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vocal exercise question (for the "pros")

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VideoHere
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hi folks,

i often wondered when doing our daily vocal exercises, (let's assume we're passed our early staple warmups and are now getting into our routine).

can vocal exercising ever become counterproductive or ineffective due specifically to the sequence or order in which we do them?

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Depends on which pro you ask. Singer Ron Keel, who's sang with a number of the big european metal bands was friends with Ronnie James Dio, the maestro, as far as I am concerned. And Dio's advice to him was to not warm up so much. That the voice has just so much endurance and strength in a day.

Juxtapose that with the more screamo baritones of modern heavy metal who swear by having an hour of warm-ups before they scream for an hour or more.

I'm not a pro, I just thought you might like some words from those who sang for a living. Dio's career spanned at least 4 decades. I think he might have had a point or two to offer.

Geoff Tate doesn't warm up extensively at any one time. He does a little head voice in the morning. A smidge of mid-range in the middle of the day. And some light chest voice no sooner than about an hour before show time.

Sebastian Bach warms up no less than an hour before showtime and not truly strenuously, either. You can, in some cases, according to professional singers who have had to sing on tour for most of year, wear your voice out by warming up "too much." But hey, what do they know? They only made a living at it for decades.

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Depends on which pro you ask. Singer Ron Keel, who's sang with a number of the big european metal bands was friends with Ronnie James Dio, the maestro, as far as I am concerned. And Dio's advice to him was to not warm up so much. That the voice has just so much endurance and strength in a day.

Juxtapose that with the more screamo baritones of modern heavy metal who swear by having an hour of warm-ups before they scream for an hour or more.

I'm not a pro, I just thought you might like some words from those who sang for a living. Dio's career spanned at least 4 decades. I think he might have had a point or two to offer.

Geoff Tate doesn't warm up extensively at any one time. He does a little head voice in the morning. A smidge of mid-range in the middle of the day. And some light chest voice no sooner than about an hour before show time.

Sebastian Bach warms up no less than an hour before showtime and not truly strenuously, either. You can, in some cases, according to professional singers who have had to sing on tour for most of year, wear your voice out by warming up "too much." But hey, what do they know? They only made a living at it for decades.

So it seems you don't like to warm up? I truly envy someone who is at such a level that they can be confident to walk out on stage with little or no warm up!

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Depends on which pro you ask. Singer Ron Keel, who's sang with a number of the big european metal bands was friends with Ronnie James Dio, the maestro, as far as I am concerned. And Dio's advice to him was to not warm up so much. That the voice has just so much endurance and strength in a day.

Juxtapose that with the more screamo baritones of modern heavy metal who swear by having an hour of warm-ups before they scream for an hour or more.

I'm not a pro, I just thought you might like some words from those who sang for a living. Dio's career spanned at least 4 decades. I think he might have had a point or two to offer.

Geoff Tate doesn't warm up extensively at any one time. He does a little head voice in the morning. A smidge of mid-range in the middle of the day. And some light chest voice no sooner than about an hour before show time.

Sebastian Bach warms up no less than an hour before showtime and not truly strenuously, either. You can, in some cases, according to professional singers who have had to sing on tour for most of year, wear your voice out by warming up "too much." But hey, what do they know? They only made a living at it for decades.

ron, this isn't exactly what i'm after...i'm trying to find out from the voice instructors if when we exercise (our everyday strengthening and building routines) if the order or sequence we do those exercises can ever be counterproductive or detrimental.

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Hi folks

ronws is quite right that Dio always 'saved all of his notes for the stage' - he was not a fan of 'wasting' good notes in warming up. There is obviously some logic to this and personally, having seen Ronnie live many times, the man was inimitable and remains one of THE best live singers I have ever seen; his live version of 'Mistreated' has brought me to tears (I'm not ashamed to say).

However, for us lesser mortals, I am a firm believer in some kind of warm up 'routine'. It doesn't have to be a complete vocal workout but a bit of humming, some light slides/sirens and mid range arpeggios will not do any harm. I always spend 15-20 minutes doing a light workout before a gig - it helps physically and psychologically.

I wouldn't expect a 100 meter olympic runner to get into the blocks without some basic stretches! Equally important is the debate on warming down....that's another thread!

Cheers

Tony

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Hi folks

ronws is quite right that Dio always 'saved all of his notes for the stage' - he was not a fan of 'wasting' good notes in warming up. There is obviously some logic to this and personally, having seen Ronnie live many times, the man was inimitable and remains one of THE best live singers I have ever seen; his live version of 'Mistreated' has brought me to tears (I'm not ashamed to say).

However, for us lesser mortals, I am a firm believer in some kind of warm up 'routine'. It doesn't have to be a complete vocal workout but a bit of humming, some light slides/sirens and mid range arpeggios will not do any harm. I always spend 15-20 minutes doing a light workout before a gig - it helps physically and psychologically.

