinating our voices. As such it is crucial that every singer learns how to practice correctly to develop their voices.

Conclusion: There is no one size fits all vocal warmup routine

Returning to my original point: a generalised video simply cannot teach you to warmup properly or sing well. For the reasons above, it is impossible to know if an exercise is being done correctly or not, and bypasses everything that is quintessential to the individualised nature of effective voice teaching.

Learn More: Related Articles

If you’d like to read more along these lines, you may enjoy these related articles:
Dunning-Kruger: A little knowledge is a dangerous thing
Shouting Masquerading As Singing: Reasons why so many singers are just yelling
The Difference Between Amateurs and Pros
Vocal Pedagogy: Why we need to look to the past to progress into the future
Style vs Hyper-style: An analysis of Modern Vocal Style

Leave a Reply