Vocal warm-up exercises for showing students how to sing through the break. These FREE singing warm-ups may be primarily an exercise in AWARENESS at first!
Beginning singing students tend to sing with strength (even if softly and shyly) in the higher part of their voices. Vocal teachers usually call this upper region the "head register" or "head voice."
But as voices drop down below F or E above Middle C, the volume of kids' voices thin out and become breathy, or "covered"-sounding.
Or they may be used to singing just the opposite way -- strong and loud down low, like a country singer! But as they approach B or C above Middle C, oh no! Their voice may acquire a strained, pushing, pump-up-the-volume sound. or they may go into a strangled squeak, convinced they cannot reach beyond their comfort zone.
Your job is to convince them that their vocal range is both higher and lower than they imagine. Little by little their vocal warm-up exercises should stretch their range at both ends.
But what about that awkward spot right in the middle? That's the spot where their vocal folds seem to encounter a little bump, almost like a hiccup, and beyond which the quality of the voice changes.
These vocal warm-up exercises will help your singing students identify the places where they pass through a "break." (Depending on whether they're singing from the bottom up, or from the top down, they may feel a break at a different note.) As they practice moving through the break and begin to "feel" it coming, you can help.
For example, tell them to sing with the right amount of air -- not pushing too hard right on a transition note. ("Push" is probably one of those words that don't belong in a voice teacher's vocabulary! "Lighten up", "steady air flow", or "control the breath" might be better phrases than "don't push!") Also, talk about placing the tone "forward" instead of "down."
"Hoo - oh - oo" is a great singing warm-up that I picked up years ago from a friend who was assistant director for the Seattle Boys Choir and Seattle Girls Choir. She said this was a frequent vocal warm-up exercise to get boys' voices bridging an octave. I have found it just as useful with girls, and with adults. The "Hoo" is high and open, the "oh" is big and low. Dropping a whole octave really gives you the feeling of the different voice registers.
The "Hel-LO" vocal warm-up exercise is one I devised myself (as far as I can remember). I use it when singers have a melody which drops down to Middle C or below for a few notes, causing their voice to thin out and disappear. Young singers who don't understand how to transition into another register believe they must continue with the head voice on down the scale, where they seem unable to sing with any volume.
First I speak the word "Hel-LO" to them a couple of times, and ask them to say it with me, emphasizing the "LO" part of the word. We say it together, making "LO" loud and forward in the mask, not deep in the throat.
Then we turn the talking into singing... I turn spoken "LO" into a sustained tone, and now I'm singing it, easy and forward and with a bit of volume, but not pushing. The "LO" sounds and feels different than the higher note, "Hel-". For now, it's okay that it is VERY different. Gradually they will learn how to blend the different registers so that high and low notes alike sound as if the same person is singing them! Try it -- with this vocal warm-up exercise, every student I've ever had has been able to sing the low note with better volume.
As we continue to use the "Hel-LO" over multiple lessons, the singing muscles memorize the feeling of the drop into chest voice, and it becomes easier to switch to it from head voice, and to blend the two.
The third vocal exercise is pretty new in my studio, but I like it so much I've been using it a lot. Kids really get "in touch" with the movement of their larynx as it travels up and down throughout this vocal warm-up.
I tell students, "Find your larynx -- voice box -- Adam's apple." (It has all of those names in English, and probably a few more.) "Now put your fingers gently on it," (horizontally -- I demonstrate with two of my fingers laid across my larynx) "and feel what happens as you sing this pattern." Then we sing exercise #3. They are made very aware of how their larynx, with the vocal folds inside of it, shifts from high to low.
The first few measures of notes are sung detached, giving the vocal folds space and time to adjust and reposition. They will probably easily be able to feel and hear when they pass through vocal register changes. (There may be more than one!) The goal is to maintain volume and clarity down to the bottom of the scale.
Then the descending scale pattern is repeated, but legato (smooth) instead of detached. Much harder to do! And the object is to pass through the break(s) without an obvious "flip" sound or change in sound quality. Well, this probably will not happen right away. Lots of practice is needed to sense or feel how to sing through a descending scale.
The last exercise is just #3 reversed.
It is interesting to CLIMB the scale instead of descend it, and see that the voice wants to continue singing in the same register in which it begins. Using this understanding, a singer learns that they can work with the notes in the middle break area, subtly carrying the chest voice higher or the head voice a bit lower to make a section of a melody easier to sing.
I hope you find my free vocal exercise sheet helpful!
I'd love to know about your favorite warm-ups, perhaps passed on to you by a dear teacher, or one you have made up yourself and come to rely upon. Tell us how you use it!
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