The 12 Best Vocal Exercises for Singers

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12 best vocal exercises for singers

Singing is a skill that can be learned and developed through regular practice – no matter your natural ability.

However, singing is a physically demanding activity. It requires a lot of energy, strength, and stamina, which must be cultivated over time. As with any physical activity, singers must warm-up before performing to achieve their fullest potential and reduce the chances of injury.

There are countless warm-up exercises that singers can perform to strengthen and protect their voices. This post will introduce you to the top twelve vocal warm-up exercises and other techniques that singers should know to keep their instruments healthy and strong.

But First – Why Do You Need to Warm Up Your Voice?

Warm up your voice

Vocal warm-up exercises strengthen the voice, develop breath control, and minimize the risk of injury. Even world-famous singers like Beyoncé and Adele perform vocal exercises to keep their vocal muscles strong and flexible.

Vocal exercises only take 15 to 20 minutes to complete and should be done before any rehearsal or performance.

Over time, a consistent vocal warm-up routine will:

  • Improve the quality of your singing voice
  • Reduce vocal muscle tension
  • Safely expand your vocal range
  • Minimize the risk of vocal strain and voice loss
  • Improve articulation and breath control
  • Reduce voice cracking
  • Help you sing for more extended periods
  • Strengthen your voice

To help you experience these great benefits, we’ve compiled a list of the twelve best vocal warm-ups for singers, both new and experienced.

Twelve Best Vocal Warm-Ups for Singers

Young singers exercising vocals

1. Humming

Humming is one of the best all-around vocal warm-ups and one of the easiest. It can loosen up vocal cords, improve breathing, and strengthen the voice before singing. Humming also develops tone quality and pitch control.

How to Perform:

  1. Relax your body and facial muscles
  2. Place your tongue behind your front bottom teeth
  3. Produce a “hmmm” sound with your lips closed and teeth spread.
  4. Hum up and down the scales or along to a song.

Humming before rehearsals or performances will not only warm up your voice but also clear your mind and relieve tension in your body. In fact, according to a recent brain image study, humming can even lower cortisol levels (a stress hormone) and reduce symptoms of depression.

2. Lip Trills

Lip trills are an excellent warm-up tool that loosens up the throat and strengthens the facial muscles used when singing. This exercise is often used to warm up the voice before belting exercises and higher range passages. It also releases tension in the jaw and tongue, which helps with breath control.

How to Perform:

  1. Place your fingers on the corners of your mouth.
  2. Slowly blow air out through your lips while simultaneously contracting and releasing these muscles with each breath. This will produce a “trilling” sound as you exhale.
  3. Repeat this exercise until you feel your face become warmer and more relaxed.

As you begin to feel comfortable with this exercise, try to add a hum to the trill. This will give your voice a richer tone and vibrato. You can also try to change the pitch with each trill, going up and down the scale.

3. Lip Buzzing

This exercise has you buzzing your lips as if playing a double-reed instrument. It helps with airflow, proper vocal cord position, and seal and builds up strength in the jaw and facial muscles for clear tone production.

How to Perform:

  1. Take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale fully with an open throat.
  2. Once all of the air leaves your body, engage your abdominal muscles to slowly push out the remaining air with an “h” sound.
  3. Next, make a buzzing noise by placing your lips together and forcing air through them as if trying to blow a giant bubble with a straw.
  4. Do this until you can make the noise without inhaling first, creating only the “h” sound.

Over time, this vocal exercise will help strengthen the facial muscles of your voice, allowing you to support more air pressure with less effort.

4. The Siren Exercise

Siren exercise

The siren exercise warms up your vocal range by stretching your vocal cords. Over time, this technique makes the transition between various notes easier to achieve without voice cracking.

How to Perform:

  1. To begin, make a continuous “ooh” sound.
  2. Hold this sound for about 5 seconds before gradually go up to the highest note you can comfortably reach.
  3. Then, scale back down to the original “ooh” sound.

You might notice the noise you make during this exercise sounds like an ambulance siren – hence the name. Repeating this vocal warm-up several times will prepare your voice for songs that contain a variety of pitches.

