Vocal Warm Ups
The type of vocal exercises you choose for any particular practice session will depend somewhat on the nature of the songs you will be rehearsing. Some songs need different skills to others so a good place to start is by sorting out what skills your songs require. It’s also key to take care of some good vocal warm ups.
If the song you are rehearsing requires singing at the top end of your range, you should go for exercises that are geared to help with that. For a song with a bunch of trills in it, or lots of fast runs, it is best to do vocal exercises for flexibility. If the material has a lot of long, sustained notes, then work on breath control and support. This article is really designed to suggest some vocal exercises that will suit a variety of different purposes.
Vocal Exercises for Low Range
First up, don’t neglect your low range! While these exercises are suited to alto or bass voices, they are also important for tenors or sopranos that need to sing a tune in the lower part of their range.
Octave slides descending. Use the buzz (also known as the lip roll or bubble lips) and slide down a whole octave from a comfortable starting pitch. Take the starting pitch from the middle of your range and move down in semitones (half steps). Try experimenting with vowel sounds as well like “ah”, “oo”, or “vee”, “voh”.
Fifth slide. As the name suggests you begin on a comfortable, middle range pitch and sing down a fifth (ie: so – do). Use the buzz and descend in semitones. You can then add in a return to the starting pitch (so-do-so) or try reversing the pattern to “do – so – do”.
Vocal Exercises for High Range
These exercises are targeted at tenors and sopranos but they are useful for anyone singing at the high end of their range.
Up and down arpeggios. Arpeggios are simply the notes of a chord sung separately eg: “do-mi-so-do-so-mi-do”. The middle “do” is an octave above the starting pitch “do”. Use the buzz or a vowel sound and move up a semitone each time you repeat the arpeggio.
Using a turn with upward arpeggio and downward scale. This is much the same exercise as above but with added complexity. After singing the first arpeggio (do-mi-so-do), you then do what is termed a turn. A turn involves (ti-do-re-do-ti-la-so-fa-mi-re-do) where you then sing the octave back down the scale to your starting pitch “do” (see the scale pattern below). Try using vowel sounds here like “oo”, “ee” and “ah”.
Using upward arpeggio and high note repeated. This vocal exercise is really aimed at helping to keep your tone light when singing high notes. The note pattern below shows singing the arpeggio up (do-mi-so-do) and the repeating to top “do” in a staccato (short separate notes) at least 5 to 6 times. Try using “ha” to sing these.
Vocal Exercises for Flexibility
The ascending triplet scale. Although this exercise will sound complicated to explain, it is a lot easier to follow if you can read the notes below. Using do, re, mi, etc; sing an upward eighth-note triplet that starts on each syllable of the scale. When you get to the top of the octave, reverse this pattern and sing each triplet back downward. The idea is to sing this exercise as fast as possible. This is also a great exercise to warm up.
do re mi fa so la ti do ti la so fa mi re do
Ascending and descending thirds. Again, this exercise is easier to sing than to explain. Starting on the bottom note, go up a third (do-mi), down a whole step, up another third (re fa), etc. until you reach the fifth tone (mi–so), then turn around and go back down a third, up a half step, down a third, up a whole step, etc. Again, sing it as quickly as possible. With these, it really helps to have a guitar or piano handy, or an interactive program that lets you hear the note pattern first.
Up and down a five-note scale, repeated rapidly. This exercise is pretty simple – you just sing up and down the five-tone scale (do-re-mi-fa-so-fa-mi-re-do) and repeat it as fast as possible.
Vocal Exercises for Breath Support and Control
The buzz slide. There is no doubt that the buzz is probably the best exercise to improve breathing support. Doing the buzz literally forces you to supply solid breath. Start on a comfortable mid-range note and then slide down a fifth—so-do. To repeat this a few times, move down by half-steps. Then use the buzz for the descending triad (simple chord) —so-mi-do— and slide your voice between the tones. Repeat this several times, moving down by half-steps. Finish off by buzzing a five-tone descending scale—so-fa-mi-re-do.
Messa di voce. This last one is straightforward. Start by very softly singing an easy mid-range pitch on the syllable “ah”. Then, while holding the note, get gradually louder, then go soft again.