In a perfect world, we would all have a sound-proofed room where we could warm our voices up right before our audition. We could then walk in confident and relaxed, knowing that something beautiful was about to leave our mouths. In reality, we’re often running around all day, and we barely have time to do a quick hum before we start belting for the rafters in front of a room full of people. So, here are four effective ways to warm up your voice in public, with minimal disturbance to your fellow citizens.
1. Mouth the words of your song. If you mouth the words of your song in rhythm, you will be warming up your articulators (jaw, tongue, lips). Additionally, several postural muscles of your larynx will be moving and getting warm, even though your vocal cords will still not be touching. Try it out; touch your larynx (Adam’s apple) with your fingers as you mouth the words to a song, and you’ll probably feel some movement there, even though you’re making no sound.
2. Sing with your hand covering your mouth. If you completely cover your mouth with your (clean/washed/Purelled) hand, you can sing a song with your full voice without much actual sound leaving. The air will be coming through your nose, which is a much smaller space than your mouth. You can even make many of the consonants of your vocal line in this configuration.
3. Sing on “ng.” If you say the word “sing” and go right to the last consonant, you’ll be able to feel the position I’m talking about. The tip your tongue will be on your lower front teeth, and the body of your tongue will be on the roof of your mouth. You can sing your melody like this, and the sound will again be coming out of your nose. The advantage of “ng” is that you can use the front part of your tongue to articulate the words of your song, while still leaving the rest of your tongue on the “ng.” It sounds a bit funny, like an alien language, but it helps to focus your airstream, and makes singing feel easier.
4. Sing your song through a straw. Before your audition, stop by a deli or coffee shop and grab an ordinary drinking straw. Seal your lips around one end of the straw, and sing your song through it. Singing in this way creates what’s known as a “semi-occluded vocal tract.” This is a fancy way of saying that the tube of your throat is partially/mostly narrowed and lengthened. In addition to making the sound quieter, this technique helps your vocal cords meet more efficiently. Regularly practicing your songs (or monologues) through a straw can reduce vocal fatigue, and improve clarity and lower pressure.
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