However, as you transition between notes, be careful not to push your voice too high, which may strain it. With time and practice, your vocal muscles will become more robust, and you’ll be able to reach those higher notes.

5. Tongue Twisters

Another great way to warm up the singing voice is with tongue twisters. These tricky little phrases are a fantastic way to increase vocal agility and mental alertness – which are essential components of a well-trained singing voice.

The best tongue twisters for singers are short, contain tricky consonant sounds, and build on rhythm.

Here are a few examples:

  • “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.”
  • “She sells seashells on the seashore.”
  • “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

The key to mastering this exercise is to turn any distractions off and focus on what you are saying. First, run through the tongue twister at a moderate speed. Then, speed up the tempo as much as you can before the tongue trips over itself. This will help you develop your articulation skills.

6. Vowel Warm-Up Exercise

Vowel warm up exercise


Some vowels, such as “oh”, “ah” and “ee” tend to tighten and constrict the throat and tongue.

Stretching out these sounds with a vowel warm-up exercise can relieve mouth tension while warming up your voice and preparing you for any demanding performances. This exercise is also a great way to improve breath support.

How to Perform:

  1. Begin by giving the long “o” sound as you normally would.
  2. Stretch the “o” sound out, making it last about 10 seconds.
  3. Repeat this exercise with the other vowels.
  4. Be sure to adjust the length of each sound according to your breath control before you start singing.

If you feel any strain or tension in your throat while making these sounds, shorten them until they become comfortable to sing.

7. Jaw Loosening Exercise

Vocal warm up for singers

Jaw tension is often the cause of throat and mouth tension in singers. However, vocal exercises that loosen your jaw before singing will open your throat and minimize the possibility of strain or discomfort during a performance.

How to Perform:

  1. Gently place your fingers on either side of the jaw hinge and press down slightly until you feel a slight yet comfortable stretch in your facial muscles.
  2. Next, open your mouth as wide as possible and hold for 5 seconds before closing it again.
  3. Repeat this motion several times until you feel your face relax.

This is a fantastic exercise for vocalists who are just starting as it will keep the jaw relaxed while practicing singing techniques for the first time. Although this exercise may feel strange to perform at first, it will soon become second nature with regular practice.

8. Solfege and Scale Exercise

Solfege is a musical system that assigns a unique syllable to all seven major and minor scales notes. These syllables are Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do.

Each syllable is associated with the musical pitch and is in the correct order. So, singers can use solfege to learn and memorize the placement of each note on the scale.

How to Perform:

  1. Begin by singing Do, Re, Mi and continuing up the scale until you reach Ti.
  2. After reaching Ti, go back down the scale from there until you hit Do again.
  3. Sing each note as accurately as possible, focusing on correct pitch placement and maintaining a consistent rhythm throughout your singing.
  4. If you make a mistake, start over from the beginning and continue practicing until you can sing each note accurately and with ease.

This exercise is great for warming up the voice by exercising all parts of the vocal register. It also helps you memorize scales and practice vocal accuracy. You can also speed it up over time to develop your breath control and agility.

9. Yawn/Sign Exercise

A yawn or sigh is the perfect example of how our body naturally opens the throat, mouth, and jaw to achieve full resonance. This exercise mimics that motion and relieves stress from vocal muscles before singing.

How to Perform:

  1. Begin by taking a deep breath through your nose and then exhaling fully through your mouth with an open throat. As you breathe out, make sure your jaw drops slightly, allowing your throat to remain open.
  2. Next, sing a note while breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  3. Finish by “sighing” the end of the note with an open throat and relaxed facial muscles by letting your jaw drop and inhaling deeply into your diaphragm (not the chest).

As with all vocal exercises, be sure to start slowly to avoid any strain or discomfort.

10. Two-Octave Pitch Glide

How to cool down your voice after singing

This warm-up vocal exercise is a fantastic way to condition the vocal cords for higher-range singing. It also helps develop proper airflow into the vocal instrument while strengthening your voice and opening your throat.

 How to Perform:

  1. Begin by giving the long “o” sound as you usually would.
  2. Stretch the sound until it is approximately two octaves higher than usual, feeling some tension between your lower and upper range.
  3. Hold the high note for 10 seconds before returning to the original pitch on a long “oh” sound.
  4. Practicing this exercise several times a day will build up your endurance and vocal strength over time.
  5. After reaching two octaves, try to build up your range to three octaves if possible.

