We’re a peculiar people, aren’t we? We can learn information that is vital to our health and well-being, know it, understand why it’s important and still not do it. For people who sing, warming up has to be at the top of a long list of things we know we should do to maintain vocal health, yet we still don’t. Here’s 5 reasons you’re probably not warming up before you sing.
1. You don’t think you need to.
There’s no other kind of musician as passive about their craft or their instrument than the singer. I wrote in another blog once that I suspect that’s the case because we’re the only musicians that for the most part are born knowing how to play our instrument. So I think it comes with a certain amount of arrogance or complacency. I’m supposed to start listing reasons warming up is good for you right here. You know, the stuff you’ve already heard before? Like the fact that singing is a lot like physical exercise, and how not warming up your muscles before working out can cause you physical damage and hamper your performance.
And how your vocal cords are stiff when you don’t use them and that will affect the way you sound and the way you feel. And how doing vocal warm-ups can actually thin out mucus build-up….blah blah blah, you know this stuff right? That’s not why we don’t do the things we know we should. It’s not because we don’t know. We just think we’re ok not doing them because we’ve been blessed so far not to have experienced any of the adverse effects people warn us about. So we continue to play Russian Roulette with our vocal health just like we do with our physical health.
2. You don’t have time.
This is a common excuse, but not a good one. Most of us don’t have time to warm up because we’re constantly running late to engagements. Running late to choir rehearsal, running late to church, running late to our engagements. So often it’s not that we don’t have the time, it’s that we don’t take the time. I know this statement will make many readers of this article a little uncomfortable sense it’s safe to assume that not only African-Americans read this blog.
But let’s face it, we don’t seem to value time as a race of people. I’m often amazed at how habitually late we are. And how good we’ve become at justifying it. Are we not living in the same world as other people who are always on time? Who start rehearsal at 7:30? Who are out of church by noon? Who are at 4:00 evening services at 4:00, in place and ready to go? Are they dealing with a different set of universal rules that somehow govern their traffic, obligations, kids and other “life stuff” differently than ours? Because otherwise we really don’t have much of an excuse. We have the time for the things we make the time for. That’s why I got up at 4:40 am to write this blog today. I could’ve just slept til 5:30 and not sent one out at all today because I “didn’t have time” last night after getting in from rehearsal past 10:30.
3. You feel silly doing the exercises (especially in front of people).
I very seldom see anyone talking about this, but the honest truth is vocal exercises do make you feel kinda silly. And doing them in front of someone can be downright embarrassing. But when you think about it, it’s certainly no more silly than any other kind of exercise. I think it’s kinda stupid to pick up something heavy over and over again until my muscles are screaming with pain and I can’t lift it anymore. Then drop it, rest for 30 seconds and do it all over again. I also think it’s kinda stupid to leave my house running with no particular destination or with nobody chasing me, and take a route that usually leads me right back where I started. I could go on, but you get it.
These things don’t raise an eyebrow or make anyone feel silly because it’s understood that this is what you do to improve your health. You must lift things to make your muscles strong. You must do physical exercise to maintain your weight and keep your heart strong. So it’s common to see and even when you’re not into it yourself, when you see someone else doing it you instantly understand why they’re doing it. If you’re a singer and your peers know you’re a singer the same will be true for you. It may look silly and even get you a laugh or two. But if that’s the case, it’s because you haven’t been doing it on a regular basis. So neither you nor your friends and family have seen it regularly enough to accept it as the norm. Often my students tell me their kids laugh hysterically the first time they see them doing the lip rolls exercise. Then they come back the second week and tell me their kids are doing it with them.
4. You tried it before and didn’t notice any difference.
” Yeah man I went to a gym once and worked out. It didn’t do me a bit of good. I even hired a personal trainer for the session. I didn’t lose a single pound so I quit going.” Make a lot of sense, that statement? Not to me either. But I know for a fact that people who come to me, take one vocal lesson and never return go on to tell their friends and family exactly that. I did it once, it didn’t work. Often people expect to see, hear or feel something amazingly different after doing a vocal warm up. When they don’t they write it off as something that doesn’t work.
However most people simply don’t warm up long enough to see any benefit. How long you should warm up depends on a lot of factors, and it can be different from day to day. And even though there is a wealth of information and free vocal warm up exercises on the internet, chances are you’re really not getting a good warm-up if you haven’t seen a vocal coach and gotten a warm-up routine designed specifically for you. But it’s like anything else. The benefits are cumulative. You have to do it long enough for it to work, for it to work. :O)
5. You don’t know how.
If you don’t know how to warm up properly you probably just haven’t tried to find out. Do a Google search on the subject and you’ll get thousands of articles, videos and workouts. The key though, is getting in front of a professional, learning how to do it properly. I stress that because many “warm-ups” in church choir stands especially, are anything but warming up, and actually do much more harm than good. You can’t, warm up by singing a song. But that’s exactly what most choirs and groups do at the beginning of rehearsal. “Ok, let’s go ahead and sing a song to get warmed up!” Lol. So doing vocal warm-up exercises will only benefit you if you learn how to do it properly and then actually do it long enough to get warmed up.
By the way, the time is now 5:45 am. I just spent 45 minutes writing this article. That’s almost another hour I could have been sleeping. Now I still have to post it, schedule it to go out to my mailing lists and social networks and get my butt to work. We take time and effort for the things that are important to us, don’t we? Imagine that.