I wouldn't expect a 100 meter olympic runner to get into the blocks without some basic stretches! Equally important is the debate on warming down....that's another thread!

Cheers

Tony

i'm hoping to hear some replies to my original question......please see post question.

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Thanks for the redirection!

What might be a necessary preliminary exercise for one might be different for another. If a singer's main hindrance or hurdle is breath control then he/she should make that the initial focus of their warm up. However, if you are singing range demanding repertoire then it would make more sense to focus on exercises which prepare the tilting (head voice) mechanism. But, to answer your question directly, I can't see how the sequence of any vocal exercises should be counterproductive if each one is done correctly. Given enough time, I just like to build from breathing to phonation to extension as each process builds logically on the previous (if that makes sense).

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Thanks for the redirection!

What might be a necessary preliminary exercise for one might be different for another. If a singer's main hindrance or hurdle is breath control then he/she should make that the initial focus of their warm up. However, if you are singing range demanding repertoire then it would make more sense to focus on exercises which prepare the tilting (head voice) mechanism. But, to answer your question directly, I can't see how the sequence of any vocal exercises should be counterproductive if each one is done correctly. Given enough time, I just like to build from breathing to phonation to extension as each process builds logically on the previous (if that makes sense).

yes, as an analogy if your working your arms with weights, you need exercises for the biceps but can't ignore the triceps.

or better yet, which exercises condition the ct muscles and which condition the ta muscles? could you imbalance the voice if those two areas aren't conditioned uniformly?

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Good technical question!

ta = transverse arytenoid muscles (unpaired) responsible for bringing the arytenoid cartilages together and providing closure

ct = cricothyroid muscle responsible for tilting the thyroid cartilage and thinning the vocal fold mass

Primarily, basic phonation exercises of humming and onsets will ensure that the ta muscles are worked to provide full glottal closure (no breath in the sound). Then, by working the siren exercise into vowels and initiating the cry sound, this will invoke the use of the ct muscles (as well as the ta). So, ta first then the ct muscles. Although they can be exercised independently, the production of higher notes requires interdependent action.

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Good technical question!

ta = transverse arytenoid muscles (unpaired) responsible for bringing the arytenoid cartilages together and providing closure

ct = cricothyroid muscle responsible for tilting the thyroid cartilage and thinning the vocal fold mass

Primarily, basic phonation exercises of humming and onsets will ensure that the ta muscles are worked to provide full glottal closure (no breath in the sound). Then, by working the siren exercise into vowels and initiating the cry sound, this will invoke the use of the ct muscles (as well as the ta). So, ta first then the ct muscles. Although they can be exercised independently, the production of higher notes requires interdependent action.

I like the sound of that last paragraph. In my head it kinda relates to curbing, although it could possibly not relate to it at all. But after a few weeks of NG scales and sirens, plus a few exercises from a vocal program I'm using I wanna try sirens with the cry involved and phonate some vowels to get some progression.

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hi folks,

i often wondered when doing our daily vocal exercises, (let's assume we're passed our early staple warmups and are now getting into our routine).

can vocal exercising ever become counterproductive or ineffective due specifically to the sequence or order in which we do them?

Once, I was in a Master class with a world famous concert pianist.

He told the class something profound.

Later, I heard the same thing from a very fine voice master teacher I had the privilege of studying with at the time.

It is this: If the first sound or notes that you begin to make in a vocal warmup are not "right" then stop and wait.

It starts in the mindset.

The sequence of exercises is not nearly as important as the first note and how you mentally, physically, spiritually, intellectually, emotionally approach it.

Engaging at the deepest levels of your being is the most important step.

Without that, any exercise does not carry the power you need to make things work the way you want them to.

In essence, you end up defeating your goal that way, even if you exercise your voice for hours on end or use a certain sequence of exercises.

Always boil things down into simple concepts and soar as high as you can with the sheer joy of the simple.

Mostly, we mess things up when we "think" it too much.

Let the music, the exercises, the sequences you choose,the breath, the tone, the nuances....all you you, all of your voice, move you, guide you, direct you to your end goal.

Let it all go....."Don't think it out, fun it out."

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Right on, singingmastermind. I think that might have been a better thing to say. I do some warm-ups, not always. Light warm-ups are good to make sure you have coordination. I do find there's a difference between just basic scales and actually singing a song, for a few reasons. Phrasing and timing for a song are different than what one does in practice. Second, the energy of being on-stage is different than in the bathroom doing do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do.

And equally great singers do warm up, some. Bruce Dickinson hums to himself. Geoff Tate will go through some of the latest Queensryche material. Or hum classical melodies. Rick Emmett from Triumph sings celtic folk songs to warm up. Not exactly scales, but it starts the voice out easy so that your folds are not cold going out on stage.

