What I wish I Knew About Vocal Warm Ups as a Young Singer

Collaboration week with Kristie from A Tempo Voice Center, Fort Worth
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Singing Specialist Collaboration

This blog post is the culmination of a week long cross continental performer voice collaboration between Speech Pathologist Singing Voice Specialists, Kristie Knickerbocker (A Tempo Voice Centre, Fort Worth- Texas) & Sarah Lobegeiger de Rodriguez (Voice Science,  Melbourne.)


  • Head to @kristie_voice and @voicescience and you can watch the full IGTV series that accompanies this blog.
  • You can read Kristie’s accompanying blog post at this link. Kristie talks about Source & Filter Options for Warm Up, length of time & variabilities.

vocal warm up for singers

You can read Sarah’s blog post below. She talks about vocal range, vowel balance and other variabilities.

Sarah Lobegeiger de Rodriguez is a qualified speech pathologist and professional operatic soprano. She holds a Bachelor of Literature, Bachelor of Music Performance, Master of Speech Pathology and Master of Opera Performance. Sarah has a strong interest in accent reduction, phonetics, voice therapy and performance.

Read more about Sarah here.

Kristie Knickerbocker is a licensed Speech Language Pathologist and singing voice specialist with special training in the area of voice, voice disorders. She has experience with singers and professional voice users of all types. She provides intervention for speech, language, voice and swallowing disorders. Read more about Kristie here.

Part 2: What I wish I Knew As a Young Singer

(See part one on the A Tempo Website)

Vocal Warm Up & the Singer

This collaboration inspired me to think about the evidence behind vocal warm up. I’ve warmed up my voice since I was a young girl. It’s become a big part of my daily routine because I’m an opera singer and a speech pathologist. Vocal warm up is just what I do daily. Like having coffee… brushing my teeth… 

Over the years I’ve found my way to get my voice ready, and I can say it’s always been a flexible process. The exercises, well, they are ancient- all from the Italian Bel Canto. It’s hard to trail the research and find the evidence to substantiate why I and all the singers before me, warm up the way we do. It’s a long history that no research paper can fully cover.

I’m no singing teacher – the only voice I’ve trained to sing is my own and I’m by no means self taught. I’ve had amazing teachers. I guess I’ve been my own pilot study. After reading numerous studies it’s hard to conclusively rely on massive findings about “the best exercise” to get your top F, the best method to balance your /u/ vowel or the gold standard scale to hit the stratosphere at high velocity. So this post is not about that. 

So while there is no one magic fix, for me, vocal warm up made the voice I now have. It also gives me a heck of a lot of courage and consistency as a performer to this very day.

Vocal Warm Up is an Individualised Process

Warm up is an individualised process. It’s personal across what your teacher needs you to build and what you personally need to find in your voice. This changes, daily, weekly, monthly. The life of the singer is not some rigid prescriptive trajectory. As you move through your vocal education, you need to learn different techniques and methods to deliver results. A solid understanding of the power, source and filter model of voice production is important to develop stable vocal health but it is the drill and work regime that makes the singer. 

What place does Vocal Warm Up have in your Singing Life?

Vocal warm up makes us reason with our instrument and develop the numerous skills a performing singer needs. If you are engaging in a well planned voice warm up routine you can give yourself the luxury to:
  • Increase/ stabilise your voice pitch range
  • Enhance your voice tone (singer’s formant)
  • Expand your technique to express your musicality 
  • Stabilise your amplitude range
  • Ensure good vocal health
  • Gain more control of psychophysiological factors that determine your performance success and artistic identity.

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Vocal Warm Up Assists Your Singing Voice Development

When we sing, we rely on our anatomy and intellect to create acoustic and artistic effects. 

Building a voice takes time. This is because of the physiological and psychological factors needed to make a singer worth their weight in gold. When you warm up your voice it is critical to see the process as a dual task. Vocal warm up needs to address

1) Physiological Mastery,

2) The Resilient Performer Mindset

Leave one of these two out and your performance consistency will be volatile. 

The Physiological Process of Voice Development & Mastery

When you warm up your voice you are learning to valve your system more efficiently to receive better tone across the entire range. Singing a note is not just determined by whether you can squeak the pitch out. Instead you need to be able to produce musically acceptable notes at varying speeds, dynamics and harmonies bound together by impeccable phrasing.

How do we attain Musically Acceptable Notes and Phrases?

Technical drills and repertoire development help to build our artistic capacity and stamina.

The nuts and bolts are your warm up exercises and technical drills. Here your voice learns flexibility, coordination of the airstream pressure, vibrational symmetry and optimal resonance across your range. Some suggest warm up improves the vocal folds’ viscosity thus serving your pitch range well (Motel, Fisher & Leydon, 2003). According to Moorcraft and Kenny (2012) “vibrato rates become more regular, compact and moderate following vocal warm-up ” allowing for more skillful singing and a greater capacity to create legato line. Further, tonal brilliance clarifies with increased harmonics and reduced jitter and shimmer (vibrational irregularities that reduce your voice quality).

