Our vocalists have an interesting struggle, in that their instrument is their voice and their voice (or vocal chords) is a muscle. To achieve a greater sound from any instrument it needs to be taken care of. Just as a guitarist will show up on a Sunday morning, plug-in, and check the tuning on his guitar, those who are singing must in essence prepare the same way. Our vocal chords need to be warmed up, stretched, and slowly introduced to the singing we will be doing that day.
Why Should I Warm Up?
God has gifted each singer on your team with the skill to use their voices to sing His praises. It is the responsibility of each singer to take care of and maintain this gift. Correctly implementing vocal warm-ups into your daily routine will lengthen the life of your voice, will advance your intonation, strengthen your vocal chords, and improve your breath control. It is extremely easy to work all day, hop in the car, get to rehearsal, grab a mic, and begin singing full voice, but we need to remember that when Psalm 33 says, “Play skillfully with a shout of joy”, it is referring to us as singers as well, not just the harpists.
Making it a priority to properly prepare your voices before rehearsal and before Sunday services needs to be encouraged by us, as worship leaders, to the vocalists on our team. This includes every vocalist, not just the back-up vocals, but every person who has a mic that week. Many of your instrumentalists may not even know that warming up their vocal chords is necessary.
How Should I Warm Up?
If you can’t find the time at the beginning of rehearsal to gather your singers to warm-up or if you don’t know how to accurately teach these exercises, you can still accomplish our goal through many free and relatively cheap resources.
There are several vocal warm-up albums available. When looking through these albums you can search by gender and voice part. By simply browsing through the iTunes library you can have access to some vocal exercises on each one of your mobile devices. I personally use “The Vocal Warm Up CD/Female High & Low by Ellen Johnson” when using a recording. For about $12 you get 70 tracks of exercises. If the idea of training your voice using dominant 7th chords seems a bit too much, you can just focus on the first 20 or so tracks, each only lasting about 30 seconds to a minute. These types of warm-ups for your voice are also available on Spotify, for free! Why not create a playlist of vocal exercises and share it with your team?
In addition to an actual album, there are a variety of apps available for training, stretching, and preparing your voice to sing. A free app to check out is Vox Tools. In this app you can pick your voice part and then choose if you need a morning warm-up (perfect for Sunday mornings) or a daily warm-up. There are also in app training options to control your vibrato, expand your chest voice, and reach higher notes.
The exercises included in all of those resources are great, but we also need to consider our intake. Like any muscle your vocal chords need lots of water. In fact, in order to make the sound we wish to produce, our vocal chords have to rub together and the water we drink helps to lubricate this process and basically keep things running smoothly. Unfortunately, coffee with cream and sugar is not the best choice, though I am constantly guilty of this. Oh, the choices we must make. Drinking lots of water every day is best, but really paying attention to this need at least 24 hours prior to singing will keep your voice hydrated and prepared to produce the following day.
My prayer is that we would be reminded of the amazing privilege God has granted us by allowing us to lead His people in worship. That we would take seriously this precious gift and care for it as we should. I pray that the Lord uses this information to bless each of our ministries this week and the weeks to come.
Do you run vocal exercises with your team? Do you have a resource you’d love to share? Comment below and tell us about it.