So maybe Bob's definition of warm-up is what scales and exercises, etc., rather than what different people use for a warm-up.

I used to warm by putting the low and slow songs at the beginning of my practice set.

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And the original question is, in what order? I think it all starts with a breath. So, start with the breathing first. Just relaxed breathing letting the abdominals relax so that the diaphragm can draw in the air. Breath out with the back and abdonimnal muscles. Maybe a few S's and Z's to get the metering of air velocity right. A few hums to get some phonation onset going. And few scales in different resonating spaces to make sure the chest and head sound open. If someone backed me into a corner and made me pick a sequence, that would be it. From the most basic thing, breathing, on forward. If you don't have control of the breath, you have nothing but a worn out set of vocal folds.

I know I'm not a vocal coach or voice professional. Just thinking about how an athlete warms up. Well, they check their breathing, too. And then lightly stretch, getting a little longer with each stretch but not so much that they feel discomfort. A little wiggling, now and then. Maybe a few strides. A couple of false starts off the blocks (practicing onset).

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A - freakin' - men, Dante. In my personal experience of working with my voice for a few decades, it can change from day to day. Especially in my career as an electrician working in construction, depending on what things I am exposed to the in the air that I breathe. But even without that, living in Texas, AKA allergy central, the pollen count can fluctuate from day to day. Add to that, varying degrees of either tiredness or energetic days, what you had to drink, eat, how much or how little you talked and how you talked (one sometimes has to holler across a construction site. This is where my ability to resonate pays off). Your emotions. We all have lives with tragedies, emergencies, cock-ups, and other days that are gloriously perfect (few and far between.) These can affect your energy level and concentration. Not to mention that the body can change from day to day. Feces occurs, to quote a popular phrase.

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folks, i thank you all, but i'm afraid i'm still not getting the question answered...perhaps i'm failing to explain myself correctly.

let's say i'm working on james lugo's program for a year which are really intense strength/range building exercises...now i want to stop those let's say, and move over to a less demanding program for a year... will i lose what i've worked so hard to do with lugo's program?

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Hi,

I was going to stay away from this one ... sobs ... However I knew there was a section about this in "Voice: Psyche and Soma"

Will you loose what you worked so hard to do - unlikely .. you may get slurry, you "may" get some vowel changes, but you still have the knowledge and course to get you back on track. You will likely "build" your knowledge and start to "blend" programs.

This is something that I am starting to hear this on this forum btw. :)

In order to answer this;

can vocal exercising ever become counterproductive or ineffective ?

Differing programs may have warm ups appropriate to "program", but most will have the same, scales, arpeggios, trills, octave jump .. etc.

What is the difference is when the program OR THE STUDENT starts to add some that are NOT relevant to the phrase / song / session. and example being if you started coloratura soprano phrases.

What you need to be mindful of is .. are you doing a program that will deliberately alter your voice.

You are aware of the Crico-Thyroids and arytenoids, you are aware of the synergic action between the two, so one holding against the contraction of the other acting as a natural antagonist.

Are you entering into a program that will aggressively action one tonal area ? i.e. give a "stronger" contraction of the chest register.

The chest register can be quite ... aggressive ... and can bring on a pedagogic problem.

There was one post (another thread where someone said that their chest register was over developed with a weak upper.... This is an issue, to which I recommend a good coach to separate the registers, develop them, work on the overlap draw them together and balance their relationship.

Hope it helps

Stew

p.s.

CunoDante wrote;

Whenever I give an exercise to my students, I let them know the purpose of it and ideal times in which to use it. Then, depending on how their voice feels on a given day, they have an arsenal of exercises or ideas to employ to best suit the needs of their voice at the moment. Sequence of the exercises isn't quite as important as the purpose of the exercise (which goes back to first feeling what the body needs).

Excellent point .. and for someone who has been on the same singing "system", this is VERY relevant. I think Videohere is atacking this from the point of changing systems.

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Interesting stuff here - thanks everyone.

I've written something about sequencing of exercises in the following article: http://www.oxfordsinginglessons.co.uk/Warming_up-Massey.pdf

Vocal learning can't follow a recipe book. We all share similar anatomical principles, but our bodies, psyches, and aesthetic goals are unique. We are in a different state each time we start a singing session. I like CunoDante's idea that we develop a repertoire of exercises, and an understanding when they are best applied to ourselves. We have to learn to 'dance' with our voices, re-sequencing exercises to suit the needs of the day.

I wouldn't start with high notes of course. And in the course of longer singing time, I wouldn't end with high notes either. I would return to middle voice or even lower notes, gentle phrases, simple vowels, in order to return myself to a centred place after 'stretching' the voice or taking it to extremes.