This is a fantastic exercise for singers who are seeking to develop their full range and high notes.

11. Hand Position Exercise

This exercise is a great way to wake up your voice before singing, especially if you feel yourself vocalizing too much in your throat or jaw. It builds the balance of air support and resonance needed to produce a healthy sound when singing high notes.

How to Perform:

  1. Begin by standing with your back straight and inhaling a deep breath.
  2. As you exhale, raise your arms above your head and press down on the small of your back with both hands.
  3. Make sure that the entire weight of your body is pressing down on your lower back while you sing.
  4. While keeping your mouth open, focus on keeping your lips rounded and maintaining a constant stream of air support throughout the exercise.
  5. If you start to lose the constancy of the airflow or feel strain in your throat, return to normal vocal posture immediately.

Continue practicing this exercise until you can maintain the air support and sound projection with ease. Maintaining proper airflow before singing is essential for vocal development, so this exercise is a must-know for both new and advanced singers.

12. Belting Exercise

Belting is a method of singing that increases the volume and strength of your vocal cords to achieve higher notes with more power.

It can be difficult for singers to perform if they’re not used to it, so you should only use this technique after developing proper breath support and vocal stamina.

How to Perform:

  1. Begin by taking a deep breath through your nose and then exhale fully through your mouth with an open throat.
  2. As you breathe out, make sure your jaw drops slightly, allowing the air to reach the back of your throat.
  3. Next, sing a note as loudly as possible using your belt voice (mix of speaking and singing).
  4. As you sing, focus on keeping your throat open and allowing the sound to reach the back of your throat.

This exercise is ideal for singers who are looking to develop the upper range of their voices. Start slowly with this one, as it can be challenging to master.

When Should You Perform Vocal Warm-Ups?

Improve singing voice quality

Vocal warm-up exercises should become part of your routine. Just like practicing scales on your instrument, performing vocal warm-ups every day will boost your voice control and well-being. The more you perform these exercises, the better your vocal delivery will be in any performance setting.

Repetition is the key to mastering these techniques. Practice vocal exercises before each rehearsal, performance, or practice session. In time, you will see your voice projecting with ease and gaining new power.

To master these exercises, it may prove helpful to take singing lessons. Trained vocalist instructors can help you learn the proper techniques and form to succeed in your vocal performance. They will also offer you valuable insight into how your unique voice works, which can help you understand and execute these exercises with ease.

How to Cool Down Your Voice After Singing

After you sing, it’s essential to cool your voice down to protect your vocal instrument. Your cool-down routine can incorporate the same vocal exercises you use during your warm-up. However, you should start with the most intense warm-up exercise and work down to the least challenging.

The vocal exercises may feel strange at first because your vocal cords are extremely tired, but they are necessary to relax and soothe your throat.

The cool-down process allows you to gradually decrease the air you use by replacing full breaths with short gasps. It also gives you a chance to practice your vocal exercises without feeling too worn out from performing.

You should spend about 10 to 15 minutes cooling down your voice after singing and make it a consistent part of your routine.

In Conclusion

Vocal warm-ups are essential for singers, even advanced ones. They make sure your voice is ready to sing by keeping it loose and flexible while minimizing the chances of injury.

By practicing a few of these exercises before singing, you’ll notice a difference in the overall quality of your voice. Don’t skip this essential part of a healthy, impressive singing routine!

If you’re interested in singing lessons, Be Natural Music offers both in-person and online training courses for beginner, intermediate, and advanced singers. We’ll give you the tools and techniques necessary to develop a robust, healthy, and well-rounded voice!

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Matthew Pinck

Matt, fondly known as "Yoga Matt" on stage, has collectively studied music since the age of five and has been teaching in Santa Cruz County since 1998. Among his arsenal of music expertise are: guitar, vocals, composition, piano, electric bass and drums. His vast formal training has taken place in top schools, such as UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley, and Cabrillo College, eventually earning his Bachelors in Jazz Guitar from Skidmore College in New York.

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