9 Best Vocal Warm-Ups to Try

August 4, 2023

9 min read

Using vocal warm-ups is a great way to practice before a performance.

If you plan to use your voice for an upcoming speech, a performance, or another event, you need to practice some vocal warm-ups. 

These exercises can help improve your tone, your pitch, and even your confidence.

In our guide, we’ll check out the nine best vocal warm-ups that professionals swear by, while also digging a little deeper into why these warm-ups are needed in the first place. 

What Is a Vocal Warm-Up?

A vocal warm-up is a method or exercise that helps you prepare for speaking or singing. Tons of well-known actors, singers, speakers, and other performers credit these types of activities to their vocal success.

Why Should You Use Vocal Warm-Ups?

It’s important to use vocal warm-ups to “warm up” your voice. Warming them up with various exercises and techniques helps keep your voice shipshape. 

Vocal warm-ups are also meant to improve how your voice sounds when you’re speaking or singing. Singers, for example, can often expand their range and perform better after warming up.  

Plus, one easy way of protecting your voice from damage is using warm-up exercises. These warm-ups can also help you work on avoiding vocal fry, if that’s a goal of yours. 

Who Uses Vocal Warm-Ups?

Vocal warm-ups are techniques and methods meant to warm up someone’s voice before using it. Tons of people use vocal warm-ups to reap all benefits of warming up. 

Vocal warm-ups for speakers

For speakers, vocal warm-ups are often underlooked. Using various ways to warm up your voice before speaking can facilitate speech by allowing you to use the entirety of your voice. 

For example, you’ll have a more expansive range when speaking since you’ll be able to access more tones and pitches. 

In fact, you can review and analyze your speech and speaking patterns before and after these vocal warm-ups with Yoodli, an AI speech coach. 

This communication coach app can give you critical insights on your speech, like your speaking pace, word choice, body language, and even the content of your speech. 

Using Yoodli to practice after your vocal warm-ups is a great way to improve your speaking.

After you’ve recorded it, you can play back your speech (and vocal warm-ups) and see how you did! Learn more about it here.

Check out Private Yoodli to see how you can benefit from this, along with your vocal warm-ups.

Vocal warm-ups for singers

For singers, vocal warm-ups are arguably even more important. In fact, some vocal coaches deem them necessary for singers.

Singing is very involved and physically demanding, so using various methods to warm up is always the right move. You’ll get much more out of your natural vocal range while also protecting your voice quality.

Vocal warm-ups for actors

Actors need to use vocal warm-ups, too. Acting, including voice acting, takes a toll physically since the lines usually need to be said multiple times. 

Doing vocal warm-ups before and in between scenes can help lower the chances of you straining your voice while also keeping your vocal muscles active. 

Like with singers and speakers, these types of warm-ups can benefit your tonal range and give you more of a depth to work with. 

When to Use Vocal Warm-Ups

There are lots of times when using vocal warm-ups is helpful and even considered necessary. 

For example, you may want to use a vocal warm-up before a:

  • Speech
  • Show rehearsal 
  • Singing lessons
  • Presentation 

Always aim to start these vocal warm-ups less than half an hour before you sing or speak so your voice has time to get ready.

9 Best Vocal Warm-Ups

If you’ve never experimented with different kinds of warm-ups, don’t worry. Although there are tons of options out there, there’s a handful of basic exercises you should have in your back pocket next time you need them. 

Here are the nine best vocal warm-ups for speakers, singers, actors, and anyone else who needs to warm up their voice.

1. Humming

Humming is a great vocal warm-up, whether you’re preparing to act out a scene, perform a song, or give a speech. Humming is a natural way to relax the muscles in your face and can actually revitalize your voice. 

The goal is to try a gentle humming so you can focus on the sound and hone in on preparing those vocal folds. In fact, you can do this exercise throughout the day. 

2. Sighing and yawning

Sighing and yawning are other smart ways to warm yourself up before a performance or a speech. That’s because when you yawn, you also drop your jaw and extend your soft palate

It helps regulate your breathing and when your brain receives more oxygen, you become more alert and aware.

In fact, Morgan Freeman — an actor arguably most famous for his vocals — credited yawning as one of his vocal warm-ups in an interview. You can hear him discuss his process in the below interview: 

Morgan Freeman discusses the best vocal warm-up that he recommends to everyone.

3. Lip buzzing

Just like humming, lip buzzing (as well as lip trills) help your voice get warmed up by restoring your vocal muscles and easing any facial tension. 

This exercise is pretty simple. All you need to do is blow air out of your nose and mouth to make your lips move and vibrate. The result? A sound similar to that of a motorboat. If you’re a singer, you can experiment with different pitches, too. 

4. Tongue twisters

Tongue twisters are all about articulation and enunciation. Whether you’re singing or speaking, you want the audience to be able to understand you.