In mid-practice, I would never be afraid to return to absolute 'starter' exercises, or even silent work, easing tongue, neck, re-establishing good connection to abdominals with non-vocalised breathing work etc. I refer to these processes variously as 're-centring', 're-establishing core reference points', 're-establishing the vocal template' (ie the setup and sensations I want), and 're-orienting' to a 'good model' and a 'recent, optimal muscular memory'. This last one is important. When we sing and practise a lot, or try out an exercise many times (eg re-setting an exercise up a semitone repeatedly in quick succession), we can get caught up in the repetition, without reflecting on whether we are setting things how we are supposed to. The practice becomes faster and faster, the awareness diminishes, and we get locked into autopilot. Singing, and doing the next scale becomes more important than noticing what is happening.

Yes, vocal exercising CAN become ineffective or even counterproductive. So, we need to remember to hit the 'default' button, mid-practice, and return to first principles. I often remark on how a lesson I am teaching to a seasoned professional does not always look that different from one for a relative beginner (even though the singers' sounds may be different).

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Interesting stuff here - thanks everyone.

I've written something about sequencing of exercises in the following article: http://www.oxfordsinginglessons.co.uk/Warming_up-Massey.pdf

Vocal learning can't follow a recipe book. We all share similar anatomical principles, but our bodies, psyches, and aesthetic goals are unique. We are in a different state each time we start a singing session. I like CunoDante's idea that we develop a repertoire of exercises, and an understanding when they are best applied to ourselves. We have to learn to 'dance' with our voices, re-sequencing exercises to suit the needs of the day.

I wouldn't start with high notes of course. And in the course of longer singing time, I wouldn't end with high notes either. I would return to middle voice or even lower notes, gentle phrases, simple vowels, in order to return myself to a centred place after 'stretching' the voice or taking it to extremes.

In mid-practice, I would never be afraid to return to absolute 'starter' exercises, or even silent work, easing tongue, neck, re-establishing good connection to abdominals with non-vocalised breathing work etc. I refer to these processes variously as 're-centring', 're-establishing core reference points', 're-establishing the vocal template' (ie the setup and sensations I want), and 're-orienting' to a 'good model' and a 'recent, optimal muscular memory'. This last one is important. When we sing and practise a lot, or try out an exercise many times (eg re-setting an exercise up a semitone repeatedly in quick succession), we can get caught up in the repetition, without reflecting on whether we are setting things how we are supposed to. The practice becomes faster and faster, the awareness diminishes, and we get locked into autopilot. Singing, and doing the next scale becomes more important than noticing what is happening.

Yes, vocal exercising CAN become ineffective or even counterproductive. So, we need to remember to hit the 'default' button, mid-practice, and return to first principles. I often remark on how a lesson I am teaching to a seasoned professional does not always look that different from one for a relative beginner (even though the singers' sounds may be different).

ah, this is more of what i was seeking answers to....thanks so much! bob

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Interesting stuff here - thanks everyone.

I've written something about sequencing of exercises in the following article: http://www.oxfordsinginglessons.co.uk/Warming_up-Massey.pdf

Vocal learning can't follow a recipe book. We all share similar anatomical principles, but our bodies, psyches, and aesthetic goals are unique. We are in a different state each time we start a singing session. I like CunoDante's idea that we develop a repertoire of exercises, and an understanding when they are best applied to ourselves. We have to learn to 'dance' with our voices, re-sequencing exercises to suit the needs of the day.

I wouldn't start with high notes of course. And in the course of longer singing time, I wouldn't end with high notes either. I would return to middle voice or even lower notes, gentle phrases, simple vowels, in order to return myself to a centred place after 'stretching' the voice or taking it to extremes.

In mid-practice, I would never be afraid to return to absolute 'starter' exercises, or even silent work, easing tongue, neck, re-establishing good connection to abdominals with non-vocalised breathing work etc. I refer to these processes variously as 're-centring', 're-establishing core reference points', 're-establishing the vocal template' (ie the setup and sensations I want), and 're-orienting' to a 'good model' and a 'recent, optimal muscular memory'. This last one is important. When we sing and practise a lot, or try out an exercise many times (eg re-setting an exercise up a semitone repeatedly in quick succession), we can get caught up in the repetition, without reflecting on whether we are setting things how we are supposed to. The practice becomes faster and faster, the awareness diminishes, and we get locked into autopilot. Singing, and doing the next scale becomes more important than noticing what is happening.

Yes, vocal exercising CAN become ineffective or even counterproductive. So, we need to remember to hit the 'default' button, mid-practice, and return to first principles. I often remark on how a lesson I am teaching to a seasoned professional does not always look that different from one for a relative beginner (even though the singers' sounds may be different).

excellent article alex...appreciated.

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