I’ve always enjoyed vocal warmups. My favourite class at drama school was voice, partly because I seemed to be quite good at these classes, and partly because I always felt so good afterwards. They were both empowering and nourishing, like drinking my own personal super juice. I felt re-charged, focused and capable. There was something in the combination of stretching the body, opening up the lungs, breathing deeply, humming, in-toning and of course bringing it all together to speak words. Words that used to be poetry and Shakespeare and that are now are my own words that I use each day.
Because I’ve always loved voice work so much, I’ve always wanted to share it. But of course most people, unless you’re a singer, actor, or professional public speaker, wouldn’t even imagine warming up their voices before speaking. And certainly wouldn’t think about doing it for fun or because it makes them feel good, like they would for a gym session or a dance class.
So when lockdown started here in the UK in late March, I found myself, for the first time in over 15 years, at home every single morning at 8.40am. And so was everyone else. It seemed like here was a chance to share my ‘super juice’. I had no idea if anyone would be interested. Really. I had no idea if vocal warmups would work online. But yoga teachers were doing it, and fitness instructors were doing it, and dance teachers were doing it. So I figured I should try.
It was also a personal challenge. I’ve often chastised myself for not pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I’ve historically felt extremely self-conscious on camera and of course, have suffered from that old friend ‘imposter syndrome’.
So this was me saying:
"I want to step up, I want share something that people might like, I want to give something to the community of those working from home and give something to the LSW clients who work so hard on their communication."
It was also something useful for me; without the usual commute and dash to Pret before heading into the office, I knew I wasn’t quite in the right headspace for work - having simply moved from the bedroom, to the kitchen, to the living room!
It turns out that people do like voice warmups and did find them fun and energising. And that it also helped them to start their day, much like me. I had between 15 and 22 people everyday, with regulars that were there every morning. It was such a joy to see the same names join the Zoom meeting each day.
Now, the warmups were very one-directional, I couldn’t see most people (the option to keep camera off was very popular!) nor could I hear anyone as the “Mute All” was essential for our sanity… so I merrily went along for a full 18 minutes and hoped that the group were following. No one left halfway through, so I assume they were.
Every day the basic format was the same: We began with an energising stretch. This was to open the body and feel physically connected. There was then a gear change to a breathing and centring exercise to help focus attention and ground the body.
Voice work came next and this was a combination of exercises to help phonation, strengthen the diaphragm and rib cage capacity, enhance resonance with open vowel sounds and lots and lots of humming.
Finally we finished with some articulation routines and a tongue twister.
Each day the warmup was different; some exercises came back, some only made one session in the whole month. I now have pages and pages of daily warmups littered around my house!
In spite of a truly difficult time for all of us, as we have our own personal lockdown challenges, this helped me navigate the first month of lockdown, gave me a strong purpose and wiped away a few personal demons. I also got to hand out a few jugs of super juice!
We'd love to hear what you've done to challenge yourself during lockdown.
And if it sounds like something you'd like yourself, we recorded a week's worth of the sessions so why don't you give one of the warmup sessions a try below? I'd love to hear how you get on.
Try Sam's Vocal Warm Up
Have a go at following along with this example warmup - we have more of these simple tools on our YouTube channel, so be sure to subscribe!