To practice, try saying these tongue twisters while focusing on enunciation

  • Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
  • Can you can a can as a canner can can a can?
  • How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? 
  • Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear. Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair. Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy, was he?
  • She sells seashells by the seashore.
  • I wish to wash my Irish wristwatch before watching Trish wash her wrist. 
  • A big black bug bit a big black bear.

Learning how to speak eloquently in particular can be a challenge, but tongue twisters can help. 

5. Breathing exercises

Because both singing and speaking involve breath control, doing some breathing exercises before a speech or performance is a good idea. These exercises can even expand your vocal range and relax your vocal folds. 

Here’s one way to focus on your breathing. Start by laying down flat on your back. Place your hands on your stomach to feel how your diaphragm moves. Your diaphragm is a muscle that flattens and contracts when you breathe in. 

While you’re on your back, you want to engage your diaphragm while also focusing on the task at hand. If you’re a singer, try practicing singing a song of your choice while on the ground and be aware of your breath.

If you’re practicing for a speech or if you’re a voice actor, do this same exercise except swap the song to practice reading through your lines. 

6. The ‘straw trick’

The “straw trick” is a pretty popular vocal warm-up among singers especially. It’s an accessible warm-up exercise, especially because you only need one tool: A straw. Here’s how to do it.

Start with the straw in your mouth. You can begin by simply breathing in and breathing out, through the straw. Another popular method is to hum one of your favorite songs, again, through the straw. 

Using the straw trick is an excellent way to hone in on your breathing, since your lips are constantly closed around the straw. Make sure while you’re doing this that you keep your face and body still. 

7. The ‘vocal siren’ exercise

Imagine the sound that a typical emergency vehicle or alarm might make: a siren sound. For this warm-up, make an “oooo” sound in your lowest register. 

As you make this continuous sound, explore your own range by getting higher little by little before returning back down to your lowest range. 

8. Hissing when you exhale

This type of warm-up is also tied pretty closely to your breathing. Begin by taking in a big breath. As you let your breath out, hiss on the exhale by making a “ssss” sound. Then, repeat the process.

Make sure you’re altering how long you breathe in and hiss. Essentially, you want to try to hiss for longer and longer amounts of time (until you’re out of breath). 

The vocal warm-up naturally helps you focus on your breath and breathing. 

9. Body stretches

Stretching your body is definitely one of the most underrated vocal warm-up tips on the list. Although you might not think of stretching before you speak or sing, doing a few body stretches beforehand can actually help expand your rib cage and open up your lungs. 

Here’s an easy body stretch you can try:

  1. While standing, inhale deeply through your nose.
  2. Stretch your arms up as far as they’ll go (without hurting).
  3. Exhale your breath slowly.
  4. With your arms still stretched up, lean to one side and hold it to get a good stretch.
  5. Repeat with the other side. 

As an alternative, you can also do this exercise sitting down with your back straight and upright. 

More Vocal Warm-Up Tips 

Vocal warm-ups are fantastic on their own, but if you have a big speech or other type of performance coming up, here are some more tips to make sure your voice is the best it can be.

Take a nice, hot shower

Taking a steaming hot shower is something people might not think of, but a hot shower can do wonders for your vocals. One of the key benefits is that showers hydrate your voice due to the humid, steamy environment. 

To best reap the benefits of a hot shower, take long, deep breaths to breathe in the steam. This will relax and open your vocals and allow you to speak and sing better. 

Plus, if you’re a singer, taking a hot shower has other benefits like: 

  • Better acoustics when you sing
  • A more well-rounded tone 
  • Improved volume control due to the acoustics 
  • A safe space to practice

Get good sleep 

Before any important performance or speech, you need to get good sleep. Being tired can affect your performance significantly, so make sure you take the time to get rest. 

Adults need 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep every night. When you get less than 7 hours of sleep, your body pays the price. In fact, those who sleep less than 7 hours have an increased chance of health issues. 

Stay hydrated

Similarly to how a hot shower hydrates your voice, you need to remember to keep your body hydrated, too. Starting a few days before your performance or speech, make sure you’re consistently drinking water to keep yourself hydrated. 

Adults should aim to drink about 11.5 to 15.5 cups of water a day for best results. 

Avoid smoking and vaping

Both smoking and vaping dehydrate your voice and dry out your throat. Both of these activities bother your lungs and the lining of your throat, which is why people often cough when they smoke or vape. 

Because both smoke and vapor from vapes get so hot, you could burn your throat, too. Vaping and smoking definitely affect the quality of your voice, so for the best performance, steer clear of smoking and vaping. 

The Key Takeaway

Vocal warm-ups — though sometimes overlooked — offer a great way to stimulate your vocal cords and prepare for your upcoming performance or speech. You can even test out the theory that these exercises improve your voice by recording a “before and after” video on Yoodli and analyzing the results. 

Whichever voice warm-ups you choose to try, be sure to do them close to your speech or performance to get the most out of these exercises. 


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