Just like any other muscle, your vocal muscles need to be warmed up to work at their best. Vocal warm up is important for people whose career depends on their voice (singers, actors, TV and radio presenters), for occupational voice users (teachers, salespeople) and for anyone who is preparing to give a presentation or speech.
When you speak, you make sound in your larynx (voice box) with your vocal folds. Warming up stretches the vocal folds and increases blood flow to the larynx and other body parts including your lungs, lips and tongue. This reduces vocal fatigue and hoarseness when using your voice over long periods. It also lets you reach a wider range of pitch, which is important for elevating your speech.
In this article, we discuss why vocal warm up is important and explain several vocal exercises you can use before your speech or presentation. You should allow 15 minutes to perform a complete warm up and remember to keep well hydrated during the exercises.
Effective verbal communication depends not only on what you say, but how you say it. The content of what you say will be lost on the audience with a dull, monotonic presentation.
When we undergo physical activity, a warm up can prevent injury and long term damage to our bodies. The same is true for your voice – a short vocal warm up improves performance of the individual muscles of the thorax (chest), larynx and upper vocal tract (throat, mouth). This improves the quality of the sound you make and helps the tone flow more naturally. It also helps prevent vocal injury when using your voice extensively.
Diagram showing the location of the vocal cords and larynx. These need to be warmed up before extensive use.
A vocal warm up balances the air pressure you are sending to your vocal chords, which makes it easy to talk through your different vocal registers (chest voice, mixed voice, and head voice). It builds a bridge between these vocal registers, enabling you to reach a much wider range of pitches and tones when speaking.
Pay attention to your posture while you do these exercises. A relaxed posture is important for full and easy range of motion of the muscles and to fully support your breathing.
Reduces tension in the mouth and jaw area during speaking.
Release lip tension and connects your breathing and speaking.
Relaxes the tongue and engages your breathing and voice.
Stretches your vocal folds.
Improves the resonant focus of the sound and continues work with maximal stretch on the vocal folds.
Highlights different vibrations in your lips, teeth and facial bones.
Don’t forget your vocal cool down after a long speech or presentation. Humming is a great way to cool down the voice
In this video, titled: ‘Here's how to warm up your voice before you speak’, Virginia Tech Associate Professor Greg Justice gives some tips to warm up your voice and ace your presentation.
Tongue twisters are a good way to extend your vocal range and warm up your tongue, mouth and lips. The aim is to say these sentences without extra tension in the tongue, lips, jaw or throat. Keep a good posture and full breath support when going through them.
Initially, do not try to control your pitch, but also make sure you do not get “locked in” to a narrow pitch range. As you warm up, vary the pitch and focus on different elements of your voice – for the three tongue twisters below, focus on either the tongue, lips or jaw for each one.
3 tongue twisters to use before a speech
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
Denise sees the fleece,
Denise sees the fleas.
At least Denise could sneeze
and feed and freeze the fleas.
One-one was a race horse.
Two-two was one too.
One-one won one race.
Two-two won one too.
Taking the time to breath correctly when giving a presentation will help support your voice. Speaking without taking deep breaths can cause you to talk too quickly and sound rushed. We often do this when we are nervous.
Follow these steps to help improve your breathing:
To practice breathing well, try lying on the floor on your back with your hands on your stomach. Breath in (inhale) and your hands will rise. Now breathe out (exhale) and they will lower. In this position it is very hard to breathe incorrectly. Practice breathing exercises regularly to improve your technique and build your lung capacity.