There is a large spectrum of vocal warm up exercises if you only seek them out!

Singers use a range of exercises for vocal development, the most common according to a 2012 study are: ascending & descending 5-note scales at rapid tempo, octave scales at rapid tempo, ascending and descending arpeggios sung in legato and glissando. The least practised are chromatic scales, messa di voce and slow tempo scales (Moorcraft & Kenny, 2012) . I’d personally attest that the least practised are just as important as the most practised for voice stabilisation. Use a cycle approach daily to get through regular technical drills that are varied to build your voice holistically. You won’t have time everyday for every single exercise, but if you are strategic you can keep them all tight. Don’t forget the low, middle and top are all important. Fixating on one part of your voice in warm up will not give you the symmetry you need. 

The Resilient Performer Mindset

A product of vocal warm up
Sarah Lobegeiger de Rodriguez Soprano

When we start life as young, untrained singers, we don’t have a fully developed voice. As we work on our voice, it’s important to take care of our mindset and expand it as artistry and technical skills develop to sing the repertoire of your dreams & genes.

Warming up has to become a daily regime to warm up our mindset as much as our voice.

You don’t need me to tell you how your vocal skill can feel like it makes or breaks your career development. So much about our voice type (fach) and the repertoire we sing seems determined by our capacity to produce acoustic tricks.

Stellar Performance Goals

Achieving a stellar vocal performance is not always possible even when we are convinced we have it in us. It is often context specific. For example, we can sing our show stopping aria at home when relaxed but can never get it out in a lesson or worse still on stage. 

It’s performance day. You’ve been to the bathroom 5,697 times, gargled your elixir, ate a whole pineapple and tell yourself you’re drowning in phlegm and the allergies this time of year are a nightmare. Your mind wants to pull out, your bladder’s practically dysfunctional and how will you get the top note in the finale? Warm up. 

Daily drill and regular warm up create a mindset that everything works because you are moving methodically as you always do through the technical hurdles priming (or tricking) your mind each step of the way with positive self talk. This daily act of convincing yourself to solve technical challenges you set for yourself makes you resilient on stage. The variability of how your voice feels daily is a given. If you don’t warm up regularly, it’s easy to forget this, making unexpected events in auditions or performance unmanageable. Every day, we learn to sing with the voice and mindset the day gave us. No day is the same, but the process is. 

If you put a good warm up in place, have healthy vocal hygiene and use some mindset work, you will represent and advocate for your voice like an elite performer. You will then manage your voice to use it more consistently in spite of stage fright, because in any critical moment while performing your mindset has been primed as much as your muscles and you can problem solve.

Studies show that I’m not the only singer who finds warm up a psychological process as much as a physiological process with many reporting an increase in mental focus and confidence after warm up (Gish, Kunduk, Sims, & McWhorter, 2012). 

Vocal warm up is as much for psychological resilience as vocal prowess. 

Do it daily & viva la voce! 

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Act fast if you notice voice changes

If you have any changes to your voice that last for seven days or more, book an appointment with a speech pathologist, or see your GP for an ENT referral.
Most professional voice users experiencing chronic voice changes are eligible for medicare rebates on speech pathology sessions. Read more about that here.
Our team includes 3 speech pathologist, each with expertise in voice. We are headed up by a Singing Voice Specialist. Read more about how we can assist you to recover or optimise your singing health.
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Amir, O., Amir, N., & Michaeli, O. (2005). “Evaluating the Influence of Warm up on Singing Voice Quality Using Acoustic Measures.” The Journal of Voice 19 (2). 252-260. Read here.


Gish, A., Kunduk, M., Sims, L., & McWhorter, A. (2012). “Vocal Warm-Up Practices and Perceptions in Vocalists: A Pilot Study.” The Journal of Voice 26 (1), 1-10. Read here.


McHenry, M., Evans, J., & Powitzy, E. (2016). “Effects of Bel Canto Training on Acoustic and Aerodynamic Characteristics of the Singing Voice.” The Journal of Voice 20 (2), 198-204. Read here.


Moorcroft, L., & Kenny, D. (2012). “Vocal Warm-Up Produces Acoustic Change in Singer’s Vibrato Rate.” The Journal of Voice 26 (5), 667.e13-667.18. Read here.


Motel, T., Fisher, K., & Leydon, C. (2003).  “Vocal Warm-Up Increases Phonation Threshold Pressure in Soprano Singers at High Pitch.” The Journal of Voice 17 (2), 160-167. Read here.

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I wish I knew as a Young Singer

This blog post is the culmination of a week long cross continental performer voice collaboration between Speech Pathologist Singing Voice Specialists, Kristie Knickerbocker & Sarah Lobegeiger de Rodriguez

Keep reading.

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