In your work as a choir leader, you may have come across singers who just don’t ‘get’ the point of warm-ups. You’ll see them skulking at the back of the choir, mumbling their way through the exercises you’ve carefully chosen for a rehearsal. If you get the chance to chat to these people, they’ll say things like ‘isn’t singing itself enough of a warm-up?’, or ‘I don’t warm up before I speak, why should I warm up before I sing?’.
So to help you to be primed and ready with excellent responses to such questions, here are three jolly good reasons that all singers, whatever their ability or style, should warm up before they sing.
We all need to chill out
When we arrive at rehearsal, we’re not usually ready to sing. Most adult choirs rehearse in the evening, so people will arrive after a hard day, perhaps having rushed around to get ready. Warm-ups that relax us, like gentle stretching and deep breathing, are great for helping us to put the hassles of the day to one side and bring our focus into the rehearsal room.
Tension is the enemy of good singing
Most of us in the western world are too sedentary these days. Many of us work at desks all day, then come home and watch hours of TV. While you’d think that would make us all super-relaxed, the opposite is often true. Our backs and shoulders end up rounded and hunched; our core muscles lose condition. The upshot is that we carry a huge amount of tension in our necks and shoulders just keeping our heads upright.
We may not be in a position to correct all this in our choir rehearsals, but we can encourage our singers to adopt good posture, which will help to release some of that neck and shoulder tension. This isn’t just for the sake of comfort – tension in the throat area has a direct effect on the quality and timbre of the voice. Sing a note while you shrug your shoulders slowly up and down and you’ll hear for yourself.
Cold muscles aren’t as stretchy as warm ones
The human singing voice is essentially a muscular system. Gentle vocalising warm-ups increase the blood flow to the muscles and raise their temperature, making them more stretchy and flexible and less prone to damage when used strenuously. Not only will your singers sound better, they’ll reduce the risk of hurting themselves.
So next time you encounter any reluctance about warm-ups, remind your choir that they are athletes, and they’re going for a gentle jog before they start sprinting!