For many performers, their voice is one of their most valuable tools. It needs to be strong, healthy, and controlled so that they can project their lines or lyrics to the audience. Just as with any other profession, keeping the tools of the trade in top condition is essential to succeeding in acting or performing. Whether acting, singing, or preparing to speak in front of a group, these basic exercises are essential to making sure your voice is warmed up is ready to go.
Not only are your vocal chords essential both speaking and singing, but they’re also at a relatively high risk for damage if not warmed up correctly. Your acting or vocal instructor will teach you the advanced techniques you need to know for proper voice warm up, but many of them are based on the simple basic exercise of humming. Start with a basic hum – you should feel a vibration in your mouth and sinuses. After a few moments of this, you can move on to gently humming scales to get your voice prepared for various notes.
Have you ever noticed how when nerves or excitement kick in before having to perform, it can be harder to get your mouth to do what you want it to? If you aren’t clear and articulate, it will be difficult for your audience to understand what you’re trying to share with them. Tongue twisters, in addition to being a fun exercise, can be effective tools for helping you gain finer physical and mental control over your enunciation.
While your acting or theatre instructors can help you practice the more advanced and personalized tongue twisters that address your specific needs, two of the more basic and well known are “rubber baby buggy bumpers” and “red leather, yellow leather.” Think they sound too easy? They may not be the most challenging of tongue twisters, but their goal is to help you focus on how you enunciate and articulate your words. Try repeating either one quickly: it’s not whether you can say them, but whether you can say them clearly.
Your words or lyrics may escape through your lips, but they begin – and rely on – your breathing. The most perfect vocal chords or voice acting talents in the world are useless if your lungs and diaphragm can’t control the sound. Breath control is essential for not only helping you project your voice the way you want to, but also for keeping you calm, relaxed and clear-headed. One of the most basic breathing warm-up exercises involves breathing deeply in a slow and controlled manner with your hands on your diaphragm to feel how it expands and contracts.
When you think of the muscles involved in singing, projecting, inflecting – anything involved with the voice – you most likely think of the muscles in your throat and inside your mouth. After all, these muscles are responsible for the bulk of the activities and movements involved. However, it’s important to remember that these muscles don’t exist or work in isolation – they work in tandem with the muscles that surround and connect to them, too. And if any of them are too tight or tense, it can affect how the others perform. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re loose and relaxed from head to toe.
Focus on slowly relaxing and releasing the tension from your body, one section at a time; begin with relaxing your facial muscles, followed by your jaw, then your neck, down to the shoulders – and so on, all the way down your body. Follow this exercise by loosening the neck and shoulders the same way that you would before working out: neck rolls and shoulder shrugs can help relax the muscles and ease any tension.
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