Vocal exercises can be very weird-most of them sound like they were pulled straight out of a mantra book.
They are however necessary to keep your voice in shape, just like what physical exercise does to your body and overall health.
For best results, schedule these exercises into your daily rehearsal schedule. It is also important to get a vocal coach as this will help speed up your progress.
1. LIP TRILL
Often done by children trying to imitate the sound of a car/motorcycle, this is one of the best vocal exercises for singers.
In case you didn’t play a lot as a child, or you have simply forgotten how to do it; press your lips together (softly) and make them vibrate by blowing air through them. You should feel a funny sensation on your face-especially your nose and forehead.
Got it? Great! You are doing well!
Add a note to it and hold for about 7 seconds.
You could also go up and down in pitch during the hold to make it more dynamic.
If you have difficulty doing the lip trill, you can do a tongue trill instead. This is achieved by rolling your tongue to make a long “rrrrrrrrrr” sound.
Place the tip of your tongue behind your lower teeth and hum the first five notes of the major scale (do ray me fa sol) ascending and descending. Keep your mouth closed throughout the exercise.
You can make this more challenging by humming through a song you are working on before actually singing it.
Humming is a great warm up exercise because it does not put the vocal folds under a lot of strain.
3. BREATHING EXERCISES
Breathing lies at the core of every human activity and breath management is critical as it plays a major role in every aspect of singing.
There are a ton of breathing exercises available to help you master this aspect of singing which you can check out online.
Here is one you can try:
Breathe in through your nose, hold your breath for about five (5) seconds and exhale with an “ahhh” sound on a comfortable key for five (5) seconds. Try working towards making the “ahhh” on the exhale last for 10 seconds upwards. To increase the challenge, increase the pitch.
Your aim is to gradually increase the time it takes for air to finish. This will build your capacity to navigate long musical phrases, as well as handle various pitches effortlessly.
I would like to re-emphasize the need for singers to practice and internalize “breathing from the diaphragm.” This is where a lot of singers miss it and end up creating tension for themselves during singing. I do not intend to bore you with a class on human physiology so we will keep it simple: the goal is to think as if you are breathing into your stomach, not your chest.
Do not raise your shoulders or rib cage while doing this exercise.
The siren is a relatively simple exercise that trains your voice to smoothly navigate the breaks between registers and also gain an even tone across registers.
To do the siren, slide from the lowest note in your range up to the highest and back. You can use an “Ah” sound or an “Oh sound” for this.
Ensure you breathe properly, keep the stream of air steady, and aim for a smooth sound.
It is best to ease up to the notes at the extremes of your range to avoid putting unnecessary strain on your vocal folds at the beginning of this exercise.
Solfege (also commonly called solfa) is a notation where the notes in a scale are assigned specific syllables. For the major scale, the syllables are;
do, ray, me, fa, sol, la, ti, do (octave).
In practice, sing this scale (ascending and descending) along with a piano or a piano app on your phone, making sure to pay attention to the pitches you are producing. After doing it a couple of times, try singing it without a piano accompaniment.
Start from a low register and increase the key after each round to challenge your voice.
Asides being a great vocal exercise, it also helps develop your hearing when done accurately.