I am a lead singer in an Awesome Hard Rock Band. With that being said, I do a lot of screaming, growling and belting for three hours or around 35 songs for every gig we play. I have a passion for it, I love it and I am completely fearless in performances and song choices. The one thing that will keep me up at night, however, is the idea of losing my voice or the full range of it throughout my performance. If my voice is gone by the end of a show, no problem. That just means it was a good gig. But thinking of losing it halfway through the second set is like dreaming of doing a speech in your underwear. Losing the full range and power of my voice has happened during a few gigs, and I ‘ve always made it through. But how can I exercise my instrument to ensure success every single gig, or at least get close to it? How the hell does Chino Moreno from The Deftones manage to scream for an hour and a half four to six shows a week and still smoke two packs of Newports a day? Is it good screaming genetics or am I simply a vocal sissy? Asking these questions led me to do some research on what some notable vocal coaches suggest to prep yourself for a show, rehearsal or recording.
Mark Baxter, vocal therapist for Scott Weiland, Richard Patrick and Steven Tyler, talks about his R.T.S. technique. R.T.S. stands for Ready To Sing, which means you have to get yourself to a place when warming up where your body and mind are all Ready To Sing. He suggests starting with getting your heart rate up. Jog in place, move your body, roll your shoulders to loosen your tension. You then must make sure to rub your face, neck, jaw…. basically all over your face to get that nice and loose as well. Then make sure to shake it all out, vibrate your entire body. He makes a great point that if you feel uncomfortable doing all of this and feel a little foolish or self conscious, you may not be prepared to be at your full potential on stage. Mark gives more tips in his article, “Warming Up,” on his website Voicelesson.com :
"What you sing to warm-up is not as important as how. I recommend the simplest sounds. Your attention should be on physical freedoms rather than quality of sound. Release your breath with several long, low volume hisses. Then, loosen your face and neck while humming with a wandering, siren-like, motion. Don’t allow your face to change to reach for pitches. Alternate the hums with an extended zzz sound and gradually change this to an EE vowel and then an AH. Keep your melodies sweeping. I don’t recommend singing songs quietly because there are usually tensions programmed into them. As you loosen up, turn up your volume -- but not before. As you get louder, stay with an EE or AH. The point is to wait until the body gives you permission to increase the load. The length of a warm-up should be in reverse proportion to the need. Long gig -- short warm up, but if you’re doing a single song on The Letterman Show, you should warm up and then sing for an hour for that, trusted, middle-of-the-set feeling."
Jeannie Deva, Vocal coach for Aimee Mann, J. Geils Band and Foghat, stresses the absolute importance of a warm-up. With a lot of people believing that a pre-show warm-up will wreck your voice she suggests doing it right before performance to save your voice and create career longevity. As she states in her article, “Warm Up Guide for Rock Singers,” “If you decided to run a marathon without any preparatory conditioning, how long would you last?” I often feel that I should be doing my best to speak as little as possible before a show, and I certainly want to stay away from singing anything so as to preserve every last piece of my voice. But Jeannie makes perfect sense. If I went to run 26 miles without stretching or get my blood flowing, I’d be fine the first mile and then suck wind the other 25. Here are her warm up exercises from the same article found on Performermag.com :
"1) Open your mouth and take a breath. The tip of your tongue should stay touching the back of your bottom teeth. Use a basic speaking volume and sustain a comfortable mid-range pitch, through an “NG” tongue position. To help you find it, say the word “Sing” and maintain the position of the “NG.” The back of your tongue will lightly close with your soft palate. Feel the sound vibration shimmer along the roof of your mouth.
2) Try to maintain the same resonance from consonant to vowel, using the list below. Smoothly go back and forth between the “NG” and the vowel several times on one breath. Repeat on a new breath, and then go on to the next vowel in the sequence.
The sequence goes as follows:
During the last two vowels, do not shape your lips for the sound. It can be achieved by thinking the vowel sound and letting it naturally resonate in your mouth.
Warming up has always been an enormous pain in the a** to me. It’s one of those things that you know that you should be doing, but can never find the time or are able to come up with a myriad of other interesting excuses in ordered to avoid it. But like many things that are a pain, the consequences of not doing it are far worse. Just like the dream of having to do a speech in your underwear, not being able to perform to your full potential when standing in front of a packed venue can be an absolute nightmare. My awesome rock band is going to be playing next week, so I am going to make sure to finally give one of these warm-ups a shot. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Written By Kevin O